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Tonight Show Family Feud Fallon Steve Harvey

Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred and twenty episodes in of his first year at the helm of The Tonight Show and somehow we managed to fail to mention Jimmy Fallon’s incredible big year here in our ongoing quest for the best in entertainment.  We’ve watched Fallon since his days on Saturday Night Live and figured we’d give him a try as he took over for Jay Leno.  We gave the same college try to Conan O’Brien when he started out on his TBS gig, but that show quickly fizzled out.  Fallon hit the ground running, taking comedic bits from his Late Night hosting stint and expanding them into the weightier format of the classic king spot of nightly live comedy.  And we haven’t laughed out loud this much in a year in a long time.

Go back and watch David Letterman, Leno or Johnny Carson late show episodes on YouTube and you’ll quickly ask yourself why we thought those guys were so funny.  We’re saying this after years of enjoying the best of The Tonight Show for decades.  Fallon’s sincere, boy-next-door-makes-good, and unapologetic fanboy image was a perfect choice for this show, and his use of social media incorporated into his weekly line-up makes the show potentially appealing to every demographic.

Credit goes to Fallon, of course, but also his great writing staff that comes up with all this fun, as well as The Roots, the complicit house band (probably the coolest band ever to appear on a regular TV gig), and Fallon’s own Ed McMahon, the quick-witted banter partner, Des Moines native Steve Higgins.

Rivers last Tonight Show

Recurring bits include Fallon’s obsession with Canadian politician Rob Ford, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Vice President Joe Biden, the Eww girl, and a would-be one-time stint dancing bear that became the out-of-breath show mascot Hashtag the Panda.  Fallon’s “Pros and Cons,” “Thank You Notes,” and “Hashtags” are now locked into the national weekly calendar.  Fallon also gets the best A-list celebrities around on his show on a regular basis, and even entices many to play crazy party games and lip sync battles or act in skits like you’d see on the best days of Saturday Night Live.

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New Neil Simon Buffy incentive cover   SMDMSeasonSix06Cov-Ross

It’s going to be another big comic book store Wednesday with plenty of new releases from the best in independent publishers.

The re-started Dark Horse Presents series features Issue #2 this week.  Chris Roberson and Paul Lee reveal an untold tale from Aliens featuring favorite character Hicks.   Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey provide a new Action Philosophers! story.  Plus, new chapters of Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s Resident Alien, Brendan McCarthy’s Dream Gang, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Andy Kuhn’s Wrestling with Demons, and Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley’s Sabertooth Swordsman.

Also from Dark Horse Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Issue #7, features a play on Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple featuring Xander and Spike.  It even has a great alternate cover that plays off like the classic ad for the movie with Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau and TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.

DHP1   Mars Attacks Art Gallery cover

In case you missed it, we previously previewed Dark Horse’s Prometheus: Fire and Stone, Issue #1, here.

From Dynamite Comics, The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six is already up to Issue #6 this week.  And fans of Mars Attacks will want to see this new artists edition from IDW Publishing, Mars Attacks Art Gallery, here.

Check out the rest of the previews after the break:

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Black Canary Arrow Season Three

Still an entire month to wait until Arrow returns to the CW Network, and we’re got another great trailer released this weekend.  The best part of this latest trailer?  We hear the days of flashbacks to the island are going away, to be swapped out with Oliver Queen’s secret past honing his skills in Asia, and we see some of that here.

And the trick of showing Oliver finally hooking up with Felicity Smoak last season may have set fans up for a real relationship this season.  Black Canary will return and sister Laurel Lance looks to be finally getting her life back.  And what’s more fun than seeing former Superman Brandon Routh taking on a new recurring role in the DC Universe as Ray Palmer?

Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer

Check out this new trailer for Season Three of one of our favorite series, and maybe the best superhero series ever, Arrow:

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Hobbit Smaug Unleashing the Dragon cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

To learn what advancements are happening in technical moviemaking, you can always turn to Weta Workshop and Weta Digital.  For the latest in cutting edge film work, you need only turn to the latest book on The Hobbit film series from Weta, its step by step chronicle of the development of the greatest dragon in all of fantasy, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon.  As a supplement of sorts to their grand Chronicles series detailing the creative story of The Hobbit, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is the first look at a single element of the franchise, peeling back the development of one character in all its tiny details and from all vantage points.

A smaller dimension book at 8×10 inches compared to the double size and thickness of the Chronicles series, this format is well suited for similar spin-off works–perhaps a single book on each race in Middle-earth one day?  But like its counterparts, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is dense in both text and photos.  Every designer, art director, sculptor, modeller, texture artist, and animator that provided new ideas and elements to arrive at the final creature offer commentary about their thought process and their collaboration with others.

Smaug Unleashing the Dragon excerpt

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barriers - Great wall of China

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I love when a story starts me guessing like “The Wall of Darkness” by Arthur C. Clarke.  I have so many notions of walls and barriers that once Clarke reveals there’s a mysterious black wall in the dark lands where the planet’s sun doesn’t reach, my mind immediately guesses likely conclusions.

Due to the surge in popularity of all things Game of Thrones, the Wall of Westeros first came to mind.  A structure built of ice and stone to separate the civil from the uncouth and things unimagined.  The dangers were so serious that an elevator is needed to get you to the top of the wall for it is so high. Would the wall of darkness be the same?  What monsters must inhabit the lands devoid of starlight where the wall only becomes accessible at the highest days of summer?  Would they be blind?  Would they be legion, held back by the material of the wall, waiting for a foreign object to infest so as to spread throughout the light?

Wall of Westeros

Then again, the other side of the wall could be something more akin to George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for the Wall – Hadrian’s Wall.  On the other side might be a separate version of the planet’s inhabitants, people that have learned to live without the warmth and light of a star.  They may have fashioned great cities lit by artificial light and have evolved in different ways while exploring cuisines that flourish in the night.  (Think lots and lots of catfish sautéed in mushrooms.)  Maybe this time it’s the Morlocks that are kind and just and they built the wall to keep out the Eloi.  It’s much more romantic than thinking of the Romans and Scotsmen of the very earliest part of the AD centuries separating with a wall due to differences in distance over now adjacent time zones on the same continent.  It’s more romantic to think of Starks and white walkers.  As an earthbound human, our walls are just another case of separating ourselves from those that are “different.”

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i-frankenstein moving poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

I, Frankenstein is a fantasy-horror motion picture released earlier this year, based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux.  Starring Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Bill Nighy (Underworld, Shawn of the Dead, State of Play), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings), and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher), all signs pointed to the possibility that the film could be minimally watchable.  But retellings of classic monster stories are tough to get right.  In our ongoing pursuit at borg.com to identify the best of Blu-ray 3D home video we screened I, Frankenstein in Blu-ray 3D.  Despite having some pretty stellar 3D special effects, the film unfortunately can’t overcome its thin effort to retell the Frankenstein story.

With creators of Underworld behind the scenes, it’s no wonder this film has the look of that franchise.  It also shares the same dark vibe as the respectable and fun monster mash-up Van Helsing.  But its clunky twist on Frankenstein’s monster isn’t saved by the serious acting of lead Aaron Eckhart, or the quality bad guy villainy portrayed by Bill Nighy.

Adam Frankenstein

Good monster retellings?  Try Young Frankenstein (1974), Phantom of the Opera (2004), Van Helsing (2004), the American Werewolf series, Wolf (1994), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), The Mummy (1999), and the short-lived Dracula (2013) TV series.  These all show how retellings of classic monster stories can be done right.

Nicely done action sequences and fiery explosions?  It’s got ‘em.  Beautifully-rendered, in-your-face 3D?  It’s got that, too.  And if you only want to watch special effects with the backdrop of a classic, then this may be something for one of those moments.

But I, Frankenstein is about a legion of gargoyles and their gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto) who are in a battle with demons under the control of a demon prince played by Nighy, posing as a modern-day biotech businessman.  Nighy’s character wants Dr. Frankenstein’s journal, to be able to resurrect soulless bodies for demons in hell to fill.  Otto’s character attempts to recruit Frankenstein (the monster has taken his creator’s name) to her cause, even giving him the rather silly name of Adam (which nobody else ever uses). Hundreds of years after their initial meeting, Frankenstein and the gargoyle queen reunite in the present day (still wearing the same costumes).

Huh? 

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Aliens Fire and Stone cover b  Aliens Fire and Stone cover a

During a vicious xenomorph outbreak, terraforming engineer Derrick Russell leads a desperate group of survivors onto a rickety mining vessel.  They hope to escape the creatures overrunning their colony—but they’ll face horrors both in space and on the strange planet they crash on.

Dark Horse Comics is gearing up for a new mini-series tie-in to the Aliens and Prometheus universe.  Chris Roberson and Patric Reynolds will be the creative team on Aliens: Fire and Stone.

Aliens Fire

Equal parts horror and sci-fi, the first images from Issue #1 look pretty good.  After the break, check out this first look at excerpts from Issue #1 of Aliens: Fire and Stone, on sale September 24, 2014, at comic book stores everywhere.

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forever18

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Brace yourselves:  It’s another eccentric-male-expert-and-his-younger-female-law-enforcement-handler crime drama.  But this time there are a couple very big, very appealing twists.  Premiering September 23, 2014, ABC’s new supernatural drama Forever stars underused genre favorites Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Fantastic Four, Ringer) and Alana De La Garza (Law & Order).  You’ve probably seen the previews and already know the premise: Ioan Gruffudd’s Henry Morgan, a New York City medical examiner, cannot die.  Or, rather, he keeps dying–but mysteriously returns to life, almost just at the moment of his departure.  It is the mysteries of that process–inexplicable even to Morgan, even after some 200 years–that the series will explore.  But it’s the powerhouse casting, rich writing, and excellent chemistry that set Forever apart from your run-of-the-mill immortal medical examiner and smart tough female cop drama.

Watching Ioan Gruffudd since Horatio Hornblower in the 1990s, you always got the feeling he was searching for that next perfect role.  He may have finally found it.  His somewhat formal, very British (the actor is originally from Wales) air has landed him brief roles as the stilted, brilliant, rich guy (Fantastic Four, Ringer, a recent guest spot as a billionaire on Castle)–but it’s all of those factors that make him perfect as the literally immortal physician.  Gruffudd really does seem like he stepped out of the past, smart enough to have lived and learned for 200 years, but never quite shaking his original 1800s mien.  A self-proclaimed expert on death (his own, and everyone else’s), Morgan is doomed to suffer the familiar pang of every immortal: watching everyone else grow old and die.

forever11

With obvious nods to BBC/Masterpiece Mystery megahit Sherlock (Gruffudd even ties his scarf in Benedict Cumberbatch’s signature knot), it’s clear what audience Forever is trying to reach.  And yet Morgan is infinitely more charming than Sherlock Holmes ever was, even as he instantly micro-analyzes your life the moment he meets you.  What comes off as egregiously, appallingly pompous from Holmes, is a winsome parlor trick in Morgan’s hands–and that charm and affability make him immediately sympathetic, because you understand that all the charm in the world can’t protect him from eventually losing anyone he cares about.

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Star Wars A New Dawn cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

How did the Empire power all those Star Destroyers anyway?

The new, Disney era of Star Wars story continuity begins today with the release of the novel Star Wars: A New Dawn.  Fans of the Star Wars tie-in novels shouldn’t be disappointed with this new story and completely new characters living in that galaxy, far, far away between the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  Its primary draw for those fans willing to give the new Star Wars a chance is the introduction of a trained Jedi named Kanan Jarrus and a mysterious Twi’lek named Hera.  But its best success is in author John Jackson Miller’s world building (or galaxy building)–one with more lead female characters than male.

In the galaxy that George Lucas built, the rarest creature to be found was a woman, whether a human, a rebel, an Imperial, or an alien.  Miller does not skip a beat to redefine Star Wars from chapter one.  We meet a black female captain of a Star Destroyer named Captain Rae Sloane, a character who could be on her way to be the next Mara Jade.  She’s young but smart, and exactly the kind of leader a government led by Emperor Palpatine would need to conquer so many systems.  Unlike even the original trilogy, including its often bumbling stormtroopers and officers that fail to follow their Dark Lord’s orders, the personnel building the Empire in A New Dawn don’t make the same mistakes.

Sloane works for a typical Star Wars villain, Count Demetrius Vidian, a cyborg like Darth Vader and General Grievous, which would lend us all to believe a defining piece of Star Wars is a dark cloaked bad guy who has already been blown apart a few times.  The word survivor does fit Vidian.  He is a decisive imperialist, precise, unyielding and villainous–everything you want from your Star Wars bad guy.

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Spock with tricorder

It’s a question die-hard Star Trek fans ask themselves:  If you could own one favorite Star Trek prop, what would it be?  This weekend a Star Trek Facebook page asked thousands of followers to comment on one question:  If you could have any autographed Trek prop, what would it be and who would you have sign it?  With nearly 2,000 respondents we thought it was a good opportunity to use these responses from across Star Trek fandom to see if we can glean what Star Trek fans think are the most iconic props of the franchise.  It’s not all that scientific, since the page posting the question was a general Star Trek page, and many fans may only follow the individual pages from any of the Star Trek series.  The image shown in the post was of an original series phaser–did that skew fans to select that prop?  Are there more original series fans in the mix who follow this page?  We don’t know.  But the results are still interesting and who better than a random group of Trek fans to share what they see as the top Holy Grail of Trek props?

The question is ongoing, with hundreds more responses entered after we stopped tracking answers–around 1,860.  Many responses were attempts at humor–many claiming Shatner’s toupee as their response (how do you autograph a toupee anyway?).  Others were rude or sexist or otherwise the typical worthless responses you find across social media on any given day.

Worf bat'leth from Firstborn

Also, nobody addressed a key topic–why do people think it’s a good thing to autograph a screen-used prop?  The truth is that collectors of screen-used props will refuse to purchase a prop if it has been defaced in any way, especially by an autograph (screen wear and tear excepted).  Recent auctions of an original series gold tunic worn by William Shatner sold for a fraction of what a similar one sold for that was not so marked.  The autograph literally cost the consigner thousands of dollars.  One rare command Starfleet uniform worn by Robert Picardo on Star Trek Voyager was once highly sought after by collectors, and has remained unsellable for years because of a scrawling signature across the front.  The bottom line: Collectors prefer a prop or costume to look just as it did the last time it was shown on the screen.  Actors would be well-advised to refuse to autograph screen-used props at least without first telling fans they may be ruining their chances to re-sell the prop down the road.  Whether or not you think you might keep a prop forever, do yourself a favor and don’t limit your future options.

Putting the “should they/shouldn’t they” question aside, the great response showed fans love their favorite Trek and thousands would want a piece of TV or film history signed by their favorite actor.  So what did we learn?

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