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A Monster Calls explores the death of a parent by a young child, how a child might deal with death, and the death of daughter from the perspective of a mother.  It is a film with a complicated past.  The story originated with author Siobhan Dowd, who died before the idea for the book was very far along.  Writer Patrick Ness was given her notes and created the novel in 2011, illustrated by Jim Kay, that would go on to win the Carnegie Medal.  For the movie adaptation the story was further revised by Ness as screenwriter, and again by director Juan Antonio Bayona who added an art focus for the film’s little boy, an element reflecting the director’s own youth.

In A Monster Calls: The Art and Vision Behind the Film, approximately a third of the book is devoted to interviews with the cast and crew, a review of the film’s heartbreaking story of loss and an Ent-like monster accompanying a boy on a difficult journey.  The interviews reflect a vast array of views and approaches to the story–everyone involved with the film has a surprisingly different twist on the story and its meaning.  We hear from director J.A. Bayona, author/screenwriter Patrick Ness, actors Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, and the young star Lewis MacDougall, as well as director of photography Oscar Faura, producer Belén Atienza, line producer Sandra Hermida, editors Bernat Vilapalana and Jaume Martí, sound designer Oriol Tarragó, and composer Fernando Velázquez.

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Along with its serious topic, the book and movie have fantastical elements, and A Monster Calls: The Art and Vision Behind the Film accordingly provides insight into the creation of the titular monster, Liam Neeson’s first foray into motion capture acting as the monster, concept art, site location selections, animated sequences, model work, make-up, costume renderings, and CGI.  We learn how the miniature work came together, and how the visual and sound effects were created for key scenes, including trial work for effects that did not make it into the film.

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alien-covenant

Directed by Ridley Scott and written by John Logan, Alien: Covenant is coming to theaters this summer.  It is another of those rare and unusual films:  The prequel that is also a sequel.  It is the sequel to Prometheus (2012), so it is the second installment in the Alien franchise chronologically, prequel to the original Alien (1979), and the sixth movie produced in the series.

The film tracks a colony ship, the Covenant, which arrives at a habitable planet and finds Michael Fassbender’s cyborg David, who we last saw at the end of Prometheus.  Fassbender plays dual roles, as the Weyland Corporation’s creation is also a member of the Covenant, as seen in the below preview.

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Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, and Guy Pearce return from Prometheus in Alien: Covenant.  New players include James Franco, Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Billy Crudup (Watchmen), Danny McBride (Superbad, Fanboys), Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight), Carmen Ejogo  (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Amy Seimetz (Stranger Things), Jussie Smollett (Revenge), Callie Hernandez (Machete Kills, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Nathaniel Dean (Farscape), and Alexander England (Gods of Egypt).

Check out this unusual preview, the first five minutes of the film: View full article »

Who is the Iron Fist?

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It all leads into the Netflix series The Defenders coming this September.

First we met Matt “Daredevil” Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) in Daredevil, then Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Luke “Power Man” Cage (Mike Colter) in the series Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.  Next month we meet the last member of Marvel’s newest incarnation of the team from the classic comic book series The Defenders.  Danny Rand, the Iron Fist (played by Finn Jones) in next month’s series Iron Fist.

For the most part the Disney-backed Marvel empire has maintained quality storytelling (excluding only a few standalone character sequels along the way) since Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige lit up the franchise with Iron Man in 2008.  Efforts with the networks included good efforts with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter (and a new X-Men series Legion gaining steam), but the real serial success has been seen with the Netflix series.

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So who is this last member of The Defenders?  Netflix sheds some light on Iron Fist in these two previews: View full article »

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Hasbro announced fourteen Star Wars action figures will be released this year with re-creations of the original Kenner packaging from 1978 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars.  At this week’s New York Toy Fair 2017, Hasbro announced it initially will release the original twelve action figures in their classic cardbacks from 1978: Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Ben Kenobi, Chewbacca, Han Solo, Stormtrooper, Jawa, Sandpeople, and Death Squad Commander.

We’ve all seen these figures not only in their original 3 3/4-inch size with this packaging, but in re-releases over the years for various editions.  The difference is the new 40th anniversary editions will include new sculpts in a six-inch format.  This size difference explains why you might notice the new versions don’t exactly match the original bubble card placement.

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In addition to the original twelve figures, three figures will be released as exclusives: R5-D4 will only be available at Gamestop stores on retro card, the AT-AT Driver will only be available at Wal-Mart stores in the standard Black Series box, and the X-Wing pilot Luke foil edition on retro card will only be sold at Star Wars Celebration 2017.  A Snowtrooper will also be available in the same size in the standard Black Series box.

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Darth Vader will also be sold with a recreation of the infamous Kenner Early Bird Certificate set, the empty cardboard box Kenner sold in Christmas 1977 to meet the demand for Star Wars toys after the movie’s surprise success.  The original Early Bird Certificate granted purchasers a voucher for figures of Luke, Leia, R2, and Chewbacca and had a special cardboard display set to display the first 12 figures.

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At New York Toy Fair 2017 Funko proved yet again that no other toy company compares when it comes down to sheer volume of licenses it holds, and the company continues to venture into the obscure and retro as shown in its line of ReAction, classic 3 3/4-inch Kenner-inspired action figures we have covered here at borg.com since day one.  We’ve seen Alien, Arrow, Back to the Future, Big Trouble in Little China, Breaking Bad, The Bride of Frankenstein, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Crow, The Dark Crystal, Dracula, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Escape from New York, The Fifth Element, Fight Club, Firefly, The Flash, Frankenstein, Friday the 13th, The Golden Girls, The Goonies, Gremlins, Halloween, Hellraiser III, The Invisible Man, Jaws, The Karate Kid, Masters of the Universe, The Mummy, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Phantom of the Opera, Predator, Pulp Fiction, The Rocketeer, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Scarface, Scream, Star Trek, Suicide Squad, Taxi Driver, The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tomorrowland, Trick or Treat, and The Wolfman.  (Some carry the Super 7 label).

What more could you want?

How about Planet of the Apes, Hellboy, Shogun, Robotech, the classic Batman 1966 TV series, Iron Maiden, The Toxic Avenger, Street Fighter 2, and more Alien, plus figures from the sequel Aliens, more Masters of the Universe, and more of those ultimate retro action figures that never were: The Worst.

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With Planet of the Apes you’ll see Cornelius, Zira, Taylor, an Ape Soldier, and General Ursus.  With Robotech, at least six VF series robots, six Shogun figures, Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and several villains from Batman ’66, as well as the classic Batmobile.  Hellboy features Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz, and Lobster Johnson.

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A secret project nearly three years in the making was shared this month with the announcement of a tribute to the artist who created the fantasy comic book series Tellos.  Artist Mike Wieringo, a friend of many, died from a heart attack in 2007 and the industry banded together as the “Secret Friends of Ringo” led by Tellos writer Todd Dezago to create a heretofore undisclosed tribute project and give something to one of Wieringo’s favorite causes in the process.  The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute is a giant 500 page, original graphic novel to be released in two over-sized, hardcover volumes.   It features the artwork of more than 200 of the comics industry’s most popular and talented artists, dedicated to the memory of Wieringo, with all proceeds from this project being donated to the ASPCA.

The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute continues the adventures of characters in the original Tellos series created by Wieringo and Dezago and published by Image Comics (and briefly by Gorilla Comics): Jarek—a young hero with “magikal” abilities, Koj—a tiger-warrior who is Jarek’s partner and protector, Serra—the swashbuckling pirate queen, and Rikk—the fox-thief bent on finding his fortune.  The original comic book series of ten issues ran from 1999 to 2000.  Three one-shot issues followed:  Maiden Voyage, The Last Heist, and Sons and Moons, followed by a three-issue mini-series, Tales of Tellos, in 2004.  Not long before he passed away, Wieringo had talked about working on a new Tellos.

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You can only order the books at this link.  Because of they way the group is providing the proceeds to the ASPCA, these books will not be available through any other source.

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If the future was bleak and the apocalypse was coming at you like a freight train, would you want to know?  How would you know?  Would you get an obvious message like a government report about a meteor?  Some divine message?  A secret message, encoded only for you?  Would you prefer to remain blissfully unaware and let fate take its course?  What do you want to know?  What don’t you want to know?

Let’s translate that to movies:  Do you want to know the genre of a film before you watch it?  What if the genre itself could be construed as a spoiler?  This was the problem, or the best feature–depending on your point of view–of last year’s sleeper Midnight Special.  Through a fairly heart-pounding, blood-pumping few hours, moviegoers could only guess, but did not know for certain, the complete genre spectrum of the movie, until the very end.  That’s a heckuva feat.  The result: Midnight Special was one of the best films of last year in any category (don’t click here if you don’t want to see that genre and how we at borg.com rated it).  The flipside of not knowing what genre you’re watching can be found in the 2009 film Knowing, one of many films that opt to deliver a special message of some sort of impending future peril via secret message, and one of the few that holds back on the very nature of the genre until the end of the film.

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The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fifth Element, The Number 23, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Day After Tomorrow, Unbreakable, The Game–all have something in common with Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City, I, Robot), and starring Nicolas Cage as a father whose son receives a letter from a 50-year-old time capsule that includes nothing but numbers–numbers that we learn early in the film are the precise dates of future, major Earth disasters.  And as the boy receives the letter a few dates remain on the list that haven’t yet arrived.  We saw interesting forms of messages about the future in the Final Destination series, Donnie Darko, Source Code, The Adjustment Bureau, and Butterfly Effect.  Knowing doesn’t catch up to any of these movies, but it’s an interesting study in writing stories that tease genres and toy with viewers’ imaginations about what is real or potential as to the subject of “the future.”

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twin-peaks-lunch-box

Along with Funko’s announcement earlier at London Toy Fair 2017 of a line of Kenner style ReAction figures and its famous Pops! bobbleheads, even more Twin Peaks tie-ins are on their way.  To help promote Showtime’s launch of the Twin Peaks sequel and reboot this year after a 25-year absence for this weekend’s New York Toy Fair, online superstore Entertainment Earth and toymaker Bif Bang Pow! have announced new Twin Peaks items every fan will be after.

Two lunch boxes will be available, inspired by classic tin versions popular in the 1950s through the 1970s.  You can get the “Welcome to Twin Peaks” style or a version featuring the famous Double ‘R’ Cafe (home of damned good coffee and cherry pie).  The “Welcome to Twin Peaks” lunch box features the wooden sign from the show introduction and images from the series.  The Double ‘R’ Cafe lunch box features the diner on the front and back, plus images of a cup of coffee, a slice of pie, and the TP emblem against a checkered tablecloth background under the handle.

A smaller tin tote will be available featuring the Black Lodge logo.  It holds a matching deck of playing cards.

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Another unique item is a 192-page hardcover writing journal based on Agent Dale Cooper’s trademark microcassette recorder–the one he used to record messages to Diane back at his office.

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melee

One of the great things about attending San Diego Comic-Con is being introduced to hundreds–if not thousands–of new characters you have never seen.  They come by way of cosplayers who have spent countless hours matching their wardrobe, armor, weapons, and other props to conjure well-known characters.  Many are mash-ups of multiple characters.  Some aren’t specific characters but evoke a time or place.  Rarer yet are costumes cosplayers just decide to make of their own creations.  It appears that it is this last group that will be featured on a new Syfy Channel series called Cosplay Meleé.   

After the break, check out a preview of the new series.  This is Syfy’s second foray into a cosplay-themed series.  The first was Heroes of Cosplay, a short-lived show that filmed professional and semi-professional cosplayers preparing to compete at various comic book and pop culture conventions across the U.S.  That show had the benefit of not being a Top Chef-variant series–viewers actually watched as the cosplayers built their costumes, usually based on characters from movies, TV, or anime, and they had the same time they would have in real life to build their cosplay.  Certain contestants showed the positive side of cosplay, like the amiable contest winner Chloe Dykstra, and certain contestants… didn’t.  A recent similar show began in 2015 on British Channel 4 called WTF is Cosplay?

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The hook for Cosplay Meleé for many genre fans will be host Yvette Nicole Brown, co-star of the TV series Community.  A make-up and special effects crewman from various movies (Christian Beckman) and a model (LeeAnna Vamp) will serve as co-judges with Brown.  Four new contestants will be featured on each show, with a $10,000 prize at stake.

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jonny-quest-figures

We’ve been raving about the three and three-quarters inch scale Kenner-style action figures from Funko’s ReAction line here at borg.com for a few years now.  If style and nostalgia are your jam but not necessarily screen-accurate sculpts, it’s hard to beat the myriad of licenses that Funko has secured.  What you may not have seen is that Figures Toy Company has been producing a similar series of figures reflecting the larger, eight-inch Mego action figure line also popular in the 1970s.

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Like Funko, Figures Toy Company has secured licenses of brands, movies and TV shows you’d never think would surface again, like Evel Knievel, Dukes of Hazzard, DC Comics, KISS, Shazam, Batman TV series heroes and villains, Super Friends, Scooby Doo, Tarzan, Dallas, The Monkees, The Three Stooges, Gilligan’s Island, and most recently Jonny QuestAlso like Funko, don’t expect Sideshow Toys’ level of detail.  The appeal of these lines is pure nostalgia, and packaging is half of the value.  The company also didn’t forget accessories and playsets, like a great set of Batman weaponsthe Batbus and Batlabclassic style carrying casesGotham GCPD bus, professional wrestling accessories, the Teen Titans bus, and the classic Batcave.

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Your editor with the original Mego Robin figure, and at right the new Figures Toy Company version.

The toy company has also stepped ahead into more recent licenses, creating a line of Mego-style Harry Potter action figures.  Some of Figures Toy Company’s action figure lines are also offered in a 12-inch and 18-inch version.  Many lines were released in limited editions and exclusives, and some can only be found on Amazon and eBay, and many are still available with new figures released frequently.  Not only do many have the Mego-style retro packaging, others have the Kresge Stores-style packages your parents could pick up in the 1970s as point-of-sale purchases at checkout in local dime stores across the country.

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