by Josie Kafka
Star Casting Wars
If you’ve been frozen in a block of carbonite, you might not have heard: now we know who will be in the next Star Wars movies. Here’s the list from the press release: “John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker.”
Reactions to the casting news ranged from happy to befuddled (“who are these people?”) to questioning—especially from female critics, who noticed that there was only one woman added to the roster, bringing the total number of female stars to two. Two! Annalee Newitz of I09 anticipated the blowback to a call for more women in the Star Wars universe: “Don't give me any crap about how this is still basically a boy's story, and boys don't want to watch girls on screen. First of all, Star Wars is as close to a universal story as you can find in pop culture. People of all genders and racial backgrounds enjoy it, especially when they're kids.” JJ Abrams apparently agrees, and rumor indicates that another important female role will be cast soon. So, hooray: now we’re at three!
The Upcoming Revenants
Last fall, ChrisB strongly recommended the French series The Returned, which aired on the Sundance channel here in the States. All eight episodes are now available on Netflix streaming, but if subtitles aren’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know that A&E will adapt the series for an American audience (more car chases, perhaps?). Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse and Raelle Tucker of True Blood will mastermind the reboot.
Lev Grossman’s trilogy—The Magicians, The Magician King and the upcoming The Magician’s Land—will soon be adapted into a TV show to air on SyFy. The series focuses on a group of real-world magicians who discover that the fictional childhood magical land of Fillory (think Narnia) is real, and it sucks. The series has been quite popular among hip genre fans, as Grossman “both engages with and defies the genre, and in doing so kicks down the imaginary partition separating fantasy from not-fantasy (otherwise known as serious literary big-boy writing).”
I read the first book in the series when it came out, and I have very little memory of the actual plot, but I have retained three strong gut-level impressions. One, I am evidently not grown-up enough to be okay with people hating on Narnia. Two, the characters were so unromantically flawed that I was uncomfortable spending time with them. And three: The Magicians contains one passage of such powerful suspense, evoking a sort of immobile horror, that it will always stick with me. It was some of the most effective writing I’ve ever read.
Whether or not I return to the books is still up for internal debate. But I definitely plan on checking out the series.
The opposite is true of the upcoming movie based on one of my favorite childhood books, Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, about a boy and his (spoiler!) bad day. The film stars Jennifer Garner, Steve Carrell, Donald Glover, and Dylan Minette (Jack’s son from Lost and the teen son from Awake, among other things), and while it looks a bit more frenetic than the book was, the trailer is actually rather charming.
This Week in Casts
• Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad) and comedian Sarah Silverman will both join the cast of Masters of Sex for its second season.
• Tricia Helfer (BSG) will join SyFy’s Ascension, which I first reported on here.
• Michael McKean (a bunch of stuff, but mostly Spinal Tap) will join the cast of the Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul.
• Ser Pounce, the fuzzy pile of adorability who had his breakout role in the Game of Thrones episode “Oathkeeper,” will retire from acting to pursue a life of naps, bird watching, and belly rubs.
• Matt Smith (Doctor Who) will join Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) in the upcoming Terminator reboot.
• Damien Lewis (Homeland) will play Henry VIII in the upcoming adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
Life in the Superverse
Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada recently teased the mood of the upcoming Netflix MCU series: “Although these are superhero stories, this is different now. This is the street level…this is the street level noir side of the Marvel Universe.” Sound too Marxist for you? Don’t worry. Our superhero diet will be adequately balanced by the sweeping epic sweepingness expected of the upcoming Zack Snyder-helmed Justice League sequel to his Superman vs. Batman film.
As far as I can tell, that Batman project has nothing to do with Fox’s upcoming Gotham, which looks fun:
Maybe Gotham's TV-scale will be all to the good. Matt Zoller Seitz recently wrote about how most superhero movies are just “things crashing into other things,” and described a MCU film (does it matter which one?) as “fit[ting] into a much larger puzzle made entirely of square pieces.” Seitz isn’t against superhero films, and describes the second Captain America film as “nearly great.” Rather, he wants the action sequences to rise to the level of the talky scenes, or at least to the level of the Christopher Nolan Batman series.
His criticism resonated with me: I recently rewatched a handful of MCU movies and enjoyed most of them—but when the big action sequences came around, I drifted off the couch or started to wonder if I should check my email. I stopped watching Man of Steel after the penultimate action sequence left me so bored that I was checking the clock and looking forward to doing laundry.
Some of that reaction might just be me, getting too old to love explosions, or it might be that I watched the movies on a TV screen rather than in eye-popping IMAX. The idea of an astonishing action sequence is almost unbelievable, though, and I love the idea that a filmmaker could actually take my breath away as Nolan did with a few scenes in The Dark Knight.
Of course, no report on superheroes would be complete without some Hugh Jackman news. Jackman recently told SFX that if he’s “99% sure” that the next X-Men movie would be his last. Sad news in a week that also included this spoilerific news about the comic books.
Lots of renewals and cancelation news this week as the major broadcast networks answered most of our questions about what is coming back and what isn’t. We cover the full story in an easy-to-read color-coded list over in the Renewal and Cancelation Index, but a few highlights—well, lowlights—are the cancelation of Community, one season and one film short of #sixseasonsandamovie, and the non-future of the Supernatural: Bloodlines spinoff that none of our readers seemed to enjoy.
This Week in Ducklings
Courtesy of special correspondent Sam T. Cat.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)