How long is Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max? – CNET

Don't hang around if you want to stream WW84.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Time is running out to catch Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max. The colourful superhero sequel is available to stream only for a limited time and only has a few days left. It will no longer be available on the streaming service after Jan. 25.

Wonder Woman 1984 was released Dec. 25. With many theaters closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, movie studio Warner Bros. hedged its bets and also released the film on HBO Max so you could watch it from the comfort of your sofa. But it was only a limited run, lasting one month from the original release date, which means you have just over a week left to catch this latest superpowered blockbuster.

Oh, and don't forget to stick around for the post-credits scene.

An HBO Max subscription costs $15 per month. Here's all your questions answered about how to watch Wonder Woman 1984 even if you're not a subscriber, and here's how to check whether you already get HBO Max for free as part of your cable package.

Even with vaccines now in circulation, coronavirus disruption looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. So Warner Bros. has also committed to releasing the rest of its 2021 movies on HBO Max throughout the year, including Dune, Godzilla v Kong, Mortal Kombat, The Suicide Squad and The Matrix 4.

That's proved controversial with filmmakers who wanted to debut their films on the big screen rather than streaming, but it's good news for anyone who doesn't want to risk their health as the pandemic rumbles on.

Next up on HBO Max is Denzel Washington serial killer thriller The Little Things, streaming for a month from Jan. 29. That's followed by a look at the story of the Black Panther movement, Judas and the Black Messiah, streaming on HBO Max from Feb. 12.

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WandaVision episode 1 and episode 2 Easter eggs and Marvel references – CNET

Wanda and Vision get bewitched on Disney Plus.

Marvel/Disney Plus

She's a magical gal in a small-town locale, he's part machine, and they share a love like you've never seen. That's the jaunty intro to WandaVision on Disney Plus, but what Easter eggs and Marvel references can be spotted in the first two episodes of the new series?

WandaVision episode 1 and episode 2 are streaming now, with new installments of the nine-part Disney Plus show to follow every Friday, starting with episode 3 on Jan. 22. We'll recap each episode as it arrives, peeling back the layers of suspense about how Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and her robotic beau Vision (Paul Bettany) arrived in this surreal suburban sitcom... 

Here are the Easter eggs we've spotted so far, and we'll add more as we see them. But be warned: Spoilers for both episodes below!

Marvel Studios

The door number

On their picture-perfect suburban street, Wanda and Vision live at number 2800. In an acclaimed 2015 comic series by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, the Vision took up residence on a suburban street, but while that highly recommended comic was very different, it's fun to note Viz lived at No. 616. That was a reference to Earth-616, the version of reality in which most Marvel comics stories take place. 

Other parallel dimensions -- like the different worlds seen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse -- have their own numbers. So the significance of 2800 is unclear, but with WandaVision reported to be tied into forthcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness it could have some kind of multiversal meaning.

The ads

WandaVision's pastiche of '50s and '60s sitcoms like Bewitched and I Love Lucy includes a laugh track, stylized sets and farcical situations. It also extends to the fake ads in the middle of each installment. Episode 1 tries to sell us a newfangled toaster from Stark Industries -- a softball of an Easter egg, as most viewers will spot a reference to the company run by Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and his father, Howard Stark, before him.

However, the seemingly innocuous Toast Mate 2000 takes a creepy turn when it beeps ominously just before the bread pops up -- a bit like a bomb. We know from 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron that Wanda's parents were killed by an explosive device, leaving her and her twin brother, Pietro, trapped under rubble. For two days, the Maximoffs stared at an unexploded Stark Industries shell, expecting it to detonate before they were rescued. So beeping Stark tech isn't likely to sit well with Wanda.

I love Wanda.

Marvel/Disney Plus

The commercial break takes a darker turn in episode 2, however. This second ad advertises a watch branded with the names Strucker and Hydra. Hydra is, of course, the sinister terrorist organization threatening Marvel's world, and Baron Wolfgang von Strucker is the evil scientist who developed Wanda's powers and set her against the Avengers in Age of Ultron.

The ad's tagline "He'll make time for you" implies a continued role for Strucker despite his death at Ultron's hands, and it might tie into the show's televisual themes if he was seen again on a TV screen like fellow Hydra scientist Arnim Zola in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

If these are references to Wanda's origins, then the ads may represent Wanda's memories, even though the toaster ad warns, "Forget your past, this is your future." In which case, it may mean something that the same woman and man show up in both ads. Could they be Wanda's parents? 

The supermarket signs

Speaking of ads, look out for the supermarket signs in episode 2's animated opening credits. The store advertises Bova Milk, a reference to the super-evolved cow who served as midwife at Wanda's birth (comics!). Another sign mentions Aunty A's Kitty Litter, which is surely a reference to another member of the comic's supporting cast, the ancient witch Agatha Harkness and her cat-like familiar named Ebony. Which might make you wonder about Kathryn Hahn's fabulous neighbor who happens to be named Agnes...

The songs

By singing catchy 1958 rock 'n' roll song Yakety Yak, Vision takes on the role of both parent and child, giving and receiving orders in an enclosing or imprisoning suburban world. ("Don't talk back.") Interestingly, this view of suburban teen life is in its own way a construction: Yakety Yak was written, produced and arranged by Jewish songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller for Black performers The Coasters as a parody of white middle-class society.

This is a reach, but there's another possible significance. In the 1988 comedy Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a naive outsider arriving in America and sings the song. Wanda has/had a twin, her brother Pietro (aka Quicksilver) who in the MCU was shot dead by Vision's creator in Avengers: Age of Ultron. She also magically gave birth to twins in the comics in the 1980s.

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Marvel/Disney Plus

And the significance of Old McDonald? With his moo moos and baa baas, Vision again plays the role of characters who are enclosed against their will. Or it's just funny.

By episode 2 the song we hear in a crucial moment is 1965 hit Help Me, Rhonda by the Beach Boys. Along with hairstyle and costume changes it's one of the subtle signs the show has advanced from the 1950s in episode 1 to a pastiche of the '60s in episode 2. And of course, Rhonda is easily misheard for Wanda. But why is someone asking, "Who's doing this to you, Wanda?"

Oh, and does the line "Get her out of my heart" tie in with the presence of the Harts in episode 1? 

Big red

The brand of gum that gums up Vision's works is Big Red, which was also the working title of the show when it was filmed in Atlanta in 2019. Whether that's merely a goofy code name or something more important is something for you to chew over.

Speaking of the magic show disrupted by Vision's gum, the couple adopt the names "Glamor and Illusion." In the comics, Vision and Scarlet Witch were friends with a married magic act called Glamor and Illusion who also secretly used superpowers to pull off their tricks.

The wine

When Wanda magically saves dinner, the wine she pours is a fine drop of Maison du M├ępris. That means  house of contempt or scorn, but more importantly harks back to the pivotal House of M comics storyline in which a traumatized Wanda reshaped the whole of reality into a new world ruled by her family.

wandavision-screenshot-wine.png

House of M wine.

Marvel

The Grim Reaper

Blink and you might miss the moment Vision phases through the floor in the opening credits of episode 2. Among the pipes and cobwebs are a couple of bones and a dark shape that looks suspiciously like the helmet worn by Marvel villain Grim Reaper. In the comics, he's the brother of Wonder Man, whose brainwaves were used in Vision's creation. In the 2015 series where Vision lives a suburban life, Grim Reaper showed up at his home and met a sticky end.

wandavision-screenshot-grim-reaper.png

That four-pronged shape in the middle may be a reference to a comics villain.

Marvel

The beekeeper

At the climax of episode 2, Wanda and Vision are startled by a manhole cover sliding back and a shadowy beekeeper climbing out. Comics fans may see a similarity to the helmeted uniforms worn by underlings of the evil Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), a cabal of rogue scientists and offshoot of Hydra. On screen, AIM was the main threat in Iron Man 3. Or maybe it's not so literal -- the beekeeper could be another reference to being enclosed and observed in a constructed space.

The sword

Whatever's happening to Wanda and the Vision, the people observing use a logo depicting a sword in a circle. There's an organization called SWORD in the comics that complements SHIELD's Earthbound activities by taking care of extraterrestrial threats. Given the presence of Geraldine, reported to be a grown-up version of the young Monica Rambeau seen encountering aliens in Captain Marvel, WandaVision could take a turn for the extraterrestrial. Or as Vision puts it, "My wife and her flying saucers!"

However, it's unclear why the downed helicopter in episode 2 is painted in Iron Man's signature red and yellow.

The bump

By the end of episode 2, Wanda is suddenly and noticeably pregnant. That echoes a storyline in The Vision and the Scarlet Witch, the '80s run of comics in which she magically gave birth to twins. The kids were sadly revealed to be fragments of the demon Mephisto (comics!). Distraught at the loss of her children, Wanda later remodeled reality in the 2005 House of M comics storyline.

The MCU hasn't seen a lot of supernatural stuff so far. Thor is an alien rather than a god, while Wanda is a super-powered mutant, not technically a witch. But it's possible Mephisto could be involved in the weirdness enclosing Wanda and Viz. The neighborhood queen bee Dottie is Emma Caulfield, who previously played a demon in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And what about Agnes and her unseen husband? The devil is in the details, but that isn't the only place he is...

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WandaVision review: A delightful superhero soap unlike anything in MCU – CNET

Wandavision on Disney Plus

What a vision.

Marvel/Disney Plus

It's been a while, but it's finally time to tune in to the Marvel universe again. WandaVision, hitting Disney Plus on Friday, is perfectly timed, kooky comfort viewing just when the epic escapism of big-screen Marvel movies is denied to us due to the coronavirus pandemic

The first two half-hour episodes premiere on Disney's streaming service on Jan.15, and a new episode then follows with a release date every Friday. As many viewers remain stuck indoors, it's fitting WandaVision explores what happens when Marvel heroes go home, only to find that weirdness and danger lurk behind even the most ordinary front door. 

Luckily you don't have to remember much from prior MCU films about Wanda Maximoff and her magical powers, or hot pink robot Vision, to dive straight into the show. All you need to know about the superpowered couple played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany is that they're weird, they're in love, and they're the charming heart of a surreal, suspenseful and actually pretty funny sitcom-inspired story. (No spoilers!)

After a pandemic-enforced absence disrupting 10 years of Marvel dominance at the box office, the familiar Marvel ident that opens the show is bound to provoke feelings among fans with its glimpses of Iron Man, Captain America and the other beloved Avengers. Which is ironic, because what follows is so unlike anything the MCU has ever seen before.

In the best possible way. Served up in breezy half-hour chunks, WandaVision is a surreal delight. The retro sitcom stylings see Marvel going off on a bizarre but confidently delivered tangent, bringing back familiar characters in a fresh and imaginative way.

Olsen and Bettany are a winning double act, finally given more room than any overstuffed MCU movie has previously afforded their characters. Olsen is enchanting as the powerful magic-maker who can barely function in "normal" life, while Bettany is a delight as the gangling android serving a variety of adorable faces. The pair expertly shift between wacky comedy and tantalizing emotion.

Ignoring where we last saw them on the big screen, Wanda and Viz are dropped into an unexpected new life, new home and new jobs. But they face bigger problems than staying on the right side of nosy neighbors, as the action shifts from superheroics to suburban alienation.

From the 1960s onward, Marvel comics served up as much soap opera as superpowers. Peter Parker's turbulent teens and the Fantastic Four's family friction made real-life drama an integral part of Marvel's magic. And even though the movies are filled with loud and spectacular action bursting off the big screen, the sense-swamping banging and crashing has always been underpinned by affecting relationships between characters that evolved over a decade.

The creators of WandaVision know this, and when taking the MCU to the small screen they wisely opt to carry over the bits that work on the small screen while setting aside the widescreen histrionics. There have been Marvel TV shows before, but not like this. Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter were entertaining action romps, while Netflix's suite of connected spinoffs featuring Daredevil and the Punisher were sludgy slugfests that quickly became a slog. WandaVision is something else entirely.

As subsequent episodes unfold (I watched the first three) it becomes clear this isn't just a Marvel television show: it's a Marvel show about television. Beginning as a 1950s style suburban sitcom -- complete with canned laughter, nosy neighbors and a farcical dinner with the boss -- the story and the way it's told both advance to explore the way TV imagery has changed over the years. The suburban sitcom is so ingrained in popular culture that it establishes a baseline of what is "normal," even if the concept of normality is as mythical as comic book witches and androids.

Obviously, Wanda and Vision are far from normal. She's a magical gal in a small-town locale, and he's purple. Sympathetic outsiders in a normal town have always provided a rich seam to mine, from light-hearted sitcoms like Bewitched -- the clear inspiration for this story -- up to the unsettling weirdness buried beneath neatly manicured lawns in the films and TV of David Lynch. As the show continues, Bewitched retunes into Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. There's even a dash of the encroaching dread the Coen Brothers inject into their everyday settings, complete with jarring left turns as normal people do abnormal things.

WandaVision also learns from Disney Plus' TV show and smash hit Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian. It hyper-focuses on one small corner of the franchise, telling a new story with just enough of a link to established characters to hook in fans. You don't need to remember every tiny detail of the previous films, but Easter eggs and lore are there if you really want to look closer (and we'll recap those Easter eggs each week, too).

Most importantly, WandaVision sets up a whopping great mystery of its own. There may not exactly be a Baby Yoda to set social media abuzz, unless Paul Bettany's bumbling synthezoid wins hearts with his sheer befuddled wholesomeness. The divine Kathryn Hahn will also win fans with her pitch-perfect performance, throwing herself into the role with relish.

Even without a Baby Yoda-style phenomenon, WandaVision will no doubt invite frenzied theorizing in a similar manner to shows like Westworld. It remains to be seen over the course of nine episodes whether the apparently fairly slight premise can sustain its twin engines, building suspense while holding our attention with engaging characters. But it's utterly self-assured and colorfully entertaining -- right from the moment you walk in the front door.

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2020 was a year without Marvel heroes. Do we need them back? – CNET

blackwidow

2020 was supposed to be a year for new superheroes, but COVID-19 stopped that in its tracks.

Marvel

Wonder Woman's super-strength and Black Widow's formidable fighting skills are great for beating up bad guys. But even the super-est superhero couldn't fight 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic shut movie theaters and wiped box office calendars around the world. Not even surefire blockbusters from Marvel and DC were safe. For the first time in a decade, we lived in a world without big-screen superheroes. 

With vaccines on the horizon, it seemed until a week ago that movie studios had held off the pandemic-induced seismic shift fans had hoped for: blockbuster streaming.

wonderwomanpostersocial

Wonder Woman 1984 will just make 2020, opening in theaters and streams on HBO Max on Dec. 25.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Streaming releases for the likes of Mulan, Soul, and Bill and Ted Face the Music were clearly marked as rare exceptions as the movie industry fiercely guarded their profitable theatrical openings. Then in December, Warner Bros said screw it. Starting with Wonder Woman 1984, probably the biggest blockbuster to actually arrive in 2020, all Warner's new blockbusters will stream on HBO Max on the same day they hit theaters. That's a simultaneous home release for WB's entire 2021 slate, including DC supervillain sequel The Suicide Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy and Keanu Reeves' return in The Matrix 4.

Fantastic for regular folk who'd prefer to stay on the sofa than pay the price of movie tickets (or coronavirus). Not quite so dandy for cinema chains like AMC. It's also a shock for Legendary, the production company behind Godzilla Vs. Kong and Denis Villeneuve's spectacular Dune, originally intended to hit theaters this month. Legendary financed a majority of these blockbusters' budgets and is accordingly expecting the sort of payday you only get from a successful theatrical release.

Big names are also unimpressed. Christopher Nolan, who directed several blockbusters for Warner Bros from The Dark Knight movies to Inception, Dunkirk and Tenet, called HBO Max "the worst streaming service." It seems nobody in the industry is happy their artistic visions and/or profit margins are being undercut so Warner Bros can shore up its underperforming streaming service.

The banner year

Pandemic aside, 2020 was never going to be a banner year. Cultural juggernauts the Avengers, Star Wars and Game of Thrones all ended in 2019, leaving 2020 propped up by a bunch of antiheroes, oddballs and  second-tier franchises. Ghostbusters, Godzilla and Venom sequels? Bloodshot, Morbius and New Mutants? Those films could have gone either way in both quality and box office.

the-eternals

Would The Eternals have had the success of previous Marvel movies? It's tough to say.

Marvel Comics

Even the mighty Marvel was planning something of a transitional year. Disney gambled the Marvel brand was all that's needed to guarantee success for first-time headliners Black Widow and Wanda, while the Eternals are a whole new set of characters from comic books the average filmgoer won't have heard of.

The question now is what kind of impact the enforced absence will have when those stories do arrive. There hasn't been this long a gap between Marvel movies since the MCU began a decade ago. That could make it tougher for viewers to re-engage.  "It's certainly not ideal for Marvel to have a break at this moment," says industry journalist Ben Fritz, whose book The Big Picture lifts the lid on how Marvel/Disney/superheroes have shaken up the movie industry in recent years.

Has anything filled the gap? When lockdown kicked off, things were supposed to re-open with Tenet. The backwards blockbuster wasn't Nolan's best, but it was clever and ambitious and, most importantly, original. In other words, the type of film pushed out of theaters by superhero blockbusters; the type of film we're supposed to want. But there's no point looking at Tenet's box office results to prove whether this kind of movie is well and truly back -- it's fair to say there were extenuating circumstances.

TV to the rescue

the-mandalorian-14-din-grogu

The Mandalorian's second season creeped in at the tail end of 2020.

Disney Plus

We can, however, look at TV. The Mandalorian is a franchise TV show, The Crown came back, and The Haunting of Bly Manor was a semi-sequel. But with no Game of Thrones or Westworld, the months indoors were spent with exciting and often unexpected new shows. The Queen's Gambit, Lovecraft Country, The Undoing, Normal People, Euphoria and Schitt's Creek kept us company. Tiger King, The Last Dance and various other documentaries connected viewers to real life as life became unreal. And as video calls became a daily reality for people across the globe, a new Zoom-based genre in which the stars stare back at us was reflected in horror movie Host, comedy Staged, and Apple TV sitcom Mythic Quest.

Perhaps most tellingly, one of this year's most talked-about TV shows specifically targeted -- and eviscerated -- the superhero myth. Season 2 of Amazon Prime Video's brutally potty-mouthed and blood-soaked series The Boys deconstructed caped crusaders in a way that blockbuster movies can't.

Indeed, superhero fatigue has been predicted by naysayers for years now. Alan Moore, a towering figure in modern comics who wrote Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Batman: The Killing Joke (among many, many other things) told Deadline in an interview this year that superhero movies have "blighted cinema, and also blighted culture to a degree." He argues adults who love the power fantasy of superhero stories are seeking infantilized simplicity, even denying reality. "I have no interest in superheroes," Moore said. "They were a thing that was invented in the late 1930s for children, and they are perfectly good as children's entertainment... But if you try to make them for the adult world then I think it becomes kind of grotesque."

Moore is very much over the modern superhero blockbuster. "It's too early to make optimistic predictions but you might hope that the bigger interests will find it more difficult to manoeuvre in this new landscape," he suggested to Deadline. "These times might be an opportunity for genuinely radical and new voices to come to the fore."

Certainly on TV there was Ramy, Mrs America,  Small Axe, Unorthodox, I May Destroy You: all vibrant, diverse, character-driven -- and original. But that's TV. It remains to be seen whether film fans, when given the choice, will opt for the magic of the big screen or the comfort of their couch, but if anyone can lure viewers to theaters it's Marvel and DC with the promise of another billion-dollar big screen experience. Superhero movies are one of the few types of story that Netflix and other streaming services haven't managed to replicate

"I suspect there is a lot of pent-up demand among fanboys and fangirls," says Fritz. "Marvel fans have proven to be incredibly loyal -- maybe the most loyal in cinematic history. I would be shocked if Black Widow, Eternals, and the other upcoming Marvel films aren't big successes."

As the COVID-19 vaccine helps restore us to some semblance of normality, a trip to the movies will take on an even bigger significance for many filmgoers. "It's hard to imagine a stronger sign that we are back to normal than going to see a new Marvel or DC film," says Fritz.

And the scheduling pile-up means an embarrassment of riches at 2021's box office, the sheer number of new releases likely to balance out any drop in ticket sales due to lingering safety fears. That's good news for everyone who loves the big screen experience, and for everyone who works to make films or show them in theaters. 

And if the collective excitement over a new superhero movie brings people together to celebrate the end of a dark chapter for the world, then that's their real (super)strength.

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The Mandalorian season 2 episode 6 gave us what we’ve all been waiting for – CNET

The Fett's out of the bag...

Lucasfilm

This isn't a spice dream: The Mandalorian just served up the moment fans have been talking about since the Disney Plus show was first announced.

Streaming now, season 2 episode 6 is officially titled Chapter 14: The Tragedy. That ominous title sets up a foreboding mood as the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda make a major breakthrough -- only for things to take a cruel twist. (Spoilers incoming...) And we finally meet the man who inspired the whole show, as legendary Star Wars character Boba Fett blasts into action.

The episode opens with the Mandalorian and his Force-powered foster-child Baby Yoda sharing a small but emotional moment. After last week's encounter with Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Mando's satisfaction at nearing the completion of his quest is tempered with sadness at having to give up Baby Yoda. One minute the little green guy is squealing with delight at a jet pack ride, the next he's communing with a Jedi temple. That's super-powered, galaxy-changing, Force-sensitive kids for ya -- they grow up so fast!

Arriving at Ahsoka Tano's "magic rock," Baby Yoda begins meditating, surrounded by a force field (or should that be Force field?). But things don't stay meditative for long, as a ship that'll be familiar to Star Wars fans comes into view -- and the moment we've all been waiting for arrives.

New character Baby Yoda aka the Child aka Grogu has been the breakout star of The Mandalorian. But from the moment the series was announced back in 2018, fans wanted to know if and how the show would tie in with the Mandalorian who started it all, laconic bounty hunter Boba Fett, first seen in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Fett spoke four lines and was on screen for less than seven minutes, but the enigmatically masked character launched a thousand toys. His role expanded in Return of the Jedi, and we learned his backstory in the Star Wars prequel trilogy -- which now comes full circle in episode 6 of The Mandalorian.

Not only does Fett reclaim his father Jango Fett's armor, he gets to smash up some Imperial Stormtroopers in the process. The white-armored Stormtroopers began as an army of clones, obscene copies of none other than Jango himself -- no wonder Boba shows such cold fury as he flamboyantly takes out the Stormtrooper platoon.

Mando, Fennec Shand and Boba Fett team up!

Lucasfilm

Fett was glimpsed in season 2 episode 1, played by Temuera Morrison. It's full circle for the New Zealand actor too: technically this is the first time Morrison has appeared as Boba Fett -- aside from some voiceovers, he played Jango in the prequels -- and it's something of an anticlimax that he simply shows up and starts talking. After Ahsoka Tano last week, this isn't the first time a major Star Wars character just walks in with little buildup. But then you realize Fett's arrival is a prelude to the real reveal The Mandalorian has been building toward since its inception. In fact, we get to meet Boba Fett twice: once as badass warrior monk taking out bad guys with a massive hammer, and then again as the armored and iconic Star Wars fan favorite we know and love.

Something tells me Fett's line, "A simple man making his way through the galaxy like my father before me," will go down in the Star Wars saga's history of classic lines.

As enjoyable as all this is, there's a dark twist to come. Writer and producer Jon Favreau gives with one hand and takes away with the other as our deepest fears for Baby Yoda are realized: Grogu is snatched into the arms of the nefarious Moff Gideon. 

It's fitting that the episode, essentially a running battle in the desert, is directed by directed by Robert Rodriguez, the man behind Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn. But it's not perfect: The destruction of the Mandalorian's cool ship the Razor Crest, painful as it is, immediately undoes last week's big cliffhanger. No sooner has Moff Gideon planted a tracker on the ship than he blows it up barely an episode later. Sure, that subplot has served its purpose now he's got his mitts on Grogu, but it denies viewers the suspense of the Mando desperately trying to evade an enemy we know can't be shaken off.

The introduction of the Dark Troopers is also something of an anti-climax. After the Stormtroopers get wasted, Gideon throws these sinister black warriors into the fray to inaugurate their nasty powers. But all they do is fly straight down, pick up Baby Yoda, and book it straight back to their spaceship. Any grunt with a jetpack or speeder bike could have done that. Again, last week's sinister cliffhanger showing rows of Dark Troopers is undone by their underwhelming debut. Still, I suppose the show has to keep something back for its last two episodes as it builds to a finale on Dec. 18.

Episode 6 ends on a dark note -- literally -- as Moff Gideon strides through corridors, his black cape swirling and his Darksaber menacing Baby Yoda. But it isn't the threat of what Moff Gideon will do that's so unsettling: We also see Grogu using his powers to torture more hapless Stormtroopers. Ahsoka Tano already warned of the dangers of the untrained child losing his way, especially when he's been keeping company with a carer who, let's face it, is a violent and mercenary thug. Nobody wants to see Baby Yoda turn to the Dark Side.

This week we got to see the thing we wanted all along as Boba Fett swooped in. Let's see how season 2's climax shares the limelight between Mandalorian stars old and new.

Check out our recaps for all The Mandalorian's Easter eggs and important Star Wars continuity references:

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The Mandalorian season 2 episode 5 review: Way of the samurai – CNET

The Mandalorian meets the man from Aliens, Michael Biehn.

Lucasfilm

There's always an element of familiarity about Disney Plus show The Mandalorian. It's set in the Star Wars galaxy, which is itself a mirror of the western genre. And season 2 episode 5 (Chapter 13: The Jedi) brings in other familiar elements: the Jedi Ahsoka Tano, iconic '80s action star Michael Biehn, and a visual style that draws heavily on Japanese samurai stories. But the combination of these elements continues to feel fresh, vibrant and enormously entertaining. 

It's perhaps the combining of the familiar into something new that makes The Mandalorian feel like such comfort viewing. That and Baby Yoda. Streaming now, Chapter 13: The Jedi sees the Mando and Baby Yoda continue their adventures on a planet ruled by a mendacious magistrate straight out of an Akira Kurosawa film. (Mild spoilers to follow.)

The Mandalorian has so far leaned heavily into westerns with its tales of gritty gunslingers facing off in dusty saloons. Episode 5 makes a stylish sidestep to draw on the other major influence shaping this famous sci-fi saga: the samurai epic.

There's always been a connection between these two quintessentially Japanese and American genres, as westerns often updated the frontier fiefdoms of Japanese historical stories. The films of legendary director Kurosawa were directly translated: Seven Samurai became gunslinging western The Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo became A Fistful of Dollars and 1958's The Hidden Fortress provided the template for a little movie called Star Wars (or Episode I: A New Hope, if you prefer).

Episode 5 wears the influence of samurai, wushu and martial arts epics on the sleeve of its flowing robe. Our space ronin hero arrives in a new world where orange-hued deserts are replaced with blasted forests and manicured gardens. Asian actors and styling nods fill this village, and Ludwig Goransson's score shows a certain Asian influence in its sombre drums and lilting pipes. Best of all, the final showdown eschews six-shooters for sword and spear. Crouching Jedi, hidden badass.

The villainous magistrate is played by stunt performer and martial artist Diana Lee Inosanto, goddaughter of Bruce Lee, no less. She provides an intense presence that more than stands up to the other more showy cameos in the episode.

Let's leave aside that big name appearance for a second. You may also recognize that grizzled henchman: It's only Michael Biehn! Although he's slightly underused as a one-dimensional baddie, the Terminator and Aliens star joins Carl Weathers and Nick Nolte in the show's enjoyable exhumation of retro action icons.

Martial artist Diana Lee Inosanto is a straight-talking magistrate in The Mandalorian season 2.

Lucasfilm

And then there's the big one (if you're a major Star Wars nerd). The Mandalorian is sent to kill a rampaging Jedi by the name of Ahsoka Tano. A key figure in the Clone Wars cartoon and other spin-offs, Tano is a much-loved figure among fans. Happily, Rosario Dawson looks perfect -- especially when lit by two super-cool white lightsabers. And is it just me or do they make a particularly satisfyingly percussive zhwoomp noise?

It's a sliiiightly muted live-action debut for such a popular character, who's surely earned more of a buildup than running in from the very first moment of the episode. And I certainly would have liked to see more of Tano pitched against the Mando. Still, what her appearance lacks in suspense it makes up for in Jedi-tastic action, particularly when Tano entertainingly outwits the Mandalorian's familiar bag of tricks.

Tano's appearance is another example of the tightrope The Mandalorian's creators have chosen to walk. I noted a few weeks ago that the show is striking a perfect balance between wider Star Wars continuity and standalone story, crossing over characters from other spin-offs but making sure casual viewers don't feel they're missing crucial backstory. Like Bo Katan in that previous episode, Tano's general backstory is sketched in enough to make her fit in with the many side characters the Mandalorian encounters in these self-contained episodes. If anything, I would've liked a bit more about where she came from and where she's going, but I get the feeling that's in the works -- especially as she opened the door to another major spin-off character showing up.

As a side note, it's interesting that The Mandalorian draws its Star Wars continuity from books, TV shows and even toys, rather than the movies. Instead of shoehorning in more cameos by C3-PO and Chewbacca, the show is giving spin-off characters the opportunity for their first live-action appearances -- and firsts are always memorable, right? As more and more spin-off characters turn up, there is a danger that the Mandalorian himself could feel sidelined in his own show. But after mixed reaction to recent films, maybe it's time to stop referring to the creativity and depth of expanded universe titles as mere spin-offs.

Even as other showy cameos do turn up, The Mandalorian still has its ace in the hole, or rather in the satchel. The title of Chapter 13: The Jedi may not refer to the person you think as we learn more about Baby Yoda. The little green ball of adorbs-ness even gets a name, but it's unlikely anyone will call it Grogu any more than they'll call it The Child.

Baby Yoda (sorry, Grogu) continues to bond with the Mando. They even toss the ol' ball around (Star Wars-style). It's striking how the show seeks to marry two sides of the Star Wars coin: Unlike Han Solo, who didn't much get involved with the Force, this cynical gunslinger and skeptical adherent of the material world not only sees but begins to actively participate in the spiritual element. By helping Baby Yoda learn (or re-learn) about the mystical connection between all life, both learn about another mystical bond: the emotional connection of family, of love.

Then they go and straight up murder a bunch of fools, obviously. But it was a nice moment...

Check out our recaps for all the Mandalorian's Easter eggs and important Star Wars continuity references:

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Apple TV Plus: Best movies, TV shows and documentaries streaming now – CNET

Apple TV Plus is one of the newer kids on the block in the world of streaming TV, and it's got some big names creating new movies and TV shows.

Like rivals Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, Apple TV Plus is filled with exclusive, original content. But unlike the other services, Apple only streams movies and TV shows it has made itself, so there isn't a huge catalog yet and you won't find the latest blockbuster movies. Still, Apple has deep pockets and has splashed some of that sweet iPhone cash on huge names including Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon and Bill Murray.

Witherspoon's drama, The Morning Show, won Apple its first Emmy at the 2020 Emmy Awards on in September. Apple TV Plus is also the home of Long Way Up, the latest motorbike adventure from Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

The good news is that if you've bought an Apple product recently, you probably already have access to the streaming service for free. Here's a selection of some of the best movies and TV shows on Apple TV Plus.

See also: Apple TV Plus: Everything to know about Apple's streaming service

Long Way Up

Apple

Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman get back on their bikes and head north from Argentina through South and Central America. In this sequel to the popular travel shows Long Way Round and Long Way Down, the petrolhead duo goes green. They cover 13,000 miles and 13 countries on Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycles. It premiered on Sept. 18, and new episodes are streaming regularly on Apple TV Plus.

The Morning Show

Apple TV

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston both produce and star in a timely series tackling office politics in the #metoo era, as a TV network is rocked by the indiscretions of a host played by Steve Carell. Among the compelling performances, Billy Crudup won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series at the 2020 Emmy Awards. The award-winning drama, strong cast and timely themes make The Morning Show worth a watch.

Little America

Apple

Ordinary people dream big in Little America. A heavyweight cast tells stories of immigrants living their lives in a heartwarming anthology series packed with a mix of funny, sweet, romantic and often surprising tales.

Beastie Boys Story

Apple

Fight for your right to party with Beastie Boys Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) as they recount the story of their music, and 40 years of friendship with the late Adam Yauch (MCA ). This "live documentary experience" is directed by their longtime collaborator Spike Jonze as a fitting testament to these rap legends.

Hala

Apple

The coming-of-age story Hala tells a relatable story about the struggle to form an identity, as a teenager balances her Muslim upbringing with her social life and identity as a high schooler.

See

Apple TV

In the kingdom of the blind, Jason Momoa is king. The Aquaman star headlines postapocalyptic drama See, about a world where everyone has lost their sight, written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. It's a novel twist on Game of Thrones-style fantasy driven by equal helpings of character development and gory violence. 

For All Mankind

Apple

It's one small step for Apple, but is it one giant leap for TV fans? Drama For All Mankind presents an alternate history of the space race in which Russia reached the moon first -- so America sets out to put the first woman on the moon.

Defending Jacob

Apple TV Plus

Chris Evans stars in a dark-tinged legal drama about a family caught up in a Massachusetts murder mystery. Defending Jacob may be familiar territory, but fans of absorbing character-driven crime dramas will get sucked in.

Dickinson

Apple

This is not a biopic of famous poet Emily Dickinson. It's perhaps Apple's weirdest show. And while it won't be for everyone, it deserves kudos for taking such fun and provocative risks. Hailee Steinfeld plays the iconic teenage wordsmith in a show that strikingly remixes period comedy with modern music and playful visuals.

Servant

Apple TV Plus

Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan brings his brand of creepy domestic drama to episodic TV in Servant, created and written by Tony Basgallop. After a devastating loss, two bereaved parents adopt a hyperrealistic baby doll to help them tackle their grief, but danger and deception lurks in the nursery... 

Truth Be Told

Apple

Truth Be Told is a drama for true crime fans, riding the recent trend of crime podcasts in a fictionalized form. Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul play a podcaster and a prisoner united by a horrific crime years before, kicking off a whodunit that draws in both their families in an entertaining mix of character-driven dramas like Big Little Lies with true crime stories like Making a Murderer and The Staircase

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The Crown season 4: What Netflix gets right (and wrong) about Margaret Thatcher – CNET

Gillian Anderson is Margaret Thatcher in The Crown season 4.

Des Willie

Netflix drama The Crown has always been the story of the woman on the throne. Season 4 introduces two very different women who had a huge impact: Princess Diana and former leader Margaret Thatcher. But how accurate is Gillian Anderson's portrayal of the divisive Thatcher?

At the end of season 3, we saw left-wing Prime Minister Harold Wilson resign due to illness, in 1976. Skipping over James Callaghan, season 4 goes straight to Thatcher's election in 1979. The series then runs though the 1980s and Thatcher's term as Britain's first woman prime minister up until her ousting more than a decade later. The show also follows the parallel story of Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) as she joins the royal family headed by Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman).

I was born in Thatcher's Britain, so join me for a look into how The Crown portrays those turbulent times. 

Be warned: Minor spoilers to follow...

Thatcher's voice

If you've never heard of Margaret Thatcher before, then you might be bemused by Anderson's tight-lipped vocal stylings. But Thatcher really did talk like that, which was a gift to impressionists and satirists of the time. Earlier this month biographer Charles Moore called Anderson's portrayal "the only convincing performance I have seen of Mrs. Thatcher as prime minister," comparing the X-Files and Sex Education star favorably with Meryl Streep in 2011 biopic The Iron Lady.

Thatcher's background 

The Crown depicts Thatcher as a hard-working underdog reminded constantly of her humble beginnings by the snobbish royals and the patrician double-dealers in her own government. In real life, Baroness Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts in 1925 in the northeast of England. Her father was a shopkeeper as well as a Methodist preacher who also served as local mayor.

However, Thatcher's politics were marked by a haughty superiority of their own, and she was far from from an underdog. As mentioned in episode 1, she was rejected from a job by a company that genuinely did label her "headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated." Thatcher studied at the prestigious Oxford University -- glimpsed in a season 4 flashback featuring Claire Foy as the young queen -- and was a lawyer who was involved in local politics from the age of 24. Having married Denis Thatcher and had twins, she was elected to Britain's parliament in 1959. One of her earliest acts was voting to bring back the caning of schoolkids. 

gettyimages-514675014

The real Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan.

Bettmann

Thatcher the icon

That the people of Britain chose a woman to lead the country represents a breakthrough, but Thatcher herself is hardly a feminist icon. She succeeded in a man's world, but only by going along with the existing rules of a sexist hierarchy and actively working against the interests of other women and other marginalized or oppressed people.

Dubbed the "Iron Lady" by a Soviet journalist, she was a divisive figure whose reign began with recession and war and ended in riots. The popular but false myth that she played a role in the invention of soft-scoop ice cream is perhaps ironic as she was later nicknamed "Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher" for getting rid of free milk for younger schoolchildren. 

She opposed sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime, as depicted in episode 8, and only when she left office did the peace process in Northern Ireland truly begin. She defended the notoriously racist "rivers of blood" speech given in parliament by a fellow Conservative, described labor unions as "the enemy within" and slashed spending on welfare. 

Episode 5 of the fourth season, which follows a troubled man who broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982, depicts the street-level consequences on everyday people of Thatcher's rigid emphasis on strict economic policies and self-interest. 

thecrown-401-unit-03416-rt

The Crown re-creates (or reimagines) important moments in the life and times of Margaret Thatcher.

Des Willie/Netflix

The details

The Crown has always taken dramatic license in its depiction of royal history. The show puts words in the mouths of its characters in private and reshuffles public moments for dramatic effect. We'll never quite know whether the queen felt threatened by Thatcher, but we do know when real events are tweaked to fit the drama.

For example, it's unlikely the queen dragged Thatcher across the Scottish countryside in her best clothes as seen in episode 2. That's a visual metaphor. And like previous film The Iron Lady, The Crown is making a dramatic point when it shows Thatcher as the lone woman in the corridors of power. There were actually dozens of female MPs in parliament throughout her term.

The series also shows Thatcher distracted by her missing son during the beginnings of the Falklands crisis, a brief military confrontation between the UK and Argentina over control of islands in the South Atlantic. In fact, Mark Thatcher got lost during the annual Paris-Dakar rally in January 1982, and the Argentinian scrap metal workers raised the flag over South Georgia in March 1982. Argentina's forces landed on the Falkland Islands in April. 

In depicting the relationship between its two leading characters, the show also arguably overemphasizes the queen's influence on the running of the country. Thatcher almost certainly never appealed for political help from the royal figurehead.

That said, the private chats between the two characters dramatize the values of the real-life leaders and the themes of their respective reigns. The meeting in episode 8 is particularly concise in summing up Thatcher's preference for setting aside emotion and compassion and treating people "with the perspective of a cold balance sheet." 

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Marvel’s WandaVision will stream on Disney Plus starting Jan. 15 – CNET

Do not adjust your set: Marvel's WandaVision is coming to Disney Plus.

Disney Plus

Disney Plus will debut its Marvel original series WandaVision on Jan. 15, the company said Thursday, an announcement that coincided with the first anniversary of the streaming service's launch. WandaVision will be the first opportunity in more than a year for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans to step back into the narratives of the MCU, after the coronavirus pandemic not only delayed all of Disney Plus' Marvel TV shows but also pushed back the entire pipeline of Marvel big-screen movies. 

Marvel's Disney Plus shows are designed to be essential viewing for the studio's fans, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said last year. The characters and narratives of the MCU are being knitted together between theatrical movies and original series on Disney Plus. So Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, will be joined by Scarlet Witch actress Elizabeth Olsen in the theatrical sequel Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse of Madness, which is now delayed until 2022. But to understand how Olsen's character arrived at the events on the big screen, fans will need to watch WandaVision. 

Read more: 10 ways to save money on streaming

WandaVision will also be the first Marvel show on Disney's streaming service. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally planned to be its first live-action Marvel original series released on Disney Plus, but coronavirus disruptions pushed the show past its scheduled August release, and now it won't hit Disney Plus until next year. The timing for when other Marvel shows come out remains unclear. A Loki series featuring Tom Hiddleston was slated for spring 2021, and a Hawkeye series was aimed for fall 2021, starring Jeremy Renner and featuring Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes a second Hawkeye. But except for WandaVision, Disney hasn't specified release dates for the rest of the Marvel original shows. 

With new MCU movies absent from cinema screens for months, WandaVision steps into the gap left when the coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic delayed movie blockbusters like Black Widow and Eternals. It's been a year and a half since the last Marvel movie Spider-Man: Far From Home, and even longer since the climactic Avengers adventures Infinity War and Endgame, during which Vision paid the ultimate price in the fight against Thanos. 

WandaVision seems to draw on a 2016 run of comics in which the Vision attempted to live a normal family life in an everyday suburb, but it'll no doubt go in its own direction. The cast includes Avengers stars Olsen and Paul Bettany as unconventional couple Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) and the pink-faced android Vision. The central mystery of the new show looks to be how Wanda and Vision have been reunited following his apparent destruction.

WandaVision is the first title in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It'll be followed on Disney Plus not only by the shows spotlighting The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Hawkeye, but also forthcoming titles featuring Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk. But the COVID pandemic has disrupted production on many, casting doubt on when they'll come out. 

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Marvel’s WandaVision will stream on Disney Plus starting Jan. 15 – CNET

Do not adjust your set: Marvel's WandaVision is coming to Disney Plus.

Disney Plus

Disney Plus will debut its Marvel original series WandaVision on Jan. 15, the company said Thursday, an announcement that coincided with the first anniversary of the streaming service's launch. WandaVision will be the first opportunity in more than a year for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans to step back into the narratives of the MCU, after the coronavirus pandemic not only delayed all of Disney Plus' Marvel TV shows but also pushed back the entire pipeline of Marvel big-screen movies. 

Marvel's Disney Plus shows are designed to be essential viewing for the studio's fans, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said last year. The characters and narratives of the MCU are being knitted together between theatrical movies and original series on Disney Plus. So Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, will be joined by Scarlet Witch actress Elizabeth Olsen in the theatrical sequel Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse of Madness, which is now delayed until 2022. But to understand how Olsen's character arrived at the events on the big screen, fans will need to watch WandaVision. 

Read more: 10 ways to save money on streaming

WandaVision will also be the first Marvel show on Disney's streaming service. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally planned to be its first live-action Marvel original series released on Disney Plus, but coronavirus disruptions pushed the show past its scheduled August release, and now it won't hit Disney Plus until next year. The timing for when other Marvel shows come out remains unclear. A Loki series featuring Tom Hiddleston was slated for spring 2021, and a Hawkeye series was aimed for fall 2021, starring Jeremy Renner and featuring Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes a second Hawkeye. But except for WandaVision, Disney hasn't specified release dates for the rest of the Marvel original shows. 

With new MCU movies absent from cinema screens for months, WandaVision steps into the gap left when the coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic delayed movie blockbusters like Black Widow and Eternals. It's been a year and a half since the last Marvel movie Spider-Man: Far From Home, and even longer since the climactic Avengers adventures Infinity War and Endgame, during which Vision paid the ultimate price in the fight against Thanos. 

WandaVision seems to draw on a 2016 run of comics in which the Vision attempted to live a normal family life in an everyday suburb, but it'll no doubt go in its own direction. The cast includes Avengers stars Olsen and Paul Bettany as unconventional couple Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) and the pink-faced android Vision. The central mystery of the new show looks to be how Wanda and Vision have been reunited following his apparent destruction.

WandaVision is the first title in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It'll be followed on Disney Plus not only by the shows spotlighting The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Hawkeye, but also forthcoming titles featuring Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk. But the COVID pandemic has disrupted production on many, casting doubt on when they'll come out. 

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