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Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Not to be confused with Brian K. Vaughan’s successful alternate world comic book series, a very different Ex Machina will soon be on the big screen at a theater near you.  From first-time director Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, comes what appears to be a very incredible looking sci-fi movie with a creepy, suspense-filled twist.  And it will prep viewers for Star Wars Episode VII with two male leads who soon will star in that eagerly awaited film.

The latest borgs to be interpreted to screen conjure other recent attempts to show us our future via bipedal, human-robot beings.  We saw similar, incredibly rendered borg with Spielberg and Kubrick’s A.I., Artificial Intelligence, with Will Smith in I, Robot, and more recently in the Bruce Willis pic Surrogates and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  Now meet Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (The Fifth Estate), the latest wonder in sci-fi filmmaking, and the invention of reclusive CEO genius Nathan Bateman, played by Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood, and Star Wars Episode VII).  

Ex Machina fembot

Bateman plucks Caleb Smith, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, and Star Wars Episode VII), a programmer at his company to test the humanity of Ava and we’re guessing some secret twists are hiding behind the curtain.  Will she be an emotional Replicant or a deceptive fembot?

Check out this first trailer for Ex Machina:

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Green Arrow Volume 2 Here There be Dragons trade cover

At long last DC Comics has released a trade edition of the 1980s Green Arrow monthly comic book series.  The series that sprang out of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is some of the best storytelling work by Grell on the relationship between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance.  We previously reviewed the first trade edition re-released by DC, Green Arrow: Hunter’s Moon, last December here at borg.com.  When borg.com readers have requested recommendations for the best of Green Arrow, I’ve pointed them to back issues of this series along with the classic O’Neill/Adams “Hard-Travelling Heroes” books as a starting point.

Unlike the events of Volume 1, which piled on heavy issues ranging from sexual assault, to child abuse, to gay-bashing, prostitution, armed robbery, and biogenic weapons, Volume 2 is a more intimate look at Green Arrow and Black Canary behind the scenes, very similar to the approach taken by writer Matt Fraction in the successful modern Hawkeye series from Marvel Comics.

Green Arrow 9 cover

Green Arrow Volume 2: Here There Be Dragons, which reprints Green Arrow, Issues #7-12 from 1988, finds Dinah continuing to try to forge ahead on her own and move beyond her violent attack in The Longbow Hunters.  She and Oliver have issues to work out, Dinah with determining what she wants from life and Oliver being haunted by his past.  Together they make the perfect team, like any couple living in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying their town, Oliver perfecting his chili recipe, both commenting on the fact that PNW residents don’t use umbrellas despite the seemingly constant rain.  Dinah is focused on her business at the floral shop, Oliver uses his resources to ward off criminals in Seattle one thug at a time.

This period of the Green Arrow series hit its stride without your typical superheroism, and although Oliver dons his costume a few times, finely crafted storytelling without the over-the-top action is why Green Arrow’s stories are unique among the medium.  Oliver heads to Alaska to pursue a lead and inadvertently tracks a drug smuggling and car theft ring.  Dinah, much like Laurel Lance in the current Arrow TV series, is feeling the pull to help others in the city outside the law.

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Black Panther

In a press briefing in Los Angeles today, Marvel Studios laid out the release dates and titles for the next eleven movies in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” what they are referring to as Phase 3.  While rumors continue to circulate that Benedict Cumberbatch will be tapped to play Doctor Strange, the studio introduced the actor who will play Black Panther on the big screen, Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in last year’s film 42.  We’ll see Boseman first don the Panther suit in the third Captain America movie, Captain America: Civil War, coming in 2016.

And in the past hour Marvel released a new scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron, previewed below after the break.

The studio also revealed the costume design for Black Panther (above) in a poster released at the press event, attended by Boseman, Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr. and Captain America Chris Evans.

Iron Man Black Panther Cap

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Dead Mans Hand cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Who would have thought we’d be discussing a book in the second decade of the 21st century featuring new stories of the Old West?  Titan Books has released such a work with Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West, bringing together short stories from 23 authors that mash-up the Old West with science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and horror.

The Dead Man’s Hand is of course the legendary card hand last held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot down by Jack McCall in Deadwood, South Dakota back in 1876.  The superstitions carried forward by those cards–believed to be black aces and eights–fuels the magic and “weird” behind the stories in this compilation.

Fans of Louis L’Amour who may have open minds for the extremes of what might qualify as an Old West story should find at least a few good tales in Dead Man’s Hand.  Like Mike Resnick’s story “The Hell-bound Stagecoach,” set in Arizona Territory circa 1885, it chronicles riders in a stagecoach who don’t quite remember how they ended up on the road bound for somewhere, as they encounter a proper lady who happens to be a good cook along the way.  Resnick’s story is steeped in classic lore of the Old West era.

Jeff Bridges as Wild Bill Hickok

Editor John Joseph Adams attempts to summarize the genre in his introduction as having its roots in the works of Robert E. Howard, Gene Autry’s serial The Phantom Empire, and the 1970s series The Wild, Wild, West, but Adams could look back farther to cowboy lore–stories created and shared by those stranded in desert storms, creations of the lost, hungry and thirsty, like those seeing mirages.  Like the story that would become Ghost Riders in the Sky, written by Stan Jones in 1948.  Jones recalled the story was first told to him back around 1926, and certainly that story was among many Old West tomes of the oral tradition circulating back to even before the Civil War.  Regardless of the earliest sources for such stories, they still entertain audiences in a world of cell phones, space travel, and the Internet.

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Star Wars Tarkin novel cover Nov 2014 release

Review by C.J. Bunce

Governor Tarkin possessed the power to direct Darth Vader to stop choking a man, to command the first Death Star and to use it to destroy Princess Leia’s home world. Yet for all that, he gets very little screen time.  Who was this character?  A new novel asks that question and provides an interesting insight into the life of a man revered by his peers, his planet, and ultimately the Empire for his intellect, cunning and decisiveness.  It’s a Machiavellian account of a man born far away from the city centers of Coruscant whose pursuit of power would be nearly unstoppable, and whose political skill would thrust him into a triumvirate of power shared with Darth Vader and the Emperor himself.

In its first releases of canon-designated novel tie-ins for the Star Wars franchise after the recently announced move away from the past 20 years of expanded universe stories (now referred to as the sidelined “Legends” stories), LucasBooks has honed in on two sides of the rise of rebellion against the Empire.  Taking place in the years following the events of the Star Wars prequels but before the original Star Wars films, John Jackson Miller’s Star Wars: A New Dawn, reviewed previously here at borg.com, recalls the plans of a band of rebels to sabotage Imperial efforts to acquire resources needed for its great space fleet.  Next week, LucasBooks presents a view from the other side of the battle when it releases James Luceno’s Tarkin, a deep dive into the inner sanctum of the Emperor following the fall of the Jedi, and the political rise of the Death Star commander who we would meet as Peter Cushing’s Governor Tarkin in A New Hope.

Tarkin scene from Star Wars

The character of Moff Wilhuff Tarkin is not incredibly complex–he stayed true to a course early in life established by his ancestors on the planet Eriadu, which gave him the benefits of military academy-style training yet provided by a band of men not unlike Scottish highlanders.  He is a man who was not born of privilege.  Yet good mentoring forged a soldier who would attain predictable societal ranks and achieve much more.

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Jimmy Stewart Lindbergh Spirit of St Louis

It’s the second time TCM and auction house Bonhams have teamed up to offer screen-used and production-made costumes, props, and other relics from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  A November auction, TCM Presents: There’s No Place Like Hollywood, will feature a large private collection of rare items from Casablanca, including the piano featured prominently in the film where Sam plays “As Time Goes By.”  A lesser seen piano from another scene in the film sold in 2012 for more than $600,000.

One lot features a mannequin display with costume components worn by Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, said to have been used in several scenes in the film.  Many of the costumes and props appear to be the same lots that have been featured in other auctions in the last few years, including various dresses from the Debbie Reynolds collection of items offered by auction house Profiles in History.

Casablanca piano

Costumes from several classic films are on the auction block, including a Clark Gable jacket from Gone With the Wind, Marilyn Monroe’s saloon gown from River of No Return, Jimmy Stewart’s Charles Lindbergh flight suit from The Spirit of St. Louis, Faye Dunaway’s dress from The Towering Inferno, a Jane Russell costume from The Outlaw, and a John Wayne Union Army coat from Rio Lobo and The Undefeated.  Sci-fi and fantasy fans aren’t forgotten in the TCM auction, as there will be costumes worn by Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell in Planet of the Apes, a background crewmember astronaut jumpsuit from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a test dress for Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and a Saruman staff and Aragorn sword from The Lord of the Rings films, both from Sir Christopher Lee’s personal collection.

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Billy Butler World Series Oyo KC Royals figure 2014   Buster Posey SF Giants World Series Oyo figure 2014

Thanks to the magic of targeted Internet advertising, these Lego-ish figures streamed across the ad banner of borg.com this week and caught our attention.  (You know how we like finding ways to talk about baseball here).  Although they look at first blush like Lego knock-offs, these figures by Oyo Sports are fully licensed by Major League Baseball.  Turns out, according to the Oyo Sports website, they seem to have been inspired by Legos, but attempt to go further by expanding the articulated movement of the standard building block figure.

And you gotta love how they matched up the goatees with the players.

You can buy individual players or team building sets, and not just for the current American League and National League champs.  You can get current players and retired players like Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, and Bob Feller, or even mascots for pro and college teams, and figures from other sports.  You can buy them on Amazon here.

KC Royals Oyo Gametime set

The playsets for the current World Series teams reminded us of the metal figures some Dungeons & Dragons players use to visualize their role-playing game.  Maybe this could be a new twist on fantasy baseball?

Electric Football

It’s the latest incarnation of sports table top play–remember electric football?

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Grimm Season Four

It seems like it has been forever since we saw the season finale of Grimm.  Back in May plenty was left up in the air.  Let’s recount all that hit the fan at the end of Season 3:

  • Renard gave Adalind’s baby away to Nick’s mom and Adalind was pretty close to going insane.
  • Adalind posed as Juliette and slept with Nick and somehow Adalind was able to steal Nick’s powers.
  • Monroe and Rosalee finally got some acceptance from Monroe’s Blutbaden parents.
  • At Monroe and Rosalee’s wedding, the young new Grimm Trubel shows up and inadvertently ruins the ceremony.

Where do they go from that?  We’ve pulled together some previews and catch-up trailers from NBC.

Grimm Season four cast

Check out these videos to remind you where Grimm left off last season, as well as a look at what to expect from Season Four, after the break:

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Constantine playing with fire

He is a key character in DC Comics Justice League Dark for a reason.  Stress on the word “dark”.  He’s Constantine–John Constantine–possibly the least likely character to emerge from the pages of the DCU and make it to the small screen.  Yet NBC has pulled out all the stops lately with promotions to get new viewers to check out this new series following Grimm on Friday nights beginning tomorrow.

We’ve collected all the promotional videos here for Constantine so you can judge for yourself whether this new series is one for you.  He’s been summed up as “A man struggling with his faith is haunted by the sins of his past but is suddenly thrust into the role of defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness.”  And there’s plenty of horror and gore, as revealed in the recent previews released.  Will the suspense grab and retain viewers in this onslaught of DC Comics-based TV shows?

Constantine screencap

Unlike CW’s successful DCU spin-off TV series Arrow and the new series Flash and Gotham, don’t expect to see lots of familiar genre actors in this series, but plenty of new faces.  Star Matt Ryan has shown up before in Criminal Minds-Suspect Behavior as well as stints on Vikings, Torchwood, The Tudors, and one of our faves, the Brit film Layer Cake.  And you might recognize Angelica Celaya from her role on the (recently prematurely cancelled!) Dallas.  Lost fans will recognize Harold Perrineau here who played Michael on that series.

After the break, check out all the promotional trailers and previews for Constantine:

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Ultron from Avengers Age of Ultron

Earlier than planned, Marvel Entertainment has just released the trailer for the second Avengers movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron.  All your favorites are back: Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Hawkeye… plus Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch!

Better yet, we get our first look at borg.com Hall of Fame inductee and living automaton Ultron, who looks great in this first preview for the movie.

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch from Avengers Age of Ultron

After the break, check out the full nearly 2.5 minute-long preview:

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