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Archive for January, 2013


The Answer series poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you like Velma from Scooby Doo and you wanted to see her all grown up in a further adventure, The Answer! may be for you.  Revival and Battlepug writer/artist Mike Norton created the story of a new superhero with an exclamation point on his mask, and he supplied the interior art and covers, while well-known writer Dennis Hopeless scripted the four-issue Dark Horse Comics series, with Issue #1 released this month.

The Answer!–the superhero–is enigmatic in his debut issue–he’s a new creation like Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle, also a recent addition to the superhero pantheon–both intriguing shadowy characters who have unknown but slowly revealed back stories and are compelled to fight crime.  Like The Black Beetle, The Answer! is pretty much a complete creator-owned work cover to cover.  Eisner Award winning artist Norton has a well-recognized style, with dynamic characters and interesting panel views.

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100 Film Warner Bros banner

Not long ago the idea of having all your favorite movies available for viewing instantly was as far out there as hover cars.  With streaming options like Netflix you can have access to thousands of movies and TV series in a flash, only limited by the speed and quality of your own home access and viewing technology.  But just like online news will never replace the physical daily newspaper, streaming will never replace the home video library.

Back in early December we previewed here at borg.com four movie collections as gift ideas of varying price ranges, from the three-film The Dark Knight Trilogy from Warner Bros. to the eight-film Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection from Lionsgate Miramax to the 15-film Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection from Universal Studios to the massive 22-film Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection from MGM.

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Ben Walker as Lincoln

Would the real Abraham Lincoln please stand up?

With all that has been written and all the photographs we have of Abraham Lincoln, moviemakers keep trying to convey their own visions of the one and true 16th U.S. president.  Americans have such a revered image of Lincoln that Hollywood has rarely portrayed him.  Famed director John Ford’s brother Francis played Lincoln in a 1913 production called When Lincoln Paid.  In 1930 Walter Huston, father of famed director John Huston, portrayed Lincoln in D.W. Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln.  But the two best-known and best-loved performances were by Henry Fonda in John Ford’s 1939 production of Young Mr. Lincoln, and Raymond Massey in 1940’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois.  In 2012 we saw two major movies with Lincoln as the lead character, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis, and Benjamin Walker as a younger Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  The latter was dismissed by critics as fluff for the most part, instead heaping praise on the big Spielberg film.  This is unfortunate, because in any other year Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter might have received a better reception.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter poses the purely fantasy idea that Abe Lincoln was not only a politician and patriot but an apprentice hunter cleaning up the countryside to avoid the spread of vampires throughout the U.S. before and during the Civil War.  Gettysburg wasn’t just about conquering the Southern rebellion, it was about defeating the vampire-laden confederacy.

abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter

Where Daniel Day-Lewis opted to play Lincoln as craggy and gruff, more so than Raymond Massey portrayed him in Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Benjamin Walker’s take is much closer to Henry Fonda’s pleasant and forthright everyman from Young Mr. Lincoln.  Despite Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter offering up an admittedly male, historical version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, director Timur Bekmambetov went well beyond what you’d normally find in a film so blatantly tied to a gimmick, that of screenwriter/novelist Seth Grahame-Smith following up his earlier well-received mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  In fact, pushing aside for a moment the vampire hunting, the film offers an admirable view of the president, and in particular his relationship with Mary Todd.  And that is saying a lot for a film that is part axe-waving and vampire killing.

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Following cast

Last Monday, January 21, 2013, The Following premiered on the Fox network. It’s a dark, bloody crime drama from Kevin Williamson, creator of the Scream franchise, Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries.  It’s the Scream franchise that might come to mind if you check out the premiere on Free Per View before tonight’s episode “Chapter Two” airs.  Expect some horror movie jumps and startling revelations as well as a little more than you might see as far as crime scenes from other series (although not a lot more than what you might have found on something like TV’s Medium when it still was on the air).

The big draw for The Following is the series star, Kevin Bacon.  You might also have checked out the pilot if you were a fan of Maggie Grace, star of the Taken film series, The Fog remake, and Lost, the TV series.  If you’ve missed the original Law and Order, you might be happy to see the return of Annie Parisse in an ongoing role beginning with tonight’s episode.  And if that weren’t enough, you might think you’re watching Warehouse 13, Veronica Mars, Smallville, Lost Girl and In Plain Sight’s Aaron Ashmore as Agent Michael Weston–but you’d be wrong.  Turns out Aaron has a clone, twin brother Shawn Ashmore.  (And hey, don’t TV writers watch TV?  That’s at least the third Michael Weston on TV right now).

Spoilers ahead.

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Planet Comicon logo

Planet Comicon announced this weekend that advance tickets for Planet Comicon 2013 are now available for sale.  This year Planet Comicon is Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM – 7 PM and Sunday, April 7, 2013 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at downtown Kansas City’s giant Bartle Hall, a switch from the show’s home at Overland Park International Trade Center from past years.  The relocation was the result of the growing numbers at the event in the past two years requiring an expansion to this larger venue.

Use the below link to purchase a single day or weekend pass.  There is no limit to the quantities you may order.

ADVANCE TICKET PURCHASE

Advance tickets will be sold until midnight on Sunday, March 17, 2013.  After that time, they will only be available for sale at the event.

Weekend passes for adults are being sold at a discounted rate of $35.00.  All other prices will be identical to on-site pricing.

Advance tickets are available for sale only through Paypal, which accepts all major credit cards and bank debits.

Advance tickets will also be made available soon through the event facility and certain area retailers, including Elite Comics, located at 11842 Quivira in Overland Park, KS.

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Django Unchained - Still A

By C.J. Bunce

How does a Western get nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award in 2013? As recently as two years ago the remake of True Grit was nominated for Best Picture and nine other nominations—but did not net a single win.  But would it have been nominated if it hadn’t been directed by the quirky directing duo of Joel and Ethan Coen?  Five years earlier Brokeback Mountain, a film with a Western—or at least a cowboy– theme was also nominated for Best Picture, winning three of eight nominations.  It took director Ang Lee and a completely non-Western plot for that to happen.  Then you have to go back to Unforgiven in 1992, which actually won Best Picture and four of nine of its nominations, to find the last major, critically acclaimed Western.

What made Unforgiven win?  Certainly by supplying one of the two most popular Western actors of all time as the film’s lead helped, even if it was one of his more bland performances, with Clint Eastwood also serving as director. (Yes, John Wayne still remains the #1 most popular Western actor ever).  But more importantly, like the few notable Westerns since, it had a very non-standard plot for a Western.  With its gunfighter-turns-farmer-turns-gunfighter-one-last-time story, it was basically a dark sequel to John Wayne’s Angel and the Badman.  You could keep going—back to Dances with Wolves in 1990, an example of the “epic Western” which seemed to reward the director and acting efforts of rising star Kevin Costner more than the movie as a Western genre masterpiece.  Or back to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid in 1969, probably the last classic era Western to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, winning five awards, including a key win for the script by William Goldman.  Then go back to the also-quirky Cat Ballou in 1965 starring Jane Fonda—the rare Western notable for featuring a female lead.

Going back even further gets you into the classic era of Westerns, and throws you into the strange era of “epic Westerns” getting recognized by the Academy.  These were movies that in hindsight are really not as well done as many smaller pictures of the period, but their huge all-star casts and expensive sets made the films hard to ignore, such as How the West Was Won, The Alamo, and Giant.  Surprisingly you have to look back to the adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s Hondo starring John Wayne in 1953 to get back to the era of the “hero Western” as recipient of an Academy nod, a film up there with Shane and High Noon as successful and admired Westerns receiving acclaim by the Academy.

Schultz and Django

But if you put aside the classic Western and look at what has been selected by the Academy since the 1960s it makes a lot of sense that Quentin Tarentino’s Django Unchained is not only a Best Picture nominee this year, but a real contender for the win.  Set in the South two years before the Civil War, the film follows a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) whose past owners lead him to meet up with German-born, dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz).  Schultz’s next target is the wanted-dead-or-alive Brittle brothers, and only Django can help him literally recognize his bounty.  Schultz serves as mentor in survival and pursuit skills for Django who is squarely focused on rescuing long-lost wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  The search ultimately leads to a more complicated than necessary scheme to buy Broomhilda from infamous plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), if only his loyal house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) will not stand in the way.

So what is the formula for a successful Western in the 21st century and why should Django Unchained make the cut?

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hansel-and-gretel-witch-hunters banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

Every bit like a crazy and dark Sam Raimi production, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters takes an already creepy Grimm fairy tale and amplifies it into a bloody Rated R monster movie.  It is as true as you could probably hope to get to the spirit of the original story of two kids who outwit a witch in a house made of candy.  We even get to see the original tale laid out nearly verbatim to the centuries-old story, including the triumph of the kids who foil the witch and throw her into the oven.

H and G

But that is only the beginning of the tale, and this is the story after the story, a sequel where Hansel and Gretel become mercenaries who hire themselves out to small forest towns to rid them of the plague of witches who have stolen nearly a dozen children.  Witch Hunters never takes itself seriously.  Images of the missing children end up on printed broadsides on the 1800 version of a milk bottle.  And after decades of consuming candy, Hansel is diabetic (he has the “sugar” disease) and must take an early form of insulin to prevent him from dying.

Famke Janssen in Witch Hunters

Harkening back to the German origins of the fairy tale, Witch Hunters is a German production with lots of German design influences.  Like the original Grimm tales this is a violent and gory story.  Witches are instantly the unsympathetic villains who are bad for bad’s sake.  Led by the beautiful Famke Janssen, who for most of the film dons some impressive prosthetics, these witches are the stuff of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.  A motley assemblage of Halloween-esque witches with brooms don dark garb on their own evil sabbath day and congregate in a spot in the woods in something strangely similar to an annual rally in Sturgis.

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Steampunk dirigible

Resident young adult novelist and borg.com contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce has been a fan of James Blaylock since stumbling across a copy of The Paper Grail in her college library.  When borg.com was offered an early look at The Aylesford Skull, the latest installment in Blaylock’s steampunk series about gentleman explorer Langdon St. Ives–and an interview with the author–she literally jumped at the chance.  And there may also have been some fangirl squealing.  Welcome to borg.com, Jim!

ECB:  First, let’s talk a little about “steampunk.”  How would you define the term, and especially how your works fit into the genre?  What do you make of the current craze of non-literary steampunk “lifestyle”–costumes, conventions, etc.?

JPB:  This is a complicated question, but I’ll give it a shot.  I’m not crazy about defining the term at all closely.  Definitions are best left to reviewers and critics; writers shouldn’t have anything to do with them.  Most Steampunk is Victorian, but if that were a requirement, then Tim Powers’s early novels don’t qualify.  The Anubis Gates, which is pre-Victorian (George III, if I’m not mistaken) is obviously a seminal Steampunk novel and one of the best ever written.  His recent Hide Me Among the Graves is Victorian, but there aren’t many Steampunk trappings in it, and he certainly didn’t write it with the idea that he was producing Steampunk.  Definitions seem to me to be immaterial at best.  With apologies to a number of contemporary writers, I can’t quite say how The Aylesford Skull fits into the genre, because I don’t read very much contemporary science fiction and fantasy.  I’m not anxious to know anything about requisite genre contrivances.  That being said, I’ve always been a fan of dirigibles.  I remember very clearly my mother and I walking several blocks from our home in Lakewood, California, to look at a Goodyear blimp when I was four or five years old.  I grew up dreaming about that blimp.  It’s not surprising that my first Steampunk novel (written years before K.W. Jeter coined the term) featured a dirigible.  I put it in there because the story wanted a dirigible and because I wanted a dirigible.  Along those same lines, my father kept a small keg on his workbench at home that was full of all manner of small metallic and wooden pieces of this and that, which he pitched into the keg instead of into the trash.  As a child I spent a heap of time sorting through it, picking out clock gears and other likely looking oddments, sorting them, and arranging and rearranging them on the bench top.  There was no purpose in it.  I simply liked the look of a gear. Clockwork somethings were bound to find their way into my stories.  I find that it’s impossible for me to write anything if I’m wondering what the audience wants or expects, and so for the sake of my writing I can’t think in terms of genre expectations.  It’s also impossible for me to write without loading up the story with the things that I want, including dirigibles, gears, fog-shrouded streets, squids, leaf-like fish and other magical things.  I hope that makes sense.

AylesfordSkull cover

One last thing in that regard: reviewers often refer to my novel The Digging Leviathan as Steampunk, or as having Steampunk “tropes” or a Steampunk attitude.  In fact it’s set in the Los Angeles of the late 1950s, or at least an imagined Los Angeles.  Reviewers seem to be saying the same thing about my novel Zeuglodon, which is set in northern California in what seems to be the same out-of-time world in which The Digging Leviathan is set.  Readers with a fixed idea of Steampunk might be slightly mystified, I think, if they were to read those two books after reading such a review.  Perhaps it’s enough to say that they have Steampunk “sensibilities.”  I like that very well, because it’s sufficiently foggy, and it inflates the definition of Steampunk to the point at which the term threatens to lose its shape entirely. As for the non-literary Steampunk lifestyle, I love it.  I marvel at the whole lot of it.  I’m far too introverted to wear costumes, although I wore an Edwardian tuxedo on my wedding day (or so it was described by the rental company).  I’m a big fan of Steampunk jewelry.  I buy into so-called Steampunk philosophy.  Also, I’m attracted to the idea that Steampunk aficionados aren’t merely being theatrical, but that they’re in fact creating a Steampunk world within our own world in which they can exist.  I wonder whether the Steampunk craze will reach some kind of critical mass, and such a thing will come true: one day we’ll walk out the front door and there’ll be a dirigible hovering overhead and someone wearing a beaver hat tootling past on a steam-driven octopus velocipede.  I’d open a bottle of champagne.

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Dynamite Art of Alex Ross cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you have already checked out Alex Ross’s prior art overview books Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross and Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross (reviewed at borg.com earlier here), you can see a new side of Alex Ross in his third coffee table format book, The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross.  If you only know Alex Ross from his extensive work with the DC Comics superheroes, get ready to be exposed to not just one but many new universes he has explored over the past several years as cover artist for Dynamite Comics.

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Alice in Wonderland cover

Fans of classic fantasy and manga will be interested in a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland by Filipino comics creator, writer and illustrator Rod Espinosa.  The new hardcover edition from Dark Horse Comics collects Espinosa’s four-issue series from 2006 in a nicely designed storybook form and is scheduled for release January 30, 2013.

So how close does Espinosa get to the original Lewis Carroll work, considering it is not a complete word-for-word adaptation and it reveals the story in manga form?

Espinosa Alice interior page

Espinosa’s take on Alice–adapting both story and art–approaches the realm of picture books, revealing a possible entry point to Alice for little kids.  If you’re not outright reading the original work to a kid not old enough to read, and the kid needs pictures to hold his/her interest (as Alice herself does) and he/she holds a fondness for manga or anime, this may be tailor-made for you.  And as book design goes this volume is right up there with several well-done Archaia Publishing books–known for their nice presentations–such as David Petersen’s Mouse Guard series and Jeremy Bastian’s Cursed Pirate Girl.

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