Men In Black: International is safe, bland, utterly sincere fun


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In the original Men In Black, 1997’s loopy Barry Sonnenfeld comedy about a secret government agency that polices alien activity on Earth, there’s a sequence that plays with misunderstanding as much as it sets up the coming action. New agent Jay (Will Smith) is talking with medical examiner Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), unaware that a dangerous, grotesque alien is hidden in the gurney between them, clutching her ankle and holding her at gunpoint. As Laurel tries to alert Jay to the danger, or get him to escort her to safety, he mistakes her behavior for a sexual come-on. “There’s something I need to show you,” she says, pointing down at the alien, though it looks like she’s pointing at her own crotch. “Mmm, slow down, girl, you ain’t…

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WarnerMedia greenlights Dune TV series with director Denis Villeneuve


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WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service has given the go-ahead to produce a series based on Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, according to a report in Variety. The series, Dune: The Sisterhood, “is told through the eyes of a mysterious order of women known as the Bene Gesserit. Given extraordinary abilities by their mastery of the body and the mind, the Bene Gesserit expertly weave through the feudal politics and intrigue of The Imperium, pursuing plans of their own that will ultimately lead them to the enigmatic planet Arrakis, known to its inhabitants as Dune.” Film director Denis Villeneuve (The Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) will direct the pilot episode and co-produce the series.

“The Bene Gesserit have always been fascinating to me,”…

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Black Mirror’s Striking Vipers is startlingly grown-up about its adult video game fantasy


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The fifth season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, a Twilight Zone-esque anthology TV series about technological anxieties and possible futures, was released on Netflix on June 5th, 2019. We’re looking at each of the season’s three episodes to see what they have to say about current culture and projected fears.

Spoiler warning: This essay does not give away the ending of “Striking Vipers,” but it does reveal the episode’s first major plot twist since it’s difficult to address any of the episode’s themes otherwise.

At its most intense and celebrated, the bleak-futures series Black Mirror has extrapolated from common technologies and tech-related social structures and projected ways for them to go terribly wrong. Whether it’s reimagining B…

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Game of Thrones Hope Chest: should Daenerys be saved?


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Game of Thrones has never been about giving readers or viewers what they most want. Its author and screenwriters prefer to build fan expectations, then overturn them for narrative impact and, sometimes, pure shock value. Yet, fans maintain hope that at least a few of the characters will reach satisfying, well-deserved endings. So it’s time for the return of Game of Thrones Hope Chest, the weekly poll where we put all of our hopes together in one place. We aren’t asking what you think is going to happen on Game of Thrones. We’re asking: what do you most hope to see happen.

This week, there’s really just one question: do you want to see Daenerys Targaryen saved? That raises a host of other minor questions, including can she be saved, and s…

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James Gunn says being fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 let him experience ‘real love’


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Back in 2018, Disney fired director James Gunn, who was at the time working on the second sequel to his Marvel Cinematic Universe film Guardians of the Galaxy. The firing came in response to a smear campaign by a noted alt-right media personality, who resurfaced some bad-taste jokes about pedophilia that Gunn had tweeted, in some cases more than a decade ago. The public firing resulted in several weeks of internet uproar, with fan petitions calling for Gunn’s reinstatement, and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast speaking up on his behalf, both via a formal public letter to Disney and via interviews and their own social media outlets. Gunn moved on to a new position at Warner Bros., scripting Suicide Squad 2, but earlier this year, Disney r…

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Game of Thrones’ writers love their clumsy-fool characters and big, dumb gestures


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Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, “The Bells.”

A lot has been written lately about how Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss don’t really understand some of the characters they inherited from A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin — particularly the show’s smartest and most foresighted characters. The behind-the-scenes schemers and string-pullers who shaped the show have fallen on hard times in recent seasons, as Benioff and Weiss have run out of Martin’s source material, forcing them to take on more of the burden of plotting and scripting the show — and bringing their own blunter tastes and interests to the fore.

And that’s radically shifted the show’s tone. Where Martin loves…

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Game of Thrones’ showrunners say Daenerys’ big decision was completely spontaneous


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Warning: spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, “The Bells”

Throughout the last season of Game of Thrones, writers and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been rapidly building toward the idea that madness runs in the Targaryen family, and Daenerys Targaryen might at any moment snap and become a dangerous tyrant. They say they’ve been seeding that ending since season 1 when she reacted with cold calm to her husband Khal Drogo executing her brother Viserys in a ghastly fashion. But given how the latest episode, “The Bells,” accelerates her madness, it’s hard to see the connection. Failing to show compassion for the abuser who sold her into sexual slavery doesn’t exactly feel like the first clear early warning…

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Game of Thrones Hope Chest: underserved and absent characters


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Game of Thrones has never been about giving readers or viewers what they most want. Its author and screenwriters prefer to build fan expectations, then overturn them for narrative impact and, sometimes, pure shock value. Yet, fans maintain hope that at least a few of the characters will reach a satisfying, well-deserved ending. So it’s time for the return of Game of Thrones Hope Chest, the weekly poll where we put all of our hopes together in one place. We aren’t asking what you think is going to happen on Game of Thrones. We’re asking: what do you most hope to see happen?

The last few episodes of Game of Thrones have kicked up a lot of fuss, from viewers and critics upset about everything from Daenerys Targaryen’s bad scouting strategy…

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China’s blockbuster The Wandering Earth is gorgeous, goofy, and on Netflix now


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This review was originally published in February 2019, when the film was released in China, and in a limited theatrical run in America. It has been updated to reflect the film’s release on Netflix.

We’re living through a fascinating era of rapid change for the blockbuster movie model. America producers, eager to get their $200 million movies into the lucrative Chinese market, are increasingly looking for Chinese production partners, shooting in Chinese locations, and adding China-friendly characters and plotlines to American movies, even including extra scenes just for the Chinese cuts of films. But simultaneously, China and other countries are moving toward the blockbuster model themselves, creating homegrown films that don’t need to…

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Game of Thrones’ latest episode left several important things offscreen


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Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”

One of the bigger complaints levied at the past few seasons of Game of Thrones is that time and space have stopped meaning anything to the characters. The show used to spend multi-episode runs moving characters around the breadth of the Seven Kingdoms, but in season 7, the showrunners started accelerating the action by having Euron’s fleet magically teleport from one Westeros coast to another in no time at all or having a message make its way from far north of the Wall to Daenerys in time for her to swoop in and save her stranded allies from the Night King.

Season 8 continues to have a problem with ignoring time, space, and some significant plot movement….

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What’s behind all the weird online thirst for the Night King?


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Tasha: So let’s be frank about this: we started having a version of this conversation a week ago when Julia said she was super into the Night King on Game of Thrones. We talked about her writing a piece about villain-lust, coming in part out of a Tumblr and pop culture outlet trend toward drooling over characters like Venom and thirsting after thicc daddy Thanos. And then this Mashable piece about the Night King hit, full of references to Night Bae and “Ice me, Night Daddy” and “temperature play.”

So, okay. I get it. Bad boys have always been kind of hot. Since the dawn of time, critics have been writing…

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Game of Thrones Hope Chest: which character do you most need to see survive?


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Game of Thrones has never been about giving readers or viewers what they most want. Its author and screenwriters prefer to build fan expectations, then overturn them for narrative impact and, sometimes, pure shock value. Yet, fans maintain hope that at least a few of the characters will reach a satisfying, well-deserved ending. So it’s time for the return of Game of Thrones Hope Chest, the weekly poll where we put all of our hopes together in one place. We aren’t asking what you think is going to happen on Game of Thrones. We’re asking: what do you most hope to see happen?

This week, we’re talking about character deaths. For some fans, there are certainly good reasons to hope some Game of Thrones characters die in the upcoming Battle of…

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Why we’re hoping for a big body count in Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame


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We’re approaching a weird weekend of pop culture grief. Thursday, April 25th, marks the release of Avengers: Endgame, the follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War, in which literally half the universe died. Just a few days later, on Sunday, April 28th, the latest episode of Game of Thrones will send the majority of the show’s surviving cast into an epic battle with the undead horde of White Walkers sweeping down from beyond the Wall. Both Endgame and Game of Thrones have something unusual in common: they’re installments of long-running, immensely popular franchises where the audience widely expects they’re about to see their favorite characters die.

That’s rare in a cultural environment that thrives on endless sequels, prequels, spinoffs, and…

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This is the most important MCU sequence to rewatch before seeing Avengers: Endgame


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Spoiler alert: This article does not address or reveal any plot points from Avengers: Endgame. It’s just a recommendation for a specific refresher course. Trust us on this one.

Ahead of the release of Avengers: Endgame, anti-spoiler mania has reached a point of frenzy, driven in part by the directors’ anti-spoiler statement, a seemingly actively malicious pro-spoiler movement, and an extremely popular social media hashtag urging people not to be dicks about it. The Verge is so on board that our spoiler-free review doesn’t reveal a single plot point from the movie, and neither will this post.

We’re just here to say that the film, as a whole, ties back into a whole lot of Marvel Cinematic Universe history. It’s a phenomenally referential…

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Here’s why Avengers: Endgame doesn’t have a post-credits scene


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The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Avengers: Endgame, is just starting to hit screens, and already, there are reports of viewers ending the movie with a titanic groan of disgust. It’s not because they hated the movie — which is actively designed as a rousing payoff for 10 years of MCU films — but because they stayed all the way through the credits, and got nothing. There’s no friendly visual joke with a giant ant, no rush straight into the next movie, no low-key, wordless sit-down with some shawarma.

Post-credits scenes have been a staple of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies since 2009’s Iron Man ended with Nick Fury inviting Tony Stark to join the Avengers Initiative. Recently, extra mid-credits scenes have also become a regular…

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Avengers: Endgame — our spoiler-free review


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Spoiler notice: this review expressly doesn’t spoil any specific plot points in Avengers: Endgame whatsoever, but does discuss general themes, ideas, and cast members.

It’s been just over a decade since Marvel Studios launched its flagship franchise of interconnected comics-inspired movies with 2008’s Iron Man, and even now it’s difficult to begin to evaluate how much that franchise has changed the face of filmmaking. After 10 years, 21 films, nearly a dozen television shows, countless tie-in comics and games and merchandising options and viral videos, and billions upon billions of dollars in earnings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the Holy Grail that every major studio is questing after, usually with little success. The MCU…

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Game of Thrones Hope Chest: weirdest fan theories


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Game of Thrones has never been about giving readers or viewers what they most want. Its author and screenwriters prefer to build fan expectations, then overturn them for narrative impact and, sometimes, pure shock value. Yet, fans maintain hope that at least a few of the characters will reach a satisfying, well-deserved ending. So it’s time for the return of Game of Thrones Hope Chest, the weekly poll where we put all of our hopes together in one place. We aren’t asking what you think is going to happen on Game of Thrones. We’re asking: what do you most hope to see happen?

This week, we’re diving deep into the tinfoil hat area of the internet — or at least, what used to be the tinfoil hat section before shows like Westworld helped fan…

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The new Hellboy is a death-metal cover of Guillermo del Toro’s work


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There’s a point in Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot where a handful of demons get loose on Earth, and the audience can practically hear the film’s special-effects artists rolling up their sleeves and cackling. As the demons tear through crowds of screaming, terrified bystanders, the film breaks down into a bloodbath. Writhing bodies are ripped apart. A man’s face is torn off. Moaning people are skewered on the legs of a walking demon, and heads explode into gushy messes. Why is any of this happening? What in the action that led up to this moment would justify what’s going on? The filmmakers don’t particularly seem to care. It’s enough for them to have gallons of vivid CGI blood spattering the lens, turning the screen into particularly gory…

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Go behind the scenes at Laika Studios with an exclusive look at the stop-motion process


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At this point, virtually anyone who cares about the craft of animation recognizes the name Laika, the Portland, Oregon-based studio that specializes in staggeringly detailed stop-motion. The studio behind films such as Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings has built a reputation for stop-motion that mixes technological ambition with meticulously handcrafted work.

The studio’s latest film, Missing Link, continues the tradition. This time, it’s expanding the action to an around-the-world adventure involving a British aristocrat (Hugh Jackman) who travels to America on a cryptid-hunt and ends up promising to escort a Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) on a global hunt for his elusive yeti kin. Zoe Saldana co-stars as…

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The best initial episode of Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone is free on YouTube


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Audiences should always be a little wary of any new show or film that reportedly debuts on April Fools’ Day, especially if it seems too good to be true or too weird to believe. (We’re still withholding judgment on indie auteur Jim Jarmusch supposedly making a super goofy zombie comedy, for instance.) But for some shows, like Jordan Peele’s inherently twist-and-surprise-oriented reboot of the 1950s classic series The Twilight Zone, April 1st seems like an appropriate kick-off date. The show launches today, solely on the subscription-only service CBS All Access.

But for the curious (and the hard-to-convince, since these days, few people seem excited about the prospect of signing on for yet another proprietary, fee-based subscription…

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