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Equalizer

Review by C.J. Bunce

The Pelican Brief, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Fallen, The Manchurian Candidate, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Unstoppable, 2 Guns—movies big and small, and all feature the Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington.  In each, like with Cruise, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, and most recently, Wahlberg, the lead character is really Denzel as Denzel, but each new time round the actor is lurking around in a different environment.  In each, he has a new name and a new job, but it’s Denzel—striving to fight his way to the end, to wrestle with anger or grief, or pain, or to just get by.

In the 2014 theatrical release The Equalizer, as retired ex-CIA operative Robert McCall, Denzel gets to be the guy usually played by Cruise, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, or Willis, or even Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson.  He gets to be the Dark Knight, or name any other superhero.  He’s not only the good guy, but the good guy with the means.

Have you ever considered taking responsibility for everyone around you–everyone you regularly encounter each day?  Maybe for you that’s the shop owner, the barista at your coffee shop, the guy who cleans your office, your family, friends, co-workers?  Have you ever considered what it would take for you to stop what you’re doing and assume responsibility for everyone around you?  Everyone’s problems, every failing, every pain—it’s all on you.  If you see it, you own it.  Like the character and TV series the movie is based on, Robert McCall takes charge with that message repeated on each episode of the TV series, and parroted in the film:  If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is the Equalizer.

Home Mart Denzel Equalizer hammer

Denzel’s acting work in The Equalizer is great, as you’d expect.  It’s among his best.  And the character itself is great.  Those two elements are enough to get anyone to watch The Equalizer and enjoy the ride.  Even the several payoffs in the film are worth cheering for.  But the film still has its problems.  Unfortunately, as exciting and intense as it is, the movie itself doesn’t live up to its potential.

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Point Break 2015

The original 1991 theatrical release Point Break starred Keanu Reeves as an undercover cop with the lame name of Johnny Utah playing against free-wheeling surfer turned thief named Bodhi played by the late Patrick Swayze.  Directed by Katherine Bigelow (Hurt Locker) Point Break became on of those films like Road House–overplayed on Cinemax and HBO over the years so you couldn’t help seeing it at some point but usually not from beginning to end.  The film set up Reeves as B-movie action star, readying him for his big hit action film break three years later with Speed. 

As hard as it is to watch Reeves’ trademark stilted recitation of dialogue (which still defines the actor), Point Break was at least an easy watch, with an interesting group of thieves cleverly sporting the masks of past presidents.  But the film also cemented Patrick Swayze as the real deal as cool goes.

Original Point Break Swayze Neo

But Point Break wasn’t much more than a passing summer flick.  So why a remake?

The first trailer for the new Point Break is out, and the answer seems clear.  Someone wanted to make a James Bond movie.  The locations for the new flick look pretty spectacular.  The story spins similarly around an undercover cop named Johnny Utah, this time played by Luke Bracey whose only notable credit is playing the guy in the Cobra Commander suit in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Edgar Ramirez plays Bodhi this time around.  The problem?  These guys are pretty obscure to head up a big action film.  Why are we going to lay down ten bucks to see this in the theater?

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Pac-Man 35 birthday

PacMan for President?  He and Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are finally old enough as the classic video game PacMan turned 35 years old this month (May 22), earning more than $2.5 billion in quarters in its heyday.  Just the day after The Empire Strikes Back was released, Pong, Space Invaders, and Asteroids were the biggest craze–then outta nowhere PacMan took video games into the stratosphere.

Not long after 1980 you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing PacMan.  Remember the Fleer bubble gum stickers?  They first had the idea for PacMan for President back in 1982.  Who knew we’d still see licensees creating new ways to get nostalgic for the old video game in 2015.

PacMan for President sticker

Okay, PacMan was created in Japan so maybe he couldn’t be President, but let’s not get into that (he’s also made of only pixels, would probably have some kind of running mate like Tron, etc.).

You can still find PacMan merchandise everywhere on the Web, and you can even play PacMan right now for free at various websites.  And no longer do you need to drop quarters or even buy a CD or other game version.

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Munchkin_05_A_Main    Sabrina_03-0

It’s another big week for comic book releases.  This week we’re featuring previews from some titles from Archie Comics, Dynamite Comics, and BOOM! Studios that we think you’ll be interested in.  We’ve kept our tabs on many books this year, especially from the independent publishers.  The best reads this year have been produced by writers and artists from the independents.  Let’s take a look at previews from six issues coming to comic book stores everywhere tomorrow, Comic Book Wednesday, May 27.

Munchkin is based on the popular fantasy card game, and the series has kept up with the spirit of the game, and offers something for everyone.  It’s now up to Issue #5, written by Tom Siddell and Shannon Campbell, with art by Ian McGinty and Rian Sygh.  Published by the BOOM! Box imprint of BOOM! Studios.

Like Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is one of those series from Archie Comics you just can’t pass up.  From its new Archie Horror imprint, the series is now on Issue #3, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, with artwork by Robert Hack.

SS-Masq-Kato-Cov-A-Tan    RSv2-16-Cov-Stagg

From Dynamite Comics we have the next tie-in to the Swords of Sorrow event series, Swords of Sorrow: Masquerade & Kato, a one-shot issue.  Written by G. Willow Wilson and Erica Schultz with art by Noah Salonga, this will be a must-have if you’re following the big mash-up series of the year.

Also from Dynamite Comics is the next issue of Red Sonja, Issue #16.  In addition to the classic fantasy art cover art with each issue, Red Sonja has some of the best interior work being published, thanks to artist Walter Geovani.  Gail Simone is writer on this series.

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Gizmo and Barney  Cinema Gremlin

Can you ever really get enough of Steven Spielberg’s 1984 summer release Gremlins?  Many things come to mind about this movie:  the fact it was released in June but clearly was a Christmas movie, the memorable Gizmo theme by Jerry Goldsmith that we got to play in junior high band, appearances by Hoyt Axton, Keye Luke (Kung Fu, Star Trek and 200 other TV appearances), Corey Feldman, and Phoebe Cates, and the great Mogwai creatures created by special effects Academy Award winner Chris Walas.

And Gizmo.  And Stripe.  And the Rules.

Like every other classic movie from the past few decades, Funko is releasing a line of Kenner-style action figures for Gremlins in their ReAction line.  Funko seems to be getting better and better with each new series of sculpts.  Just compare the original Alien and Firefly figures to the 2015 figures discussed here at borg.com this year and the improvements in the artistry of these figures is obvious.  That great Christmas Gizmo figure looks like it could be a sell-out for a stocking stuffer this Christmas.

Christmas Gizmo  Mogwai Stripe

Funko released images of the final sculpts and packaging and all can be pre-ordered now from online superstore Entertainment Earth.  Just click on the photos above to see more details about the figures at the store’s website.

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Sorrow01-Cov-D-Sub-Hack    Sorrow01-Cov-G-Incen10-Lotay

Nothing in the past five years has been more fun as far as comic book events are concerned than Dynamite Comics’ ever-growing crossovers incorporating their huge roster of licensed characters.  The New 52 and Convergence events from DC Comics and the Secret Wars event from Marvel Comics are so much more of the same–pulling in dozens of titles and character crossovers over the course of several months.  All of these publisher events attempt to reinvigorate their brands–to bring more people in to try out the regular monthly series featuring their stock of characters, whether you’re looking at the Avengers or the X-Men or the Justice League.  Dynamite’s events also pull from their stock of characters, yet the publisher has managed to unleash something very new in the way these characters come together.

Dynamite’s Masks limited series introduced a pantheon of superheroes from the literary past: Green Hornet and Kato, The Shadow, Miss Fury, Spider, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, the Green Lama, Black Terror and The Black Bat (a second limited monthly follow-on series, Masks 2, is underway now).  Then Bill Willingham expanded and amped up the Dynamite characters with his Legenderry steampunk adventures.  Another limited series, this one introduced the Six Thousand Dollar Man, teaming up with a parallel world, steampunk era Red Sonja, Zorro, Flash Gordon, Green Hornet, the Phantom, and more.  It now has its own expanded event series of sorts with Legenderry universe monthly series featuring each of Vampirella, Red Sonja, and Green Hornet.

SwordsSorrow03-Cov-A-Lotay    STK673857

But Dynamite’s best crossover event series may have just arrived with writer Gail Simone and artist Sergio Davila’s new Swords of Sorrow.  A dark prince has enlisted an arsenal of women warriors to defend his interests, including the well-known red, horned villainess Purgatori.  But a mysterious and beautiful otherworld woman called the Traveller has assigned various swords to her own select group of women warriors via the Courier, across time and space–from Everywhere and Everywhen to Nowhen–to defend worlds menaced by this prince.  Her heroines include Red Sonja, Vampirella, Irene Adler, Dejah Thoris, Jennifer Blood, Jane Porter, Lady Zorro, Milan Kato, Masquerade, Black Sparrow, Miss Fury, Pantha, Lady Rawhide, and Jana the Jungle Girl.

Leading a select team of women writers in nine Swords of Sorrow tie-in series and one-shots, Gail Simone has her challenges here, required to pull together more than a dozen main characters quickly, explaining enough to let us know who they are for those unfamiliar with them all, and set up enough world-building to let us understand how they all fit together.  This may be the best we’ve read of any series from Simone so far, as Issue #1 of the six backbone issues gives us all we need to get excited to see what comes next.  Sergio Davila’s artwork is as detailed and interesting as his work on Legenderry, sure to keep us interested to come back for more each month.  Check out the full checklist of the crossover series below.

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Jessica Barden Far from the Madding Crowd

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Anyone familiar with Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd knows that the story begins when an impetuous young sheepdog accidentally herds his flock over a cliff, killing them all… and then things rather go downhill (ahem) from there.  That’s Thomas Hardy, after all.  But Far From the Madding Crowd is widely considered one of Hardy’s “happier” stories, a happy-ending (except for the sheep) romance about another impetuous youngster, farm heiress Bathsheba Everdene, and her stubborn attempts to hang on to her independence, despite the attentions of three (three!) suitors.  It all takes place in the bucolic English countryside, at the height of the Victorian era, with Social Consequences and Brooding Heroes, Headstrong Heroines, Disastrous Misunderstandings, Crimes of Passion, and Anonymous Love Letters. What’s not to love?

Well, in Thomas Vinterberg’s new adaptation of the story, pretty much everything.  Okay, to be fair–there is actually a lot not to love about the novel.  Heroine Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, Doctor Who “Blink”, Never Let Me Go, The Great Gatsby), for one; she is at times thoughtless, clueless, senselessly cruel, and relentlessly bullheaded.  But Hardy also meant her to be sympathetic and inspiring, driving forward in a man’s world that thinks little of a woman’s independence.  Along the way, she wins the affections of no fewer than three men–men who see her for much more than her valuable land.  But the latest film version brings none of Bathsheba’s passion, conviction, and nuance to screen, relying only on Mulligan’s befuddlement and tousled tresses, and a confused wardrobe (by designer Janet Patterson) that looks like clothing from a Soviet propaganda poster.  She’s a better actor, and we’ve seen it.

Michael Sheen and Carey Mulligan Far From the Madding Crowd

Somewhere along the way, the love quadrangle of the tale gets muddled, and one can’t quite figure out how itinerant soldier Frank Troy (Thomas Sturridge, The Hollow Crown, Pirate Radio) fits in–let alone manages what devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, from the upcoming Lewis & Clark) has continually failed at: securing Bathsheba’s hand in marriage.  But by that time, the only thing we’re sure of is that Bathsheba has poor judgement… so we just sort of go with it.  Perhaps because we’re still hanging on for gorgeous glimpses of the English countryside (which never arrive).

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Minority Report Fox

Minority Report, the Tom Cruise movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the short story by Philip K. Dick is getting its own sequel in the form of a television series this Fall.  Spielberg’s adaptation was very rich in cutting edge special effects, effects that still stand up well 13 years after the film’s release in 2002, including a rich and dense transportation system of flying motor-vehicles and cycles, spider-robots, floating computer 3D “windows” that we now use on our smartphones every day.

Based on the first preview released by Fox, shown below, the new TV series doesn’t appear to have the budget for all that, instead showing only sporadic bits of a future world that reminds us of Marty McFly’s future in Back to the Future.  It’s a sequel, taking place 10 years after the end of Precrime in the film.  The story it follows is intriguing.  Instead of following any lead character from the movie, it will focus on one of the precogs–those three telepathic humans whose minds saw the future and allowed Precrime to exist–predicting and preventing crimes before they happen.

Precog Minority Report Fox

The series stars Stark Sands (Inside Llewyn Davis) as that precog, along with Meagan Good (Deception), Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show, Awake, From Dusk Til Dawn), Laura Regan (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Burn Notice, Everwood, Mad Men), and Li Jun Li (The Following). 

Check out an extended preview for Minority Report, followed by a behind the scenes look at the show:

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The Magnificent Seven(1960) James Coburn and Steve McQueen

With Quentin Tarentino’s The Hateful Eight due in theaters in November, we can only hope Westerns have another shot at making a comeback.  Will a remake of one of the all-time, best-reviewed classic Westerns indicate other studios jumping on the bandwagon?

Actor Peter Sarsgaard (Green Lantern, Orphan, The Skeleton Key) is the latest addition to the cast of a remake of The Magnificent Seven being finalized for a 2017 release by MGM and Sony.  Based on a reworked script by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and John Lee Hancock (Snow White And The Huntsman) from the classic John Sturges film starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, the new version will be directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Shooter, King Arthur, Training Day).  The villain in the original 1960 story of an oppressed Mexican farming village seeking a small band of mercenaries for protection was played by Eli Wallach.

The only actor we think is missing from this remake is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who we would cast as Brynner’s badass hero.  Still, the list of leading actors revealed so far is promising: Denzel Washington (2 Guns, Unstoppable, The Manchurian Candidate, Training Day, Philadelphia, Much Ado About Nothing), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Moneyball, Everwood), Vincent D’Onofrio (Men in Black, Jurassic World, Daredevil), Byung-hun Lee (Terminator Genisys, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, RED 2), Matt Bomer (White Collar, Tru Calling, Chuck), and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Dead Poet’s Society, White Fang, Alive, Training Day, Assault on Precinct 13) should come together to form an interesting ensemble cast.

Byung-Hun Lee in I Saw the Devil

Byung-Hun Lee on horseback in I Saw the Devil.

The 1960 cast was as gritty as they come:  Brynner and McQueen were joined by Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn with Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz.

If you think a remake of one of the greatest Westerns of all time is a bad idea, recall that The Magnificent Seven itself was a remake of Akira Kurasawa’s equally superb The Seven Samurai from 1954, starring Takashi Shimura and Toshirô Mifune.  We’d also count Washington, Bomer, Hawke, Lee, and Pratt among our favorite actors in Hollywood, so this will be worth a shot.

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Jaws Funko packaging

After 40 years kids finally get to re-enact their favorite scenes from Jaws (like Chief Brody blowing up the Great White Shark with a scuba tank), and after 30 years they get to re-enact their favorite scenes from Flash Gordon (like Flash and Prince Barin sticking his hand in the wood stump to dodge the scorpion-like Wood Beast), all in the comfort of their own homes.

Insert the famous John Williams Jaws theme music alternating with Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack here.

Quint Jaws Funko Reaction action figure   Ming Bif Bang Pow

Finally, after sneak peeks at this year’s Toy Fair at Funko’s new ReAction action figure line for the classic 1970s movie Jaws and the new Bif Bang Pow! action figure line for the classic 1980s movie Flash Gordon, we now have a look at their final products.  Both toy lines have been flying off the shelves for other properties in the classic 3 3/4 inch Kenner style retro action figure style, including everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, and Firefly to the Universal Monsters, Karate Kid, The Fifth Element, and The Six Million Dollar Man and CW’s Arrow and Flash series.  (Check out past discussions here, here, and here at borg.com if you missed those).

Flash Gordon Bif Bang Pow    Reaction Funko Jaws Hoooper Richard Dreyfuss

Full close-up photos of the action figure sculpts and retro card packaging designs reveal some great looking collectible figures fans will be gobbling up fast, including the shark from Jaws himself (herself?).  Now if Funko would only give us a full playset of the boat Orca for even more fun.  Until then check out this great Todd McFarland Jaws recreation released earlier:

McFarlane Funko Reaction Orca

It’s available at Amazon.com here.

Chief Brody Jaws Reaction Funko    Vultan Bif Bang Pow

Click on any of the figures above and below to pre-order these items now from online superstore Entertainment Earth.

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