The 2018 Oscars took place on Sunday. The Shape of Water took home Best Picture, and its director Guillermo del Toro also won Best Director. Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049) finally took home Best Cinematography after 14 nominations, and Netflix won Best Documentary for Icarus, about the Russian doping scandal.
On Monday, Netflix announced that Black Mirror had been renewed for a fifth season. There are no details on episode count and release period, but don’t expect it to drop before 2019. Later that day, we found that the deal between Disney India and Hotstar had ended abruptly. The Disney movie catalogue – consisting of Marvel, Lucasfilm (Star Wars), Pixar, and Disney’s own productions – are now split between Netflix and Hotstar. Both Disney and Star India remain tight-lipped on the matter.
Tuesday gave us our first look at Luke Cage season 2, along with a synopsis and a release date. The bulletproof hero of Harlem will be back June 22, three months after Jessica Jones season 2, which released this week. The same day, Netflix also released a full-length trailer for Lost in Space, the modern-day reboot of Irwin Allen’s 60s sci-fi series. It came with a first glimpse of the reimagination of the Robot, and showed the Mass Effect influences of the series. Lost in Space is out April 13.
Marvel and FX released the first trailer for Legion season 2 on Tuesday as well. The mind-bending superhero series from Noah Hawley was unlike anything fans had seen when it premiered last year, and the trailer shows that our expectations will continue to be upended this year. Legion season 2 starts April 3.
Also on Tuesday, Variety reported that Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) had been cast as “the U.S. Ambassador and father of the child Warlock in the series, who is mistakenly believed to be the Antichrist” in Good Omens. He joins Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean and others in the upcoming Amazon adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book.
On Wednesday, Netflix released the first full-length trailer for A Series of Unfortunate Events season 2. The Baudelaire children will continue to have to deal with Count Olaf’s never-ending schemes to steal their fortune, while the adults around them remain oblivious or disbelieving. A Series of Unfortunate Events season 2 is out March 30.
On Thursday, Lucasfilm announced that Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) will write and executive produce a live-action Star Wars TV series for Disney's upcoming streaming service, set to launch in 2019. There's no release date on the series, or any other details. And lastly, Hulu released a new teaser trailer for The Handmaid's Tale season 2, which is out in April.
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:
After more than two years off air, Marvel’s only female-led series Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is back. Her adoptive sister and best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) forces her to dig into the traumatic death of her family, hoping to uncover something that will boost the ratings of her radio show, and Jessica reluctantly finds herself uncovering a past she wants buried.
In addition to returning cast members Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, and Rebecca De Mornay, Jessica Jones season 2 adds the likes of Janet McTeer, J.R. Ramirez, Terry Chen, and James McCaffrey. David Tennat will reprise his role as Kilgrave in the last few episodes. The full season released Thursday on Netflix, instead of the usual Friday, owing to International Women’s Day.
Reviews have been a step down from the critically-acclaimed debut season. Having seen five episodes, we felt the show has “a disappointing start, meandering in its first five hours rather than punching straight through like its title protagonist”. Though there’s more room for supporting characters, there’s not enough meat in their stories, and ends up being “too much of a slow burn”.
How to access: Netflix
Time commitment: 13 hours
Blue Planet II
A year after the ground-breaking Planet Earth II, BBC and David Attenborough returned with Blue Planet II in November last year, giving us a sequel to the 16-year-old original exploration of life in the oceans, having been four years in the making. Thanks to newer technology, the new show has been able to capture wildlife behaviour that wouldn’t have been possible back then.
Filming for Blue Planet II took place in a total of 39 countries, with the crew spending 6,000 hours below the surface of water. For viewers, that resulted in seven hour-long episodes, going “from icy-white polar seas to vibrant blues of the coral atolls, from the storm-tossed green Atlantic coastline to the black depths of the alien deep”, bolstered by a score from Hans Zimmer.
Blue Planet II is now available for purchase, with true 4K HDR Blu-ray as an option. Nature documentaries don’t come much better than Blue Planet II, and there’s no better way to experience the show than on 4K Blu-ray. If you’re undecided, Blue Planet II is coming to India in April, on Sony BBC Earth.
The third solo chapter for the Asgardian god of thunder (Chris Hemsworth) – now on Blu-ray – finds him having his hammer shattered by Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, and being deported to the planet of Sakaar, which is ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who loves gladiator games. There, he’s pitted against his old friend the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who’s been in his green avatar for two years.
Ragnarok is set after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and parallel to those of Captain America: Civil War. The term comes from Norse mythology, as does most everything about Thor, and it means ‘the demise of the gods’. With Hela taking over Asgard, Thor must find a way back and stop her from bringing an end to his home.
The film also stars Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Taika Waititi (the director), Tessa Thompson, and Tom Hiddleston. We loved the film from start to finish, noting Waititi’s fresh approach to Marvel’s weakest and most serious superhero, and making it a comedy that treats its world-ending stakes as silly distractions.
The Death of Stalin
Veep creator Armando Iannucci approaches this momentous occasion in the history of Russia through the lens of black comedy and political satire, basing his story on the French graphic novel La mort de Staline. The film depicts the power struggles that ensue following the death of dictator Joseph Stalin in 1953, and how his core team of ministers tussle for control, with the main aim being their own survival.
The film stars Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov, Jason Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov, Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalina, and Olga Kurylenko as Maria Yudina among others. The Death of Stalin operates quite loosely with the facts, and has been banned in Russia, where some have said it promotes “ethnic and social inferiority” and disparages the memory of Russian World War II fighters.
Critics have been extremely positive in their reviews. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said it was “superbly cast, and acted with icy and ruthless force by an A-list lineup”, and that “fear rises like gas from a corpse in Armando Iannucci's brilliant horror-satire”. Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson called it the director’s “most complex and almost nihilistic rendering of what politics is: A team of bumbling and weak-minded people who lack any real conviction other than a desire for power and position”.
How to access: Amazon UK
Time commitment: 1 hour and 47 minutes
Nominated at the 2018 Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film, where it lost to Pixar’s Coco, The Breadwinner is based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, which centres on a young girl called Parvana living in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. After her father is arrested by the Taliban for no reason, she dresses up as a boy to find work – women aren’t allowed to go out without a male relative – and help support her family: her mother, an elder sister, and an infant brother.
The power of storytelling is at the core of The Breadwinner, in how it can act as inspiration, pass messages, and keep the dream alive. The film starts with the father telling the daughter how Afghanistan has always been a land of conflict, hemmed in by various factions on every side. After her father is gone, Parvana continues the tale in her own way, all of which is brought to life in an innovative 2D animation style.
Directed by Nora Twomey (The Secret of Kells), and executive produced by Angelina Jolie, The Breadwinner has garnered good reviews. Writing for Indiewire, David Ehrlich said: “So urgent and far-reaching that it never settles into the comforts of a coming-of-age story, The Breadwinner is a small film about the biggest things. It’s engaging from start to finish, but Twomey — to her great credit — prioritizes stoicism over sentimentality.”
Faces Places, the Oscar-nominated documentary by 89-year-old director Agnes Varda and 33-year-old photo-muralist J.R., which was on our list of movies that you may have missed, is now available on disc and online rentals. It’s also the highest-scoring film for the year 2017 on reviews aggregator Metacritic (95), from a total of 19 reviews.
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s fantastic directorial debut, starring Saoirse Ronan as a teenager who shares a turbulent relationship with her mother, has also arrived on Blu-ray. It was already available elsewhere, and is still playing in theatres across India after its release last week.
That leaves BPM (Beats Per Minute), the French drama that follows AIDS activists in Paris in the early nineties as they fight against the government’s indifference. BPM took home the second-place prize at Cannes 2017, and was awarded Best Film at 2018 César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars. It’s now on DVD and online rentals.
On the streaming front, Netflix added a bunch of Disney movies in a surprise move, including half the Marvel catalogue, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Pixar’s Inside Out, Zootopia, and Frozen among others. It seems the deal between Hotstar and Disney is now over. There’s also Netflix’s first Indian documentary, Ladies First, plus the next episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Malala Yousafzai.
Amazon Prime Video had some big additions of its own: Wonder Woman on the DC front, and Spider-Man: Homecoming on the Marvel front. Plus, Amazon continues to snatch up random Hulu series; this time it’s The Looming Tower, which began last week in the US.
The only big release this week is for PC gamers: Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition. After a year and a half of being a console exclusive, the latest FF game is now finally on PC. If you don’t know anything about the game, check out our review from 2016. And if you’re wondering how FF XV will perform on your current PC setup, we’ve got you covered as well.
Beyond that, there’s the release of a bonus episode for Life is Strange: Before the Storm, called Farewell. Entirely separate from the main game, which ended in the final days of December last year, Farewell takes place years before, with younger versions of Max Caulfield and Chloe Price. You’ll need to buy the game’s Deluxe Edition to get access.
All Nerve by The Breeders
Ten years since their last album, making it their longest hiatus yet, and the first in 25 years to feature the lineup from 1993’s Last Splash – which gave us the all-time hit “Cannonball” – alt-rock band The Breeders released All Nerve last Friday, a moody slow-paced record that flares up in places. Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett guest stars on one song, “Howl at the Summit”.
All Nerve starts off like a rave, thanks to opening track “Nervous Mary”, and then settles into a more patient approach, including track #3 “All Nerve” and #5 “Spacewoman”. The following track, “Walking with a Killer”, is a showcase of everything The Breeders are capable of, but have given too little of owing to various events in their three-decade history.
Reviews have been mostly positive. The AV Club’s Kelsey J. Waite called it “a strong, clear-eyed return for Dayton, Ohio’s ’90s alt-rock icons”, and hoped they’d stick together this time. Rolling Stone’s Charles Aaron said the songs “are all cinematic movement – hiding, escaping, screaming in the meadow, running for the exit”.
Other albums worth listening to this week include Historian, the second release from indie singer-songwriter Lucy Darcus, who made a splash in 2015 with No Burden. And there’s the fifth album from British rock band Rolo Tomassi: it’s called Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, which is getting some fantastic early reviews.