Entertainment

Justice League, Star Wars Battlefront II, and More – The Weekend Chill

Last Friday, a report said that Ellen Page (Inception) had been tapped as one of the leads for Netflix’s adaptation of Gerard Way’s comic book The Umbrella Academy, which is set in an alternate timeline where John F. Kennedy was never assassinated. Page will play one of seven super-powered misfits who are adopted by a millionaire inventor to save the world.

Over the weekend, Netflix dropped Louis C.K. from his stand-up special deal, after he confessed to sexual misconduct remarks made against him by five women. The release of his upcoming film I Love You, Daddy has also been cancelled. The star was also ousted from the sequel to The Secret Life of Pets.

Hulu announced at the start of the week that it was making a TV series around the Hitman video games, with John Wick creator Derek Kolstad as writer. Deadline says that Hulu wants Hitman to be a flagship series alongside The Handmaid’s Tale, which is a tall order given the latter’s success, and the history of video game adaptations.

Meanwhile, the Lord of the Rings TV show became official at Amazon this week, with the company greenlighting a multi-season order for a prequel series. It won’t be based on The Hobbit, since the rights don’t include that, so it might be all new characters then. There’s no word on when we can expect to see it.

Justice League is out this week, and Ben Affleck has once again been contemplating whether to continue being Batman. In an interview with USA Today, he said he wants “to find a graceful and cool way to segue out of it”.

Warner Bros. has pushed up the release of Wonder Woman 2 by six weeks, with the film now slated for November 1, 2019. That decision is most likely motivated by the presence of Star Wars: Episode IX on December 20, 2019, which pushed back from May after rehiring J.J. Abrams earlier this year.

Illumination Entertainment – the studio behind Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets – is reportedly said to be close to a deal with Nintendo for an animated movie on Super Mario Bros., according to the Wall Street Journal. Mario hasn’t been seen on the big screen since the incredibly awful 1993 live-action adaptation.

On Wednesday, Hulu provided a release date for the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale: April 2018. That’s the same month as season one released earlier this year, though we’ll get a total of 13 episodes this time around, or three more than the debut. It will focus on Offred’s pregnancy.

The next entry in J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts film universe now has a title, it’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. We knew the sequel would focus on the feud between Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and his frenemy Gellert Gridenwald (Johnny Depp), and the title is clearly emphasising that. It’ll be out November 16, 2018.

Lastly, James Franco has signed onto a new X-Men movie from Fox: Multiple Man, who self-replicates whenever he makes physical contact with something. Franco is known for playing Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy. Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg is on script duty, with X-Men producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) set to produce alongside Franco.

That’s all the entertainment news for this week. Welcome back to The Weekend Chill, your one-stop destination for what to watch, play, or listen to this weekend. Here are the best picks:

TV:
Marvel’s The Punisher
Further expanding the inter-connected Marvel superhero world on Netflix, The Punisher – starring Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle and the titular anti-hero – is the first spin-off of that partnership, after Bernthal appeared in Daredevil season two last year. Set after those events, Castle is living an anonymous life when a hacker called Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) invades his life.

That’s not the only person trying to track Castle down. Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani, a Persian-American who’s been relocated to New York from Kandahar, is still pursuing an old case of hers that forces our gun-toting vigilante into the spotlight. Created by Steve Lightfoot (House of Saddam), The Punisher also stars Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (Daredevil, The Defenders), and Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, an old army buddy of Castle’s.

Though we enjoyed the series, noting its dark, ruthless depiction and study of American veteran affairs, overall critical opinion on The Punisher is split across the board, with a 73 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Metacritic score of 59. If you enjoyed Bernthal’s presence in Daredevil and missed him in The Defenders, give it a try.

How to access: Netflix
Time commitment: 13 hours

Future Man
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – the writing and producing duo behind This is the End, Pineapple Express, and Preacher – serve as executive producers on Future Man, which stars Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) as a janitor who is called upon to save the world after finishing his favourite video game that everyone else had stopped playing.

Two soldiers appear from the future, Tiger and Wolf (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson), and tell him that he must travel with them through time, and help put an end to an alien invasion that is guaranteed to end humanity. Future Man premiered on Hulu earlier this week, with all 13 episodes available in one go, which is unlike Hulu’s normal way of doing things.

Reviews have been fairly positive for Future Man, with Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert saying the “gross humour and pop culture jokes” can be excessive, but the cast is charming enough to make it an easy watch. The New York Times’ Mike Hale praised Coupe’s work, and concluded: “[The] central joke — that the initially hapless Josh is not at all what the future was hoping to find — is a good one, and it keeps paying off.”

How to access: Hulu
Time commitment: 6 hours and 30 minutes

Search Party
If you haven’t seen the first season of Search Party, which was an unexpected delight last year, stop reading now and move on to the next recommendation. [spoiler alert]

The second season of the TBS comedy, following the four self-centred Brooklynites at its core – Dory (Alia Shawkat), Drew (John Reynolds), Elliott (John Early), and Portia (Meredith Hagner) – is darker than its predecessor, with the group having to deal with what they did while finding their old acquaintance Chantal: semi-accidental murder.

Now that the mystery of Chantal has been solved – she had basically run away – Search Party now deals with the core coming together to not report the murder of the private investigator, and how their uncaring attitude and entitlement gets in the way of that. Marketing for the new season has been modelled around the work of Alfred Hitchcock, with the show’s visuals being the most inspired.

Early reviews say Search Party still retains its sense of humour, and that it achieves a unique blend of murder-mystery noir, thanks to the work of showrunners Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers. The series will air two episodes each week.

How to access: TBS, Sunday at 10 ET
Time commitment: 1 hour, weekly

Movies:
Justice League
Set after the events of last year’s disappointing hotchpotch Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck) beings forming the eponymous team of superheroes with help from his new ally Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), having had his faith in humanity restored thanks to Superman’s (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice.

Owing to all the marketing, we already know this team includes Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Together, they’ll be up against the new threat of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds via mo-cap) and his army of Parademons. Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, and Connie Nielsen reprise their role from previous DC films, and J.K. Simmons plays Gordon.

Justice League has had a troubled road to production, with poor critical reception influencing the approach, a change of directors, and studio pressure to keep runtime under two hours. That has resulted in a movie that gets pulled in every direction, and it tries to make everyone happy and fails. It’s better than last year’s Batman v Superman, but that’s not saying a lot.

How to access: Out in cinema halls
Time commitment: 2 hours

Mudbound
Expected to be an awards contender, and based on Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name, Mudbound is set in the post-World War II US South and follows two veterans who return home to rural Mississippi and are forced to deal with a multitude of problems, including the realities of Jim Crow policies and PTSD.

One of them belongs to the farm-owning white McAllan family, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), while the other is part of the farm-working black Jackson family, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell). Their uneasy friendship is a direct challenge to the dynamics of the world they live in, where the residual effects of slavery continue to have a massive impact on society.

Mudbound also stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, and singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige. The film debuted at Sundance earlier in the year to great reviews, with critics praising the work of director of Dee Rees. It was subsequently picked up by Netflix, which is releasing it worldwide Friday.

How to access: Netflix
Time commitment: 2 hours and 14 minutes

Wind River
Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star as a US Fish and Wildlife Service tracker and rookie FBI agent respectively in Wind River, a murder-mystery thriller from writer-director Taylor Sheridan, who previously wrote Hell or High Water (2016), and Sicario (2015). Together, they end up investigating the murder of a teenage girl on a remote Native American Reservation.

Wind River looks at community problems, sexual assault, and the indifference of law with which people live at the fringes of society. The film is a thinking man’s thriller, and Sheridan combines smart writing with a capable cast to produce one of the better films we’ve seen this year. Wind River also stars Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille, and James Jordan.

Its snow-clad setting further adds to the loneliness, bleakness and dread. Wind River has been highly praised by most critics, and it won Sheridan the Best Director prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.

How to access: Amazon US, Amazon Video US, Google Play Movies, iTunes US, or Microsoft Store
Time commitment: 1 hour and 51 minutes

Other mentions:
1997’s Man on the Moon wasn’t a hit with critics, but it did win Jim Carrey a Golden Globe for his performance of Andy Kaufman. Now a documentary made of behind-the-scenes footage captured by Andy’s former girlfriend Lynne Margulies and former writing partner Bob Zmuda, called Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, is available on Netflix. It looks at the work Carrey put in, and how he never broke character.

For more Netflix options, visit our monthly guide for November.

There are some notable releases on the Blu-ray front this week: Kedi, a critically-acclaimed documentary about the thousands of cats in the city of Istanbul; Brigsby Bear, a comedy about a man obsessed with a children’s show; and the Charlize Theron-starrer Atomic Blonde, a Cold War-era thriller about a British spy in Berlin from John Wick director David Leitch.

Video games:
Star Wars Battlefront II
Two years on from the original, and a month prior to the release of The Last Jedi, EA has a sequel to its action shooter in Star Wars Battlefront II, which features characters, locations, and vehicles from all three Star Wars eras: original, prequel, and sequel. In addition, the game also has a single-player campaign set between Episode VI and Episode VII, whose omission fans complained a lot about last time around.

This time, complaints have revolved around different topics in the lead up to Battlefront II’s release, with EA getting a lot of hate for the inclusion of loot boxes that provide upgrades and the ability to unlock new characters faster, which made it the most hated company on Reddit. In response, EA has temporarily removed micro-transactions from the game, with an eye on reintroducing them later.

The presence of micro-transactions was brought on by the fact that all future DLCs for Battlefront II will be free of charge to avoid fracturing the player base. But with so much furore – and negative reviews – it remains to be seen if the game will have much of a base to begin with. If you want a taste of things, try EA/Origin Access on Xbox One or PC.

How to access: Origin for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Time commitment: 5 hours for single-player

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon
Following on from last year’s Sun and Moon, developer Game Freak has given them an upgrade with Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which features a modified storyline, with all game mechanics remaining largely the same. It’s set in the Alola region – which is based on the Hawaii islands – and focuses on new Legendary Pokemon.

Your adventure as a Pokemon trainer will take you across Alola, as you capture Pokemon and battle several foes to become the best among them. The reason for the game’s quick development turnaround is due to the popularity of Pokemon Go, though it’s unlikely that many will buy a new console (Nintendo 3DS) to experience more Pokemon.

But if you do already own one, you’ll be happy to know that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are getting good reviews from most critics, who think they’re great entries and deserve their place among the best of Pokemon games.

How to access: Nintendo 3DS
Time commitment: 30+ hours

Football Manager 2018
The definitive football management simulator is back with its 2018 version, tasking you with carrying your favourite club to the very top. Or preserving their legacy, if they happen to already be part of the elite crowd. You can even choose to create your own club from scratch, or start off the manager life without a job.

FM 2018 sports improvements in multiple aspects. There’s a new team psychology module called Dynamics, the scouting and tactics screen have been redesigned, and a new match engine makes match simulations more lifelike, with better animations. It’s still nowhere near close to FIFA, if you’re wondering.

The game is still massively uninviting, even for football diehards. If you’re one of those that spend hundreds of hours with each version, there aren’t many improvements here to justify spending full price, but if you do take the plunge, you’ll find it to have more immersion and level of detail than any game in its class.

How to access: Steam for Windows, macOS, Linux, and SteamOS
Time commitment: As much as you want, really

Other mentions:
This week was full of new game releases, and re-releases of old games. For one, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is now on Nintendo Switch. It’s a good and stable port of the six-year-old Bethesda title, and it comes with all official add-ons: Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn.

Meanwhile, L.A. Noire – Rockstar’s neo-noir detective game – has gotten a remastered release on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. If you want to live out your Hollywood Golden Age fantasies while solving crime, with better textures and camera angles, this is your chance.

The last re-release is Rocket League, which has arrived on the Switch as well. It’s a graphical downgrade from other versions, but still a great game at its core. Plus, you get cross-platform play with PC and Xbox One users, so there’s no worry of being left alone.

In terms of new games, you’ve Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, which builds on the all-too-familiar gameplay of past Lego titles with the ability to manipulate time and a four-player competitive superhero battling mode. It’s available on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.

Lastly, there’s Ashes Cricket on PS4 and Xbox One, just in time ahead of the 2017-18 men’s Ashes tournament. The game features all four Australian and English men’s and women’s teams, with developer Big Ant using motion-capture to well, capture their batting and bowling styles.

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