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iBoy is a 2017 Netflix original movie that may appeal to fans of Unbreakable and Attack the Block starring Bill Milner (Dunkirk, X-Men: First Class) as Tom, a teenager in London readying for exams, who is friends with Lucy, played by Maisie Williams (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) who he has been infatuated with but never asked out.  After he finally works up the nerve he arrives at her apartment to find masked thugs attacking Lucy’s family and raping her.  His instinct is to run and call the police, but they shoot him in the head as he’s running away and they leave Tom for dead.

A dark and serious film with a sci-fi twist, iBoy is based on the 2010 novel by Kevin Brooks.  The film does not stretch much beyond its title, but it does offer up a British teenage thriller where the two survivors (Lucy of rape and Tom of the hole in his skull) grow together to help each other with their trauma, using sci-fi as a storytelling device.  The sci-fi element makes Tom a superhero in the realm of Bruce Willis’s masked vigilante in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable or Rami Malek’s hacker Elliot in Mr. ROBOT.  When the bullet hit Tom’s head it went through his smart phone, leaving bits of the phone technology in his brain permanently, too dangerous to be surgically removed.  Those bits soon allow Tom to tap into the electrical power and communications grid and he learns quickly how to harness his power to avenge the pain caused to Lucy, who stays home from school and doesn’t want to leave her apartment.  But Maisie Williams’ Lucy gets her own opportunity for revenge once the higher steps of the criminal underworld ladder begin to hone in on Tom as the mastermind that is putting them in jail one by one.

More drama than thriller, the film offers up a fairly simple plot, yet those intrigued by the life of teens in a big European city in the realm of Attack the Block’s street thugs will see that drugs and guns cause trouble for inner-city kids everywhere.  The visual sci-fi element–Tom pulling data from people and machines from all across the city–is nicely done, and the production overall is something better than a typical made-for TV film.

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We had a first look at Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa, the ruler of the kingdom of Wakanda whose alter ego is the Black Panther, in last year’s great superhero mash-up Captain America: Civil War, and a teaser trailer back in June.  Next year Marvel Studios is giving Boseman his own solo movie in the big screen release of Black Panther, based on the comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four.  The latest preview of the film arrived today.

T’Challa must defend his kingdom from being torn apart by enemies outside and within.  Boseman, who portrayed both Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42 (reviewed here) and Thurgood Marshall in last week’s release of Marshall (reviewed here), brings along an impressive supporting cast.  Adonis himself, Creed star Michael B. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, and Andy Serkis is Klaw, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Forest Whitaker is Zuri, The Hobbit and Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is Everett K. Ross, and Green Lantern’s Doctor Waller, Angela Bassett is Ramonda.

Creed’s Ryan Coogler directs the film with Creed’s Hannah Beachler providing some impressive production design work and Ruth E. Carter (Marshall, Selma) created some incredible new costume designs for this new Marvel world.

Here is the latest trailer for Black Panther:

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How often does a young actor get a week where he is featured in two studio trailers?  Last week that was Charlie Heaton, the 21-year-old actor known for his role as Jonathan Byers, the awkward teenage brother of missing kid Will and son of Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers on last year’s hit retro series Stranger Things.  He’s back in the final preview for Season 2, premiering on Netflix next week.  One of the questions that fans of Stranger Things will be watching for this season is whether Jonathan and Nancy finally get together this year.

Last week 20th Century Fox released a trailer for the next Marvel Studios X-Men spinoff, The New Mutants.  Based on a three-issue story arc from the comic book series in 1984, this very different X-Men story is being marketed as Stephen King meets John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  A horror film blending with the superhero genre but without supersuits or supervillains, it focuses on five mutant kids including Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball, played by Heaton.  Doctor Who and Game of Thrones viewers will also notice Maisie Williams co-starring in the film–she will play the character known as Wolfsbane.

Even the feel of The New Mutants has a retro vibe, which is probably why Stranger Things’ co-star Heaton was cast in the film.  Check out these two new trailers featuring Charlie Heaton, the final Stranger Things season two trailer and the first trailer for The New Mutants:

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A contender for this year’s best fantasy novel is Curtis Craddock’s debut fantasy An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors.  Don’t let the cumbersome title fool you—this is a smoothly written, elegantly crafted, and highly entertaining read!  Poised as the first in a series, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is a political fantasy–and historical fantasy–reminiscent of classic Guy Gavriel Kay novels like A Song for Arbonne or Tigana.  Set in the fantasy world of The Risen Kingdoms, with superficial similarities to Europe’s 17th century Baroque era, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors presents a world constantly on the brink of war, twisted with layer upon layer of intrigue, with only one firm villain and two clear heroes—and a whole cast of in-betweens, whose shifting loyalties form the uncertain foundation of the tale.

Onto this stage steps Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs of l’Empire Celeste.  Born with a physical disfigurement, Isabelle has grown up in her father’s court, suffering his abuse and brutal magic, almost entirely friendless and alone, and nearly ignored.  In this atmosphere, she’s able to pursue her true passions of science and mathematics, becoming (secretly) one of the foremost mathematicians of her day.  Her only loyal companions are the man charged with guarding her since birth, King’s Own Musketeer Jean-Claude; and a curious handmaiden, Marie.

Thanks to her disfigurement and low esteem at her father’s court, Isabelle believes life will hold no more than this—until foreign machinations thrust her into international politics.  Talked into accepting Principe Julio de Aragoth’s marriage proposal, and believing this is her chance for peace and love, Isabelle and Jean-Claude set sail into a more treacherous journey than they bargained for.

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Moviegoers will hear a different kind of “BOOooo!  BOOOooo!!!” in theaters this coming week.  The Princess Bride turned 30 this past week and TCM Big Screen Classics is back again partnering with Fathom Events to round out a major year of retrospective screenings.  You’ll have two days only to see Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, Fezzig, Miracle Max & Valerie, Prince Humperdinck, Vissini, and Grandpa back in theaters, tomorrow, October 15, and Wednesday, October 18.

The Princess Bride?  Back on the big screen?  Inconceivable!

You can also get in on a “twivia” contest for great prizes.  Check out the contest here.  Accompanying this return to theaters is a 30th anniversary home release of the film (which does not appear to offer any updates to prior versions), available in a Blu-ray and Digital HD combo and on DVD.  Fans of the film should take a look at one of the better behind the scenes looks at any movie in The Princess Bride–A Celebration, previously reviewed here at borg.com.  It has some great Polaroid photographs from director Rob Reiner.  And if you haven’t read the original story to your kids or grandkids, get William Goldman’s classic novel, still in print and available here.  Goldman won Oscars for two other all-time greats: All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

You can’t beat this cast and the actors who were all at great places in each of their careers–Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, André the Giant, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, and Fred Savage.  For the younger generation: yes–that is the same Robin Wright who starred in Wonder Woman earlier this year and Blade Runner 2049, in theaters now.  A true classic, last year The Princess Bride was added to the National Film Registry, which identifies and preserves select films typifying the American film heritage.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new courtroom drama and biopic Marshall hits theaters across the U.S. beginning today.  Director Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang, House Party) recounts a case in the life of Thurgood Marshall, one of the leading U.S. Supreme Court Justices in the history of the bench.  We meet Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman, midway through the beginning of his career as lawyer and civil rights crusader.  After he already sued one law school for discrimination and graduated from another, he began defending individuals that were targeted as criminals based on race, and at the beginning of the film Marshall is struggling to justify to the NAACP, the organization that employs him, that his ongoing fight is worth the resources of the group.  Marshall needs a win for his own reputation and for the NAACP.  Plus, there is a man accused of a crime whose life is at stake.

The biggest surprise in the new courtroom drama is the risk-taking by Hudlin and Boseman in showing Marshall from his introduction not as humble and endearing, but cocky, abrasive, and confident.  Not the quiet Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird, or the lazy and arrogant Lt. Daniel Kaffee of A Few Good Men, the film establishes upfront that the young Thurgood Marshall, the future first African-American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, was already a brilliant and savvy attorney and outspoken and fearless even early in his career.  We only learn of the difficult rise he had in his life before the film takes place via stories told by Marshall to local counsel Sam Friedman, played by Josh Gad, as the case procedure unfolds and more facts surface.  Echoing his performance as Jackie Robinson in the biopic 42 (reviewed here previously at borg.com), the Marvel Studios Black Panther actor plays Marshall as decisive and determined.  The audience has no doubt he’s going to succeed, but the drama is in how he makes the system work for him and his client, risking Friedman and his firm or anything else that gets in the way, to get a favorable verdict.

Before Marshall won 29 of 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, before he successfully argued the landmark 20th century case Brown v. Board of Education–the famous school desegregation case–Marshall had to learn how to win with the deck always stacked against his clients.  The message is historically important and delivered without the preaching that often accompanies biopics.  But it would have served Marshall’s legacy better had Hudlin, and writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff, selected a case with universal impact.  Like the obvious: Brown v. Board of Education.  The matter-specific case selected instead is a bit unfortunate from a storytelling standpoint because it so closely mirrors the case in To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the great American novels of all time and also one of the great American films about jurisprudence and race.  Those familiar with Harper Lee’s 1960 novel may feel some deja vu.  But there’s no mimicry here per se, Lee’s novel was derived from an actual case from 1936 and State of Connecticut v. Spell was a real case that is used to attempt to showcase Thurgood Marshall, the man, the lawyer, and the civil rights crusader, in an introductory sense.  But the question remains: Why select a Marshall case that the master lawyer didn’t even get to argue?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Foreigner features the return to the big screen of two maturing lead actors: 63-year-old, international martial arts action star Jackie Chan in his first major English film role since 2010’s remake of The Karate Kid, and 64-year-old, international action star Pierce Brosnan, who, despite several smaller roles hasn’t headlined a major hit since his last stint as James Bond in 2002’s Die Another Day.  But The Foreigner is more–it’s a triumph–for the actors and for the action genre, providing a showcase of acting talent supported by a solid story that doesn’t miss a step from beginning to end.  What looks like it could be another entry in the nature of Transporter or Taken, it’s actually a great follow-up to Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger.  If you can get past a title that doesn’t quite fit, you’ll find a fully loaded, political thriller like the novels of Tom Clancy in his heyday–timely, riveting, and satisfying on every front.

Both stars have an entire portfolio of performances they tap into, that they use to foster believability in their characters.  Jackie Chan has already shown audiences he has the physicality to portray an ex-special forces soldier with brains and savvy, part MacGyver and part Rambo, although it typically accompanies his trademark smile and a film full of laughs.  With his grueling physical feats in film after film, he must be the hardest working actor anywhere.  But only now do we see Chan convey a full spectrum of emotions as he portrays Mr. Quan, a happy, proud father who is devastated and left to seek out the people behind his daughter’s murder.  He’s immensely believable and gives audiences one of the best revenge stories in decades.  Think of the days of Chuck Norris fighting back in a decade of “payback” roles–but with Chan there’s an added level of authenticity.  Then there’s Pierce Brosnan, who has that charisma that early on forecasted his destiny to play James Bond.  Brosnan has now stepped into the rarity of being an ex-Bond actor but with similar class and style as exhibited by Sean Connery, who successfully forged a second acting phase of his career in films like The Hunt for Red October and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  At last Brosnan gets to show off that he, too, has an intense, commanding presence, a force to be reckoned with as a mature actor with gravitas, while maintaining his refined appeal and charm.  He also delivers some of the best lines of his career in a convincing, rapid-fire Irish accent as political leader Liam Hennessy.  Chan plays a good man pushed too far who must carve out his own brand of vigilante justice, and Brosnan a very real modern villain, but a layered villain who tries to follow a code within a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.  By film’s end audiences are left eager to find out what these two performers have for us next.

What appeared to be a standard dramatic trailer for The Foreigner served the film well, holding back why the story is so intriguing.  Unlike most trailers these days that give away too much, the trailer for the film provided only a hint at what the story entails, a mainstream drama about domestic terrorism in England and a search by one man to learn the truth when his daughter is killed in an explosion.  London has had more than its share of terrorist incidents and the jarring visuals in the film mirror real-life horrors in England, although the twist is that the villainy is from within, as some faction of the Irish Republican Army is returning out of the past, and ex-IRA leadership and the government in England must play a delicate game of practical politics to learn who exactly is responsible.  Few recent films have shown a balance of timely real-world atrocities while crafting such an intriguing fictional story.  Although not something on the front pages in the U.S., the real-life faction of the IRA began a return to hostilities in 2011, so the story is a bit “ripped from the headlines” and for a U.S. audience a surprising return of those early 1990s themes from Patriot Games.

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A Curse Dark as Gold cover Elizabeth C Bunce

The trees are turning red and orange and it couldn’t be setting up for a more perfect autumn, and Halloween is only two weeks away.  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 is set in the Gold Valley in that far away land where fairy tales reside.  Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearings’ woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie.  Unwanted responsibilities fall into the lap of this young woman from page one.  From a framework standpoint A Curse Dark as Gold is a spin on Rumpelstiltskin-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 permeate the corners of the town.  A mysterious uncle arrives and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives, pecking away at their sanity.  As if sick itself, the mill begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down, textile machines failing, and the fabric of Shearing seeming to unravel.

A Curse Dark as Gold audio Elizabeth C Bunce told by Charlotte Parry

The story is set at the dawn of an Industrial Revolution.  Water wheels are about to be replaced with steam power and the smoke-filled cities that come along with that new technology.  Charlotte has inherited her father’s acumen as a savvy businessperson, yet real life pressures including competition from big city wool firms and unfair attempts to squeeze Shearing’s mill out of the marketplace cause the mill to lose its workers.  The economic issues are only the beginning of Charlotte’s problems.  A strange neighbor lady is a follower of old world ways, superstitions and magic.  Charlotte is steadfast and stubborn, relying only upon her own intuition as she turns away from everyone near her, including sister Rosie and her new husband.

The rustle of the wind, the creaks of the mill building, the thump of the belts on the mill wheel, all come alive.  Thoroughly creepy images of the mysterious stranger manipulating Charlotte’s uncle will stick with you long after you’re done reading.  And at the heart of the novel is a dark ghost story.  Elizabeth’s exquisite prose, and the determined and believable voice of narrator Charlotte, will leave you believing you didn’t pull a work from 2008 off the bookshelf, but a classic work written in the 1800s.  You will be hard-pressed to find another book that will better get you in the mood for the coming holiday and its hauntings.  The audio book as read by British actress Charlotte Parry, known for her roles in Tony Award winning Broadway plays, is a great way to immerse yourself in this ghost story.

A Curse Dark as Gold has won several national awards, including being listed on the Smithsonian Institution list of notable books, Oprah Winfrey’s recommendation list for YA, the American Library Association recommended reading lists including best fiction, listed on the Amelia Bloomer Booklist (honoring strong female roles), and winner of the first William Morris Award (honoring first time authors).  It was also included along with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and In Cold Blood on the Kansas sesquicentennial 150 Books/150 Years list.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

It’s been three months since the last preview for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, released as part of the Disney convention in Anaheim, California, with no trailers or significant presence at San Diego Comic-Con.  Again bypassing one of the two major comic book and pop culture conventions, Disney passed over New York Comic Con this past weekend to release the next trailer for the eagerly awaited Episode IX late Monday.  Disney included far more visuals and significant story elements in this preview, which tells a story of a young Padawan who is reaching out for someone to help her forge her path ahead.  Who will help her?  Luke Skywalker?  Kylo Ren?  Snoke?

Her future looks bleak.  This definitely carries the hallmarks of a Dark Side-heavy story like that hinted at with the early looks at The Empire Strikes Back, 37 years ago.  Frankly, we’re backing the team with Chewbacca and his Porg co-pilot.

Implied in the trailer are plenty of spoilers, including at least one key character’s death.  Or are they just tricks meant to tease us?  As Luke says, “This is not going to go the way you think.”  Check out the great detail on Luke’s borg hand–Luke was the first character of any major franchise to use the term “borg” for cyborgs, in the original Star Wars 1970s comic book series:

Disney also released another poster for the film Monday (above).  Check out this new trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

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Initially announcing that it would air at the end of 2017, Fox released the first trailer for the next season of The X-Files, fifteen years after we all thought The X-Files were officially closed.  On the heels of last year’s short season return, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return again as our favorite paranormal agents Mulder and Scully, but this round will be the last for Scully according to Anderson at this year’s New York Comic Con The X-Files panel.  But you know how that goes.

The duo is in pursuit of their son, who we learned about last year, and the focus is again a cataclysmic event that is going to destroy the world–unless Mulder and Scully intercede.

In the first trailer for the series released Sunday, we also learn that fan favorite Mitch Pileggi is back as Skinner, and William B. Davis returns as The Cigarette Smoking Man–along with some young agents we first met last year and at least one of The Lone Gunmen.

A few years ago, who would have guessed this would even happen?  Check out the trailer for Season 11 of The X-Files:

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