In this edition of WIRE Buzz, critics weigh in on Noah Hawley's new big screen tale; His Dark Materials digs into its prequel material; and South Park gets renewed through 2022 at Comedy Central.
Lucy in the Sky, Noah Hawley's first feature-length film, premiered at Toronto Film Festival yesterday and critics aren't exactly enamored with the film, which stars Natalie Portman as an astronaut who slowly loses her mind after returning to Earth from a mission in space. Critics note the film seems somewhat meandering and unfocused, though others praise Portman's work in the project. Some viewed Lucy as the female-starring answer to Ad Astra, the only difference being that James Gray's cosmic adventure featuring Brad Pitt (out Sep. 18) was favorably received following its world debut at Venice Film Festival.
"Hawley’s film wants to have it both ways, playing it sensitive one moment and sensationalist the next. But it does take the step of confronting the systemic flaw — workplace sexism — that played into Lucy’s actions. Portman radiates confidence in the role, ably masking the character’s well-hidden vulnerability." writes Pete Debruge of Variety. "For some reason, Hawley goes big and campy when the movie’s original goal had been to block out all that cosmic noise and focus on what was happening inside the character’s head."
"From a visual POV, Hawley seems determined to try out a whole bunch of ideas and see what sticks. At first, his efforts at emphasizing the life-changing aspect of Lucy’s experience are reasonably successful. By contrast, sometimes his shot selection seems quite arbitrary, and not always the most felicitous for what he’s trying to accomplish," says Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter. "A film that initially seemed to be aiming in the direction of a female-oriented companion piece to the presently arriving Ad Astra instead contents itself to live in the normal world of sexual jealousies and revenge. It’s disappointing after all the early indications that it might have something else on its mind."
Directed and co-written by Hawley (Legion, Fargo), Lucy in the Sky is loosely based on the life of Lisa Nowak and opens in theaters everywhere Friday, Oct. 4.
The feature co-stars an ensemble cast: Zazie Beetz, Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, Colman Domingo, Ellen Burstyn, and Nick Offerman.
“We use a tiny bit, which I can’t tell you. You’ll have to wait and see," she said. "As far as the deeper mythology is concerned, we grab at anything we can get. As [teleplay writer] Jack Thorne would say, it’s like we’ve done a PhD in the mythology of these books ... We did have to take a very clear line and say we’re adapting His Dark Materials, and if there’s anything in The Book of Dust that suggests that — perhaps the origin story is a little bit different than how it is in the pages of His Dark Materials — we’ll either go by that or we’ll just adapt what’s in His Dark Materials.”
“We might have a little bit, like a minute of extra material, that comes from The Book of Dust, but that’s about it," added James McAvoy, who plays Lord Asriel in the show, which co-stars Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
A second book in the Book of Dust prequel series, The Secret Commonwealth, goes on sale Thursday, Oct. 3.
Pullman's books are set in an alternate, steampunk-ish reality where every person has a dæmon, a talking animal familiar that represents the individual's life-force. While the Dark Materials story is mainly considered fantasy (there are gladiator polar bears, after all), it also dips into the realm of science fiction with the concept of alternate universes.
Co-produced by the BBC and written by Jack Thorne, His Dark Materials will premiere on HBO Monday, Nov. 4, according to this tweet.
South Park won't be going anywhere anytime soon because the long-running animated series from the twisted minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone was just renewed for an additional three seasons on Comedy Central, Variety has confirmed. That will take the show through Season 26, pushing its total episode count well over the 320-mark.
“Apparently, our efforts to get our own show cancelled have fallen short,” said Parker and Stone in a statement run by Variety. “Luckily, we love Comedy Central and Kent Alterman and our staff so we are looking forward to new cancellation opportunities in the next few years.”
Both creators still plan to write, direct, edit, and star in every single episode — something they've done since the first-ever episode in 1997.
“South Park is the greatest comedy in the history of television, unmatched in its satirical strength and cultural relevancy and it shows no signs of slowing down,” added Kent Alterman, president of Comedy Central, Paramount Network and TV Land. “If humanity is still intact in 1,000 years, historians will see the most transcendent artists of our era as The Beatles, Muhammed Ali, and Matt and Trey. We’ll do as many seasons as they would like.”
Season 23 of the show premieres on Comedy Central next Wednesday, Sep. 25 and will include the program's 300th episode. Currently, South Park is the second-longest cartoon in television history after The Simpsons, which is about to start airing its 31st season.