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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

With Burn Notice over and Homeland confined to premium viewing only, basic cable’s best hope for a weekly spy drama fix may be TNT’s new series Legends.  Un-gripping title aside, this new Sean Bean vehicle shows surprising promise.  Although it follows the cliché template for every crime drama of the last ten years (eccentric male expert and his younger female law enforcement handler), the format is elevated by familiar actors and an intriguing added premise.

Based on Robert Littell’s Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation, Legends the series follows Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Patriot Games, National Treasure, GoldenEye, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sharpe series) as undercover FBI agent Martin Odum, the “most naturally gifted undercover operative” in the US arsenal.  Bean himself seems naturally gifted for the role, easing eerily between his “legend,” or cover identity, and his real self, donning accents, hairstyles, and costumes with Mission Impossible-style finesse.  But the ultimate deception may be on Odum himself–according to a shadowy figure with Manchurian Candidate overtones, Odum may not really be Odum.  Martin’s “real” life may be nothing more than just another legend.

Larter in Legends

Bean’s performance is bolstered by a strong supporting cast, including Ali Larter (Heroes, Final Destination), Steve Harris (Awake, Minority Report), and Tina Majorino (True Blood, Veronica Mars, Corinna, Corinna, Waterworld, Andre), although we’re hoping Larter and Majorino aren’t getting typecast–Larter already stripping as she did in Heroes and Majorino as the same tech nerd we’ve seen her play so well and so often.

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Space Station 76 poster

It all looks good on paper: Patrick Wilson, star of Watchmen and Phantom of the Opera, Liv Tyler, star of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Armaggedon, and The Incredible Hulk, and Matt Bomer, star of White Collar, all in a new sci-fi flick called Space Station 76.  The poster looks great.  Something is not quite selling it for me with the promotional blurb: A character-driven, domestic dramedy, which takes place in a 1970s version of the future, where personalities and asteroids collide.  With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, which pulls a lot of its humor from 1970s music and references, you’d think this could be the right time for a national release.

Despite some pretty impressive early release images of 1970s-influenced sets, wardrobe, and space props, Space Station 76 is starting to look less like a campy Spaceballs or Galaxy Quest and more like the 2012 re-look at the past’s future Dark Shadows.

Space Station 76 clip

I’ve learned from enough reviews of films I didn’t like that buzzwords “black comedy” and “full frontal nudity” tend to refer to movies I wish I would have passed over.  Then I see a word like “dramedy” tacked on and it makes me question whether this is all supposed to be funny or serious.  I love a good mash-up, but a combination of too many disparate components can be like too many cooks in the kitchen.  I’m happy to fork over cash to see solid actors like Wilson, or Tyler, or Bomer in the theater–especially for a science fiction film, but I need to know more.

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The Bionic Man Volume Three End of Everything Gillespie Tadeo Mayhew Villegas Dynamite

Dynamite Comics’ The Bionic Man series, especially Issues #17-26, was among the best comic book reading of 2013.  They are now available in a trade paperback: The Bionic Man Volume Three: End of Everything.  Featuring a story by Aaron Gillespie, with art by Ed Tadeo and Rey Villegas, colors by Thiago Ribeiro, letters by Simon Bowland, and covers by Mike Mayhew with other regular edition covers and variants by prolific Dynamite Comics artists Jonathan Lau and Ed Tadeo.

The Bionic Man is a great read and recommended for comic book fans.  It features Aaron Gillespie’s storytelling, which we lauded on our borg.com Best of 2013 list last year.  It also has the whole package from cover to cover–story, art, covers, humor, action, and fun.  We won’t re-state what we said in our review last year–you can read that here.  Enough of the origin stories that bogs down superhero books, this Steve Austin was able to get out there and do something.

Bionic Man Issue 20 cover by Mayhew   JF Kennedy bread card 1976

The series featured some of our all-time favorite cover art, with a cover run on Issues #17-22 by The Star Wars artist Mike Mayhew.  Mayhew created a new, cool, young look for Steve Austin, who sported the classic track suit updated for a modern audience and fashion sense.  His Issue #19 cover has Steve holding a car over his head, and you get to really see the strength.  Probably his best cover is for Issue #20, an inspiring cover which reminds me of one of my favorite paintings of President Kennedy.

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Weird Al Yankovic Mandatory Fun CD cover

The best part of Weird Al Yankovic’s release of his latest album isn’t because he released eight songs along with music videos for free on YouTube.  It’s that the best of his new album Mandatory Fun provides some lyrics that are as good as his early hits.  Maybe there’s no “Eat it” or “Yoda” or “I Lost on Jeopardy” or the “American Pie” parody “The Saga Begins.”  But there is plenty to like in the “Amish Paradise,” “Another One Rides the Bus,” and “Dare to Be Stupid” vein.  And Mandatory Fun is Weird Al’s first number one album in 32 years–his first number one album in the U.S. ever.  With all his classics, how is that possible?

When all things retro and nostalgia have reigned across current pop culture like never before, it’s no wonder everyone is clamoring for the simple fun Weird Al brings to the table.  His album includes 12 new songs, and eight of the them are on YouTube with great new music videos, just like in the heyday of MTV–that old cable network that used to air music videos to accompany the latest hits.  Yes, that MTV.  After the break check out eight of the new songs below.  To hear the other four, like a parody of Imagine Dragons’s song “Radioactive” called “Inactive,” you’ll just have to pick up the album.  It’s available here at Amazon.com, where you can get a digital download of the album with each hard copy purchase.

The album’s big hit so far is “Word Crimes”–Weird Al’s fourth Top 40 song in four separate decades, parodying the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke:

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Hawkeye issue 11   Afterlife with Archie main cover

The annual Harvey Award nominations close tomorrow.  The nominees for best works in the comic book industry are being voted on by comic book creators, with the final award ceremony to be held at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 6, 2014.  The recently combined publisher BOOM! Studios and imprint Archaia lead this year out of the gates with 30 nominations.  Independent publisher IDW Publishing received no nominations and the biggest, DC Comics, received only one.  Probably not surprisingly one of our favorite books, Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye, is a top contender, along with David Petersen’s latest Mouse Guard work.

More of our favorites are recognized again this year: Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie is up for Best New Series and Mike Norton’s Battlepug for best online comic.  Here are the 2014 nominations for 2013 works, followed by this year’s Eisner Award winners for those that may have missed their announcement during the busy weekend of SDCC 2014.

2014 Harvey Award Nominees

Best Writer

James Asmus, Quantum and Woody, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughn, Saga, Image Comics
Mark Waid, Daredevil, Marvel Comics

Best Artist

David Aja, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
Nate Powell, March: Book One, Top Shelf Production
Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
Fiona Staples, Saga, Image Comics
Jeff Stokely, Six Gun Gorilla, BOOM! Studios

Best Cartoonist

Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Comfort Love and Adam Withers, Rainbow in the Dark, uniquescomic.com
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising, Abstract Studios
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
David Petersen, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Paul Pope, Battling Boy, First Second

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Snowpiercer train

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I did not expect an eternal train ride, yet that’s exactly what Snowpiercer gave me.  Then it took a look at the plight of the less fortunate and the caste system that keeps those undesirables in the back of the train.  I didn’t expect action sequences that amazed me in their freshness and scope.  I saw a fantastic apocalyptic future look that had me guessing what would happen as it had me laughing and had me enthralled.

(If I wasn’t so spoiler adverse and had read CJ Bunce’s review of the graphic novel Snowpiercer then I might have expected the train ride to last forever.  However, reading his review now and checking out the graphic novel at Skylight Books after the movie tells me the two versions of the material explored separate stories.  Even with differences, I didn’t even check out the preview and looking back at the controversy on whether or not it would get a U.S. release, I have no clue how 20 minutes could have been removed from anywhere in the film.)

As good as the movie is, the setup keeps me thinking about the movie.  I love the beginning explanation for the apocalypse. Global warming threatens to destroy the earth.  Scientists desperate for a solution try to cool down the planet.  They succeed too well.  The planet is now a land of ice and snow and the only people left alive are aboard the aforementioned train.

Snowpiercer class car

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Green Blooded cloaked Predator SDCC 2014 Entertainment Earth variant SDCC 2014 Rocketeer black and white variant

Did you miss out on San Diego Comic-Con this year?  Taking the sting out of missing the big annual show, both Gentle Giant and Entertainment Earth are making their SDCC 2014 exclusives available to everyone.  Although a few items have already sold out, there are plenty of great busts and action figures that will provide something of interest for every sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy fan.  Click on any image above or below to go to the store listing for prices and availability.

Number One on our list of the coolest action figures of the year is the above variant Predator figure from Funko’s ReAction retro-action figure line.  We’ve seen one of these up close and not only is this a nicely constructed figure with great packaging, it looks like the character cloaked in the film and it comes with green blood splatter applied to the figure and even the box–splatter that was part of the plot of the movie and not just a sales gimmick.  This figure sold out fast, but don’t worry, you can pre-order now for its re-release.  After the break check out several variant retro-Kenner figures only available for a limited time, including Firefly’s Jayne Cobb and his famous hat, a Malcolm Reynolds with Browncoat.  Even new figures from The Twilight Zone of William Shatner and Burgess Meredith!

Rocket Raccoon SDCC 2013 Gentle Giant

The high point of the Gentle Giant exclusives is this great Rocket Raccoon bust that we previewed earlier at borg.com.  You can just hear Rocket ranting about something, gritting his teeth as he rescues the Guardians of the Galaxy team.

For retro fans, Gentle Giant has three other SDCC exclusives for sale.  Check out this two-foot tall Alien figure–inspired by the unreleased Kenner figure from the 1980s:

Alien classic Kenner figure SDCC 2013 Gentle Giant

And how about the latest in Gentle Giant’s line of jumbo-sized classic Kenner Star Wars action figures, one of Kenner’s best, the AT-AT Driver from The Empire Strikes Back:

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The Star Wars hardcover version Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse bestseller

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week Dark Horse Comics released the trade paperback and hardcover of The Star Wars—the eight-issue comic book series adapting George Lucas’s original screenplay for Star Wars from 1973, including its original three-word title.  Writer J.W. Rinzler, artist Mike Mayhew, and colorist Rain Beredo created a parallel universe for Star Wars that stands by itself as the single best Star Wars universe graphic novel ever produced.  It’s now hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Paperback Graphic Books and #3 for Hardcover Graphic Books.  If you dodge Times bestsellers because they are usually trite, banal and over-hyped, The Star Wars is certainly commercial, but it’s the exception to the rule.  You will not have read a Star Wars comic book this much fun and so brilliantly and vividly illustrated since the classic Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back

Lucas’s giant story, fleshed out over six movies via his Episodes I-VI, was concise in its infancy, and greatly right-sized and polished by Rinzler for this adaptation.  Its genius is in its essential Kurosawa-inspired story elements: last of their breed wizard-warriors versus a suffocating empire led by heartless dictators, a broken royal family saved by a band of rogues, a mix of disparate races and conflicts, and an unlikely pair of androids.

The planets and systems are not the same, yet they are entirely familiar: the desert planet Aquilae for Tatooine, a wookie battle on Yavin for Ewoks on Endor.  Some of the occupants of the story are familiar, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  Yet here they are very different.  Annikin (not Anakin) Starkiller and brother Deak would later become the impetuous Luke Skywalker.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was far more energetic and a hands-on warrior when he was the bearded and military garbed Jedi-Bendu General Luke Skywalker.  Han Solo by every appearance was a cousin of Swamp Thing.  Princess Leia would become more dynamic and tough in the movies, but was originally more like Padme Amidala in her infatuation with her young love, Annikin Starkiller.

Deluxe The Star Wars Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse Bestseller

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Terminator Genisys

Arnold Schwarzenegger just announced completion of filming of the fifth entry in the Terminator franchise: Terminator: Genisys.

All we for know for certain is filming wrapped, Arnold is in it, and it’s to be the beginning of a new trilogy of Terminator films.  Emilia Clark (Game of Thrones) will play  Sarah Connor, Jai Courtenay (Jack Reacher) is Kyle Reese, and Jason Clarke (Farscape) is John Connor.  Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Byung-hun Lee (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, RED 2), and J.K. Simmons (The Closer) are also expected to be in the film.

Arnold has the distinction of playing a character that made both the American Film Institute’s top 100 heroes list (Terminator 2) and top 100 villains list (Terminator). 

Per Arnold’s Twitter:

Hasta la vista, baby. I want to thank the cast and crew of @TerminatorGenisys for a fantastic shoot. It was challenging, it was fun, and it was rewarding. From our director to the producers, from the camera team to catering, from visual effects to hair and makeup – we couldn’t have done it without you. I can’t wait to see our finished project and I know we’ll remind the fans why they fell in love with the Terminator. On July 1, 2015, I’ll be back.

July 1, 2015–That’s not too long of a wait.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Flash04-Cov-Laming   Victory01-Cov-Fox

Dynamite Comics has several new books on the shelves today, and we have previews for two that you may want to check out, one new series, following the Jack Kirby superhero Captain Victory and one from an ongoing monthly, Flash Gordon.

It’s always interesting to see how new writers and artists will reinterpret Alex Raymond’s 1930s sci-fi/fantasy hero Flash Gordon.  Flash Gordon, now in Issue #4, features a new story by Jeff Parker with art by Evan “Doc” Shaner and colors by Jordie Bellaire.  There’s almost something Jonny Quest or Mark Trail about Shaner’s style here.

Kirby’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers gets a new monthly today.  Originally from a concept from the 1980s published by Pacific Comics, writer Joe Casey and artists Nathan Fox, Jim Rugg, and Ulises Farinas bring Victory back for a new audience.  The art and design for Issue #1 is very, very cool.

Flash04-Cov-AnnivCastro

After the break, check out previews of Flash Gordon, Issue #4,  and Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, Issue #1, courtesy of Dynamite Comics.

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