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Strategic Operations Bureau

If you aren’t watching this season of Major Crimes, last night you likely missed the best episode of television this year, which made us do a double take as to whether this was a midseason finale special cliffhanger ratings booster.  It wasn’t.  Likewise, it was the best TV pilot we’ve seen in ages (more on that later).  And add to that one of the most satisfying conclusions that The Closer and Major Crimes writers James Duff and Mike Bercham have concocted yet.

Directed by The Closer, Major Crimes, Dallas, and NYPD Blue director Michael M. Robin, the episode “Two Options” took an almost Dragnet approach to a police procedural and crammed more drama into an hour of TV than we thought possible.  And the climax might have caused someone to claim it as the best stand-and-cheer moment since Eowyn killed the Witch-King at the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Reviewers write about new seasons and finale episodes all the time, but it takes a great hour of regular programming to cause you to stop in your tracks and tell everyone about it, especially in the week full of press briefings leading up to Comic-Con.

Major Crimes Two Options and SOB

For regulars of the series who haven’t watched the episode yet, we’ll just note that everyone gets his and her moment–Sharon, Louie, Andy, Mike, Julio, Buzz, Amy, Taylor, Rusty, Dr. Joe, Cooper, and even Fritz.  Although if we worked in the actual district attorneys’ office in Los Angeles we’d probably not be too happy with the portrayals of last years’ Deputy D.A. Rios or last night’s D.D.A. Gloria Lim.

That brings us to our prediction.  Allow us to summon the ghost of Carnac the Magnificent.  (Drum roll, please).

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12 Monkeys Syfy

Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys is every bit a genre classic.  Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt–each in one of their best film performances–Willis plays James Cole, a time traveler from the future, Stowe plays Kathryn Railly, a psychologist in the past, and Pitt, in a supporting actor Oscar-nominated performance, as a mental patient who masterminds a terrorist group called the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and is the son of the wealthy Dr. Goines, played by Christopher Plummer.  So how about 12 Monkeys as a television series?

How would you approach it?  Use the same world but send another group of people back to try to “prevent the future” by trying again to pinpoint the source of a virus that will destroy everyone?  Or would you use the same characters?

Aaron Stanford star of 12 Monkeys

In the January 2015 TV series 12 Monkeys, James Cole will return, played this time by Aaron Stanford, who played X-Men mutant Pyro in the Marvel Comics movie series.  And this time Cassandra Railly (not Kathryn), played by Amanda Schull (Suits, Psych, Grimm) sends Cole back in time (is this Kathryn’s daughter?  Coles’ daughter?) to meet with… Cassandra, to try to change the future.  Character actor and guest actor of every other series on TV, Zeljko Ivanek (White Collar, Argo, House, M.D., Live Free or Die Hard, Lost, Bones, Homicide, Donnie Brasco, The X-Files, and Tex) will play a lead role as Leland, who is key to changing the future.  Kirk Acevedo (Grimm, Fringe, Walking Dead, Rise.. and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) plays a friend of Cole.

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Art of the Films Planet of the Apes cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

We all know the apes win and rule the Earth from the original novel and film Planet of the Apes.  But how do they get there?

Not intended as a post-apocalyptic story as much as a chronicle of the birth of an ape civilization, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its July 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are films that manage to have no villains–by design–where the viewer can empathize with both the human and ape characters equally based on the characters’ histories and individual viewpoints.  Writers Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell have created a deluxe volume documenting the art and design of both movies with the newly released Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes.

The Planet of the Apes reboot was an outgrowth of the technologies emerging from Weta New Zealand’s work on The Lord of the Rings franchise, coupled with Andy Serkis’s experience playing Gollum as a motion capture character, and later the giant gorilla King Kong, Serkis was uniquely suited for the role of the sci-fi classic character Caesar from the original novel and film.  The crew credits the acting and chemistry of Serkis and co-star James Franco in part with the success of the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Andy-Serkis-Dawn-Planet-Apes

The challenge for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?  For the first time in film history, digital characters finalized in a post-production process would be realized by total performance motion capture of actors initially, and not on a separate green screen soundstage, but alongside live-action characters on a standard movie set as well as on location.

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Tom Petty radio

If you miss playing tunes in your classic 1970s cruiser, with push buttons and a good ol’ classic tuner or the contemporary deluxe home stereo radio like the one above, then it’s time to dim the lights, crank the volume on your PC and kick back for the next half hour.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are back, and Petty has waved his magic wand and transferred the magic of your car stereo to the Web and uploaded for your listening pleasure five new songs from his newest release Hypnotic Eye.  Yep, five tunes not yet released via a conventional album just for you, for free, courtesy of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.  What could be cooler than that?

And if you haven’t seen one of those contraptions before, click here to access Tom Petty’s radio, then turn on the radio by clicking the right knob.  Tune the radio with the left knob.

Hypnotic Eye album cover

You can listen to the entire tracks at the following frequencies:

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Koba socializing with humans

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

When I think about some of my favorite movies, they contain a sense of the dynamics of a family, whether it is by blood or by situation.  The Incredibles is a fantastic example of a family at the center of the story and how, when forced to confront his own mortality, at his core Mr. Incredible finds that family is the most important thing in his life.  Stalag 17 is about a family in a single room wooden cell in a POW camp and even though they argue and kid and get on each other’s nerves, they will risk their lives for each other.  The Philadelphia Story revolves around a family’s plan for a wedding one weekend on their estate.  Up is built on scrapbook glimpses of a life spent together as a family.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes contains what it means to have family and what a family is as one of its themes.  Humans as a family.  Apes as a family.  The family of Caesar and the family of the lead human Malcolm played by Jason Clarke.  Family by blood and new families after loved ones perish.

It is dealing with the idea of ape families that becomes problematic in my mind.  Scientifically, we know that chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have familial bonds.  We can see those attachments as we stare at them through windows in zoos as the elders have learned to turn their backs to our prying eyes.  There are blood families and communities as families.  Yet, we don’t really care much about what happens to them because they can’t tell us how separation from their family feels.  We hope they forget if they ever get sent to a new zoo or study facility.  We hope that any new introductions into a community will forget the families left behind in the wild or their previous place of captivity.  It would be different if our apes, the ones that we see, could scream at us like Caesar and tell us that we won’t threaten or separate their family.

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Peter Capaldi new trailer Doctor Who

A scary and dark Doctor?

It’s not just Star Trek delving “into darkness”, as revealed in this first real look at Peter Capaldi’s 12th iteration of the Doctor in Season Eight of Doctor Who, coming to BBC in the UK and BBC America in the States next month.  Premiering during the World Cup in the UK, British soccer fans were rewarded with an expected surprise, and U.S. fans are only now getting in on the release since it hasn’t been shown on BBC America yet.

New TARDIS, new sonic screwdriver, new Daleks, a new medieval Cyberman, new cyborgs, new garb, new Doctor, a new T-Rex.  Only Clara remains the same.  And our favorite guest “intraterrestrial,” the Silurian Madame Vastra is back!

Despite his rather serious demeanor in the preview, this line of dialogue shows there is some of that kindness of Matt Smith’s Doctor sure to come through: “I’m the Doctor.  I’ve lived for over two thousand years. I’ve made many mistakes.  It’s about time I did something about that.”

scary Peter Capaldi

Then there is this rather scary looking Capaldi in night shirt on horseback.

Check out this first full preview of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor in Doctor Who:

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LifeWithArchie_36-0Hughes   LifeWithArchie_36-0Perez

Today Archie Comics finally does the unthinkable.  In its future series Life With Archie, Archie Andrews will die.  But he dies heroically, taking a bullet from a stalker to save the life of fellow Riverdale pal Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in the Archie universe.  The freckle-faced kid known for his Happy Days lifestyle as the perpetual teenager–with pal Reggie and on-and-off girlfriend Betty for nearly 75 years in comic books–finally meets his end in Issue #36, the final issue of the series.

His death is accompanied by some of the best homage covers we’ve seen, from the likes of Adam Hughes, Francesco Francavilla, Mike Allred, Ramón Pérez, and Fiona Staples.

LifeWithArchie_36-0FF   LifeWithArchie_36-0FS

After the break check out a preview to Life With Archie Issue #36, and a preview of the ongoing series Archie Comics Digest, where Archie continues on.

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orphan black season 2 blu-ray cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

In her 1995 view of the future, RemakeConnie Willis predicted a future where anything could be digitally created on film, where modern-day actors could be digitally stitched into scenes with long dead actors in films like Singing in the Rain or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the living and the dead could intermingle effortlessly.  But it’s the “effortlessly” that she got wrong, as becomes very clear from the special features on the DVD and Blu-ray release of Orphan Black Season Two, which will be released today across the U.S.

It’s rare when the best television series stands so far apart from the rest of the crowd, but Orphan Black is that series.  Ignore the Emmy nominations.  If you only could watch one series from 2014, this is that series.  Playing nine characters* and counting, star Tatiana Maslany has scored Golden Globe and People’s Choice Award nominations, a Canadian Screen Actor Award for Best Performance in a Dramatic Role, a TCA Award for Individual Achievement, a Critics’ Choice Best Dramatic Actress Award, and the Young Hollywood Award for breakthrough performance, all for her work on Orphan Black.

Maslany and Maslany in Orphan Black Season two

Even more than Season One, which we reviewed here at borg.com last year, in Season Two creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson delved deeply behind the several characters that populate the world of Orphan Black, most played by Tatiana Maslany (or just “Tat” according to the other actors on the show).  In addition to Maslany’s always on-the-run Sarah, suburban mom Alison, free-wheeling scientist Cosima, and crazy but strangely innocent Helena, Season Two showed us the dark side of the sestra with the cold-as-ice Rachel, and the far side with transgendered Tony.

The season also featured the return of Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s foster brother Felix, Dylan Bruce as the dubious Paul, Matt Frewer as the Dyad experiment scientist Dr. Aldous Leekey, Evelyne Brochu as Cosima’s partner Delphine, Kristian Bruun as Alison’s husband Donnie, and Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell.  It also introduced Michiel Huisman as Kira’s father Cal, and Michelle Forbes as Marion Bowles, a new player sure to play a key role in Season Three.

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comic-con-logo-image

It’s less than two weeks until 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International will host more than 150,000 fans of sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes and other pop culture, and SDCC has now released the entire panel schedule for this year’s big show.  If you haven’t been to the modern-day Greatest Show on Earth, it should at least be on your bucket list, but beware:  if you attend the show once you’ll want to keep going back.

Tickets as usual were sold out months ago, but for those attending this year’s show, we have some quick links to the event list so you can start planning your days now.

This year’s panels prove yet again that you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers who claim SDCC doesn’t focus on comic book artists and writers.  Even more events are occurring this year focused on the comic book medium, including benchmarks like Batman’s 75th anniversary.  Yet there are also all of those big panels planned full of this summer’s movie blockbusters and big-name casts and the casts and creators of your favorite television series.

Comic-Con image b

First and most importantly you’ll want to download to your smart phone the SDCC handy My Schedule app here.  We’ve used it before and it’s a great help when you’re in the crowd and can’t get into one panel but you want to try the dash for another one or you just get tired of walking the main hall with Artists’ Alley and the dealer booths and you want to sit down and see something new for an hour.

Having trouble choosing from all the panels?  We think the biggest event and best bang for your buck will be the Warner Bros. panel we previewed a few days ago here with pilots and previews of DC Entertainment series The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and Arrow.  After the break we pulled some other panels you might like if you follow borg.com regularly.

Here are the quick links to each day’s panel events for SDCC 2014:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Preview Night

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2014 Panel Schedule

Saturday, July 26, 2014 Panel Schedule

Sunday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

SDCC 2014 banner

Here are some panels to consider (after the break):

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Django Unchained trade paperback cover

He’s a unique, visionary filmmaker of his generation.  And he really likes Western comic books.

In the foreword to the graphic novel adaptation of his Academy Award winning film Django Unchained, Quentin Tarentino gives credit where credit is due, and why the comic book format is squarely appropriate for a director’s cut of his screenplay–the screenplay that won him a second Oscar for a screenplay after his win for Pulp Fiction.

Vertigo Comics’ Django Unchained was originally released last year as a six-part comic book adaptation of Tarentino’s four-hour long, first draft of the screenplay, later spread out over seven issues.  It’s a long narrative and by the end of part seven you will understand why editors exist.  That said, it’s a good tool for story writers, as his opening scene, measured pacing, and character development provide a window into the creative process of this singular screenwriter.  It features an adaptation of Tarentino’s work for the medium by Reginald Hudlin and most of the interior art was rendered by Serbian artist R.M. Guéra (who also served as artist on Jason Aaron’s Scalped) providing his own Western style.  Plenty of covers are featured, too, including one of Alex Ross’s best, Django walking from the burning house, which served as the cover to the final issue.

Alex Ross Django Unchained

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