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Category: Fantasy


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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AfterlifeWithArchieMagazine_01-0

Archie Comics is expanding its reach today as its successful dark zombie mash-up monthly Afterlife with Archie is reproduced in a new magazine format.  Bundled with previews of the newest dark tie-in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and some classic horror comics, its sure to be a hit with readers of horror and those who grew up with Archie and his friends.

And what’s better than laying your mitts on an over-sized edition of Francesco Francavilla’s powerful illustrations from one of this year’s best series?  It’s a great series to start up during the Halloween season for everyone from teens on up.

Contributors to the new Afterlife with Archie Magazine, include writers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Vicente Alcazar, and artists Francesco Francavilla, Jack Morelli, Robert Hack, Vicente Alcazar, Jim Mooney, and Gray Morrow.

Archie clip

After the break, check out a preview of the new magazine, courtesy of Archie Comics:

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Memetic_001_coverB   TMNT Ghostbusters issue 1

It’s a big week of comic book releases from IDW Publishing and BOOM! Studios so we have pulled together several previews, including Issue #1 of a new Edward Scissorhands series, Issue #1 of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mash-up with the Ghostbusters, Issue #1 of a new Dungeons & Dragons series, and Issue #4 of The X-Files: Year Zero. 

From BOOM! Studios we have previews of Issue #1 of an intriguing new series called Memetic, and Issue #1 of 3 Guns–the sequel to 2 Guns, the comic book that became this summer’s Mark Wahlberg/Denzel Washington action movie we reviewed previously here at borg.com.

Legend of Baldur's Gate   Edward Scissorhands issue 1 cover art

And don’t forget to pick up Dark Horse Comics’ new Predator: Fire and Stone, Issue #1, previewed here earlier.

After the break, check out these great previews.

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Jaws 3-D movie poster 1983

When I was a kid I remember paying $5 at the geek show part of a carnival to see a giant great white shark. We were taken into a long trailer and were able to walk around it, suspended in some kind of clear block. It was sad, horrifying, and shocking that someone would display an animal this way.  After watching Jaws 3-D for our review of Halloween films, I had some of the same feelings return.

You’re not supposed to cheer for the monster in a monster movie like Jaws 3-D.  And yet I found myself hoping the shark would consume all this early 1980s fashion and bad moviemaking.  Every actor earns his or her sea legs in a different way, and here was Dennis Quaid (Enemy Mine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Bess Armstrong (House of Lies), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), and Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) before they all would make names for themselves in much bigger and better films.  There’s even the son of All in the Family’s Jean Stapleton, John Putch, before he would have small roles in several series, including playing Mordock the Benzite in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Putch plays Sean Brody, brother to Quaid’s Mike Brody, and they are the sons of Chief Brody from the original Jaws.  The Brodys find themselves again pursued by a giant shark, the latest some 35 feet long.

Jaws 3-D scream

Where Friday the 13th III in 3D is an example of over-the-top 3D effects that–absurd or not–you can still appreciate at least for its humor, Jaws 3-D reflects all that is bad about 3D.  The fundamental requirement of any movie, with or without special effects, is a good story.  This story doesn’t know what it wants to be.  At times it could be a poignant look at compassionate marine biologists caring about their animals and their work, with Armstrong and Quaid going about their jobs in a nice summer setting.   In a different genre years later this would be the backdrop for a movie like Summer Rental.  But a movie called Jaws requires chilling suspense.  Jaws 3-D doesn’t earn the title.

Were it merely a vehicle for three-dimensional whiz-bang action, this might have resulted in something like Friday the 13th III.  But the directorial choices are bad.  The images shown in 3D are superfluous to the plot.  The film sulks along and the only action comes about after an hour of the film as passed by.  As to story the movie doesn’t make sense even on paper.  A shark accused of killing people is finally caught, put on display at an aquarium, and then its mother sneaks into the park and torments the staff and guests until it breaks through the aquarium walls to get revenge on the facility manager.  Remember last year’s Syfy B-movie hit Sharknado?  Jaws 3-D is the original Sharknado, but without the necessary tongue-in-cheek humor.

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It’s October finally and after another hot summer the trees are turning red and orange and it couldn’t be setting up for a more perfect autumn, and Halloween is almost here. If you’re looking for a ghost story to get you into the mood of the season, check out borg.com writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s novel A Curse Dark as Gold, available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and E-book editions from Amazon.com and other booksellers, first reviewed here back in 2011.

A Curse Dark as Gold takes place in the Gold Valley in that far away land where all fairy tales reside. Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearings’s woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie. Unwanted responsibilities are quickly thrust upon this young woman from page one. From a framework standpoint A Curse Dark as Gold is a spin on Rumpelstitskin-type helper tales of the past, but this story takes on its own life. Shearing is at once lovely and pastoral, yet dark and creepy doings begin to pierce through the landscape. A mysterious uncle appears and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives. As if sick from a good friend’s death, the mill itself begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down on an employee, things not working quite like they should, and everything seeming to fall apart at once.

ACDAG audio

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