Hitting Screens, Week of April 24, 2017

Several highly anticipated TV shows begin their runs this week, including Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

9780525435006_a03ffThe Handmaid’s Tale starts on April 26 and runs for ten episodes, staring Elisabeth Moss as Offred, the central character and a rarity in her world, a fertile woman, or ‘handmaid,” she becomes the property of the state, forced to conceive against her will. Joseph Fiennes stars as The Commander, to whom Offred is assigned.

Reviews are glowing. The A.V. Club headlines, “Praise be to the arresting, topical nightmare of The Handmaid’s Tale.” Entertainment Weekly gives it an A, writing it “plays like true prestige television: A masterfully unnerving vision of a near future … Moss is a brilliant muse, a fantastically unsettling alloy of fury and stillness; if this doesn’t earn her the Emmy she was robbed of for her years on Mad Men, the voting Academy should sue itself for gross negligence.” IndieWire says it is “The Scariest TV Show Ever Made, Because It Feels So Real.” Time calls it “masterful … hits exactly the right note … [and] The more you learn about Offred, the more she looks like TV’s great new heroine.” The Hollywood Reporter says it is “A thrillingly dystopian escape from our modern dystopia.”

The tie-in edition comes out this week, with an eerie photo of Elizabeth Moss on the cover: The Handmaid’s Tale (Movie Tie-in), Margaret Atwood (PRH/Anchor; OverDrive Sample).

9780062572233_d8645American Gods starts its 8-episode run on April 30. It has an all-star cast including Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, Gillian Anderson as Media, and Kristin Chenoweth as Easter.

Early reviews are largely positive. Entertainment Weekly gives it an A-, with the reviewer writing that he was “consistently engrossed.” Den of Geek writes “The American Gods TV show is something special — for anyone who has ever believed in anything or simply questioned the structure of existence. This show is for you.”

However, Comics Beat headlines that it is “a beautiful mess” and says the show lacks a needed “sense of urgency” and that its “thematic superficiality is heartbreaking.”

The tie-ins hit shelves in late March: American Gods, Neil Gaiman (HC/William Morrow; also in mass market; HC Audio; OverDrive Sample).

9781501171383_c1b1eGenius begins its 10-episode run on the National Geographic channel on April 25. It is the first scripted series from the cable network, reports Deadline Hollywood, and is part of a planned “anthology drama– telling the stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators.”

This opener is based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe and stars Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush as Einstein. Johnny Flynn (Lovesick) plays the younger Einstein while Emily Watson (The Theory of Everything) is Elsa, his second wife. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are the series executive producers.

It is getting some good buzz. The NYT says “this is not your father’s biopic. It’s about time to meet the real guy behind the cuddly accent and the curvature of space-time … it’s a tense binge-worthy psychological thriller full of political and romantic melodrama.” Forbes writes the series may “inspire a new generation of thinkers and dreamers to expand our knowledge of the world” and calls it impressive and attention grabbing.

The tie-in came out in early April: Einstein TV Tie-In Edition: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson (S&S; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample).

9781410466822_e7e92 Only one theatrical film opens this week, The Circle, premiering on the 28th and starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and and John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). It is based on the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers, who also co-wrote the script for the film.

There are no reviews yet but Entertainment Weekly ran a story recently, opening with a reminder that the plot of The Circle, about technology and privacy, is very timely:

“Imagine a world where everything you do is tracked online. Where privacy doesn’t exist. Where corporations have the government’s blessing to extract whatever information they want about you. Welcome to that world. Thanks to a recent party-line vote in Congress, you live in it.” They continue saying, “All of this makes the The Circle … look a lot less like a thriller and more like prophecy.”

Watson tells the magazine, “This is not a dystopian future that’s set in, you know, 2050 or something. This could basically be tomorrow. This is kind of an uncomfortably close film about where, if we aren’t careful, we could very easily go.”

There is no-tie in.

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