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Although it still has that same look and feel of the recent Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–it actually looks more like last year’s Suicide Squad–at last DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. revealed the first full-length, team-up trailer for Justice League this weekend.  We’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Batman, with his best work probably his cameos in Suicide Squad, and we’ve seen Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman previewed in Batman v. Superman.  Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash have had some screen time in various images from Warner Bros. promoting this film.  So what’s new is this preview really gives us a better look at Ray Fisher’s Cyborg.

Justice League is another Zack Snyder creation, hitting theaters this year along with Wonder Woman, and from the opposing brand Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and Spider-man: Homecoming.  Will Justice League deliver enough punch to equal The Avengers?  Is there enough “wow” factor to take on all the superhero movies hitting theaters this year?

This Justice League (dropping the “America”) is consistent with the more recent incarnations of the DC squad, but it’s definitely not the Superfriends most older fanboys and fangirls are familiar with.  Cyborg is definitely the new kid on the block.  Former J. Jonah Jameson actor JK Simmons (who voiced the character as recently as 2015) will take some getting used to as the new Commissioner Gordon.  But the biggest challenge will be viewing DC Entertainment’s opposing Barry Allens.  The Flash rose to become the best superhero series on television last year, with the lovable Grant Gustin as the great speedster.  It’s hard to explain a need for two actors in the same role in the same year from the same studio–it’s not like the dueling Quicksilvers over at Marvel in The Avengers and The X-Men films emerging from separate studios.

Check it out for yourself–here’s the latest trailer for Justice League:

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x-men-apocalypse-quicksilver-rescue-scene

Superheroes in movies and television.  It’s the entertainment explosion of the past ten years, beginning with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008.  Yet after only ten years, after so many Marvel lookalikes and too many dark Dark Knights, what superhero shows rise above the rest?  All fanboys and fangirls have an opinion.  The best part is that there truly is something for everyone.  Maybe you like Netflix’s cool and gritty Luke Cage.  Or maybe the CW parade of DC series is your thing.  If you’re like us, you love Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy over all the Marvel and DC team-up movies.  Maybe you like it all.  Director Bryan Singer created another X-Men entry that was released last summer, overlooked by many, but a solid entry in the X-Men cinema archive: X-Men: Apocalypse.  It’s streaming now on Amazon Prime, and it’s not to be missed, especially for Logan fans collecting all of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine appearances and everyone looking for a great superhero assemblage.

How often do superhero movies, or any other drama, sci-fi, fantasy, or action franchise movie, threaten stakes as great as the end of the world?  How many actually take you through an apocalypse?  X-Men: Apocalypse delivers the rampage and destruction you read about as a kid inside the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  If you enjoy seeing great superhero powers on the big screen, as with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver remains the defending champion.  He gets even more character development and screen time in X-Men: Apocalypse.

X-men plane

As kids we debated over what power would allow you to triumph over your superhero peers, and Singer must have done the same thing and landed with the same answer.  Speed.  Despite giving us the best superhero TV series of the 1980s and today with its two looks at Barry Allen/The Flash, DC Entertainment has not yet shown us all a speedster could do.  Will that happen in Justice League this year?  Any speedster work will be compared to Quicksilver.  Until that film hits theaters, X-Men: Apocalypse is worth a second look for Quicksilver’s big scene alone.  But there’s more.

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Marvel Studios has released much awesomeness in the past few days for Guardians of the Galaxy fans.  We’ve seen two bright, loud, vibrant, and colorful movie posters (above) plus ten character posters, including the first great look at Elizabeth Debicki (Man from UNCLE) as golden girl Ayesha.  Still no look at Nathan Fillion or Sylvester Stallone yet. Are they even going to be in the movie?

Yesterday the main cast each released and promoted their respective posters on social media.  Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Dave Bautista’s Drax, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Michael Rooker’s Yondu, and Vin Diesel’s Baby Groot are each featured on individual posters, with newcomer Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Kurt Russell as Ego, Dad to Star-Lord, also getting the spotlight along with Debicki.

   

The posters really look like mock-ups for a superb Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, trading card series.  Collect ’em all.  Topps, please take note.  Take a look at the rest of the posters after the break:

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Next week Quirk Books is releasing its follow-up look at the obscure side of comic books with The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains, a companion book to its 2015 release The League of Regrettable Superheroes (reviewed previously here at borg.com).  Cartoonist and graphic designer Jon Morris has again researched the archives of Digital Comic Museum and Comic Book Plus to locate oddities from the Golden Age of comics to more recent series.

Morris collected more than 100 of these antagonists of the comic page, many only serving their plot in a single issue of a long forgotten publication.  These are villains that today seem laughable as bad guys, like Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Bloor (The Dictator of Uranus), The Horrible Hand (a giant hand), and The Human Flying Fish.  The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is a great excuse to look back to the roots of comicdom, its creators, and the publications that have come and gone.  Morris’s overview of the far recesses of the Golden Age of comics may remind readers of the changing times–the changing audiences–for comic books, and how the industry has grown.  Creators of the obscure are mentioned in the book when known, and sidebars list plenty of humorous weaknesses of these vile fellows.  The Balloon Maker is particularly nefarious, and a baddie before his time–he’s something out of House of Wax or Silence of the Lambs.  As much as some entries are obscure, others, like MODOK, are better known–but still strange.

   

You’ll see plenty of examples of full color covers and interior art from the characters represented, as well as characters created by legends in comics like Dick Sprang, Frank Frazetta, Gill Fox, Jack Cole, Otto Binder, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Simon, Neal Adams, and John Romita.

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Last seen in the theater 62 years ago, author Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel is returning to theaters next week in a new adaptation.  Although the title may sound like a somber, pastoral story you might see from the likes of Jane Austen, get ready for a psychological thriller that could only come from the pen of the author of Rebecca and The Birds.  Film adaptations of both of those films would become thriller classics for director Alfred Hitchcock, with Rebecca as the 1941 Best Picture Academy Award winner.  The original 1952 adaptation of My Cousin Rachel starred multiple Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Rachel, a beautiful Englishwoman believed to have murdered a man under her care.  de Havilland’s sister, Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, had been nominated for an Oscar for Rebecca.

This time around Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill) wrote a new adaptation of du Maurier’s novel and directs the film.  He cleverly cast an Oscar-winning Rachel for the role of Rachel–Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Mummy)–whose performance looks quite convincing in the first trailer released for the film.  Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) plays Rachel’s cousin, the role originally played by Richard Burton.

The overall look and feel from the film’s trailer is similar to other Gothic novels made into movies: dark, creepy, and mysterious, particularly in the romance between the two lead actors, like that found in Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and more recently, Crimson Peak.  Check out this trailer for My Cousin Rachel:

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Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is a series of novels and short stories that began in 1992, showcasing an elaborate and detailed parallel history of Earth set between 1888 and 1990 (so far), where Bram Stoker’s Dracula is really a biographical account of the real Count, and the Count controls England by winning the hand of Queen Victoria.  Anno Dracula is a steampunk mix of fictional characters and real people spanning a century in a bit of a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Legenderry construct.  Writers take note:  If you want to see a master storybuilder in action, read Newman–few authors have a such a command of their subjects as Newman has of vampire lore and film.  Check out our interview with Newman back in 2013 here at borg.com, as well as our reviews of his sequels to the novel Anno Dracula:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha here, and Johnny Alucard here.

Gunga Din, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lestat de Lioncourt (from Interview with the Vampire), Prince Mamuwalde (from Blacula), Doctor Moreau, Count Orlok (from Nosferatu), Allan Quatermain, and even Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker all show up in the early stories of Newman’s fantasy world, alongside real people of the past like Billy the Kid, Catherine the Great, Joseph Merrick, William Morris, Beatrice Potter, and Orson Welles.  Newman’s entirely new story is in the form of a comic book series, Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem, published by Titan Comics and illustrated by Paul McCaffrey.  Here is the summary of the series, which will see its first issue available this week:

1895.  Prince Dracula has ruled Great Britain for ten years, spreading vampirism through every level of society.  On the eve of Dracula’s Jubilee, radical forces gather to oppose the tyrant.  Kate Reed, vampire journalist and free-thinker, takes a seat on the revolutionary Council of Seven Days, though she learns that the anarchist group harbors a traitor in its midst.  The Grey Men, Dracula’s dreaded secret police, have been ordered to quash all resistance to the rule of the arch-vampire.  With intrigue on all sides, the scene is set for an explosive addition to the Anno Dracula series.
   
Look for Thomas Edison, and his powerful, recurring leading women characters Kate Reed and Penelope Churchward in this all-new story, plus many more familiar names.  A variety of great covers to the first issue are available, with artwork by Paul McCaffrey, Tom Mandrake, Brian Williamson, Jeff Zornow, and Mike Collins.  Check out this preview of Issue #1 from Titan Comics:

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If you’re enjoying CW’s new Riverdale series as much as we are, then you probably have a new appreciation for Archie’s pal Jughead Jones.  The classic Jughead has always had an insatiable appetite, practically living at the Riverdale diner.  Actually we wouldn’t be surprised to see him move into the back of the joint on the television series since he lost his home at the drive-in theater, which recently closed.  This month Archie Comics is taking Jughead to a dark place and asks: What if Jughead’s hunger came from a sinister place?

When a murderous menace is on the prowl, taking the lives of some of the most well-known and esteemed inhabitants of Riverdale, Jughead and his family’s dark legacy comes to light. 

It’s Jughead: The Hunger.  It’s a story that will be a prime target for fans of the successful and popular series Afterlife With Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

   

Writer Frank Tieri (Wolverine) and artist Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers) team-up for an oversized Archie Horror one-shot.  Check out this preview courtesy of Archie Comics:

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As Rock and Roll is concerned, there was no one bigger than Chuck Berry–no one that more great musicians credited with their own successes, and no one more synonymous with the music multiple generations think of when they hear a singer holding a guitar leading a band with a lively, loud, and fast rhythm, bending guitar strings and blending styles, as well as the very image of the brash, cocky headliner across the world today we know simply as the “rock star”.  Berry passed away this weekend at the age of 90.  Unforgettable hits Johnny B. Goode, Maybelline, No Particular Place To Go, Roll Over Beethoven, My Ding-a-Ling, My Tambourine, and Sweet Little Sixteen only highlight his long career.

Even modern generations know his name thanks to a joke in Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox plays his trademark song Johnny B. Goode with a band that happens to include a fictional cousin of Chuck Berry named Marvin.  The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys all incorporated elements from Berry’s music, including covering his songs.  John Lennon said of Berry, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might have called it Chuck Berry.”  Berry never stopped performing.  Only five years ago Berry performed Johnny B. Goode at a concert in his honor with modern legends including fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC.  And a new album was in the works.

Chuck Berry with Carl Sagan at a concert commemorating the Voyager accomplishments.

NASA and outer space enthusiasts will remember that Chuck Berry performing Johnny B. Goode is one of only two modern American songs included on the Voyager space probe golden records, which we’ve discussed before here at borg.com.  The Voyager missions are celebrating their 40th year in space in 2017.  The selection of music was made by Carl Sagan and the small team that collected music and images for the records (the complete playlist is listed here).  By our count this leaves only one remaining living performer whose music was featured on the albums: Valya Balkanska, a Bulgarian folk singer whose song “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” was included on the golden records.  Balkanska is 75 years old, and performed the song for the album at age 30.

Where are the Voyager space probes, and Chuck Berry’s historic albums, now?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you think of the 1985 movie Fletch, you probably think of Chevy Chase’ s humorous, over-the-top take on undercover reporter I.M. Fletcher.  But Fletch the movie was only loosely based on the award-winning mystery novels by author Gregory Mcdonald.  Mcdonald wrote dozens of novels before his death in 2008.  One of those is Snatched, a kidnapping story reprinted this year for the first time in 30 years by Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime imprint.

Originally published in 1978 as Who Took Toby Rinaldi? in the U.S. and Snatched in the UK, Mcdonald crafted a thriller about the botched kidnapping of the eight-year-old son of a Persian Gulf region ambassador to the United Nations as he readies a proposal with global impact before the U.N.  The proposal itself is a bit of a Pelican Brief MacGuffin, but the real action follows a thug named Spike as he hides the abducted boy, Toby Rinaldi.  Toby was on his way to meet his mother Christina for a visit to a Disneyland-esque theme park in California called Fantazyland.  Key to the action and tension are the efforts and setbacks faced by Christina as she attempts to catch the kidnapper, despite her husband’s foreign security squad in the U.S. trying to keep the kidnapping secret.

   

Snatched is a great read.  Its slow, simmering pace reflects nailbiters of the 1960s-1970s like The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Charley Varrick, Magnum Force, or Bullitt.  Many of the characters are intentionally frustrating.  The characters are frustrated, and that is channeled to the reader page after page.  Toby’s father is caught between the direct demands of his king and responsibility to family.  The political factions behind the kidnapping plot–a small group of tried and tested, denizen mercenaries whose failure to communicate and coordinate because of their own personal distractions cause them to trip over each other as they attempt what might otherwise be the simplest of crimes.  Despite Mcdonald’s Fletch character translated to the big screen, make no mistake:  Snatched is not a comedy.  It’s also low on violence, other than a little boy in jeopardy as the main plot point, which is handled deftly by Mcdonald.

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Grimm fans are pretty grim right now.  Just as the series hit its full stride and seemed to only gain steam, its final season is winding down.  As tonight’s finale arc begins, at least we now know that star David Giuntoli won’t be away from the small screen very long.  He is beginning work on a new series pilot for CBS.

Mission Control will follow the fictional lives of NASA employees as they balance managing the current space program and their own personal drama.  Giuntoli will star in the series along with Unforgettable and Without a Trace star Poppy Montgomery.  Montgomery is continuing her long run on television after four years as the lead on Unforgettable, which switched networks from CBS to A&E in its final season.

The new series hails from The Martian novel author Andy Weir and the film adaptation’s producer Simon Kinberg.  Jeremy Podeswa (Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Riches) will direct.  Other cast members include Levi Fiehler (Ray Donovan, The Fosters) as Izzy, Mercy Malick (iZombie, Major Crimes) as Hoff, and ubiquitous character actor Nestor Serrano as Diaz.

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