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Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level you know exactly what to expect when you select a movie based on a video game.  Any film worth its production costs needs to bring general audiences into the world, the director and writers need to then build that world, establish heroes, fight battles, provide over-the-top action and effects, and the hero(es) must achieve some kind of goal.  The stakes are high, often the fate of the entire world.  And that rarely leaves room for character development.  Entries include Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Monster Hunter, Prince of Persia, Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slew of Pokémon movies, and they go back decades to the original concept film Tron, which had a video game at its center that players didn’t get to play until after the movie.  Lesser rated entries include movies like Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter, and In the Name of the King.

This year’s big-budget release Mortal Kombat, both a remake and a reboot and adaptation of a series of martial arts fantasy games going back to 1992, leans heavily into Asian action movie culture.  It arrives in a growing marketplace for API and AAPI films, in a year including Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.  

So where does Mortal Kombat land in comparison?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you think of your favorite Christmas movies, you probably think of Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or even Die Hard.  But maybe you don’t.  What about movies that aren’t big-budget blockbusters, that never made it to the big screen and in fact weren’t intended for a theater release?  I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies is a look at a subset of holiday films that might be thought of as the unsung heroes of Christmas: Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.  The genre has a niche fandom, a fandom whose creations are about lost romance, conjuring a magical spirit, featuring locales of finely decked halls, strings of lights, and rafters of evergreen–and lots of happy people, at least by the end.  They also feature some favorite actors from other genres.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Insidious.  That’s the nature of the threat to all life in the trilogy of novels called Star Trek Coda, which winds-up in David Mack’s character- and action-packed novel Oblivion’s Gate, coming to bookstores tomorrow.  Star Wars gave us the Death Star, but at least you could try to negotiate with the Empire.  The enemy here is more like a virus, where resistance may–this time–actually really be futile.

For every effort worth fighting for, somebody will stand in the way, attempting to thwart actions even when they are aimed to benefit everyone.  In this tale that role falls to Will Riker, although readers will find a different twist, different from doppelganger Thomas Riker but also similar, more Tuvix actually.  And despite the twist this Riker is as brilliant as ever.  As with Coda book one, Dayton Ward’s Moments Asunder (reviewed here), and book two, James Swallow’s The Ashes of Tomorrow (reviewed here), Mack pulls some of our favorite supporting characters in for a swan song of epic proportions.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid in school, periodically we were given book orders, full of discount versions of books, but also posters and popular magazines like Dynamite, and lots of tie-ins with the latest news on current movies and TV shows.  Anything Star Wars was quickly added to our book order form, and that’s what Titan’s latest tie-in reminds me of most.  Star Wars Insider: The Galaxy’s Greatest Heroes looks at 16 of the biggest heroes of the franchise from the creators and actors behind them.  But after nearly 45 years, the book allows a greater opportunity for even more people behind the scenes to offer their commentary on fan-favorite characters, with something for every Star Wars fan.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The first two episodes–a full third of the series–have arrived for Marvel’s fourth live-action series of the year on the Disney+ streaming platform and it’s a good start, already faring better than those prior series.  Hawkeye is about Jeremy Renner’s unassuming superhero Clint Barton aka Hawkeye from the Avengers movies–and yet it isn’t.  Although the first episode gets off to a slow start, it’s Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, who replaces Hawkeye in the comics, who proves quickly she’s going to be an exciting fixture for the next iteration of the Avengers line-up.  She’s in good company, joining Black Widow’s Florence Pugh’s new Black Widow to take the franchise forward, along with Natalie Portman as new Thor in next year’s movie Thor: Love and Thunder, and Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk in next year’s series She-Hulk. 

Hawkeye is billed as a holiday show and it is, but it falls short in that department, probably because Marvel/Disney didn’t use a key arrow in its quiver: the creator of your second favorite Christmas movie.

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A galaxy of ships is getting even bigger.  Hero Collector’s famous collection of model ships of the Star Trek line continues with the launch of three new ships from Star Trek: Discovery.  The U.S.S. Discovery-A (Refit), Section 31 Deimos-Class and Cleveland Booker’s ship will ready fans for the show’s fourth season now getting underway.  These ships continue to fill in the giant Star Trek: Universe collection, which most recently showcased starships from Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. 

Take a look at some high-quality images of these new releases below, now available for preorder here direct from Hero Collector and available soon here at Amazon:

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It’s the ultimate subscription box… or cube.  Only it’s a one-shot purchase that will give Star Trek fans something to look forward to for 24 days.  And it may just give your postal carrier a hernia.  It’s a hefty, giant reproduction of The Borg Cube in the first ever Star Trek Collector’s Advent Calendar, new this year from Hero Collector.  Collectors of Star Trek character pins will especially want to ask Santa for this prize, but it features enough variety that there is sure to be something to share with a house full of Trek fans.  It’s a box that reminds us of the old Firefly subscription crates–with similar variety and quality–a few big items and several smaller items.

The big wins include a first warp flight-inspired espresso mug for your raktajino, original series-era bridge screen-inspired coasters, and some NextGen socks, but that’s all we’re saying (OK, just a bit more below).  Act fast to get it soon: Pre-order here direct from Hero Collector, offered at a discount from SRP as of today’s date.  We didn’t find this available anywhere else.

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We’ve seen some good variants on classic board games introduced over the years by USAopoly, and this next merger will appeal to fans of Dungeons & Dragons’ recent years of comic book stories.  Clue: Dungeons & Dragons is a licensed update to the 2001 edition of the game with new characters, playing pieces, and gameboard.  It’s the game of Clue with a Dungeons & Dragons theme, a good way to pull in younger players who aren’t yet ready for roleplaying games, but want to join in with stories of fun fantasy adventurers like Minsc and Boo.

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Next year Firefly is getting a reboot–a jump start–as its current monthly series from BOOM! Studios winds down.  The series will be titled All-New Firefly, and it catches up with the crew of the Serenity following the events of the movie Serenity.  Kaylee Frye is now Captain Frye, stepping into Mal Reynolds’ shoes, taking on the same kinds of jobs fans of the TV series will be familiar with.

The series will be written by David M. Booher with artwork by Jordi Pérez.  Primary cover art will be by Mona Finden, with variant covers from Dan Mora, Ethan Young, Dani Strips, and Junggeun Yoon.

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Although Sarah Michelle Gellar herself is only 44, BOOM! Studios and 20th Television is taking Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame into her 50s .  It’s a new limited monthly series called Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer Think Old Man Logan, Old Man Hawkeye, or Old Man Quill–or a much younger Old Laurie Strode or Old Sarah Connor–with a middle-aged, butt-kicking superheroine–and you’ll see where Buffy is heading.  And from the first looks at some variant comic book covers and concept art, Xander and Spike are coming along for the ride.  Take a look at some covers and art from the series below.

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