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Sunday, January 22, 2023

12 Books Turning Into Movies in 2023

From the previews, it looks like 2023 will be a packed year.  But did you know there are a dozen of movies based on books making their way?  Some of them are guaranteed to be blockbusters.  

Read the synopses here.

1. A Man Called Otto

2. Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret

3. Dune: Part Two

4. Emily

5. Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

6. Knock at the Cabin

7. Oppenheimer

8. Text For You

9. The Color Purple: The Musical

10. The Pale Blue Eye

11. Women Talking

12. Wonka

Sunday, January 8, 2023

2023 Movies Preview


2022 marked an incredible comeback for movies and 2023 looks to continuing that trend with originals and sequels, covering the gamut of genres - mystery, thriller, horror, drama, historical drama, adventure, animation, fantasy, superheroes and video game adaption.  And summer will pretty much be blockbuster-guaranteed! 

Big name directors returning to the big or small screen with their films include Christopher McQuarrie,  Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Denis Villeneuve, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, among others.

Among movies coming up are "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," "Barbie," "Dune: Part Two," "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," "Fast X," "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3," "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," "John Wick: Chapter 4," "Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One," "Oppenheimer," "The Flash," "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," "The Little Mermaid," "The Marvels," "Wonka."

Check out previews to 40 movies for 2023:  https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/2023-movies-films-preview-most-anticipated-184343585.html

Sunday, December 25, 2022

"Avatar: The Way of Water"

Thirteen years after the original, motion-capture groundbreaking "Avatar," the sky people (humans) are back, this time to colonize distant moon Pandora, as earth is in ruins.  While the good versus evil is clear, blended family dynamics is a bit murky.  The final sea battle is relentless and consequential.  In family and war, the aftermath has forward implications for future stories.  

Relocating the focus from the forest people (Na'vi) to the coastal clan (Metkayina) in their native environment is a fresh move.  It provides interesting, new experiences for the land dwellers as they learn to adapt to the ocean-based lives, as well as a novelty factor for the audience. And the subtle differences in the species make sense, a function of their environment to survive.

You'll still soak in the verdant πŸŒ³ floating forest and soar to the skies, but the lushly luminescent ✨ undersea πŸŒŠ, richly colorful floras πŸͺΈ and faunas πŸ‹  will sweep you away and immerse you in its vast and vivid, silky smooth water world, giving you the feeling of gliding or standing still πŸ«§ underwater...  Pure cinematic visual magic. πŸŽ₯ πŸͺ„ πŸ₯³  See it in 3D and the largest screen possible! πŸ˜Ž 

"Avatar: The Way of Water" is the way to wonder. 


Friday, December 16, 2022

"Babylon"


From 12/05/2022 press screening:

It's like Las Vegas in all its glamorous excess in a movie form.  

The movie follows the intertwined lives of three characters in the movie business in the Roaring ‘20s.  An aspiring, rebellious actress who decided she's a star even before she’s discovered (Nellie LaRoy, Margot Robbie), a blue-collar worker who dreams to be in a movie set (Manny Torres, Diego Calva), and a famous movie star at the prime of his career (Jack Conrad, Brad Pitt).

Starry-eyed dreams come true, detour and crash.  While fame may fade and friendship endures, it’s also a cautionary tale.  Everything will eventually run its course, although there’s a lot to be said about making the kind of life choices that could either propel you or destroy you.  And just because you’ve made it, it doesn’t mean you will stay at the top.  Things will not stay the same and you will have to adapt and accept.  

Being in a movie not only allows you to be a part of something bigger and something that lasts.  It means something, not only to you but also to the masses that enjoy your movies.  It's also the ultimate escape from real life.  Movies scenes may look and feel real, but they're illusions.  

Robbie ("The Wolf of Wall Street") is fiercely magnetic in all that is asked of her.  Calva is the central connector and is most earnest in his performance.  Pitt (“Ad Astra,” "Allied," "The Big Short") portrays that aging movie star persona just right.  Tobey Maguire ("Spider Man: No Way Home," “Pawn Sacrifice”) pops up late for the craziest scenes of his career. 

The sensational sets, wild decadence, bizarre sequences, manic energy and chaotic movements, adjacent to silent cinema and perfectly lit golden hour shots, are carried by incredible live music. 

Did I say incredible live music?   Yes, the movie feels long and there are a couple of lengthy, out-there sequences that could be cut, but if you also love music, concerts, jazz, blues, et al go see it for the music!  The extended, energetic beats throughout will entrance and stay with you way after the movie cuts to black.  Director Damien Chazelle hasn't left his "La La Land" roots.  

The mechanic and magic of movie-making have never been so raucous and breathless at the same time.  The transition from silent movie-making to sound cinema is fascinating to watch.  This is made for movie-making lovers.  If you love movies that are love notes to Hollywood (“Hail, Caesar!,” “Trumbo”), you’ll enjoy “Babylon,” despite the running time of over three hours.  

Boisterously and lavishly messy, ambitious, audacious... "Babylon" is a shock and awe to the senses and outrageously engrossing.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

"Glass Onion: Knives Out Mystery"

The first “Knives Out” had all knives firing.  A great murder mystery that is tightly plotted, dropping clues, concealing secrets, misdirecting with red herrings, teasing resolution, springing surprises, revealing lies, tying up loose ends, and cleverly wrapping up with a satisfying conclusion.  

Director Rian Johnson was wise to use a similar formula in the sequel, twisting the knife a bit differently mid-story and sprinkling more hysterical humor, but still end up hitting the bullseye.  Filmed during the heights of the pandemic in 2020, the global lockdown makes it into the “Glass Onion: Knives Out Mystery” and the remote island is an idyllically perfect setting.  

Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, “James Bond” series), is back with a murder mystery landing on his linen suit.  A distinct character among the rich and famous, he finds himself in a private island in Greece belonging to tech magnate Miles (Edward Norton, "The Illusionist") on a mysterious invitation for a murder mystery weekend getaway.  The high-tech island shows off the vainglorious Miles’ riches, glorious glass structures and sculptures, and not to be outdone by one historic art collection.  

The billionaire invites his close circle of friends and allies to solve a murder mystery play.  When one of the guests dies for real, everyone becomes a suspect.  The lights are out and everyone is trapped on the island.  To compound the confusion and paranoia, there’s also a question whether the victim is the intended target and if there’s another victim.  

The privileged guests are fashion icon Birdie (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), YouTube influencer Duke (Dave Bautista, “The Avengers”) and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), stylish scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), liberal politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn), and last but not least, Miles’ former business partner, Andi (Janelle Monae, “Hidden Figures”). 

Everyone’s surprised by Andi’s presence and why she’s still invited in the first place, considering Miles ruthlessly and legally cut her out of the company they co-founded together.  Soon we’ll have to take a double take, as there’s a lot more to incensed Andi than meets the puzzled eye.  

While Miles preaches that they are e true disruptors of the world, Andi stabs into the heart of his mendacious speech.  There’s a common thread among how everyone gets to the pinnacle of their careers and fames, and it’s not ingenuity.  Monae is particularly marvelous in her performance.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and it’s not what you think it is.  The guests are forced to unmask and reveal who they really are, and decide what their breaking points are. 

The ingenuity here lies in the story construct.  There are multiple reasons why the film is called ‘Glass Onion.’  Halfway through Blanc cuts back and peels back the onion of a story layer by layer, but also noting that while an onion may look like complicated layers, the center hides in plain sight.  You will not see the revelation coming!  And when you think all hopes might be lost, something else comes out of the gate, exploding in a blaze of glory.  

“Glass Onion: Knives Out Mystery” takes translucent jabs at political, social, economic and entertainment elites in a polarized society, while delivering a masterful mystery and whodunit entertainment.  

Sunday, November 20, 2022

"The Menu"














Taste.  Savor.  Relish.

If you love food, or art in any form for that matter, this is a movie made for you. 

A dozen of exclusive guests are invited for the Hawthorne experience.  The Hawthorn is a world-class dining destination, under the helm of avant-garde, contempt-filled Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes, “Hail, Caesar!,” “Skyfall”), located on a private island where the multi-course meals cost $1,250 per head.  The island is self-sustaining and the meals are truly sea-and-farm to table.  

Guests are ferried into the island and get a tour led by the second-in-command, Elsa (Hong Chau), a standout with her deadpan delivery, starting with the shore, farm, forest, workers' living quarters, leading to an expansive dining room with an open kitchen.  Cleanly designed with floor-to-ceiling ocean view, polished with cool palettes, brightened up by the warmth of the fire from the kitchen.  

The workers live in the island and devote themselves to the Chef, his vision and servicing the one-percenters.  Their work is their lives.  Every day they wake up on the island to harvest, ferment, fish, slaughter, sear, broil, bake, poach, emulsify, liquify, gel, plate and serve, and return to their living quarters in the evenings.  The Chef cottage is separate from his crew, where no one can enter.  

The guests include a young couple, brown-nosed foodie Tyler (Nicholas Hoult, “X-Men” series) and out-of-place Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), older wealthy couple Richard (Reed Birney) and Anne (Judith Light) with a secret, celebrity food critic Lillian (Janet McTeer) and her sycophantic editor Ted (Paul Adelstein), washed-up movie star (John Leguizamo) and his problematic assistant Felicity (Aimee Carerro), and big-headed tech bros, Bryce (Rob Yang), Dave (Mark St. Cyr) and Soren (Arturo Castro).  

The movie flows from one exquisite course to another, exemplifying haute cuisine where the gastronomic delights are expertly deconstructed, stunningly designed and immaculately plated on a variety of vessels, balancing textures, colors and flavors.  The meals, from appetizer to main courses to palate-cleansing and desert have a theme and tell a story.  The detailed descriptions of each course are both mouthwatering and hilarious.  

The amuse bouche may start light and refreshing, but as each course precisely progresses, tension is seared into the story, and the diners experience brain-fried moments and realize the theatrics are not just for entertainment.  Slices of secrets are dished out in inventive manners, backstories are told shockingly, consequences can be bloodily twisted, leading to a boiling point and blazing ending.  The guests soon find out there are reasons they score the coveted reservations that day and they're not there simply for the fancy meals.  Margot is a wild card, however, and her presence chars the Chef's meticulous master plan.  

Glazed by sharp dialogue, the no-way-out situations are bitingly funny.  The impeccably choreographed movements and sound editing are perfectly crisp.  “The Menu” skewers the high-end epicurean culture and serves up social commentary not only on class division, but also between working class service workers and their moneyed guests, disillusioned artists and their pretentious critics.  

The satire hits the high marks for originality, creativity, dark humor and horror factor.  A crafty feast for the eyes and devilishly delectable.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"


How do you make a “Black Panther” sequel without the Black Panther?  

That’s the one-billion dollar question faced by Marvel after the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman (“Avengers: Endgame” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Captain America: Civil War”), who tragically passed away in 2020 and during the heights of the pandemic.  The charismatic star became world-famous and superhero role model for its dignified and noble portrayal of King TChalla and real-life representation of the marginalized.   

The opening scene pays a reverent and touching tribute to Boseman.  T’Challa’s offscreen death has a larger-than-life impact not only on his family and royal circle, but also to Wakandans.  The farewell scene where Wakandans dress and dance in all-white to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of its king, and when the belated king’s soul transcends to the skies, is very moving.  What makes this a teary-eyed moment is that we know it’s not a fake movie death.  

While Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is coming to terms to her son’s death, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s little sister, takes his death particularly hard.  Shuri, a science and technology maven, carries a lot of guilt and anger for not being able to save her big brother’s life.  Her gut-wrenching reaction at the funeral procession is deeply felt.  Wright gives everything she has and it shows in her powerhouse performance throughout Shuri’s journey; loss, grief, rage, revenge, release and healing.  

With the death of its king and protector, even as a futuristic country, Wakanda is seen as vulnerable.  However, Queen Ramonda’s powerful dress-down of the United Nation audience, strongly portrayed by Bassett, is a majestic show of force that Wakanda remains unmistakably formidable.  As General Okoye (Danai Gurira) flies the spaceship home, it never gets old to see the aerial shot of futuristic Wakanda blending in with the expansive nature coming into view.  Bassett shows another powerful performance against Guirira scenes later.  

Talokans, the blue-skinned amphibious antagonists in the movie, are first seen coming out of the middle of the ocean when they shut down the vibranium-detection project by the CIA.  From the first sight, their appearance is striking and their ability to hypnotically lure people into the ocean is eerie.  

The vibranium-detection machine is created by MIT student-genius Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), which could have easily been Tony Stark/Iron Man’s protΓ©gΓ©.  Since vibranium is also found in the ocean outside of Wakanda, this makes Riri an attack target for King Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the leader of Talokans, as vibranium-mining would threaten the lives of his underwater empire.  

This makes Namor an excellent antagonist and less of a world-conqueror kind of a villain.  What makes Namor more compelling is also his backstory, how his existence came about and the history of the Talokan society.  Namor’s underwater birth was special and he’s also gifted with winged feet, which enables him to fly.  Talokans’ dress is just as distinct as Wakandans, and Namor’s impressive with an  elaborate headdress.  

Namor gives Queen Ramonda and Shuri two options, capture and hand Riri over, or having a war with Talokans and risk the demise of their nation. In a comedic scene, General Okoye and Shuri track down Riri in her campus, leading to a wild car chase and spear fight.

Meanwhile, Queen Ramonda finds Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) in Haiti, where she now works as a school teacher, and ask for her help on a crucial mission.  An unfortunate mishap causes the wrath of Namor and he comes after Wakanda, resulting in an unexpectedly tragic outcome.  The chain of events leads to the inevitable appearance of a new Black Panther, one that is still trying to find their footing, but emerges as the nation’s protector nonetheless.  

Much like “Black Panther,” ‘Wakanda Forever’s goes beyond the conventional good vs. evil superhero movie, it’s geopolitical drama and character-driven story.  The post-credit scene honors the past and breathes a new hope into the future, leaving a legacy.  

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is an emotional voyage and forever work of wonder.  

Sunday, October 23, 2022

"Ticket to Paradise"














Georgia (Julia Roberts, "Money Monster," Mirror Mirror,” Eat Pray Love") and David Cotton (George Clooney; “Hail, Caesar!," "The Monuments Men," “Ides of March”), have to team up when their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) a lawyer-to-be, is going to marry a seaweed farmer, Gede (Maxime Bouttier), thousands of miles away from home, after only knowing him for about a month.  

Lily was on a last hurrah of a post-graduation vacation in Bali with her best friend (Billie Lourd) when she met and fell in love with Gede, effectively throwing her promising career at a prestigious law firm in Chicago and her life in the United States away.  Georgia and David, jaded and divorced nearly two decades ago, are convinced that Lily’s making the biggest mistake of her life and are going to end up like them. 

Georgia and David fly to Bali, pretend to be supportive of Lily’s decision, while working behind the scenes to break them apart.  During the scheming, Georgia and David trade barbs and glares, trying to one up each other.  At the same time, they are forced to spend time together and reminisce.  

The estranged former couple realize their spark may not have been extinguished permanently, even after all these years.  Georgia’s worshipping younger boyfriend (Lucas Bravo), who manages to tag along, adds a lot of comical shades.  It’s no spoiler that Lily finds out about what her parents are really doing there and it isn’t pretty.

Sounds like a simple plot?  It is.  It’s super low stake, and guess what?  It’s nice for a change.  No suspense, no thriller, no action, no superheroes, and this is coming from someone who loves those genres.  Being Indonesian-born and having been to Bali, the movie is naturally a bit more interesting to me since I speak and understand the Indonesian language when spoken by the characters. 

Bouttier and Dever are fine as a young couple, although I wish more time could be spent on them so we could see more about their glossed over love story.  The focus is on Roberts and Clooney though, and as predictable as the story goes, it makes sense from a movie perspective.  Roberts' return to romcom is as natural as her mega-million watts smile.  Clooney dials up the charm and it works like a charm.  The A-list stars work the scenes; whether acidic, sarcastic, comedic or melancholic moments. 

The beauty of “Ticket to Paradise” is spelled out in the title.  Queensland, Australia, doubles as Bali when the Indonesian island was entirely locked down during the beginning of the pandemic, is beyond stunning.

From the post-opening scene in an oceanfront wood bungalow and the view zooms out, revealing the surrounding lush tropical jungle, colorful flowers, clear turquoise waters and golden sandy beaches will caress your eyes and soothe your soul.  The local culture and traditions are enchanting and Lily feels warmly embraced by Gede’s large, extended families as one of their own. 

There’s none of the real-life complications in Bali and that’s a perfect escape ticket.  With some footage of Bali’s lovely panoramic vistas, most of the movie takes place in a luxury setting of a resort.  Sometimes all we need is fantasy, a breather from day-to-day life where you can just exhale. 

Charming and refreshing, “Ticket to Paradise” feels like being pleasantly transported into a postcard-perfect, paradise island vacation.  


Sunday, September 25, 2022

"Don't Worry Darling"

The Victory Project is everything to loved-up 1950s couple, Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh, “Black Widow”).  They live a victorious lifestyle in a resort-like community in the desert, with white houses situated on palm tree-lined streets, complete with pristine pool, shopping center and  trolley.  

The men leave for work every morning in their classic cars, to go work for the man, Frank (Chris Pine, “Wonder Woman” series, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” “Unstoppable”), a cult-like leader who founded the project and community.  The vibrantly dressed women stay home to cook elaborate meals, clean and maintain their spotless houses, shop till they drop, relax by the pool, and take up ballet lessons from Frank’s wife, Shelley (Gemma Chan, “Eternals,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Captain Marvel”).  The residents often have glamorous soirees.  

The wives do not know what the husbands do, except that they work on developing some kind of progressive materials.  Dutifully supporting and taking care of their husbands, they feel privileged to be selected for the project and believe in the mission of changing the world.  They are forbidden to go into the middle of the desert, where the company headquarters is.   

Alice is friends and neighbors with Bunny (Olivia Wilde, “Tron: Legacy”), Peg (Kate Berlant) and Margaret, (KiKi Layne).  When Margaret ventures outside of their community into the desert, sees something she’s not supposed to and starts acting strange.  This leads to an unspeakable incident .  Then Alice begins to have fragments of vivid visions or hallucinations, and is losing a sense of time and space.  Hollow eggs, plane crash without wreckage, mirror image, glass wall closing in, dancing sequence.  They are entrancing but become overlong due to repeats.  

Alice starts questioning the reality she’s in, only to be gaslit by everyone.  While feeling trapped and paranoia sets in, curiosity gets the better of her and she starts digging.  She and Frank exchange words in a dramatic dinner that leaves everyone stunned. 

Pine is effectively chilling in a few scenes, although it feels like his role should have been expanded.  Styles’ role requires an actor with a stronger presence over style, especially paired with Pugh, who shares more chemistry with Pine in their limited, shared scenes.  Pugh vivaciously and vulnerably carries the film on her stylish back, brimming with fear and frenzy, defying her dreamy lifestyle, breaking down yet  mustering determination to break through. 

The majority of the movie is captivating, with sleek visuals and camera angles, threads of dread sewn in, underscored by strikingly terrifying score that continues the momentum until the last act.  It deals with control and perceived happiness.  The hasty exit is worrisome and leaves unanswered questions of the whys and hows.   

While the film may not be a victory and the storytelling could have been improved with a tighter script and an extra mile on the final act, don’t worry about the real-life drama; the film is still worth watching.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

"Fall"

Survival thriller is the safest way to vicariously experience impossible situations contained in a singular environment we likely won't experience or put ourselves in.  While suspension of disbelief is generally required, everything must come together to paint a dire picture that is plausible enough.  And that we would still root for the protagonists, even though they have made, more likely than not, sheer reckless choices that put themselves in such peril.  

Along the lines of "47 Meters Down" and "The Shallows," "Fall" does just that.  After witnessing the death of her husband during a rock-climbing expedition together, Becky (Grace Caroline Currey), an expert climber herself, continues to drown in sorrow and despair nearly a year later.

Her best friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner), also a climber, persuades her to join her on a crazy stunt, climbing a 2,000-foot high (almost twice the height of the Eiffel Tower) communication tower located on a desolate desert area, to get her out of the funk.  This relic used to be the tallest structure in the United States.  

Hunter, a daredevil, is now active on social media and also more motivated to pull this off as a way to gain more popularity and monetize her Instagram.  Reluctant and anxiety-ridden, Becky agrees to join Hunter to help confront her fears and move on from her past.  Becky plans to scatter Dan's ashes from the top of the tower.  

For 1,800 feet, the ladders are inside the center of the tower.  The ladders for the remaining 200 feet are outside of the tower.  All the red flags are there as Becky and Hunter climb up the creaky tower.  Loose bolts and rusty ladders often shaken by whipping winds.  Each grip or step is felt, and a misstep could mean a grave injury, free fall or instant death.  

After the exhilaration of reaching the top of the tower and posing selfies, Becky and Hunter realize the danger they're in when the ladders break away and collapse.  They're stranded at terrifying height with no water, no food, no cell reception, no drone, no way to get down or reach anyone.  The bag with a bit of supplies is stuck atop of a dish antenna further down the tower after an incident.

The obstacles are aplenty.  Fatigue, falling asleep, starvation, dehydration, with vultures circling and hallucination sets in.  The duo must rely on their resourcefulness, resilience and will to survive to keep themselves alive, overcoming failed attempts and false hopes, and battling harsh elements.  

Becky and Hunter try out maneuvers; climbing, dropping, dangling and swinging.  They 'MacGvyer-ed' the minimal stuff they have, using various tricks to get a message to the ground for help.  Being stuck together with nothing else to do also reveals certain things and test their friendship.  

The acting and makeup match the state of fear and desperation and exposure to the elements of being trapped with no way out.  The scenes are filmed and executed exceptionally, from the closeups to wide angles and aerial shots of the needle tower and human silhouettes under the open skies, blistering sun and wind gust, high above the desert ground.  

The jump scares are par for the course.  One twist could be seen a mile away, but the other twist, even though I sensed something was off earlier, injects more of a surprisingly horror factor.  It’s unthinkably survival of the fittest.    

For the most part, the scenes are so believable the sensations felt real.  I constantly held my breath, had knots in my stomach, clenched my muscles, and had to look away from time to time.  The visceral reactions are more than "The Walk" movie, which I adored. 

Minimalist “Fall” rises up to the tension-filled challenge and unsettlingly succeeds.  

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Comic-Con 2022

For a blast from the past, check out past recaps here.

All I can say was it's about time... long overdue actually.  I can't tell you how surreal it was to be back at Comic-Con in person after three years.  

I didn't even care about the lack of movies and TV programming or that the COVID-19 vaccination or negative test verification process was messy.  Mask was enforced inside the convention.  2022 being my 17th year at Comic-Con, I felt like I had experienced it all, with all the highs and privileges, and I’m so incredibly grateful for those extraordinary experiences.  I was simply there this time to truly soak in the immersive ambiance and cherish the experience even more.  I was on a relaxed pace, arriving in the afternoons every day and nothing was a 'must' for me at this point.  Outside of press access for activations, unlike in years past, I didn’t attend any press event. 

I attended the “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” (movie), “BRZRKR” (comic book), “National Treasure: Edge of History” (TV show) and “The Resort” (TV pilot) panels.  Surprisingly, two-third of my time was actually spent outdoor, doing people-watching, picture-taking and activations – specifically, “House of the Dragon” (TV show), “The Gray Man” (movie), “Severance” (TV show) and “Ghosts” (TV show).  

***

Movies 

Stars present for "Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" panel are Chris Pine, Rege Jean-Page, Michelle Rodriguez, Sophia Lillis and Hugh Grant.  Attendees saw some footage and trailer and had Q&A with the cast, producer and directors.  Nothing dark and grim here; a relic heist, the movie carries a cheeky tone and is more of an adventure comedy.  The video game adaptation is about a band of thieves and misfits, stealing the wrong thing for the wrong person, banding together, traveling across varied landscapes dotted with dragons, monsters and beasts, fighting in a gladiator-like arena, encountering and chatting with the undeads along the way.  

The cast bonded while filming in isolation during the pandemic.  Pine would like to bring the energy and excitement into the world.  Jean-Page likes the no-limit escapist fantasy.  Rodriguez gained 10 pounds of muscle for the role.  Grant joked that he used to be a 'Dungeon Master.'  The trailer is out and the Paramount Studios movie will unleash into theaters on March 3, 2023.  To cap the Comic-Con experience, the studio also put forth the Tavern Experience downtown where fans could come inside the movie-themed bar/nightclub, which is plastered with posters and props, and getting interactive experience and glowing cocktail drinks.

I stopped by the "BRZRKR" panel where Keanu Reeves was the star of the comic book series panel.  Reeves talked about a simple idea, a guy who could punch through chests, which brought BRZRKR to life.  But it’s not just brawl, there’s also heart in the immortal character.  The comic book is being adapted into a live action movie and Netflix series.  

Biggest news coming out movies are probably Marvel's phase 5 and 6, ending with another Avengers team up, "Avengers: The Kang Dynasty" and "Avengers: Secret Wars" slated for May 2, 2025 and November 7, 2025.  An emotional trailer of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" also broke the internet last week.  And Dwayne Johnson made an electrifying entrance by showing up in "Black Adams" (October 21, 2022) costume.  Having seen The Rock rocking the entrance for "Hercules" years ago, he has that down to pat.  

***

TVs

With no TV pilot showing on preview night, I was glad to catch “The Resort” screening and the panel that followed.  Stars Cristin Miloti, William Jackson Harper, Nina Bloomgarden, Luis Gerardo-Mendez, Gabriela Cartol were in attendance.  “The Resort” is a mutigenerational story taking place on a topical vacation getaway, with elements of mystery, romance, adventure and comedy.  An interracial couple arrives in Mexico for their 10th year wedding anniversary.  While they’re there to celebrate, it’s clear that their relationships have issues.  

Soon the couple is trailing clues on a mystery of missing tourists that disappeared 15 years ago.  Flashbacks showed a young man vacationing at an oceanfront resort there with his girlfriend and his parents.  He stumbled upon proof that his girlfriend was cheating on him. He was later found missing and dead, the day before a once-in-a-century hurricane swept through the area and destroyed the resort.  A girl, another tourist, also disappeared around the same time.  The show, described as a magic trip, has an intriguing factor to it and left me wanting to see more.  The show started streaming on Peacock TV on July 28, 2022.  

Disney+ “National Treasure: Edge of History” brought a panel for a quick preview and behind-the-scene, but mostly it was a banter session among the young cast (Lisette Olivera, Jake Austin Walker, Jordan Rodrigues, Zuri Reed, Antonio Cipriano, Lyndon Smith).  Nicholas Cage will not be reprising his role, but the show will add Catherine Zeta-Jones into the mix, playing a black market antique dealer.  The show follows an adventure of a DREAMer, on a study break from her citizenship test goes on a trip with her friends to uncover mystery surrounding her family history.  History and artifacts, treasure hunting and heist, and action mixed with romance promise a good time.  

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Activations

The hottest activation this year was “House of the Dragon.”  First, I visited the market stalls outside of the makeshift castle and interacted with the warriors before entering the castle.  The ambiance inside was a bit creepy, with mysterious sounds and glowing amber lights.  Along with a group of visitors, we walked through darkened rooms and halls and saw a massive dragon skull in the lair.  We went through the hatching of the dragon eggs ceremony, and everyone ended up in a spiky throne room for a photo op at the throne and exiting with a dragon egg stone pin.  “House of the Dragon,” the prequel of “Game of Thrones” will hatch on HBO Max on August 21, 2022.  

Netflix’s “The Gray Man” staged an action setup with a train crashing into a building.  Although the action was not nearly elaborate as Amazon Prime’s “Jack Ryan” activation and super quick, it was still pretty cool.  The premise is to test skills, strength and speed of spy recruits.  As a recruit, I went inside the crashed train, with blaring sound and smoke, pushing button, rope and lever to escape from the train. Afterwards, I went up the stairs and then sprinted across a metal bridge to get to a briefcase.  Once I saw the briefcase, I punched in a code to open it and placed the golden bronze coin pendant necklace I was given earlier on the circle inside the briefcase.  The circle lit up and I accomplished my mission.  The sprint was captured on video and a clip was e-mailed to each recruit.  “The Gray Man” is now streaming on Netflix, released on July 22, 2022.  

Apple TV+ brought in “Severance” and took me in with a group of ‘new hires’ through orientation.  We were each given a new name to sever our identity and have a new one for work.  We walked through a living room set with paintings and artifacts, the smile room where we saw pictures of numerous toothy smiles on the walls, the computer room where several visitors were chided for entering without permission, the wellness room where a new hire was sat down for a talk therapy, and an office with workstations.  It ended with all of us breaking into dancing and taking a group photo.  I heard another group went to the break room where a new hire was admonished for breaking protocol.  We received a bunch of souvenirs to take home; a tote bag, orientation book, badge, finger trap, pen and pin, as well a card with an access code for three months free of Apple TV+.  

CBS’ “Ghosts” took up a large chunk of Petco Park, with areas for archery, lounging and readings of crystal, palm and tarot for visitors.  I partook in the tarot reading and it was pretty interesting.  The reader shuffled the deck of cards and each guest picked a card and provided a quick reading based on the card.  I would have been interested in doing the palm and crystal reading had I not been rushing.  After shooting an arrow, I went to the photo op section where I sat down on a sofa with a bent arrow on my neck (with the arrow on one side of my neck and the other tip goes out on the other side).  The digitized result shows I was surrounded by “Ghosts” characters.  After each activity, I was provided with a “Ghosts” embroidered badge.  

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Among notable photo ops outside are Peacock’s and NBC’s hub by the Gaslamp Quarter, where people could take pictures under the “Quantum Leap” circles arch, sit on the "Vampire Academy" chair donning a robe, pose with a flipped umbrella to withstand the storm on the wall for the natural disaster “The End is Nye” show or relax against the backdrop of “The Resort” wall and greenery.   There’s also a nice seating area in front of “La Brea” clips playing on a big TV.  Marvel also came out with a photo op set in front of Doctor’s Strange’s sanctum sanctorum, complete with a wizard robe.  Those who did the photo op also received a card with a code for a free digital copy of the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” movie.  

The movies and TV shows, comics and exhibits, panels and activations, and star-sightings are always amazing, but the entire experience makes up Comic-Con.  Seeing the wrapped buildings and trolleys, the mile-long lines under the hot sun, the sheer insanity of die-hard fans camping out overnight, the jam-packed trolleys and streets, the cheering star-struck crowds... Comic-Con was truly BACK in full force. These days, a sense of normalcy (the craziness is part of the experience and 'normal' by Comic-Con standards) is good for the soul.  It's awesome to see people out and about, happy and celebrating life!    

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