Pyre, Insecure, Valerian, and More – The Weekend Chill

Pyre, Insecure, Valerian, and More – The Weekend Chill
  • Pyre is available on PS4 and PC
  • Insecure streams on Hotstar
  • Valerian released July 28 in India

Thanks to the San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend, we got a sneak peek at tons of upcoming films and TV shows: Justice League, Ready Player One, Marvel’s The Defenders, Thor: Ragnarok, Stranger Things season two, Star Trek: Discovery, The Gifted, Westworld, and The Lego Ninjago Movie among others.

At SDCC, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also revealed that Captain Marvel – the first solo outing for a female Marvel superhero, starring Brie Larson – would be set in the early 90s, and would feature Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, without the eyepatch. The villains for the movie will be the Skrulls, an alien race with green skin, who have been waging war with the Kree (whom you might remember as the bad guys from the first Guardians of the Galaxy) for generations. Captain Marvel lands March 8, 2019.

San Diego Comic-Con 2017: New Movie, TV Show Trailers Unveiled

The reshoots for Justice League – being shepherded by Joss Whedon after Zack Synder stepped away due to a family tragedy – are costing Warner Bros. to the tune of $25 million, Variety revealed earlier this week. It’s also causing trouble for everyone involved as actors have other films on their schedule. As a much hilarious add-on, Justice League will have to digitally remove Henry Cavill’s moustache, because Paramount didn’t allow him to shave while production was on for Mission: Impossible 6.

The third Cloverfield movie – titled The God Particle, for now – has been pushed back from October this year to February 2, 2018. The film is set aboard a space station and follows a team of astronauts as they make a terrifying discovery. Directed by Julius Onah, it stars David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, and Chris O’Dowd.

On Wednesday, Warner Bros. revealed that it had set a release date for the Wonder Woman sequel: it’s coming December 13, 2019. Gal Gadot will reprise her role, and director Patty Jenkins is already working on the script with DC Films head Geoff Johns, though she’s yet to be announced as director.

The next James Bond film also get a release date this week – November 8, 2019 – thanks to the 007 Twitter account. There’s still no word on whether Daniel Craig will return as Bond, though The New York Times reported so, citing anonymous sources.

On Thursday, HBO promised a quick release for Westworld season two. It’ll premiere in spring 2018, which should mostly put it in April, since that allows shows to participate in the same year’s Emmy awards.

As part of its Q2 2017 earnings, IMAX CEO Greg Foster said that consumers have shown “a clear preference” for 2D over 3D films, and it’ll heed that shift going forward. Blade Runner 2049 will play only in IMAX 2D across North America, though whether that will be the case in India too remains to be seen.

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:

Before Insecure arrived last year on HBO, co-creator Issa Rae was best known for her web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, where she explored the awkward experiences of African-American women, obviously. Insecure does the same, except it now has more prominence, and better writing in some ways.

Rae also stars as the lead protagonist conveniently called Issa, alongside Yvonne Orji who plays her best friend, Molly. While Issa works at a non-profit trying to benefit disadvantaged students, Molly is a successful corporate attorney. Before the first season, Rae had said that the series isn’t about “the hood life”, but “just trying to convey that people of colour are relatable”.

The first season debuted to high critical acclaim, and the show’s second season – which began earlier this week – has received similar level of praise from critics. For a lighter take on the African-American life, and a more nuanced portrayal of South Los Angeles, Insecure hits the mark.

How to access: HBO, or Hotstar
Time commitment: 30 minutes, weekly

Room 104
From brothers Jay (Transparent) and Mark Duplass (Togetherness) comes an anthology comedy-drama series about a motel room. Well, not exactly. Room 104 is the name and the setting for the entire series, and it follows different guests who end up staying in that room, and have wild adventures of course – who’d want to watch a show about people watching TV and sleeping?

Owing to that format, Room 104 has an ensemble cast that includes Hugo Armstrong, Davie-Blue, Melonie Diaz, Veronica Falcon, Adam Foster, Ellen Geer, Keir Gilchrist, Philip Baker Hall, Sarah Hay, Poorna Jagannathan, Orlando Jones, Ethan and Gavin Kent, Amy Landecker, Konstantin Lavysh, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, Keta Meggett, Natalie Morgan, Ross Partridge, Karan Soni, Dendrie Taylor, Tony Todd, Will Tranfo, James Van Der Beek, Mae Whitman, Nat Wolff, and Jay Duplass himself.

The plot resets every week – it’s called anthology for a reason – so you don’t have to worry about tuning in each week. Indiewire’s Ben Travers said the show “excels in maximising an array of voices. Not all of the episodes are outright successes, but they do showcase the new talent brought in to build them.”

How to access: HBO, or Hotstar
Time commitment: 30 minutes, weekly

People of Earth
Produced by Conan O’Brien and Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Rec), People of Earth is a comedy about a support group for alien abductees. Or as they like to call themselves, “experiencers”. The show follows New York reporter Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac), who travels and then moves to the small-town of Beacon to write about the members of StarCrossed. The show split its first season between humans and lizard aliens that are disguised as humans.

Nasim Pedrad joins the cast for season two as FBI Special Agent Alex Foster, who comes to the city of Beacon, New York, to hunt local newspaper owner Jonathan Walsh (Michael Cassidy) for white collar crime. Graham continues to be sceptical of the support group’s claims, though he struggles with the knowledge of life beyond Earth, while a merger on the alien ship puts them under new management.

Writing in The New York Times, James Poniewozik concluded his review by saying: “[The] delight of this odd, humane show is how it rearranges old alien tropes to find a new way to say what ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ once did: We are not alone.”

How to access: TBS, or Amazon Prime Video
Time commitment: Around 20 minutes, weekly

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson, the writer, director, and producer on Valerian, fell in love with the comics as a kid. But he never thought about turning it into a movie, and scoffed at the idea when Jean-Claude Mézières – the illustrator behind the Valerian et Laureline comics – brought it up while the two were working together on Besson’s The Fifth Element.

That changed when Besson saw James Cameron’s Avatar as he realised the impossible was now within reach. The film is set in the 28th century as the comics, where Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special government agents who are tasked with locating a rare animal with magical powers. Their mission uncovers a political conspiracy that threatens humanity’s future at Alpha, the city of a thousand planets.

Though Besson’s passion and imagination helps Valerian provide dazzling visuals and a few inventive action sequences, the film is let down overall by the paper-thin bland titular protagonist. Laureline is slightly better written, and her presence lifts the film, but it’s still a disappointment. For genre fans that have already seen everything the summer has to offer, it might be worth a morning trip to the cinemas.

How to access: Out in cinema halls
Time commitment: 2 hours and 17 minutes

Berlin Syndrome
Clare (Teresa Palmer) is an Australian photographer backpacking in Germany, when she meets Andi (Max Riemelt) in Berlin and has a one-night stand with him. When she wakes up the next morning, she finds the main door locked, and Andi gone for work. She believes him he accidentally forgot to leave her a key, but she slowly discovers signs that point to something sinister.

Based on Melanie Joosten’s novel of the same name, and directed by Cate Shortland, Berlin Syndrome is a well-written and powerfully-acted psychological thriller, which offers a look into how obsessions can easily get so dangerous. Critics have praised the work of both Palmer and Shortland, while noting the film has a loose middle-section that turns into a compelling end.

Berlin Syndrome premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and it’s now making its way to cinema screens in India.

How to access: Out in cinema halls
Time commitment: 1 hour and 56 minutes

Tropic Thunder
In 2008, the same year Robert Downey Jr starred in Iron Man, he also had a role in Ben Stiller’s Hollywood satire Tropic Thunder. The film followed a group of actors making a fictional Vietnam War movie, which derails spectacularly thanks to the giant egos of everyone involved in production.

Starring Downey as method actor and five-time Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus, Stiller as former high-paid actor now in his dump years Tugg Speedman, and Jack Black as Jeff Portnoy, a drug-addicted comedian attempting to change his image, Tropic Thunder moves into gear after the war movie's director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) drops the actors in the jungle, where the plan is to film them secretly with hidden cameras. Of course, things don't really go according to plan.

Tropic Thunder was praised by critics for its characters, story, biting satire and humour, and it earned Downey and Tom Cruise – who stars as a bald studio executive Les Grossman – multiple nominations the following year. It’s now available to stream, which gives you a perfect excuse to revisit it.

How to access: Amazon Prime Video, or Netflix
Time commitment: 1 hour and 47 minutes

Video games:
The developer behind Bastion and Transistor – Supergiant Games – have come out with a new RPG title that borrows from other genres: Pyre. The game is set in a vast, mystical purgatory known as the Downside, where you must lead a band of exiles to freedom by participating in a series of competitions, called the Rites.

For its combat, Pyre takes the elements of basketball where the hoops are a ticking bomb made of 100 points, and the ball is a magical orb that depletes points every time you score. The first team to hit zero points loses. Teams are made up of three players, who will level up as you progress, a classic element of RPG titles.

There is no game-over screen in Pyre, and we talked with the developer on how that came to be. Like Supergiant’s previous title, Pyre has been praised by most critics – including us – who have pointed out its engrossing story and characters, background music, colourful art, and the battles as highlights.

How to access: PlayStation 4, or Steam for Windows and Linux PCs
Time commitment: 5+ hours

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Akhil Arora
Akhil Arora covers entertainment for Gadgets 360, interviewing stars such as Christian Bale and Anurag Kashyap, covering series premieres, product and service launches across the globe, and looking at American blockbusters and Indian dramas from a global socio-political and feminist perspective. As a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic, Akhil has reviewed over 150 movies and TV shows in over half a decade at Gadgets 360. When he is not completely caught up with new film and TV releases, Akhil ...More
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