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The Grand Tour, Fantastic Beasts, Watch Dogs 2, and More: The Weekend Chill

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The Grand Tour, Fantastic Beasts, Watch Dogs 2, and More: The Weekend Chill
Highlights
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them released Friday worldwide
  • Watch Dogs 2 is available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
  • The Grand Tour premieres on Amazon Video

After announcing his retirement in 2013, legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is making a return to feature film-making. On a TV special in Japan, Miyazaki said he wasn’t happy with how his 12-minute short Kemushi no Boro (Boro the Caterpillar) had turned out, and so he wants to make it into a full-length film.

Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong actor well renowned for his mix of slapstick comedy and martial arts expertise, was awarded an honorary Oscar at the Governors awards over the weekend. “A long time ago when I watched the Oscars with my Dad, he said ‘Son, you get so many movie awards around the world. When are you going to get one of these?’” Chan said while accepting his award. He added: “After 56 years in the film industry, making more than 200 films, after so many bones, finally this is mine.”

The first trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast was released this week. It now holds the record for most-watched trailer in first 24 hours, racking up 127.6 million views against 114 million of Fifty Shades Darker, and 112 million of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film releases March 17, 2017.

Minecraft, the best-selling PC game ever and the second best-selling video game after Tetris, has (almost) landed its first big cast member. Steve Carell, best known for The Office, is in talks with Warner Bros to play the lead in the film. Minecraft: The Movie is being directed by Rob McElhenney and lands in theatres May 25, 2019.

That’s all to come, though. For now, it’s time to focus on the weekend ahead of you. This is still The Weekend Chill, and here are the best picks for your enjoyment:

TV:
The Grand Tour
After getting fired from his old job at BBC’s Top Gear for punching a producer, Jeremy Clarkson and his two fellow presenters – Richard Hammond and James May – are back with a new motoring show on Amazon. It’s called The Grand Tour, and has a 36-episode three-year-deal in place. The show’s studio segments will be shot inside tents around the world, starting with Los Angeles for the first episode, and will include Johannesburg, Whitby in England, Rotterdam, Lapland in Finland, Stuttgart, Nashville in the US, Loch Ness in Scotland, and Dubai in future episodes.

Now that the presenters have lost access to two of their famed intellectual properties – the Top Gear test track, and The Stig – they are making use of a new track at RAF Wroughton in England, and racing driver Mike Skinner is their new test driver. He’s called “The American”.

The first episode, released Friday, is currently available on Amazon Video in the UK, US, Germany, Austria and Japan. Thankfully, in an announcement made by the presenters themselves this week, it was revealed that the show will premiere in an additional 200 countries from next month onwards.

01 the grand tour The Weekend Chill The Grand Tour

How to access: Amazon Video
Time commitment: 1 hour, for a total of 12 weeks

Game of Thrones
At this moment, HBO’s fantasy epic is the kind of show that no longer needs an introduction. During it six-year run, Game of Thrones has provided some of TV’s biggest pop culture moments, driving the entire conversation between its weekly episodes. The series is now in its home-stretch, with a maximum of 15 episodes expected in the final two seasons remaining. And now that (spoiler alert) winter is officially here in Westeros, the showrunners had to move its production schedule to accommodate the seasonal change that is to be expected.

And so, Game of Thrones – which has returned with new seasons in March or April each year – won’t air its seventh season until sometime in summer 2017, which means you won’t get to see new GoT footage until at least June. Thankfully, HBO released the sixth season on home media this week, which apart from all 10 episodes, also contains in-episode guides, more than a dozen pieces of Thrones lore with character explanations, and an in-depth look at how the battle for episode nine was planned and shot.

If you need written commentary as you re-watch the sixth season, we’ve got an episode-by-episode guide, a post-season awards ceremony for the things that stood out, and commentary on the show’s potential future.

02 game of thrones The Weekend Chill Game of Thrones

How to access: Sixth season only – Amazon US, or Amazon IN; Season 1-6 Boxset – Amazon US, or Amazon IN
Time commitment: 12+ hours

Better Call Saul
Breaking Bad is one of those shows that will go down in history for its rise in quality as it went on, and for having one of the best send-off episodes (aka series finale) in television history. So, when creator Vince Gilligan and lead writer Peter Gould announced they would be exploring the past of an important character in a spin-off prequel show, people were hesitant.

Thankfully, Better Call Saul – following the life of Saul Goodman six years before his appearance on Breaking Bad, in a different avatar as a small-time lawyer “Jimmy” McGill – has been great since its first moments. Where the first season showed Jimmy trying to be an ethics-abiding lawyer and struggling to make ends meet, the second season saw him step into murkier waters, and set the stage for his eventual turn into a smooth-talking criminal lawyer.

The show’s success is due to the strong writing from Gilligan and Gould’s team, and is helped by Bob Odenkirk, who plays McGill, and Jonathan Banks, who reprises his role as Mike from Breaking Bad. Joining them are Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, and Michael McKean. The second season is now available on home media, with a third scheduled to premiere in spring 2017.

03 better call saul The Weekend Chill Better Call Saul

How to access: Amazon US
Time commitment: 7 hours and 39 minutes

Movies:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
JK Rowling takes every Muggle back to the magical world with this new Harry Potter spin-off film set in 1926 New York, which isn't a prequel but rather a tangential adventure. It draws its title from a book Potter read at Hogwarts for a course called Care of Magical Creatures, and follows its British author - Newt Scamander, played sheepishly possibly to a fault by Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne - as he continues his pursuit to learn more about these, well, fantastic beasts.

The supporting cast includes a hard-working ex-Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her sister and expert Legilimens Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), a No-Maj - that's the American word for Muggle - aspiring-baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Director of Magical Security for MACUSA - Magical Congress of the United States of America - Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), leader of anti-wizarding fanatic group Second Salemers Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), and her adopted son Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller).

As we noted in our review, the pairing of Queenie and Kowalski works great, though the same cannot be said of Scamander and Tina. The fact the film is the first in the Potter franchise not to be adapted from a book helps its case, and Rowling's mastery in keeping the reader, which in this case is the viewer, engaged is a plus.

04 fantastic beasts The Weekend Chill Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

How to access: Out in cinema halls
Time commitment: 2 hours and 13 minutes

Other mentions:
Also available on home media this week is Pixar’s follow-up to Finding Nemo 13 years after its release, in Finding Dory. The film was well-received by critics and audiences upon release, and was recommended by us upon release back in June. Special features include a making-of, the short film Piper that played before Finding Dory in theatres, and interviews with the cast.

If you’re a fan of The Beatles, Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years has made its way to the Blu-ray department as well. It looks at the titular period in the band’s history, and the disc release has over 100 minutes of extra content, featuring five rare full-length performances.

Video games:
Watch Dogs 2
There were a lot of expectations from Watch Dogs in 2012, but Ubisoft's over-promising and under-delivering strategy meant many were disappointed. It didn't help that the protagonist was a dour, revenge-seeking cold hacker, who ended up relying more on his abilities with weapons than his hacking skills; and the entire game was set in a greyscale Chicago that failed to impress.

Watch Dogs 2 rectifies both those things – we now have a suave hacker called Marcus Holloway, and the game is now set amidst the blue skies and bright hues of San Francisco. Traversal gets an update too, as we noted in our review, and you can even fly drones! Driving, which felt like moving on water in the original Watch Dogs, has seen improvements as well – most of all, allowing you to drive and shoot, whose exclusion was utterly bizarre in an open-world game four years ago.

The game released this week for PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, while PC users must wait until November 29 to get their copy. If you bought a PS4 Pro for better graphics, you won’t see any difference sadly, perhaps even worse performance.

05 watch dogs 2 The Weekend Chill Watch Dogs 2

How to access: PlayStation 4, or Xbox One
Time commitment: As much as you want, really

Planet Coaster
If you’ve ever played any of the Roller Coaster Tycoon games, you already know what half of Planet Coaster is about. It’s a spiritual successor after all. Here’s how the British developer, Frontier Developments, see their new title: “We’ve created a living world where every guest is an individual with their own personality and money in their pocket. We’re giving you limitless freedom to build rides and scenery piece by piece, and to seamlessly blend them with your own hand-sculpted terrain.”

When you start Planet Coaster, you’ll be asked to create an avatar – just as you do in The Sims – and place them anywhere on the globe. You can then look at parks and worlds created by other people in the online community, and so can they. And if you’re one of those who likes to cause devastation, Planet Coaster has a built-in “crash mode” which lets you create incomplete coasters to mess with your visitors.

How’s that for fun, eh? We’ll have a full review sometime next week, so keep an eye out for that.

06 planet coaster The Weekend Chill Planet Coaster

How to access: Steam for Windows PCs
Time commitment: As much as you want, really

Other mentions:
While there may not be a new Assassin’s Creed game this year, Ubisoft has released an upgraded version of its earlier titles with enhanced graphics for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s called Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection, and it includes all single-player content from Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Assassin's Creed: Revelations. If you’re interested in revisiting 15th-century Renaissance Italy, or 16th-century Constantinople, this is how you should be spending your weekend.

Friday also saw the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon, and both have received great ratings going by early reviews. If you’re craving more of the pocket monsters after the Pokémon Go craze, this might be your fix – if you’ve a Nintendo 3DS, that is.

Apps:
Attenborough’s Story of Life
Like us, if you can’t get enough of Sir David Attenborough’s new nature-doc Planet Earth II, BBC has you covered. A new app – Attenborough’s Story of Life – chronicles the breadth of Attenborough’s six-decade-career reporting on wildlife around the world. With more than a thousand clips of the best wildlife moments he’s filmed, it’s being labelled “the most comprehensive collection of Sir David’s work ever released online”.

The clips have been curated into different collections, which focus on the types on animals, the habitat they live in, their way of life, the activities they engage in, and so forth. Attenborough has also recorded direct-to-camera pieces exclusively for the app, which provide introduction to things you’re about to see. You can even create your own collections if you like, and then share them with friends and family.

While most of the collection draws from his past body of work – Planet Earth, Blue Planet, The Life of Mammals, Africa and others – you will also come across behind-the-scenes and special footage for the ongoing Planet Earth II.

07 story of life The Weekend Chill Sir David Attenborough Story of Life

(Also see: Talking Planet Earth II - What We Love About the Series Return)

How to access: Apple App Store, or Google Play Store
Time commitment: 5 minutes to as long as you like

What are you planning to do this weekend at home? Tweet your suggestions to us @Gadgets360 with #WeekendChill or let us know via the comments.

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Akhil Arora Akhil identifies himself as a stickler for detail and accuracy, and strongly believes that robots will one day take over most human jobs. In his free time, you will find Akhil beating the computer at EA Sports FIFA or streaming new highly-rated TV series. More
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