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Norwegian film director Roar Uthaug (Escape, The Wave) and writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet (ROM, M.A.S.K., Sherlock Holmes 3, Captain Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons, Gotham City Sirens) are returning to the core of the character designed and created by Toby Gard to become one of the world’s best-selling franchises in the new trailer released today for the reboot of the Lara Croft franchise.  Even more than the last trailer for the film, clips from today’s preview mirror some of the same kind of cliffhanger scenes found in each of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies–the same kind of adventure that made the original video game a success.

If you have any doubts that Vikander looks the part, just check out the comparison video discussed here earlier, which shows just how closely Vikander matches the Lara in the video game Rise of the Tomb Raider.  Lara Croft has been around since 1996, in various versions of game play, based on at least eight different real-life models, and even voiced by the likes of Ashes to Ashes star Keeley Hawes and Good Will Hunting and The Riches star Minnie Driver.

Check out today’s new trailer for Tomb Raider:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Crime stories are full of dark places and dark characters, characters like Waldo Lydecker in Vera Caspary’s Laura, Rebecca DeWinter in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Jim Williams in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Barbara Sabich in Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, Catherine Trammell in Joe Eszterhas’s Basic Instinct, Noah Cross in Robert Towne’s Chinatown.  But what if you were to populate an entire story with only the most vile of these characters, everyone despicable, reprehensible, soulless.  Then you would have Richard Vine’s crime novel Soho Sins.

The New York City in Vine’s novel can’t really exist, and if it does it explains a lot about its perceived debauchery-filled subculture of million dollar art deals and even bigger real estate deals.  Most noir novels take you into places that dip into the dark, but along the way you meet a few “cool” characters, characters that have a trait or two you’d want to emulate, even if they are bad at their very core in a nice, pulp novel way.  That’s not the case in the Soho of Vine’s New York of two decades past (for those not familiar with New York, Soho is the lower Manhattan neighborhood known for its artist lofts and art galleries).  Nobody is personable, likeable, enviable, charming, or authentic.  And this ugliness means that as you forge ahead in a densely crafted 384 pages, the way Vine tells his story and the way he incorporates the shock and awe of the depravity, self-hatred, and apathy, is necessary to keep you engaged.  To Vine’s credit, it all works, complete with a couple of eleventh hour whoppers at the end of the tale.  Not bad at all for a first time novelist.

Vine takes you on a journey through New York City that illustrates in fine detail everything that is bad about the city, primarily in its wealthiest, seediest corners.  Vine brings his years of experience in the contemporary art world to provide a peep show peek into a world where artists and dealers live for no purpose other than to impress and outdo each other.  Our tour guide is a member of this vapid class, art dealer and real estate owner Jackson Wyeth, whose lack of true compassion and concern for anyone including himself at first make it difficult to tag along.  Vine partners him with an old friend, an ex-cop private eye named Hogan, who is a welcome relief from all the banality of the modern art trade and its actors, but ultimately, he and Wyeth are just two sides of a tarnished coin.  Hogan is after the murderer who shot Wyeth’s best friend Philip Oliver’s wife Angela, and Hogan uses Wyeth to introduce him to the art scene, a close-knit club, to prove whether or not Philip committed the murder.  And, by the way, Philip has already confessed to the crime.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When the worst of us does its best to silence the rest of us, you get a story like 1971’s Pentagon Papers bombshell.  When a voluminous, decades-in-the-making, confidential government report that demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents from Truman through Johnson is leaked to the press, The New York Times first reported on it, and the Nixon administration sought and was granted an injunction preventing the Times from publishing further articles on the subject.  Director Steven Spielberg focuses his new expertly crafted biopic The Post on The Washington Post as it decided whether to publish excerpts of the Pentagon Papers in the face of the Times injunction, primarily through the eyes of newspaper owner Katherine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, and managing editor Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks. For the average moviegoer, Spielberg takes a rather mundane footnote in American history and makes it completely engaging and entertaining.  Carefully re-creating the early 1970s more than 45 years later with everything from the annoying mishandling of coins as you tried to make a payphone call, to the rotary phones we all used, to the weekly ritual of the family newspaper strewn across the living room, to costume designer Ann Roth’s hand-sewn vintage wardrobe re-creations, eyeglasses, jewelry, and hairdos of the era, to old technology and random items on shelves (that might prompt you to think it’s time to get a new iced tea pitcher), to the thankfully bygone days of women sitting in one room at a party and the men in another, to board rooms completely devoid of women (although today there is still rarely more than one or two), Spielberg makes the best use of the film medium, sharing a timely and important story for a new generation of moviegoers.

Filmed in the same 1970s noir style as Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (and using a newsroom set that is almost as accurate as that film’s 1975 California movie set version of the real thing), The Post might as well be a prequel.  It’s almost as good, lacking some of the more heart-pounding, real-life thrills of Watergate, like the mysterious informant Deep Throat, the uncertainty of whether someone in the government was going to think The Washington Post’s press coverage was worth killing over, and the perceived nature of the stakes (the executive branch vs. the Fourth Estate).  To his credit Spielberg had the more difficult task of re-creating an era and a newsroom in 2017, when Redford was filming his movie only three years after the events took place (and Spielberg is also certain to illustrate the stakes to both the players and the nation of this earlier event).  From the opening scene Spielberg traverses familiar territory, opening with an embedded government wonk in a warzone in Vietnam, as believable as his earliest team-up with Hanks, in Saving Private Ryan.  Seamlessly composer John Williams rejoins his long partnership with Spielberg in this scene, offering one of his best scores in years, alternating within the film an intensity that rivals his Raider of the Lost Ark compositions with the contemplative import of the moment realized in his Schindler’s List soundtrack.

Yesterday is today, as scene after scene attests to the same corporate deal making, the same roadshow investors, the same IPO efforts, the same boardroom antics, the same misogyny, the same shuffling of blame, and the same indifference to the public good permeates the nation and the news.   Convincingly selling us on the gravity of the story is the best ensemble cast put together in the past year.  Streep plays a surprisingly layered Katherine Graham, a socialite who would become the first woman Fortune 500 CEO and first woman to helm a major newspaper, best known for her role in the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.  Streep never ceases to amaze as she creates yet another character as believable and authentic as any of her past award-winning performances.  The Tom Hanks that won best actor Oscars for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump is also back, playing the strident editor Bradlee for all it’s worth, complete with the editor’s accent, brusque language and bravado, equal to Jason Robards’ Oscar-winning take on the same man in All the President’s Men.  The rest of the cast is a virtual Who’s Who of the current top genre actor scene.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As with fans of the other big genre franchises, fans of the Harry Potter universe are always looking for what is coming next for their fandom.  While waiting for the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the next best thing is a visual journey into the artwork of the film series via Harper Design’s new 364-page, giant hardcover book, The Art of Harry Potter.  A gallery of more than 600 images, The Art of Harry Potter covers the eight movies, all created under the watchful eye of Academy Award-winning production designer Stuart Craig.

This collection is entirely different from any behind the scenes art book we’ve seen, breaking down the films by environments, characters, beasts, artifacts, and the most eye-opening: the graphic art that grounded the films in the real world.  The graphic art includes photographs of book covers, key documents seen onscreen, potion bottles, magazines and newspapers, blueprints, maps, heraldry, Quidditch signage, food and beverage containers, posters, and tapestries.  Trying to mock up a Harry Potter room in your house?  This is your sourcebook.  With only eight pages of descriptive text, no in-depth interviews with creators, or the like, and only photo captions to guide you on your journey, consider this volume the ultimate album of the concept artwork that inspired the films.

The most unique section of the book looks into all the artwork that adorned the Hogwarts school and other environments.  These were images that may not have been seen on the screen at all, or images seen only in the corner of a frame flashing by quickly, but all worthy of gallery display.  Don’t expect to find photographs of actors or as-photographed screen images–these images represent the ideas that were developed over the decade between 2001 and 2011 that were then crafted into the final screen costumes, props, stages, and Harry Potter magic.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nearly one hundred years after Bushnell’s Turtle (the submersible, not the sandwich shop), Jules Verne introduced the world to his futuristic advanced submarine the Nautilus.  In the pages of his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an expedition is investigating a giant sea monster that ends up being Captain Nemo’s famous submarine.   A predecessor to modern steampunk stories, 20,000 Leagues gets a sequel 145 years later in C. Courtney Joyner’s new steampunk novel Nemo Rising

Pushing aside Verne’s own sequel The Mysterious Island, Nemo Rising finds Captain Nemo a prisoner of the United States, jailed in a vault in Virginia in a form of solitary confinement and set to be hanged for destroying the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Partially destroyed but slightly rebuilt and sitting in drydock, the Nautilus would seem to be calling for its captain as a bevy of sea monsters begins to destroy European vessels in the Atlantic.  U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is eager to hang Nemo, but realizes he needs to negotiate a deal for Nemo’s cooperation to prove that these sea monsters are causing the destruction to get the international community off his back.  As the President dodges assassination attempts riding his trusty horse Cincinnati, he finally resorts to using a new invention, an airship, to redouble the efforts to see that Nemo completes his mission and learns the truth behind these attacks.  Accompanied against his wishes by the airship inventor’s intrepid daughter, Nemo seeks his own form of payback as he takes the choice of the mission over the gallows.  The result is a classic seafaring adventure any fan of classic science fiction or pirate tales will love.

First edition of the original Jules Verne Captain Nemo novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas.

With the pacing and action level of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, Nemo Rising reveals a brother-in-arms of Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab on the footing of a modern vengeance story as found in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Netflix’s The Punisher.  This Captain Nemo story is a fun read that will be gobbled up by fans of Verne (especially his novel Master of the World) and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  It also reflects the realism of living and working at sea, but without all the precise detail like you’d find in C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, the Patrick O’Brian Jack Aubrey books, or the famous mutiny stories–it’s more like watching their television adaptations.

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It’s been a long time since most audiences last saw Emilio Estevez.  For most fans the last film was 1993’s Judgment Night, where Estevez led a great cast that included Denis Leary in his big breakout year, Cuba Gooding, Jr. just after his stint in A Few Good Men, and Jeremy Piven first showing audiences that smarm charm we’d later see a whole lot more of in Entourage (if you haven’t seen Judgment Night, it’s a thriller worth seeing).  Usually a good guy and straight arrow, we’d also see him as suave and cocky as he became a household name and stayed that way for an entire decade, from 1982 to 1993.

Estevez starred in a memorable movies like Tex, The Outsiders, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Maximum Overdrive, Stakeout, Young Guns, Freejack, and The Mighty DucksHe then took the reins as writer, director, and actor twelve years ago in a lesser known film, a biopic of the Bobby Kennedy assassination called Bobby, and he’s finally back–performing the filmdom triple threat again in the independent drama The PublicThe first trailer for the film is out and it looks great.  A film chock full of genre greats, The Public will see Estevez exploring issues such as homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction as a group of homeless people in downtown Cincinnati take shelter after hours in the public library when extreme winter conditions strike.  Who hasn’t asked the question, why some government program couldn’t be arranged to use a few public buildings after hours to help the homeless?

Estevez plays Stuart Goodson, the head librarian, Alec Baldwin (Mission: Impossible series, The Departed, Malice, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Hunt for Red October, Beetlejuice, Knots Landing) plays a crisis negotiator for the Cincinnati police department, Jena Malone (The Hunger Games series, Sucker Punch, Into the Wild, Pride & Prejudice, Donnie Darko, Ellen Foster) plays the assistant librarian, Jeffrey Wright (James Bond series, Westworld, The Good Dinosaur, Lady in the Water, Syriana, The Manchurian Candidate, Shaft, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Homicide) plays Mr. Anderson, Richard T. Jones (Event Horizon, Collateral, Phone Booth, Godzilla, Super 8, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Judging Amy) is Chief Edwards, Gabrielle Union (Deep Space Nine, Life, Night Stalker) plays a local reporter, Michael Kenneth Williams (Assassin’s Creed, Ghostbusters, Boardwalk Empire, RoboCop, Community, Law & Order, The Wire) plays a homeless man who leads the sit-in, Taylor Schilling (Argo, Orange is the New Black, Dark Matter) plays Angela, Christian Slater (Mr. ROBOT, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Young Guns II)  plays the assistant district attorney, and Jacob Vargas (Luke Cage, Medium, Psych, Burn Notice, Death Race, Flight of the Phoenix, Crimson Tide) is the head of security at the library.

Check out this trailer for Emilio Estevez’s The Public:

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It was the 19th century struggle for the supremacy of electricity, pitting Thomas Alva Edison against George Westinghouse.  Now it’s a new movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit), Michael Shannon (Midnight Special, Man of Steel), and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men series, Mad Max: Fury Road).  Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Michael Mitnick, The Current War looks like the kind of historical piece that should drive fans of Cumberbatch’s BBC work right into theaters.

Cumberbatch will play Edison, Shannon will play Westinghouse, and Hoult will play Nikola Tesla.  Spider-man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland is Samuel Insull, one of the co-founders of Edison General Electric, and Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alien: Covenant) is Westinghouse’s wife, Marguerite Erskine.

The film was originally scheduled for release on December 12, 2017, but then it was changed to November 24, and it’s been put on indefinite delay.  The hesitation purportedly wasn’t for reasons of the film’s content, the frequent cause of many delayed films being re-edited or re-tooled at the last minute.  This film hails from The Weinstein Company, and like many projects from that studio, distribution was disrupted because of owner Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal.

Check out this trailer for The Current War:

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For “truth is stranger than fiction” it’s difficult not to stumble over the story of Sarah Winchester.  Mysteries of the Museum, America’s Castles, and every series that has ever taken viewers on an excursion to America’s supposedly haunted houses has covered the story.  Heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester became one of the world’s wealthiest women of the 19th century.  Her husband died in 1881 and she then proceeded to spend her fortune on a sprawling mansion over the next 38 years, a mansion that was never finished.  And why?  Because Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her.  She built extra room after room on her mansion to trick them into not finding her.  And she had new rooms added to the mansion until she died.  And this story is all true.

Next month the great Helen Mirren (RED, Hitchcock, The Queen) steps into the shoes of Sarah Winchester in the new drama horror film, Winchester.  One of genredom’s pervasive actors, Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genesys, Farscape, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Everest) plays a doctor looking into Winchester’s outlandish claims for the Winchester business.

The mansion still exists and is now a tourist attraction called the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.  Check out the website here.  For fans of Supernatural–show creator Eric Kripke gave Sam and Dean their last name because of Kripke’s interest in the Mystery House.

The film adaptation appears to take the ghost story into the realm of Guillermo del Toro’s ghost story Crimson Peak.  Check out previews for the new movie, Winchester, after the cut:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Octopussy and The Living Daylights was the 14th and final book of Ian Fleming’s James Bond works.  Published posthumously in 1966, the stories would take on new lives in movies, the first starring Roger Moore, the second starring Timothy Dalton.  Before both of those films, Bond fans in England would see both stories played out in newspaper comic strips.  Titan Books has re-issued the comic strips in giant collected editions reprinting the strips at their original scale, first with its Dr. No (1958-60) collection, then in its Spectre edition (reviewed here), and next in its Goldfinger (1960-66) edition (reviewed here).  The Living Daylights story was captured in the Goldfinger collection, and Titan has just released its next edition in the series, Octopussy–The Complete Ian Fleming’s James Bond–The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-69.

This fourth book in the series leads off with Fleming favorites Octopussy and The Hildebrand Rarity, and it also includes two new stories featuring Bond from the newspaper strip series writer Jim Lawrence: The Harpies and River of Death.  Artist Yaroslav Horak’s work reflects the style of the era, and his characters have the look of Neal Adams’ comic book art from the 1960s.  And how many stories in comics from the 1960s and 1970s had to include the obligatory harpy story?

A common theme through these four stories is the use of animals in Bond tales.  Octopussy is obvious, with its titular character: Major Smythe’s pet octopus that he subjects to experiments.  In The Hildebrand Rarity, antagonist Milton Krest collects endangered sea life.  Jezebel the pet stoat is a feature of The Harpies, and a monkey, bats, a jaguar and Dr. Cat all factor in to the plot of River of Death.  As M mentions to Bond in River of Death, “Very interesting indeed, James… it’s the third odd case in five months involving an animal.”  That sort of sounds like a comment someone would have made in the office reading all these stories in a row back in the 1960s.

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Most fans of the sixty-year Marvel Comics multi-title property X-Men have been reading X-Men books for years.  Hundreds of characters have been woven into more than 8,000 pages and dozens of monthly titles, and very few can really count themselves experts on the entirety of the history of the mutant heroes.  To catch up, new readers can pick up omnibus editions from any of the past six decades going back to 1963.  But a new mini-series beginning with only two hefty 40-page, no advertisement issues aims to get you caught up on the series first 30 years in the time it takes Quicksilver to zip around the world and back.

X-Men: Grand Design is exactly that, an epic story pulling together every major story and many minor ones in what is in essence new, classic style comic strips assembled into a comic book anthology.  Cartoonist Ed Piskor, known for his Eisner winning series Hip Hop Family Tree, came up with the idea, pitched it to Marvel, and took off on his own as the sole creator, writer, artist, letterer, and colorist.  Both the first and second issues, the “First Genesis,” are available at comic book stores now, and like a musician’s “fake book,” anyone can read these two issues with no prior knowledge of the X-Men, jump into the movies or grab a recent spin-off series, and walk away with a firm grasp on the characters.

 

You’ll meet The Watcher as he hones in on Earth primarily to witness the impact of the Phoenix Force on Jean Grey–the best character that surfaces in the first issue.  Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner decimates New York, followed by the birth of Charles Xavier, then we witness Magneto’s backstory, Xavier’s relationships with step-brother Cain Marko aka the Juggernaut, Moira MacTaggert, and Gabrielle Haller, and Xavier’s collection of mutants Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Angel, Hank, Red Raven, Iceman, Pyro, Rogue, and Marvel Girl.  Magneto recruits Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.  And villains abound, including the Mutant Master, Shi-ar, Mister Sinister, Bolivar Trask, The Conquistador, Morlocks, the Blob, Unus the Untouchable, Mesmero, Mastermind, Count Nefaria, the Mimic, Banshee, and Sauron.  We even learn of Xavier’s son David (the focus of the current FXX series Legion) and Magneto’s daughter Lorna (but we see no apparent connection yet between Magneto and Quicksilver).

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