Tag Archive: Elizabeth C. Bunce


Jessica Barden Far from the Madding Crowd

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Anyone familiar with Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd knows that the story begins when an impetuous young sheepdog accidentally herds his flock over a cliff, killing them all… and then things rather go downhill (ahem) from there.  That’s Thomas Hardy, after all.  But Far From the Madding Crowd is widely considered one of Hardy’s “happier” stories, a happy-ending (except for the sheep) romance about another impetuous youngster, farm heiress Bathsheba Everdene, and her stubborn attempts to hang on to her independence, despite the attentions of three (three!) suitors.  It all takes place in the bucolic English countryside, at the height of the Victorian era, with Social Consequences and Brooding Heroes, Headstrong Heroines, Disastrous Misunderstandings, Crimes of Passion, and Anonymous Love Letters. What’s not to love?

Well, in Thomas Vinterberg’s new adaptation of the story, pretty much everything.  Okay, to be fair–there is actually a lot not to love about the novel.  Heroine Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, Doctor Who “Blink”, Never Let Me Go, The Great Gatsby), for one; she is at times thoughtless, clueless, senselessly cruel, and relentlessly bullheaded.  But Hardy also meant her to be sympathetic and inspiring, driving forward in a man’s world that thinks little of a woman’s independence.  Along the way, she wins the affections of no fewer than three men–men who see her for much more than her valuable land.  But the latest film version brings none of Bathsheba’s passion, conviction, and nuance to screen, relying only on Mulligan’s befuddlement and tousled tresses, and a confused wardrobe (by designer Janet Patterson) that looks like clothing from a Soviet propaganda poster.  She’s a better actor, and we’ve seen it.

Michael Sheen and Carey Mulligan Far From the Madding Crowd

Somewhere along the way, the love quadrangle of the tale gets muddled, and one can’t quite figure out how itinerant soldier Frank Troy (Thomas Sturridge, The Hollow Crown, Pirate Radio) fits in–let alone manages what devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, from the upcoming Lewis & Clark) has continually failed at: securing Bathsheba’s hand in marriage.  But by that time, the only thing we’re sure of is that Bathsheba has poor judgement… so we just sort of go with it.  Perhaps because we’re still hanging on for gorgeous glimpses of the English countryside (which never arrive).

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Jackie Brown Pam Grier

This August thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero fans will attend the inaugural Kansas City Comic Con, a new comic book and pop culture convention to be held at the Kansas City Convention Center at Bartle Hall.  Four months away and the show has already booked some great movie and TV guests as well as the very best comic book and fiction writers and artists in the U.S.

Headlining the show will be none other than Jackie Brown herself, actress Pam Grier.  Not only is Ms. Grier known for her leading role in Quentin Tarentino’s hit film, but she has also starred in the classic 1970s films Coffy and Foxy Brown, as well as Fort Apache The Bronx, Something Wicked This Way Comes, John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. and Ghosts of Mars, and TV series including Night Court, Crime Story, Knots Landing, Miami Vice, Bones, The L Word, and Smallville.

Colin Baker Doctor Who TARDIS

Many Doctor Who fans will get their first chance to meet Colin Baker, who played the fan-favorite Sixth Doctor on BBC’s original series from 1984 to 1986.  Known for his bright patchwork jacket, you may have seen him most recently in the funny film The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, discussed earlier at borg.com here.

Barriss Offee   Shaak Ti

In this big year of Star Wars, Kansas City Comic Con attendees will get an opportunity to meet two actresses known for their roles as Jedi Knights in the Star Wars prequels.  Nalini Krishan played Barriss Offee, a Jedi Knight and General in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.  Also scheduled to appear is Orli Shoshan, who played Jedi Knight Shaak Ti, also in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (as well as deleted scenes in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith). 

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Ant Lucia

In addition to great creators from outside the Midwest, like Black Widow artist Phil Noto (as we mentioned here at borg.com yesterday), the great thing about returning to a Con year after year is running into all our friends who write, sketch, or paint incredible works for a living.  Planet Comicon 2015 was no different.

Take for instance Des Moines artist Ant Lucia (pictured above).  Three years ago Ant was just beginning to put together great genre characters like DC superheroes and Star Wars characters in a unique retro style of poster art.  Flash forward to 2014 and an entire month of cover art at DC Comics was devoted to his creations, and statues based on his DC Bombshell designs are selling off the shelves in every town across the country.  Ant’s beautiful designs are second to none, and there’s not a more deserving guy to achieve such success from his ideas.

Other creators at Planet Comicon this weekend with national success included Jason Aaron, who had his own rock star sized line of fans getting his new Star Wars series autographed, as well as artist Freddie Williams II, drawing sketches for fans and signing copies of his Legendary Starlord series, among other works.

Jordan and Fyffe

Pictured above are artists Damont Jordan and Bryan Fyffe.  Damont had a new “spirit fox” print available that blew us away, and he churned out sketches for fans all weekend long.  And we noticed other artists at the Con were coming to Bryan’s booth to buy his framed art for their own homes.  Bryan has the best eye for design of anyone we know, and creates a variety of inspired multi-media works.  His most recent commercial illustration was for some major franchise properties, as well as the cover of John Renehan’s new novel The Valley.  Check out some of his work at his website here.

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Kermit in A Muppet Christmas Carol

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Audiences have loved Charles Dickens’s yuletide ghost story, A Christmas Carol, for 171 years, and it’s been committed to film at least 50 times.  It’s hard to dispute the status of 1951’s Scrooge starring Alastair Sim, or surpass Patrick Stewart’s masterly performance as the cruel miser in the 1999 television adaptation.   But for annual, feel-good holiday fun, our money is on The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Released in 1992 and representing the first of several retellings produced by the zany puppets & crew, The Muppet Christmas Carol also boasts a strong human cast.  Most notable, of course, is Michael Caine (Batman Begins, Get Carter) as Ebenezer Scrooge, in a turn that is just the right balance of humbug and humor.

Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge

The Muppet version brings all the elements you expect from A Christmas Carol, from dead-as-a-doornail business partner Marley, to Tiny Tim asking God to bless us, everyone… but with wonderful Muppet twists.  All your favorite Muppets are here, as well, in their expected roles: Kermit the Frog as put-upon clerk Bob Cratchitt (with nephew Robin in the roll of Tim); Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchitt, naturally; and even 1990’s standard duo Gonzo and Rizzo, taking a meta-fiction approach as tour-guide-to-the-tale Charles Dickens and a skeptical sidekick.

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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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Ghost and Mrs Muir A

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret that here at borg.com, we’re big fans of Halloween.  And there’s nothing I like better than a great ghost story.  But if creepy and gory aren’t really your thing, TCM is offering up some of the best in lighter-hearted classic haunts tonight as part of its Ghost Story Thursdays month-long series.

Included in our epic round-up of this year’s Halloween movies on TV, tonight’s two classics feature some of our favorite performers in roles you might have missed–but should be sure to catch as they air back-to-back.  And if tonight happens to be Date Night at your house, you might choose to stay in and snuggle up on the couch, because these two films also feature some of our favorite on-screen romances.

Portrait of Jennie original movie poster   Ghost and Mrs Muir original movie poster

First up at 7:00 p.m. Central is 1948’s Portrait of Jennie, starring Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, Shadow of a Doubt) and Jennifer Jones (Song of Bernadette, Duel in the Sun), with a masterful performance by Ethel Barrymore.  Cotten and Jones play star-crossed lovers whose sweet romance bridges time, death, and logic.  Cotten plays Eben Adams, a down-on-his-luck artist in the Depression, whose life is changed forever when he meets a young girl in Central Park.  The mysterious and beguiling Jennie becomes his muse, infusing his artwork with passion and talent.  But who is she?  Jennie has a secret, and her haunting story will consume Eben, until both lovers are driven to extremes in their quest to be together.

If you’re already a fan of the film, you’ll enjoy TCM’s write-up about it here–but it’s full of spoilers, so wait until you’ve seen it.  Based on the novel by Robert Nathan, Portrait of Jennie, with its haunting heroine and epic romance, could easily have been dark and gothic, but it’s actually anything but.  There’s just enough ghostly mystery to keep the Halloween thrill alive, but the overall tone is more sweet than scary.  In fact, this supernatural romance even made our Best Fantasy list.  It’s a must-see.

Portrait of Jennie B

Here is the original trailer for Portrait of Jennie:

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Legends banner

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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All the Muppets from Muppets Most Wanted

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

The eighth big-screen film starring Jim Henson’s wacky, lovable Muppets hit theaters a couple of weeks ago, and for lifelong fans of the franchise, it’s a big win.  The 2011 film Muppets, written by and starring Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) was a heartwarming, family-friendly comedy, reviewed here.  We liked the 2011 movie but wished for more celebrity cameos.  Muppets Most Wanted, written by returning director James Bobin, returns to the kooky, offbeat humor of the original TV variety show and first motion picture, 1979’s The Muppet Movie.  And it delivers cameos aplenty.

In a plot somewhat reminiscent of various Muppet films past, this latest movie involves the intrepid troupe on a world tour, hot on the heels of the success of their last venture (meaning, in typical Muppets metafiction style, the 2011 film, or the reprise of the act as depicted in the film, or both, or… well, you’ll get it.  It’s the Muppets).  Along the way, no one suspects that their new tour manager, Dominic Badguy (“It’s pronounced ‘Badgey'”) (Ricky Gervais, The Office) is moonlighting as the sidekick to a criminal mastermind named Constantine–who also happens to be a dead ringer (almost) for Kermit the Frog.  Badguy books the Muppets into surprisingly sold-out gigs all across Europe, connives to have Kermit kidnapped and sent to a Siberian prison, and plots ever-more ambitious jewel heists along the way.

Gervais and Constantine

Human leads Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell (Modern Family), and Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live) turn in stellar performances that recall classic costars like Michael Caine (The Muppet Christmas Carol) and Charles Durning (The Muppet Movie).  The lively story, er, hops along, darting among Kermit and Fey in Siberia; Burrel and Sam the American Eagle as rival Interpol/CIA agents tracking Constantine; and the Muppets’ efforts to launch a successful European tour, despite lackluster direction from Fake Kermit and zany acts competing for space in the show.  Watch for wonderful classic Muppet-show-style performances like Gonzo’s “Indoor Running of the Bulls,” all featuring cameos from actors like Salma Hayek (Wild, Wild West) and Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained).

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Wil Wheaton standing room only crowd at Planet Comicon 2013

In addition to what you might expect from a large comic book convention, from comic book creators to celebrities to vendors and panels, this weekend’s Planet Comicon 2014 has several fantasy-themed attractions to help you get your fantasy fix.

Medieval Punisher and Harley Quinn at Planet Comicon 2013

Amanda Lynn Chainmaille Creations is returning for their second year at Planet Comicon.  From their booth #1313, Amanda and Mike O’Leary will be selling original handcrafted chain mail and scale mail ensembles inspired by everything from comic books to fairies.  You can also get superhero themed items, as well as jewelry for all types of cosplay, including some great steampunk pieces.  They will also be taking commissions for custom work.  Stop by and check out Amanda and Michael’s awesome creations. And I will be modeling one of their creations on Friday, and Elizabeth C. Bunce will be modeling something on Saturday. You’ll just have to show up both days to see.

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Wildman Norse Drinking Horns is appearing for their first time as a vendor at Planet Comicon.  Stop by and ask Randy about his drinking horns, great for Viking and medieval cosplay, and just for all-out drinking grog.  Randy makes leather belt holders, too, and the horns are available in different sizes.  Elizabeth and I can be seen each year at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival sporting Randy’s drinking horns.  They are a great addition to your medieval ensemble.  Also check out his great Viking themed T-shirts, for sale at his vendor booth #1416!

ECB Valkyrie

And you can see our own author in residence at borg.com, Elizabeth C. Bunce, at Artists Alley booth #1143.  She will be selling and signing copies of her award-winning fantasy novels A Curse Dark as Gold, StarCrossed, and Liar’s Moon.  borg.com is again sharing a booth with Elizabeth this year.  Stop by and say “hi!”

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Enders Game image

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

First, let me say that I’m struggling to figure out how to review this for people who haven’t read the book (really?).  Although it’s been almost 20 years since my last read, so much of what I just saw is wrapped up in what I remember, and what I wanted to see, that it’s difficult to give this an objective viewing.  So I’m just going to give up trying.

Ender’s Game follows a talented young (young) military cadet, Andrew “Ender” Wiggan (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) as he navigates his way through a complex future military academy.  Picked at birth, soldiers begin their training in childhood, all in preparation for a massive war with Earth’s longtime, poorly-understood alien enemy, the Formics.  The title refers to the computer simulations and novel physical training undergone by the students at Battle School.  What makes Ender’s Game different from any other sci-fi bootcamp movie (like 1997’s Starship Troopers, itself an adaptation of the science fiction classic by Robert Heinlein, which was poorly received but which borg.com editor C.J. and I both enjoyed) is the focus on the emotional arc of the adolescent hero.  Where Starship Troopers is a straightforward shoot-’em-up action flick, Ender’s Game is a little more complex, delving into the psychology of indoctrinating the young to kill, and examining the effect of this training on young Ender himself, as he grows from a scrawny little picked-on genius to a brilliant military commander.  Oh, yeah—and it’s a damn good shoot-’em-up action flick.

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