The Umbrella Academy Welcomes 6 New Recruits!

The Umbrella Academy is expanding its scope and the size of its ensemble cast heading into the beloved Netflix series’ third season. In a surprise announcement that fans have been waiting on for several months, Netflix revealed the identities of the six mysterious new characters we glimpsed in the second season’s cliffhanger finale, as well as the actors who will take on these roles. And yes, one of them is in fact a literal glowing cube.

The Umbrella Academy
The Sparrow Academy | umbrellaacademy.fandom.com

These six new characters (plus a returning star) will make up The Sparrow Academy, the alternate-reality nemesis to The Umbrella Academy that we’ve followed through the series’ first two seasons. While The Umbrella Academy fell apart due to infighting and trauma, The Sparrow Academy is still fully operational and nearly perfect in every way: a highly-elite family unit headed by the same tyrannical father figure whose abusive parenting methods caused The Umbrella Academy to break apart. The Umbrella Academy unintentionally brought them into existence in season two, meddling with the timeline enough that Reginald Hargreeves, their eccentric alien adoptive dad, chose not to adopt them when he was supposed to…but instead selected seven other children to become his superhero bodyguards and accomplish his ultimate goal (which is still shrouded in mystery); children he apparently perceived as being more extraordinary than his earlier, failed, experiments.

One of these children is Ben (played by Justin H. Min), the one member of The Umbrella Academy whom Reginald Hargreeves didn’t meet in the 1960’s and thus didn’t have any reason to strike off his list. But The Sparrow Academy’s Ben is nothing like his past self: Deadline describes him as “a Machiavellian tactician…Vicious, pragmatic, and hyper-vigilant”. Ben is second-in-command to The Sparrow Academy’s leader, Marcus, and is “determined to gain his status as the leader at all costs”. That parallels the power dynamic between The Umbrella Academy’s leader, Luther, and second-in-command, Diego; but I have a feeling Ben will go to much greater lengths to establish himself as this Academy’s commander than Diego ever did, and will likely be season three’s primary antagonist. My wild guess: he’ll probably be Reginald’s favorite child right up until the point someone tells ol’ Reggy that Ben is actually another straggler from The Umbrella Academy, at which point Reginald will reject him and send him down a path to villainy.

Marcus, The Sparrow Academy’s leader, will be played by Justin Cornwell – who just recently appeared in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, where he flaunted his vocal talents performing “This Day”. There’s no word on whether he’ll do any singing in this role, but Deadline describes him as “Honest, virtuous, and demanding”, noting that his innate leadership qualities help him keep the family together. In other words, he’s the exact opposite of The Umbrella Academy’s leader, Luther, under whose administration the Academy fell apart completely. Marcus is presumably also superpowered, but the only hint about his powers is that he’s a “colossus” (again, like Luther), and that he’s “Graceful but lethal” (unlike Luther).

Number three, our Allison parallel, is a character named Fei, played by Britne Oldford of Hunters. The description of her is pretty vague: she “sees the world in a special way”, which could be a reference to whatever her powers are. A portrait in duality, she “comes across as a misanthrope” yet secretly yearns for companionship. She’s “the smartest person in the room”, but hinted to be vengeful. She’s also the least like her Umbrella Academy counterpart, perhaps intentionally.

Alphonso, The Sparrow Academy’s fourth team-member, played by Jake Epstein from Designated Survivor and Suits, seems a lot like Diego on the surface: a battle-hardened crime-fighter covered in scars, who verbally berates his enemies. But like The Umbrella Academy’s number four, Klaus, he compensates for his years of trauma with humor. Klaus also compensates with drugs and excessive partying, whereas Alphonso’s addiction appears to be food: there’s a single, strangely specific reference to him loving “a good pizza and a six-pack of beer” more than anything else in the world. Maybe Alphonso’s superpower somehow relates to eating, or maybe he just really loves pizza and beer in the same way Hazel loved donuts back in season one. Maybe this is totally insignificant. Either way, the fandom has already decided that, like Klaus, Alphonso should also be LGBTQ+ and preferably coupled with headcanon bisexual Diego (assuming the two aren’t related, which is always a possibility with this show).

The Umbrella Academy
The Sparrow Academy | deadline.com

Number five, the counterpart to…Number Five, is a mysterious young woman named Sloane. Genesis Rodriguez, star of Big Hero 6, She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, and The Fugitive, is attached to play Sloane, making her arguably the series’ biggest new cast-member and suggesting that Sloane has an important role to play. The character is described as “a romantic and a dreamer who feels a higher cosmic calling” that leaves her divided between her “obligations to her family” and her desire “to see the world and experience a life beyond her upbringing”. This air of youthful innocence and naivete would serve as an effective counterbalance to Five, who is already world-weary and grizzled by the age of sixteen. But what is a cosmic calling, and how do divine powers fit into The Umbrella Academy’s universe?

Cazzie David, whose better known for her work as a writer and magazine contributor than as an actress, will play a character named Jayme – the team’s number six, filling the role that Ben would usually fill if he weren’t this Academy’s number two. Jayme is a hoodie-wearing loner with a “fear-inducing snarl”. Like The Umbrella Academy’s Ben, her strongest connection is with her team’s number four, Alphonso, described as “her only friend”.

And finally, we have an unexpected newcomer to the Hollywood scene! Existential Dread Inducing Psykronium Cube will play Christopher the Cube, a floating, sentient, “telekinetic cube of unknown origins”, who uses he/him pronouns and has multiple powers, including the power to lower the temperature in a room to subzero, ignite “paralyzing fear” in the hearts of his enemies, and see into the future. Despite being an incredibly dangerous cube, the Sparrows treat him “like any other sibling”…making him the clear parallel to Vanya Hargreeves, whose biggest characteristic is that she’s constantly pushed away, shunned, and betrayed by her family because of her destructive powers. Expect these two to share scenes, and for them to share a connection somehow.

The Umbrella Academy
Christopher The Cube | Twitter | @IGN

In fact, expect all these characters to share connections with their counterparts that will slowly be revealed. Although I assume we’ll see the two Academies go to war with each other in season three, I strongly feel we’ll also be treated to some much-needed downtime first – with the two families intermingling and having their loyalties tested as they make new friends and new enemies.

So what do you think? Which Sparrow Academy member are you most excited to see in action? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” Review!

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost four months since the world suddenly, shockingly lost Chadwick Boseman to cancer. Despite most of us having never known or met the man personally (and I will forever regret I never had the chance), I and millions of others around the globe were left devastated by Boseman’s death, which cut short an extraordinary career and a life lived honestly by a humble, kind-hearted, man. It’s natural to think of “what would have been”: the films he would have gone on to make, the awards he would most surely have won, and so on. But Boseman’s posthumous filmography, which includes Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and numerous episdoes of the animated What If…? series for Marvel, reflects not only Boseman’s versatility as an actor, but his determination to create a lasting legacy for himself that would span vastly different mediums and genres; a legacy that stands on its own.

Ma Rainey
Levee and Ma Rainey | theguardian.com

And that’s what makes Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom so incredibly painful to watch, as the film now feels almost too cruel for illuminating the setbacks that Black creatives have always suffered due to the efforts by mediocre white people to hijack their art and culture, not because it’s wrong to depict this by any means (quite the opposite)…but because it’s Chadwick Boseman’s character, underdog horn player Levee, who is actively being cheated out of his legacy in the film by a system that rewards theft and punishes integrity. But while some may find the pain still too raw to revisit (and as always, I encourage you to decide for yourself if that’s the case), I believe that the film makes one thing clear unintentionally: that even Chadwick Boseman’s sheer ability to carve out the beautiful, incredible legacy he has is something that cannot be taken for granted, although by rights it should – because for centuries, and right up until this present day, Black art, talent, and culture has been appropriated by white folks. And it’s up to white folks and allies of the Black community to call out that appropriation, and help to protect and preserve the legacies of Black creatives.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is entirely focused on this concept of trying to build a legacy, and the harsh toll it exacts on the Black creatives who have to fight every single day to protect their work. Ma Rainey (played by Viola Davis, who herself famously called upon Hollywood to stop calling her the “Black Meryl Streep” unless they were going to start paying her accordingly) is seen as a difficult and unreasonable diva by her white manager and producer, but that’s because – as she explains in a brilliant monologue to her trombonist, Cutler (Colman Domingo) – she can’t afford to be fair and reasonable, because she knows that as soon as she lends her voice to the record album her production studio is creating, they’ll have no further use for her. She has to demand better, or she won’t be treated any better; whether that means requiring that she be served a Coca-Cola (in a prolonged sequence that, let me tell you, really made me want a Coca-Cola), or insisting that her nephew, who stutters, be featured on her biggest song, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, even though it takes six tries and six vinyl records to get it right.

Davis commands attention from the moment she appears onscreen, decked out in feathery finery, and literally glistening under lighting that is somehow both deeply uncomplimentary and strangely flattering to her mesmerizing stage persona. Maxayn Lewis provides Rainey’s rich, soulful, singing voice on almost all the songs in the film, but the rest is an intoxicating blend of Davis’ physical presence, her costuming department, and the particularly noteworthy efforts of her hairstyling and makeup team, whom I predict will be the Oscar frontrunners in their category. The final result of all their contributions is a bundle of joyous, irreverent charisma – a proud Black woman owning herself, her body, and her sexuality.

Ma Rainey
Ma Rainey | detroitnews.com

Her sexuality is a particularly interesting topic because the real-life Ma Rainey is strongly believed to have been a queer woman. And although the character of her girlfriend in the film, Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige), is entirely fictional, there’s evidence to suggest that Rainey did have a romantic relationship with one of her contemporaries, blues singer Bessie Smith. Depicting Ma Rainey authentically is important for several reasons, not least of all because we’ve seen very few stories of real-life Black LGBTQ+ historical figures depicted onscreen: and even fewer in a context where their sexuality is not the defining feature of their character. Ma Rainey is queer and a great singer and a savvy businesswoman…she’s allowed to be multi-faceted, and I love that.

Boseman’s Levee, meanwhile, spends a considerable amount of time trying to seduce Ma Rainey’s girlfriend away from her, much to her annoyance. A cocky, easy-going young playboy making his own music and gradually distancing himself from his older, wiser, bandmates, Levee is an antagonist to Rainey’s ambitions, but one gifted with warmth, charisma, and humanity: all talents innate to Chadwick Boseman, and which the actor easily imbues into his character…particularly in one beautifully written monologue sequence that I imagine must be taken word-for-word from the August Wilson play upon which Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is based (like the recurring motif of Levee’s yellow shoes and the closed door in the recording studio that Levee repeatedly tries to break down, both of which came off as obviously theatrical devices to me). My biggest gripe with stage-to-screen adaptations tends to be dialogue, which can feel gratingly unnatural in movies: but while I wouldn’t say Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom doesn’t sometimes have that problem, I do think the actors – particularly Davis, Boseman, and Domingo – make it work in all the scenes that count.

The one aspect of the film that has drawn criticism, however, is the one crucial scene it adds to the screenplay: drastically changing the overall tone of the story – rather like the inverse of The Boys In The Band, which added a single, hopeful scene to the film adaptation’s ending to address criticism of the original play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom adds one scene that, without context, is completely mundane and uninteresting…but with context, is haunting, deeply disturbing, and a bleak reminder of how far we haven’t come since the 1920’s, and how much further we still have to go. Without getting into spoilers, I will say this much: it directly addresses the topic of cultural appropriation, and forces you to re-evaluate the entire film from that perspective. The original play did touch on this subject too, from what I understand, but not in this manner. I get why this scene was added – it’s not merely shocking, but also extremely important to the film’s central theme.

Ma Rainey
Levee | seattletimes.com

Cultural appropriation, an extension of white supremacy and imperialism, is the ultimate act of theft: the grand robbery of an entire art-form, or fashion, or tradition, or way of life, in most cases carried out by white folks who either think they’re being funny by contributing to harmful stereotypes, or are actively stealing an idea because they’ve decided they like it so much that they want to market it as something socially-acceptable for white people to buy/wear/whatever, and don’t understand or care how their actions keep the violent spirit of colonialism alive in the modern day. The latter is the more insidious of the two, and has been deeply engrained in the music and entertainment industries for over a century. How many great legacies were set in stone by Black creatives, only to be overwritten and overshadowed by white people stealing their ideas? We’ll probably never know. But I hope that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for many, will be the wakeup-call they need to the terrible effects of cultural appropriation, and the need to address it now, as we head into the roaring 2020’s.

Movie Rating: 9/10

“Shadow And Bone” 1st Trailer Hypes Up The Epic Dark Fantasy!

It’s been a long time since we got any news from the set of Shadow And Bone, one of the myriad of upcoming fantasy series’ in Netflix’s seemingly endless catalogue. The cast looked pretty good when they were revealed last year, and filming wrapped just prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, luckily, but in the months since then all we’ve really seen (or rather heard) was a snippet of the series’ melancholy, ominous score – which was admittedly quite beautiful. But now, to accompany the news that Shadow And Bone has been set for a fast-approaching April 2021 release date, Netflix has generously dropped a new teaser trailer.

Shadow And Bone
Six Of Crows | grimdarkmagazine.com

A mere forty seconds long, the teaser doesn’t provide any actual footage (and only a single line of dialogue), but instead sets up the series’ general atmosphere: dark, wintry, and mystical. Shadow And Bone will combine storylines from Leigh Bardugo’s two separate book series’ set in the Grishaverse world: the Grisha trilogy, which follows Alina Starkov as she becomes the prophesized Sun-Summoner and battles The Darkling for control of her homeland; and its more popular successor, the Six Of Crows duology, which takes place many years after the original trilogy and explores life in the criminal underworld of the city of Ketterdam, where a thief named Kaz Brekker and his gang of social outcasts stage a daring heist to win a fortune. The books are very good, and I highly recommend reading them, but suffice it to say that the Grishaverse is kind of like a gritty Narnia with overtones of The Witcher. It stands out from the crowd of young adult fantasy stories thanks to its mature themes and elegant writing style. I’m pretty typical/boring in that I prefer Six Of Crows to the Grisha trilogy, but I have a feeling Netflix might finally make me care about the characters of Alina Starkov and The Darkling (nothing they can do will ever get me to spare an ounce of interest in Alina’s love interest, Mal, one of the most detestable and annoying characters I’ve ever read).

Shadow And Bone
Alina Starkov | bookstr.com

The first season of the Netflix adaptation will tackle the events of the first Grisha trilogy book – itself titled Shadow And Bone – and, it seems, the backstories of most of the main characters in Six Of Crows. Whether or not these two story threads will interweave organically or not is still a mystery: in the books, there isn’t much crossover between the two until Six Of Crows‘ sequel, but that may change for the series. It’s possible we’ll follow two storylines unfolding in a non-linear fashion – but The Witcher just did that, and got criticized for confusing viewers. I suspect there’s a chance, then, that the events of the two series’ will occur simultaneously for the Netflix show’s purposes…despite the plot-holes that could case, if done sloppily. The clearest link between the two, which I hope Shadow And Bone will exploit, is the character of Nina, who (in the books) is a crucial member of Kaz Brekker’s gang, but hails from Alina Starkov’s home country of Ravka, where she was a young but powerful Grisha mage before being abducted.

Anyway. Elements from both series’ are incorporated into the imagery used in the teaser – from a crow (the emblem of Brekker’s gang) soaring past, to the white Morozova’s Stag whose intricate, frosted, antlers command attention before being transformed (via CGI wizardry) into a ball of radiant, fluid, sunlight clasped between two silhouetted hands. In the books, the mythical Stag’s antlers are similarly used to amplify Alina’s magic powers, which manifest as the ability to conjure and control light. I especially love how Alina’s hands fold against her chest, snuffing out the light as darkness encroaches around her. Before the title card is illuminated by one of her outbursts of magic, we hear from Alina’s nemesis and love interest, The Darkling himself, whose power to manipulate shadows pits the two against each other throughout the book series: in his gentle yet firm voice, he tells her that “You and I are going to change the world”. Fans have long been hyped to see Ben Barnes as The Darkling – it would have been nice to get a first look at his costume.

Shadow And Bone
Shadow And Bone cast | deadline.com

And of course, the whole visual masterpiece is complimented by the aforementioned theme, composed by Joseph Trapanese and well-suited to a dark fantasy epic like this. Although there’s not much to go on yet, the vibe I’m getting from the show is really good so far. And Netflix’s track-record when it comes to creating addictive content is pretty spotless: I unironically loved The Witcher, and I believe Shadow And Bone will probably be another bingeworthy hit for the streaming service.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“The Umbrella Academy” Renewed For Season 3!

SPOILERS FOR THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY AHEAD!

Netflix’s business strategy when it comes to streaming series’ has become infamous for a reason: it’s well-documented how the the service favors first seasons, which draw in lots of new subscribers at once, rather than big, multi-season commitments, which (at least according to Netflix) tend to see dwindling returns over time. Entire fandoms have had to wait in anxious impatience for multi-season orders and renewals, every show’s necessary next step towards enduring success. It doesn’t always happen, and that’s why we end up with fan campaigns to save The OA, or Anne With An E, or Sense8 (the latter of which got a very hasty movie finale tying up everything as best as it possibly could under the circumstances). In a cruel twist of fate, these fan campaigns often last longer than the shows themselves. Thankfully, we won’t have to plead with Netflix to save The Umbrella Academythe series has officially been renewed for a third season consisting of ten more hour-long episodes, and will resume filming in February of next year.

The Umbrella Academy
denofgeek.com

You don’t even have to worry about a catch, because as of yet there isn’t one. Unlike Netflix’s Lost In Space, which will end with its third season, The Umbrella Academy is poised to continue far into the future. It’s encouraging for those of us who love this series and can’t wait to see what happens next, but there’s no doubt this announcement still feels bittersweet considering all the other great shows that Netflix has canceled after just one or two seasons, particularly this year as they’ve had to prioritize more than ever before (I didn’t even get to finish watching Away before they canceled it, and now I don’t know if I actually want to, if it’s some sort of permanently unresolved cliffhanger that’s in store for me).

Anyway, now that I’ve depressed you and myself by bringing up bad memories of shows that ended too soon, let’s celebrate The Umbrella Academy‘s renewal! As one would expect, all the main, superpowered cast will return: Elliot Page as the violinist of the apocalypse, Vanya; Aidan Gallagher as time-traveling super-genius, Five; Robert Sheehan as the necromancer turned cult leader, Klaus; Emmy Raver-Lampman as the lethal gossip, Allison; David Castañeda as the team’s knife-thrower and apparent telekinetic, Diego; and Tom Hopper as the most controversial character in the fandom, Luther. In the closing moments of the season two finale, they had all just escaped from the alternate 1963 in which they nearly started World War III, and had landed in a new, alternate version of the year 2019, their original start date – one which seems to have come about as a direct result of their accidental meddling in the 60’s. In this new timeline, the Umbrella Academy never existed, but its founder, Reginald Hargreeves, did set up a new organization called the Sparrow Academy, which has a new line-up and shadowy new motives – Colm Feore, who plays Reginald, will reprise his role as the Academy’s homicidal father figure.

The Umbrella Academy
Lila and The Handler | radiotimes.com

Ritu Arya is confirmed to be returning as Lila, the Handler’s semi-villainous daughter, who was revealed to be another superpowered being in the season two finale, though her power is literally being able to steal the powers of her opponents. The last we saw of her, she was escaping to some completely different timeline with the help of a briefcase, after being betrayed and temporarily murdered by her mother in a shoot-out. And yes, I’m aware of how confusing that last sentence probably is to anybody who hasn’t watched the show.

Justin H. Min will also return; but not as Ben, the lovable, socially awkward ghost he played throughout most of seasons one and two. Near the end of season two, Ben sacrificed himself to save his sister Vanya, and finally entered the light at the end of the tunnel, something he had been putting off for years. But while it was heartbreaking and we all cried, it wasn’t the end of Min’s time on the show…because Ben is back, with a twist. The Sparrow Academy set up in this new, alternate 2019 features a very different version of Ben as its leader and most high-ranking student – and the suspicion is that this Ben, with his goth haircut and menacing attitude, probably isn’t quite as nice as the old Ben. He’ll most likely be trying to kill his time-displaced siblings throughout season three, with the help of the primordial, tentacled monster that dwells in his chest cavity (which functions as a portal to the netherworld, in case you were wondering about the logistics of how everything works in a show that stars talking monkeys, shapeshifting aliens, and sentient green cubes). On the flip-side, at least this means Justin H. Min gets more screentime, and actually gets to interact with all the other characters!

The Umbrella Academy
Ben (the new one) | comicbook.com

It’s still too early for me to make any further predictions about season three, though there are plenty of theories out there. As of right now, I just have a very disorganized wish-list of things I want to see in the show’s near future, which includes things like Vanya leading the Umbrella Academy into battle as a team (or just, like, being respected by the rest of her family and treated as an equal, and not getting beaten up, suffocated, or imprisoned), or Diego coming out as bisexual (one of the more popular fan campaigns in the wake of season two, and The Umbrella Academy listened to fan demand for lesbian Vanya after season one, so don’t write this off), or Luther dying (heroically on the Moon, of course, to tie up his character arc). Just, you know, stuff. No grandiose, over-arching theories about how everything fits into place, or at least not yet.

But what about you? What do you hope to see happen in season three of The Umbrella Academy? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Netflix Developing An “Assassin’s Creed” Franchise!

As the end of the year – and the release of another installment in Ubisoft’s massively successful Assassin’s Creed video game series – draws nearer, Netflix is cashing in on the game franchise’s enduring popularity/profitability, having just announced a partnership with the Ubisoft game studio that will allow them to develop their own Assassin’s Creed universe on the streaming service, kicking off with a live-action series that is already in pre-production. Although a previous attempt to bring the excitement of the video game to the big screen proved to be pretty lackluster, Netflix doesn’t appear to be trying to develop any films based on the games: their attention is focused on creating series, both live-action and animated.

Assassin's Creed
gamesradar.com

As of right now, we know very little about the series that is planned to kickstart the Assassin’s Creed TV franchise – two Ubisoft executives, Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik, will serve as executive producers on the series, but Netflix is currently looking for a showrunner to bring this whole thing together, and we don’t know if they’ve got a writing team assembled behind the scenes just yet. It’s also unclear whether the series will adapt one of the game franchise’s eleven total installments, or combine elements from several, or act as something entirely new and different.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise’s overarching story revolves around a war between the order of the Assassins and the Knights Templar, a war spanning millennia: throughout the ages, these two opposing factions take various different forms (for instance, in Ptolemaic Egypt, they were the Hidden Ones and The Order Of The Ancients, respectively), but their goals are almost always the same – the Knights Templar seek to oppress free will and control the human race by force, through the use of magical artifacts, while the Assassins believe in free will and challenge them secretly. The game series has focused on a number of interesting historical periods, from the American Revolution and the Third Crusade to Peloponnesian War-era Greece, and over the years has gained a reputation for being one of the few video game franchises that actually takes time to research each era and achieve some level of historical accuracy.

Assassin's Creed
gameinformer.com

This has recently caused a great deal of conflict in the fandom, with the newest Assassin’s Creed game (set in the Viking world) promising (historically accurate!) women warriors and same-sex romances – something that has prompted a certain subgroup of gamers to loudly object about what they mistakenly and ignorantly perceive as “the SJW agenda”. Never mind that women fought alongside Viking men or that Vikings were marginally more accepting of same-sex relationships than many of their contemporaries; apparently inarguable historical fact is “SJW” now. Anyway, I hope and pray that the Netflix series will follow in the footsteps of the most recent games and include more diverse protagonists, even if they are adapting the earlier games in the series.

The different historical settings will certainly give the series a unique selling point with which to differentiate itself from a steadily growing crowd of video game adaptations: but I worry it could be very expensive to do as many as in the games right up front, so my guess is that the first season of the series won’t jump to too many time periods, but will probably settle on one from the earlier games that most Assassin’s Creed fans are familiar with and enjoy, such as the Holy Land or Renaissance Italy. I’ve seen it suggested that each season of the series might jump to a new time period, like the games, which would definitely be exciting: but that does raise the question of whether they would follow the in-universe chronology of the plot, or the release order of the games themselves? If it’s the latter, then my favorite character, Kassandra Misthios of Odyssey, won’t be popping up for a long while. But who knows? At the moment we really don’t know anything at all about what Netflix and Ubisoft are planning to accomplish with this partnership, or how they’re going to go about this.

Assassin's Creed
digitalspy.com

So what do you think? Which historical setting do you hope Netflix settles upon for this first series, and which Assassin’s Creed characters do you hope to see? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Rebecca” 2020 Review!

I went into the 2020 adaptation of Daphne de Maurier’s classic crime thriller Rebecca prepared to at least try and like it. This was partly because I’ve watched Alfred Hitchcock’s famous adaptation, and…well, I have to admit I see why Hitchcock himself later attempted to distance himself from the film, feeling it wasn’t one of his best works. It’s actually quite good right up until the third act, where I feel it just becomes rather boring. So when I started hearing that this new Netflix adaptation makes some big changes to the ending of the story, I was curious and cautiously optimistic.

Rebecca
Lily James and Armie Hammer | cnn.com

Little did I know that the ending to 2020’s Rebecca isn’t just the worst part of the film, but also manages to make a mockery out of Daphne de Maurier’s story. So, without getting into spoilers, my advice to all of you is that, if you are also mistakenly led to believe that this film has some exciting new twist at the ending, don’t fall for it. Back out now. Save yourself two hours of your time and escape from Rebecca while you still can – because I assure you that as much as the characters in the movie might be trying desperately to convince you that it’s all terribly exciting to be caught up in her web of intrigue and betrayal, it’s really not.

The biggest problem with this new version of the classic story, which follows a nameless female protagonist (played by Lily James, usually a pure delight no matter how bland the role) as she tries to outmaneuver the phantoms of her mysterious husband’s ex-wife’s phantom, is that it simply can’t pick a single, consistent tone. Clearly it thinks it’s every bit as intellectual and engaging as its source material, a suspenseful novelette written in 1938, but at the same time it really just wants to be a modern, pulpy, “don’t-think-too-hard-about-this” kind of retelling, and the clash between those two wildly different ideas (both of which would probably be perfectly valid, separately) leads to a discombobulated hybrid that never feels able to stay on track for very long. I personally think it would be absolutely fine to go a little pulpier, a little campier even, and just transfer the whole story into a modern day setting and go from there, as long as de Maurier’s message was preserved (another thing 2020’s Rebecca failed to do). At least it would be a choice. But I feel like someone behind the scenes must have decided that they couldn’t possibly do that because it would rob the film of any “credibility” or “respectability” – two things which the screenwriters have tried to forcibly inject into the film’s dull, unsubtle script…to no avail, because at every turn they undermine their own best efforts with a string of anachronistic and jarring casting choices, mannerisms, styling decisions, story beats, and even song choices (modern indie music, in case you were wondering), none of which seem to have been designed with Academy Awards voters in mind.

Rebecca
Lily James and Armie Hammer | thefilmstage.com

And because the film can’t figure out its target audience, everyone loses. Sometimes it looks like it’s trying to aim for a demographic who love sensual, sensational, addictive page-turners, and it’s at these points where it unfortunately feels like it should be most comfortable – I say “unfortunately” not because this demographic is inferior to any other (in fact, Rebecca, at the time of its publication, was widely considered as pulp fiction for the masses), but because Rebecca simply can’t give this demographic what they want without alienating everyone who loves the original story because of what it has to say about romance, relationships and gender roles – things that are, for the most part, utterly foreign to the romance genre. Rebecca (the novel, that is) isn’t a typical romance, and that’s the problem. De Maurier herself called it “a study in jealousy”. But when the screenwriters of 2020’s Rebecca were faced with the task of adapting it, they chose to adapt it as one would a typical romance…and so their creation, a ghastly chimaera if ever I saw one, dies on impact. None of the storytelling choices made in the novel even feel suitable for the kind of story that this creative team are telling.

A good example of this is the namelessness of our protagonist: as in past iterations of the story, our heroine goes through the entire story, start to finish, without a name, only going by the title “the second Mrs. de Winter”, as a cruel, cynical reference to how she is unable to carve out any semblance of identity when compared to her predecessor, the incomparable Rebecca – but this version rarely if ever feels engaging enough on a psychological level to warrant keeping this bold decision by de Maurier (who was drawing on her own unhappy relationship with her husband and his ex-wife for inspiration). Then again, it rarely feels engaging, period.

This isn’t just because the script is badly-written: unfortunately, a large part of the blame falls on Lily James and especially Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter (a character intended to be very charismatic and mysterious), neither of whom can muster much passion, fear, excitement or…well, any emotion, really. Not once in two hours does Armie Hammer manage to look even remotely interested in the supposedly very compelling and personal story unraveling at high speed all around him: mostly all he does is stand around and widen his eyes periodically to demonstrate anger or overwhelming emotion. Also, he sleepwalks…once, for some reason, because that’s a thing that apparently needed to happen.

That strange scene is only one in a series of back-to-back instances in which Lily James is repeatedly hammered (no pun intended) over the head with increasingly loud and unsubtle references to Rebecca. When she’s not being berated and physically attacked by Maxim’s elderly mother, who starts clawing at her after finding out that her dear daughter in law Rebecca is dead, she’s instead being passed handkerchiefs, hair brushes and various small household articles all monogrammed with Rebecca’s enormous initial. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but when it occurs in every scene for most of the second act, it’s hard to become hooked on the element of suspense. Jane Goldman’s script isn’t designed to cleverly lure you along on any sort of harrowing journey: it’s just a series of one character after another doing everything but breaking down the fourth wall to remind us about Rebecca. Hitchock’s script, in comparison, takes its time, spreading out these more obvious scenes and punctuating them with quieter, subtler moments that feel significant without needing to literally spell out why they’re significant. There’s even a (very random) scene with an entire swarm of birds that come dangerously close to forming the shape of a giant R in the sky.

Rebecca
Kristen Scott Thomas and Lily James | bostonhassle.com

The film’s greatest crime is what it does to Mrs. Danvers (Kristen Scott Thomas), an iconic character in literary and cinematic history. Thomas would probably be a good Mrs. Danvers in another writer and director’s hands, but her story – particularly its conclusion – are bungled this time around; a sad downgrade from Judith Anderson’s spellbinding performance in Hitchcock’s film. One gets the sense that Thomas wanted desperately to go full camp and lean far more heavily on the novel and original film’s famous queer subtext (the delicate finger caress that she and James exchange when Thomas hands her a fallen glove is the most sexually charged scene in a movie that mistakenly assumes Armie Hammer is its most attractive cast member), but was prevented from doing so by a script that seems suspiciously hell-bent on trying to strip away said subtext…and of course, insists on making Thomas act all dour and serious. When a movie made in 2020 and apparently trying to be progressive feels more uptight and conservative than a film made in 1940 under the surveillance of the Hayes Code, you’re doing something wrong. Maxim himself, also suggested by some book readers to be queer-coded and played by Laurence Olivier in the Hitchcock film, is straight through and through: not a big deal, but another instance where the writers could have done something interesting and chose not to.

Several other side characters receive the same treatment, and nobody apart from Thomas makes any lasting impression: not even Ann Dowd, who makes the least of what should have been her glorified cameo in the film – no thanks to the script, which has taken the funny, flirtatious character of Edythe Van Hopper and turned her into a grotesque, leering abuser who seems personally invested in trying to make her lady’s companion miserable: whether that’s by gaslighting her while the girl cries, locked inside her bedroom, or by amusing her equally wicked friends with stories of her awkward antics.

Rebecca
The superior version of Rebecca | telegraph.co.uk

Is there anything that redeems this Rebecca? I suppose the locations are very beautiful (though Manderley isn’t quite as lavish as one would want), and the costumes are all appropriately fashionable by modern standards. I have a bit of a hard time believing that our protagonist, who is meant to be shy and reserved, would be running around in big, baggy trousers in the late 1930’s, at a time when such a thing would still be considered eyebrow-raising if no longer totally scandalous, but it is what it is. It’s just more proof that director Ben Wheatley and Jane Goldman should not have been making a period piece, when it’s clear that wasn’t what they wanted to do.

Despite all this, I still hope that someone will someday make a better retelling of Rebecca, one that perhaps actually attempts to achieve something worthwhile and gay, and which maybe manages to finally capture throughout the haunting beauty promised by the novel’s famous opening, in which our heroine, ever the restless dreamer, revisits the ruined Manderley in her sleep…because this version’s attempts at tonal consistency are likely to haunt my nightmares.

Rating: 2/10

“The Witcher” Season 2 – First Look At Yennefer Imprisoned!

I was counting on you, Yen.

Out of all the main cast of The Witcher, no one changed outfits more frequently throughout season one than Yennefer of Vengerburg, the farm girl who transformed into a regal Mage and then spent decades losing herself to a life of opulence and luxury anywhere she pleased in The Continent. Her magic and her exquisite fashion sense combined meant that virtually every time she would reappear after one of her long, mysterious absences, she would have an entirely new wardrobe. And, as a Mage, she had absolutely no qualms about one such dress – a long silver and black number decorated with fringes and tassels – into battle at Sodden Hill, on that fateful night when she wrecked the Nilfgaardian Army with purging flames. It was the last time we saw her in season one, because when the smoke cleared she was nowhere to be found: in-universe, most everyone seems to think she’s dead, having used up all her magic to save Sodden. But new first look images reveal that’s not the case: Yennefer survived, she was imprisoned, and all while still wearing the same dress.

The Witcher
Yennefer | Twitter @witchernetflix

Depending on how you look at it, you could say it’s either slightly anticlimactic from a marketing standpoint or slightly worrying from an in-universe standpoint because you know Yennefer’s in a bad way when she doesn’t even have time to make a quick costume change. No significant upgrade or eye-catching new look seems to be in store for the mighty Mage, unlike the rest of her Witcher castmates. The first of the two new images shows the wounded Mage walking, almost as if in a trance, through the burning forests around Sodden Hill. It’s unclear where she’s headed, but my guess is that she’s trying to find Geralt. Both Geralt and Ciri received visions of the burning battlefield where Yennefer was last seen just after her disappearance, suggesting that the three are “linked by destiny”, as the saying goes…it stands to reason then that Yennefer might have received visions of where Geralt and Ciri are, as well. Her face is bloodied and streaked with ash and grime, and she’s still dressed in filthy, tattered clothes (although she has covered herself with a heavy black cape), but at least she’s alive. Even though we saw many other Mages begin to bleed profusely or even die after expending every last drop of their reserve of chaos magic, Yennefer has somehow been able to survive the traumatic incident mostly unscathed. Mostly, that is, because the second image finds her in an entirely new predicament.

The Witcher
Yennefer | ign.com

Someone has taken Yennefer captive. We know it must be soon after her misadventure at Sodden Hill, because she’s still wearing the same dress, but her captors have added a new accessory to her look: a dimeritium shackle, which in The Witcher universe is used to restrain the flow of chaos magic and is thus often the only thing capable of containing a powerful Mage. In The Witcher video games, it is mentioned that, in extraordinary cases, Mages have been able to break free of dimeritium bonds, although Yennefer will have to take a little time to recover some of her chaos before she can manage anything that spectacular. She’s gripping her shackled hand as if it’s giving her great pain, which in turn is giving me great pain because I can’t stand seeing anybody hurt our precious Yen.

So who has her imprisoned? Well, Netflix hasn’t said anything officially, but Redanian Intelligence does believe they know the answer, and it’s a minor spoiler for events that probably happen in the first or second episode of the show. If you want to go in completely unprepared, I’ll leave you with this hint: it ties back into other things we’ve been talking about recently, and promises us further exploration of The Witcher‘s world-building. It also means we’ll get to see some very interesting interactions between Yennefer and an important character we still don’t know much about.

The Witcher
Yennefer in season one | elitedaily.com

Unfortunately for us, these two latest images reveal very little else about Yennefer’s plight, and so we’re left having to play guesswork. My biggest relief is that this means Yennefer will definitely have her own subplot occurring parallel to the Geralt/Ciri arc. Netflix isn’t trying to keep her fate a big mystery, which I like, because I want to be able to spend more time with this amazing character. As many of you know, Anya Chalotra’s excellent performance as Yennefer was one of the things that kept me hooked on The Witcher, and I am extremely excited to see how her character develops in season two. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more images from The Witcher tomorrow (where is Jaskier, Netflix?!), so now we have to settle down and wait for…whatever’s next, I suppose. A poster? A little snippet of footage to get us all hyped? The Witcher is currently filming, and is still predicted to release sometime in 2021.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Yennefer’s same old look, and what are your thoughts on the reasoning for her imprisonment? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Witcher” Season 2 – First Look At Ciri Training At Kaer Morhen!

No, Geralt of Rivia’s fresh new look and upgraded suit of armor wasn’t a fluke: the entire cast of The Witcher has been absolutely thriving, as evidenced by our first look at Geralt’s apprentice/child of surprise, Ciri, in the new outfit she’ll be wearing in season two of the hit Netflix fantasy series. The Witcher‘s season one finale left off with Ciri and Geralt finally reunited after being linked to each other by a mysterious bond of destiny long before Ciri’s birth, and now we can see where Ciri’s destiny has led her: to the isolated castle of Kaer Morhen, domain of Vesemir and his small brotherhood of monster-hunting Witchers. Here, as in the books and video games, Ciri will train to become the first female Witcher in history while learning about her own magical powers.

The Witcher
Ciri | forbes.com

And that’s, of course, why the new images of Ciri revealed today on Netflix’s social media accounts show the usurped Princess of Cintra looking particularly stoic and grim while donning a practical suit of lightweight leather armor, wielding a small wooden practice sword, and tying her hair back into a braid because long hair whipping in your face and obstructing your vision probably isn’t a great idea in the heat of battle (*glances meaningfully at Geralt*). Unfortunately, since only a side-view of her costume is available to us, it’s impossible to see if any cool detailing or ornamentation has been worked into the front of Ciri’s new armor. My first thought was that this is unlikely, considering that the Witchers of Kaer Morhen seem like a relatively simplistic lot, but then again, Geralt did come out of there with a whole set of abs sculpted into his armor, so anything’s possible, I guess?

What’s immediately clear is that this particular outfit, at least, is only loosely inspired by the video game version of Ciri, and even that’s a stretch. In The Witcher games, Ciri’s look has become iconic: the choppy silver hair, the loose, long-sleeved white shirt and assortment of extremely large belts…many fans of the games have been hoping to see some version of this adapted to live-action, but it looks like they’ll have to wait a while longer. The Netflix version of Ciri’s Witcher outfit appears to be more armor than travel wear, and it would be rather bizarre for her to be wearing thin shirts in the middle of winter while snow is falling. The behind-the-scenes photos revealed recently did show Ciri wearing what could have been an outfit more directly inspired by the games, but this seems to be that same outfit (the long, gray-green sleeves are identical), and these high-quality images confirm that this is not going to be much like The Witcher video game version of the character.

The Witcher
Video game Ciri (right) | pcgamer.com

Instead we can be certain that this season, like the first, will draw most heavily from the original books by Andrzej Sapkowski. With the books as our guide, we can predict that Ciri will be trained by Vesemir, despite suffering from recurring nightmares, hallucinations, and visions of impending death. She’ll encounter the Mage Triss Merigold (who had a small role in season one), and the kind-hearted sorceress will also aid in her training, teaching her the Elder Speech (the language of most magic users in The Witcher universe). Throughout season one of The Witcher, Ciri would randomly cause outbursts of chaotic and destructive magic whenever she felt threatened, usually triggered by her screams, and I thoroughly believe that the show will delve into the explanation for that a little bit more in season two: in the books, Ciri’s incredible power derives from her being a “Source”, a person born with untapped resources of magic due to their Elven heritage. The first official synopsis for season two, released yesterday, mentioned that it’s Geralt’s responsibility to protect Ciri from her own power, and it also intriguingly referenced wars between elves and humans in the world outside Kaer Morhen’s walls. In season one, there were a couple of Elven characters and a handful of times that we actually got to observe their ways, but season two might do a better job of exploring the Elven societies that exist within this universe, and how Ciri fits into their delicate political situation.

Another important event in Ciri’s character arc is her first meeting with the Mage Yennefer of Vengerburg. In the show, Ciri hasn’t met Yennefer yet (although she has had some sort of vision of her: her last line in season one was literally “Who’s Yennefer?”), and Geralt currently believes the Mage to be dead following her disappearance at the Battle of Sodden Hill, which suggests to me that bringing Ciri and Yennefer together will be a main plot-point in season two. Personally, I’m hoping that they meet sometime before the season two finale, but it’s probable that, no matter when or how it happens, it will be a life-changing event for both characters: Yennefer has always wanted a child, and in the books she becomes like a mother figure to Ciri, while also acting as her mentor and traveling with her across the Continent. Ciri, for her part, never really had a chance to know her own mother, and so Yennefer will begin to fill a void in Ciri’s life. As much as I’m excited to see how Geralt and Ciri interact, I’m even more curious to see what kind of dynamic will exist between the two women. The Witcher has done a great job fleshing out its female characters and making them complex and interesting, and I expect that to continue as more women join the mix and begin to form more compelling relationships.

The Witcher
Ciri’s sword | Twitter @witchernetflix

Thankfully, we won’t have long to wait before we see what Yennefer herself has been doing ever since she vanished in a burst of fire and smoke at Sodden Hill, because more first look images are coming tomorrow, and will probably reveal the Mage in all her glory. The question of what exactly happened to her has weighed heavily on the minds of all The Witcher‘s fans ever since the season one finale: but the likelihood, in my opinion, is that Yennefer was able to weakly manifest a portal and make her escape while everyone was distracted by the flames she summoned to obliterate the Nilfgaardian army. But why? And where did she go? These are the questions I hope to have answered sooner rather than later.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Ciri’s new look? And which character from The Witcher are you most excited to see return in season two? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Witcher” Season 2 First Look – Geralt Gets An Upgrade!

The Witcher is back – and apparently, a couple of months in quarantine and self-isolation have done him wonders, as he’s emerged with a fabulous new look and a costume upgrade. I can’t say the same for the rest of us, but I’m excited to see some small signs of normalcy returning: it’s been months since The Witcher and virtually every other film and TV production around the world got delayed due to the sudden advent of the coronavirus crisis, and only just recently has filming been able to resume, with new safety protocols in place on set. Thankfully, the team at work on The Witcher‘s upcoming second season have been unusually generous, and have already gifted us two first look images of our fan-favorite protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher himself.

The Witcher
Geralt of Rivia | geektyrant.com

Henry Cavill is returning as expected to the popular role, but The Witcher costuming department has received a bit of a shake-up, with Lucinda Wright replacing Tim Aslam as lead costume designer. Wright, known best for her work on Doctor Who and a multitude of fashionable period pieces, has already brought a fresh, eye-catching new style to the fantasy series’ clothes, putting Geralt into a practical suit of armor. For much of season one, Geralt traveled around the Continent wearing loose-fitting or comfortable clothing: such as the now-iconic baggy shirt/tight leather pants combo (the subject of many a meme), and the padded leather pauldrons and breastplate, but season two appears to be heading into darker, grittier territory – Wright’s new design for Geralt’s outfit features almost Greco-Roman sensibilities, with armor sculpted around Henry Cavill’s muscles (a wise decision, since in season one, his muscles actually wore down his leather armor), and covered all around in studs and straps. He strikes an imposing figure, with his distinctive new silhouette.

My only complaint is with his new set of plated pauldrons: the armoring which covers his shoulders and upper arms. Even in season one, they didn’t look great, but these ones are slightly more unattractive, if I’m being honest. Then again, I’ve never been a big fan of pauldrons in any form: it’s an aesthetic thing. They’re usually too big and too bulky. Unfortunately, they’re also usually the first thing that I notice when I look at any suit of armor, as is the case here. Thankfully, a closer observation turns up many interesting little details on Geralt’s new costume that I do find genuinely exciting: for instance, his new thigh belts come with a whole bunch of sheathes, which I suppose are meant for knives and daggers. The sculpted detailing has already gone over very well with the fandom, which never misses an opportunity to lavish praises on Henry Cavill’s physique. As a side-note, Cavill’s silver wig also looks a lot better this time around: the long, tousled mane can be hit-or-miss depending on circumstances, but these photos caught it in a perfect state of realistic disarray.

The Witcher
Geralt of Rivia | ign.com

Along with the new look, Netflix has also given us a brief synopsis for season two, which confirms a little bit of what we already knew: in their words, “Convinced Yennefer’s life was lost at the Battle of Sodden, Geralt of Rivia brings Princess Cirilla to the safest place he knows, his childhood home of Kaer Morhen. While the Continent’s kings, elves, humans and demons strive for supremacy outside its walls, he must protect the girl from something far more dangerous: the mysterious power she possesses inside.” In the books, Cirilla (or Ciri, the name most people know her by at this point) is raised at Kaer Morhen to become the first female Witcher, and behind-the-scenes photos have already shown the Cintran princess sporting what looks to be an almost video-game-accurate outfit while training in the forest. This short synopsis also indicates that we won’t see Yennefer and Geralt reunite until later in the season, although we’re all pretty certain Yennefer isn’t dead despite expending all her chaos magic in defense of Sodden during the season one finale. Hopefully this just means Yennefer will have her own independent subplot happening simultaneously with the Geralt and Ciri arc: I would hate to have to wait throughout most of the season to see her again, after she was the best character in season one.

The Witcher
Geralt of Rivia | gameinformer.com

Netflix’s social media accounts have already hinted that we’ll get further material in the coming days: probably first look images for both Ciri’s armor and Yennefer’s new look (unless they’re keeping her resurrection more of a surprise, which I hope is not the case). There’s also a chance we might see Jaskier the bard again – in-universe, it’s been years since he was last seen, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s aged at all, or if The Witcher really is just going to ignore that entirely. And with new spinoffs being considered and greenlit (a new one, focusing on The Continent’s order of Mages, was unofficially revealed just a few days ago), it looks like we’ll have much more Witcher content coming our way in no time. This first look is just the beginning.

What do you think of Geralt’s new suit of armor, and how do you feel it compares to his season one look? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Enola Holmes” Puts A 21st Century Twist On Sherlock Holmes!

Sherlock Holmes is a name recognizable to virtually anyone, thanks to his longevity in both literature and countless film and TV appearances: so it’s understandable that many audiences will approach Netflix’s Enola Holmes (based on the popular book series of the same name) with the assumption that it’s just going to be a fun yet forgettable Sherlock Holmes spinoff. But give it a chance, and I think you may become so obsessed with the film’s intelligent, free-spirited heroine that you might just find yourself wishing for a bit more of her story to be told onscreen. It’s not that Sherlock (Henry Cavill) himself isn’t a major player in Enola Holmes, it’s just that…well, two can play the same game equally well, and Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown, also the film’s executive producer) is more than capable of matching wits with the great detective.

Enola Holmes
radiotimes.com

The film hooks you in early, setting the stage for the overarching mystery almost immediately and carrying our heroine on a fast-paced adventure through the English countryside all the way down to London’s bustling streets, giving us respites and occasional breaks along the way but never once derailing the main plot, as many mysteries are apt to do with a multitude of red herrings. Enola Holmes and her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter, marvelous as always and playing a boldly feminist character similar to her role in Suffragete) live in a somewhat dilapidated manor, where Enola spends her days honing her intellectual and physical skills – everything from reading entire libraries worth of fine literature to mastering the art of jujitsu – in an idyllic safe haven, far removed from the cruel outside world. In Enola and Eudoria’s home, everything is a fun, clever puzzle: in fact, Enola’s own name, backwards, spells out the word Alone – though Enola wryly notes that she might be looking too much into that, as her older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) don’t share that little quirk. But most of the time we spend with Enola and Eudoria in their tranquil, carefree life is via flashbacks interspersed throughout the film at appropriate moments – because, from almost the moment the film opens, Eudoria is missing, and it is her sudden disappearance (on her daughter’s birthday, no less) that springboards the young Enola into the real world, armed with all the knowledge she has obtained from her homeschooling.

What makes Enola Holmes so darn likable, however, isn’t just that she can come up with a daring escape plan in a matter of seconds or take down an armed opponent while wearing the cumbersome fashion of her time period; it’s that she’s distinctly human – she’s nothing like her brother Sherlock, who has a reputation for being cold and emotionless (even in our world; so much so that the Arthur Conan Doyle tried to sue the makers of this film because their Sherlock portrayal was too emotional – and also because this version respects women too much, which, um…we’re not even going to go near that little tidbit of information). Because Enola breaks the fourth wall so frequently and with such humor and self-awareness (at one point even directly asking us, the audience, for ideas during a tricky moment), and because she’s free to make mistakes and slip up every now and again, it’s hard not to root for her – even, and perhaps especially, when her agendas don’t quite line up with Sherlock’s. It’s a testament to the strength of Enola’s character that I found myself actively wishing Sherlock would move aside and let his younger sister take the lead.

Enola Holmes
Sherlock & Mycroft Holmes | comicbook.com

It should be stated, however, that Sherlock Holmes’ portrayal here is very nearly as charismatic and compelling as Enola’s. Henry Cavill has quite possibly carved out another niche for himself in yet another franchise, one that I hope he intends to expand upon, if Enola Holmes gets a well-deserved sequel: his Sherlock is instantly familiar and yet so very different from what we’ve seen before – is that because, as has been mentioned, he has emotions and, indeed, respects women in this iteration of the character? Well, I think it might have something to do with that, actually. Cavill’s Sherlock tries hard to maintain his neutrality and facade of cold indifference, but it’s teased throughout the film that he has a certain vulnerability and warmth – something he’s really only ever able to reveal around his sister. Siblings supporting, respecting, and inspiring each other? You know I’m always here for that trope.

On the flip-side you have Enola and Sherlock’s other brother, the mustachioed Mycroft. He never quite twirls said mustache, but he’s the type of character who would if the opportunity arose: he’s deliciously despicable, the type of scummy, sneering elitist whose only motive is to make sure that the world stays firmly as it is. Eudoria’s wild spirit and Enola’s rebellious attitude are direct affronts to him, and he does everything in his power to try and dampen our heroine’s courage with attempts to “civilize” her and transform her into society’s image of a polite young lady of the Victorian era. Though there are several villains in the film, he’s the one who never fails to trip up Enola Holmes by playing on her insecurities and feelings of self-doubt – he’s the living embodiment of everything wrong and corrupt with the status quo, and the fact that he is so laughable and yet so seemingly omnipresent only goes to underline that point. Another key plot-point in the film is a reform bill that is set to go to a vote before the House of Lords – it’s only ever referred to as Reform, and that’s in part because the specifics are unimportant. It represents progress and the overturning of a commonly accepted system of government, and Mycroft Holmes, who expresses his disapproval for the very notion early on, is everything that stands in between us and achieving such radical Reform time and time again. We are still fighting Mycroft Holmes and his infuriating stance of neutrality in 2020: he is everyone screaming “All Lives Matter” in response to the notion that Black lives take precedence at a moment in time where they are the ones being singled out by police brutality and other forms of violence. In a world full of Mycrofts, be a Eudoria or an Enola.

Or be a Lord Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), who is one of the most surprising characters in the film. I say surprising because the trailer for this film made it seem to me that he was going to be utterly unbearable, with a bad case of “arrogant rich boy”. Quite the opposite: Tewksbury is a free spirit himself, and while, as an upper-class white male, he might personally benefit from the status quo, he nonetheless wants to change it and actively tries to do so. He’s also a mushroom forager and amateur botanist, which is absolutely charming and differentiates him from a long line of previous onscreen royals who spend their days casually maiming nature and wildlife rather than preserving or cultivating it – although, rather surprisingly, his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and flowers is simple a character trait; it has no relevance to the plot, which, considering that the mystery largely revolves around the language of flowers, seems like a missed opportunity.

Enola Holmes
cinemablend.com

Now I suppose I really ought to talk about the mystery itself since…well, Enola Holmes is a mystery. Thankfully, it’s a pretty good one: the trail of clues is maybe a bit too difficult to follow at points, and I might have enjoyed more in-depth scenes of clue-hunting that didn’t require so much backtracking (via flashbacks) to an event that we, the audience, didn’t actually see in real-time, but that’s a fairly minor complaint – it certainly didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie. To counterpoint this complaint with a positive, one of my favorite things about the mystery is that it gets intense, and dark: the film’s villain (no spoilers!) is out to kill, and the fight scenes don’t hold back – Enola is a very convincing action heroine, whose wits and strength are well-balanced. And she makes for a very effective detective, not least of all because her breaking the fourth wall allows her to walk us through her process organically, rather than having to drop loads of clunky exposition, or, like the classic Sherlock, piece everything together silently in her head.

Her instant charm makes her the perfect candidate to lead her own franchise on Netflix, if you ask my opinion (you didn’t, but I offered it anyway because I’m shameless). The film leaves off with plenty of story still to explore…in a sequel, I hope? If Enola Holmes blossoms into a hit for the streaming service, I would love to see the fierce young detective continue to solve cases all around England – with or without the help of her older brother. Sherlock’s name recognition is still potent, and shouldn’t be discounted entirely, but I think – no, I know – that Enola Holmes is her own character, and she can manage just fine alone.

Rating: 8.5/10

“The Kane Chronicles” Are Coming To Netflix!

Author Rick Riordan has quickly become a hot commodity in Hollywood, a status I’m sure he never thought he’d achieve after the complete and utter embarrassment that was the feature film adaptation of his Percy Jackson And The Olympians series in 2010. Following the recent announcement that Percy Jackson will find a better home on the Disney+ streaming service (where it will be adapted as a series with the potential for multiple seasons if when the first one does well), Riordan has managed to complete a deal with Netflix that will allow the streaming giant to develop feature films out of all three books in his fabulous – but criminally underrated – Kane Chronicles series.

Kane Chronicles
riordan.fandom.com

The Kane Chronicles were Riordan’s second foray into the world of urban fantasy, as he deftly wove Ancient Egyptian mythology into a modern setting, pitting a team of diverse protagonists led by Carter and Sadie Kane against the Egyptian serpent Apophis, a seemingly indestructible force of pure evil capable of swallowing the sun and ending life as we know it. The series has received less attention than Percy Jackson’s exploits in the universe of Greek and Roman mythology, but is no less well-written, funny, or surprisingly educational. Carter and Sadie, biracial twins descended from a long lineage of Egyptian magicians, travel across the world battling gods and monsters from the mythos, learning spells, and uncovering secrets about their powers. The Kane Chronicles are perfectly suited to a film adaptation: and Netflix definitely has the money to make the Egyptian setting come to life with appropriate grandeur and spectacle.

It will be important to make sure that Netflix doesn’t attempt to whitewash either Carter or Sadie Kane, or any of their extended family. Rick Riordan himself got into a quarrel with several of his publishers in European countries after cover art for the books featured both protagonists as white, prompting the author to clarify that Carter is canonically a “dark brown” African-American young man, while Sadie is lighter skinned. Netflix has similarly faced accusations of whitewashing over the years, as have most film and television studios, but Rick Riordan’s involvement in the project gives me hope that he’ll keep a close eye on these and other important issues. That being said, the extent to which he is directly involved is still unclear: Riordan’s official announcement on his social media was only a few seconds long, too brief to provide many crucial details, and his website provides only a little more, noting that he started corresponding to Netflix in October.

One thing is clear, however. While in the books it’s at first implied and then later confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Kane Chronicles and the Percy Jackson series exist in the same universe, that won’t be possible here because…well, Netflix and Disney+ are separate, competing streaming services. This definitely won’t impact either series (in the Percy Jackson series, Egyptian gods are never referenced as far as I can remember, and in The Kane Chronicles there are a few scattered hints about something happening in Manhattan, but nothing actually substantial in the main books themselves: Carter Kane and Percy Jackson would only first meet up in a short story written by Riordan, which was followed by two more crossovers), but it does mean that any hopes of one vast, Percy Jackson Cinematic Universe under the Disney+ banner are impossible. Goodbye, PJCU…we hardly knew ya. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is sure to disappoint a bunch of fans.

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Assuming both series’ are handled respectfully and Riordan is able to work closely with the producers and creative teams, we should see two separate adaptations of his work that both offer a much better vision of his extensive world and worldbuilding than the 2010 Percy Jackson movie could ever have accomplished. I have high hopes. While I’m nervous about how Netflix will adapt The Kane Chronicles, I can’t deny I’m wildly excited to see characters like the Egyptian gods and goddesses (Bast, the cat goddess and Kane family guardian, was always my favorite) finally brought to life with all the heart and humor that Riordan always intended. It’s a good time to be alive, if you’re at all a fan of Riordan’s mythos.

So what do you think? Did you read The Kane Chronicles, and if so, who are you most excited to see make the jump from page to screen? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

A She-Ra Movie Needs To Happen – Here’s Why.

SPOILERS FOR SHE-RA SEASON 5 AHEAD!

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She-Ra | latimes.com

The animated She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power series on Netflix ended a few months ago, bringing five seasons to a close with one epic, super emotional finale. It was, in my opinion, a great conclusion: the fifth season raised the stakes higher than I would have ever thought possible, but still kept audiences firmly rooted in the emotional core of the whole series – the suspenseful will-they-won’t-they romance between heroine Adora (better known by her alias She-Ra) and the antiheroine Catra, which eventually ended with the two characters confessing their love for each other while the world came crumbling down around them. The power of that love was enough to activate the Heart of Etheria and in turn save the entire planet from being decimated by Horde Prime’s alien hordes; and so at last Adora, Catra, and their squad of friends and allies got to enjoy what seemed to be a mostly happy ending for everybody involved (well, except Horde Prime).

But it didn’t take long before the She-Ra fandom rallied behind a new hashtag on Twitter, #SheRaMovie, which has consistently become a top trend on social media for the past several weeks. And while some might dismiss it as dissatisfied fans hungry for more content, the truth is that there are many good reasons for why a She-Ra movie could and should happen: not only because it’s a smart business move to tap into such a large and clearly motivated audience, but because (a) there’s never been a better time for fan-driven campaigns and LGBTQ+ representation in animation, and (b) there are plenty more stories left to tell in the She-Ra universe.

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Scorpia & Catra | syfy.com

Fan-driven campaigns have often been seen as foolish or vain endeavors: there have been times where they’ve succeeded in changing the minds of studio executives (Sonic the Hedgehog’s redesign, for instance), but 2020 has really made the sky the limit in terms of what a fan-driven campaign can achieve, and that’s all thanks to Zack Snyder’s never-before-seen cut of Justice League. Fans asked for it for years, and insisted that it would be better than the disastrous box-office flop that actually got released in theaters back in 2017; they trended #ReleaseTheSnyderCut whenever they could; and most importantly, they never gave up. They kept the movement going, they got support from the film’s cast and crew, they made the simple hashtag become a household phrase – and this year, they were rewarded for their efforts with the news that Warner Brothers will indeed soon release Zack Snyder’s Justice League. #SheRaMovie is in part inspired by the success of that movement, and as long as fans continue to make it trend regularly and continue to receive support from insiders (She-Ra showrunner Noelle Stevenson never fails to express her admiration for the fan campaign, which in turn motivates the fans to keep up their efforts), they will attract attention from the higher-ups at Dreamworks Animation and Netflix, and could soon share in the happiness that Snyder Cut supporters are feeling.

The need to see more strong LGBTQ+ representation in entertainment media is likely going to be another important factor in greenlighting a She-Ra movie. She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power was one of several animated shows and films this year that made a place in the narrative for well-rounded LGBTQ+ characters (and Noelle Stevenson’s wife Molly Ostertag is in fact responsible for writing several episodes of another of those shows, Disney Channel’s The Owl House, which features Disney’s first bisexual lead character) which earned the series plenty of well-deserved praise, including from my blog. With so much progress happening so quickly, my question for Dreamworks is…why stop now? When you have an established LGBTQ+ friendly franchise like She-Ra already perfectly positioned to continue leading the charge for diversity in animation, why not utilize that advantage?

She-Ra
Adora & Catra | tor.com

And moving away from the business perspective for a minute, let’s take a look at in-universe reasons for why a She-Ra movie should happen: obviously, the movie needs to have a reason to exist. But luckily, She-Ra ends with plenty of set-up for an eventual spinoff – in fact, the very last scene features the entire main cast of characters already planning to embark on a new adventure to share their planet’s abundant magic with the rest of the galaxy. A spinoff movie could partly follow that plotline, which would take us to new locations and introduce us to new characters. Besides that, there are still several questions left unanswered after the finale, particularly questions about the First Ones and their forgotten technology, the origins of Horde Prime and of She-Ra herself, the universe outside Despondos, and the character of Madame Razz, who, despite not having and not needing a large role in season five, could be a major player in a She-Ra movie if her mysterious backstory ever gets explored in-depth.

Most of the characters have room to grow post-season five, no matter what else happens. Adora and Catra finally got together, but now both young women need to keep working to maintain the bond of trust and understanding they established after basically rebooting their entire relationship. They’re starting over from scratch, which makes their dynamic all the more fascinating. Glimmer, still Queen of Bright Moon, is going to have to return there eventually and rule alongside her best friend/boyfriend Bow and her recently-returned father, Micah, who was King before he went missing (I love some political intrigue). Scorpia and Perfuma will be rebuilding the Fright Zone side-by-side. Mermista and Seahawk should be commanding their own pirate fleet by now. Entrapta will be trying to convince her friends to trust Hordak, which won’t be easy considering he (checks notes) plundered and pillaged all of Etheria, robbed Scorpia of her birthright and brainwashed her into thinking she never had one, destroyed Mermista’s entire kingdom, kidnapped Adora and Catra as babies, employed Shadow Weaver to emotionally abuse his soldiers, personally tortured Catra, started a decades-long war with the Princess Alliance, paved the way for Horde Prime’s takeover, and never apologized for any of it. And the shape-shifter Double Trouble will be living their best life on a theater stage, even though we still don’t know what happened to their last disguise, the prophetic Prince Peekablue – in fact, finding him could be another potential subplot.

She-Ra
flickeringmyth.com

My ideal She-Ra movie would tackle all of these storylines, but, since the ending of season five perfectly sets up a space-based adventure, that’s where I’d want the film to start out, with Adora, Catra, Glimmer, Bow, Entrapta and Hordak (and Wrong Hordak, just for fun) either just setting off on a quest across the stars or returning from one. Most of the film, however, could still be set on Etheria. As for the conflict, with Horde Prime and Shadow Weaver both dead and Hordak a good guy now, who’s left to challenge She-Ra? Easy: the First Ones. The technologically-advanced, semi-mythological figures who created She-Ra and programmed Etheria to be their own superweapon may have been defeated during Horde Prime’s war of conquest, but it’s not implausible that some survived – and if some did, they’d want nothing more than to finally deactivate She-Ra, their experiment gone wrong. And they probably wouldn’t be too keen on the notion of Etheria spreading its magical resources across the galaxy, come to think of it. While Adora and Horde Prime had a fairly impersonal conflict, it would be hard to get more personal than a fight between Adora and the First Ones, who literally designed her super-sized avatar (well, Adora fighting Catra would be more personal, technically, but we’ve been there, done that).

To conclude, my message to all of you is to keep pushing for a movie because it could very well happen – but only if Dreamworks and Netflix both see that the demand is there. Don’t let a week go by where the hashtag doesn’t trend. Don’t stop calling for better, stronger LGBTQ+ representation in all media, but especially in animation where it’s currently on a roll. If you’re active in the She-Ra fandom, you know all this already, but it’s important to reiterate. Let’s make this movie happen!

How do you feel about a She-Ra movie? Do you think it’s smart from a business perspective, and do you think it’s wise to continue the story? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!