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In 1984 The Terminator introduced us to Linda Hamilton′s young Sarah Connor and her first encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger′s now classic T-800 “Terminator” cyborg.  In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, director James Cameron amped up Hamilton’s role, resulting in arguably the best female character in all of science fiction movies (in a close heat with Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in Aliens, also from Cameron), while making Arnold’s T-800 a good guy.  In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, we watched Sarah’s son John Connor (played by Nick Stahl) and his future wife (played by Claire Danes) as they approached Judgment Day–the day of the technological apocalpyse.  In the fourth film Terminator: Salvation, audiences saw an older John Connor (Christian Bale) fighting the machines after the series’ Judgment Day, along with a young Kyle Reese played by Anton Yelchin, recounting the origins of the T-800 Arnold would embody later in the timeline.  With Terminator: Genisys, John (next played by Jason Clarke) and Kyle (played by Jai Courtney) arrive at the future point where humans travel back in time to prevent Skynet, and in that timeline John encounters his own problems, and Kyle returns to a modified version of the past where Sarah (played by Solo: A Star Wars Story and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke) is working with a T-800 (again played by Arnold, and again as a good guy) to prevent the Skynet future apocalypse from happening.

Welcome to the day after Judgment Day.

It’s now 35 years since we first heard the message from Kyle Reese given to Sarah Connor, “There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”  Producer James Cameron is back for the first time since Terminator 2, with Tim Miller (Deadpool) directing the autumn theatrical release Terminator: Dark Fate This time we’re told audiences are supposed to ignore everything that came after Terminator 2, and substitute this next chapter, similar to the “picture hopping” the Halloween movie franchise has become known for.  The original Sarah Connor is back battling a Terminator.  Newcomer to the series, Mackenzie Davis is one, “almost human.”  And Gabriel Luna plays another, making them the faces of the next Terminators, following in the footsteps of Arnold, Jason Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Byung-Hun Lee, and Jason Clarke.

Check out this new poster for the film and the first trailer for the sixth Terminator flick, Terminator: Dark Fate:

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The detective strategy game Clue is making another comeback.  Today IDW Publishing is releasing the first issue of a three-issue comic book miniseries called Clue: Candlestick.  Writer-artist Dash Shaw is also serving as series letterer, bringing his stylized look to the usual suspects: Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Mrs. White, and Miss Scarlet.  Hasbro’s game turns 70 this year, so Shaw has compiled a new crime wrapped in secrets, lies, and puzzles, including a maze and coded message.  The puzzles can be unraveled by readers as they make their way through the mystery.

The best feature is Shaw’s incorporation of all the elements of the board game, including the familiar map of the house with connecting floor tiles, stone game pieces that serve as useful art on the grounds of Mr. Boddy’s estate, and, of course, the familiar weapons of choice.  To find out who is searching what rooms and when, you’ll need to solve a logic puzzle.  As with the expanded Master Detective version of the game, you may have more than you bargain for in the story’s first issue, including a focus on Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. White.  It turns out those weapons might have had some history.

 

In addition to Shaw’s main cover art, variant editions of each issue will form a triptych of the classic Clue suspects and their legendary weapons of choice.  Illustrator Jed McGowan (Time in Nature) designed a third variant cover for the first issue.  Each issue features additional story content and will feature new, removable Clue game cards on the back cover, based on the comic art in the series.

Here’s a preview of the first issue of Clue: Candlestick, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Review by Art Schmidt

Premiering today, the next adventure sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons is entitled Ghosts of Saltmarsh, a title that evokes both the haunted nature of many of the adventures contained within it, including the titular Saltmarsh trilogy from D&D’s 1st Edition.  Saltmarsh is the first D&D adventure book to be officially set in the world of Greyhawk, the original D&D Fantasy world setting used in 1st and 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons before Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms captured the roleplaying community’s imagination, a fact sure to delight many long-time fans of the setting.  It includes a brief introduction of Greyhawk and provides some background information about the Kingdom of Keoland, where the coastal town of Saltmarsh is set.

The book also provides three alternate “factions”, in place of the standard five factions of the Forgotten Realms: The Traditionalists, the Loyalists, and the Scarlet Brotherhood.  Included are NPCs, motivations, and background information enough to provide players with the ability to use them in place of the standard factions.  Of course, the Realms factions can easily still be used with a little work on the DM’s part.

Similar to Tales from the Yawning Portal, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is primarily a collection of seven adventures set in a maritime area, rather than a full campaign in and of itself as with other hardcover books (such as Tomb of Annihilation and Dungeon of the Mad Mage).  The Saltmarsh adventures are designed to be inserted into an ongoing campaign and ran as independent adventures.  However, unlike with Yawning Portal, there is an outline provided in Saltmarsh which allows them to be stitched together into a campaign, with room for other published adventures or excursions of the DM’s design to be inserted in between.

Three of the adventures are based on the Saltmarsh Trilogy of D&D modules, first published in the early 1980s by TSR’s United Kingdom office (hence “U” in the original module designations “U1” through “U3”).  The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, Danger at Dunwater, and The Final Enemy presented players with an in-depth plot, multiple twists in story and characters, and a deeper roleplaying experience than was available at the time from most other published adventures.  In fact, one entire adventure is designed to be roleplayed almost entriely through, with very few combat opportunities (unless the party started fighting with their potential allies), something rarely seen at the time.

Today the roleplaying populace at large demands a heavy, story-driven narrative for their gaming dollars, and the popularity of Twitch, YouTube and other streaming platforms have brought awareness to how enjoyable and accessible the roleplaying experience can be.  But 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons was dominated by the likes of The Keep on the Borderlands, the Slavers and Giants series, and the penultimate Tomb of Horrors, most of which were based around the same general idea: “Hey, there’s a hole in the ground and it’s full of monsters and treasure; see how far you can get without dying.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the realm of classic 1980s cartoons, is there a more iconic villain you love to hate than Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the UniverseSure–he’s evil.  He’s a schemer.  He’s diabolical.  He’s completely untrustworthy.  So who better to go to to seek advice?  Admit it: you’ve asked the question before:  What would Skeletor do?  At last you can find out, as Universe Publishing is releasing the ultimate how-to guide this summer and it’s available for pre-order now here at Amazon.  What Would Skeletor Do? Diabolical Ways to Master the Universe is your excuse to throw caution to the wind, and maybe change your destiny.

Need a new mantra?  Tired of being a good guy?  From advice on handling Families and Frenemies to Unwanted Houseguests, this book has it all, combining images from the television series with cleverly written advice from master in-the-know Skeletor (ghost written by Robb Pearlman and designed by Lynne Yeamans).  Love (and other evils), working on your career, and knowing what to do with your down time–whatever area of your life you’re having problems with, Skeletor can help.

Beginning with a disclaimer from Mr. Pearlman, followed by a harassing, heckling foreword by Skeletor himself just daring readers to emulate his magnificence, from there you’re on your own.  For those more level-headed readers, you may find several laugh-out-loud moments along the way.  Then again, like they say, the truth hurts and many a true word is spoken in jest.  With sage (more coriander) life advice, you may just decide to follow Skeletor’s lead (or not).  Start a rumor?  Maybe.  Cast a spell?  Why not.  Make overdramatic pronouncements about the quality of services provided at local businesses?  Bingo.  His best observation?  Probably “Nobody is worth going to Jared for.”  But his business wisdom is tried and true: “Always move your face as close as possible to the speaker during a conference call.”

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It’s not a Fast & Furious, or Deadpool, or Kickboxer movie like her past films, but mixed martial arts pro-turned-actor Gina Carano is getting her next leading role, following up on last year’s post-apocalypse B-movie, Scorched Earth.  It’s called Daughter of the Wolf, a snowbound survival tale in the vein of Liam Neeson’s Taken movie series.  Carano will soon co-star opposite Pedro Pascal in Lucasfilm’s live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, but first she’ll go head-to-head with iconic genre actor Richard Dreyfuss as her character fights to get her son back from a kidnapper and his accomplices.

Could Daughter of the Wolf be part of a trend of solo action films Carano adds to her portfolio, just as action stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Jason Statham once stacked up a vast list of smaller action movies between co-starring stints in major films?  Carano certainly has the physical prowess, style, and charisma to be tomorrow’s next action hero.

Take a look at this trailer for Daughter of the Wolf:

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Warner Brothers continues to struggle with how next to turn the DC universe of films into a cash cow like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  First a report that Ben Affleck′s replacement will be Robert Pattinson, an actor known for both the lucrative Harry Potter franchise and Twilight franchise, was then followed by a report that Nicholas Hoult was being considered.  Hoult, co-star of the X-Men movies as Beast, among other roles, makes more sense, as first–he has the charisma and look to be both Batman and alter ego Bruce Wayne, and second,–because he’d follow that common casting preference that already has seen two dozen actors playing superheroes flip from DC characters to Warner characters or vice versa.  These reports were followed by word that two other actors were on the Batman shortlist: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who already portrayed both Quicksilver in the MCU and Kick-Ass in his own series) and Armie Hammer.  Why wouldn’t they just stop with Armie Hammer?  If the studio has already ruled out Denzel Washington (just watch him in the Equalizer franchise, he’d be perfect!), then the closest to how Batman and Bruce have been drawn in the comics for 80 years is Armie Hammer.  He has that John Hamm suave manner and he’s already shown he can play a great hero opposite Superman Henry Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  With the next new comics adaptation it does seem like Warner Brothers may be doing something right.  It’s on television instead of at the movies, where the Arrowverse group of series has seen greater success than the studio’s movie efforts.  It’s the new Batwoman series, and the CW released the first trailer for the series late this week (check it out below).

For whatever reason, Warner Brothers, the CW, etc. are hesitant to put their prime DC character–Batman–on the small screen.  Just like they were hesitant showing Superman on Smallville back in “the WB” days, or giving Batman his due within the Gotham series continuity.  But this new Batwoman series looks like it could be the closest viewers are going to get to a TV bat-hero.  Series star Ruby Rose proved she has the charisma and physicality for a major superheroine/action role in The Meg, Resident Evil, Vin Diesel’s XXX series, and the John Wick series.  Her character of Kate Kane aka Batwoman in last August’s CW Arrowverse crossover “Elseworlds,” the highlight of the event (along with John Wesley Shipp donning his 1990 Flash costume), was received well by viewers.  The new trailer seems as “Batman” in look and feel as anything Warner has produced for TV–or film.

Even better, the great Rachel Skarsten (former Black Canary of Birds of Prey and star of Lost Girl and Reign) plays a villain named Alice–Batwoman’s twin sister who took on the persona of an evil Wonderlander in the comics–who looks like she can run circles around Harley Quinn.

Batwoman has been one of DC Comics′ most fascinating characters since she was re-designed by Alex Ross for DC’s 52 series in 2006, but she really came into her own in 2009 in the Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series written and drawn by Eisner Award nominees James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli, and she was fleshed out further in 2010-2013 in the award-winning Batwoman solo series written and drawn by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.

Take a look at the first trailer for CW’s Batwoman:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of any character or universe love their fandom and often can’t get enough of it.  It’s why writers keep writing new versions of Frankenstein 201 years later and new stories featuring James Bond 66 years later and Sherlock Holmes 132 years later.  Fans of writer Mickey Spillane′s Mike Hammer novels (or the Darren McGavin or Stacy Keach television series) have not just the 13 novels Spillane wrote beginning 72 years ago, but now a full two dozen thanks to Spillane’s co-conspirator of hard-boiled crime and his successor, Max Allan Collins.  In last year’s centenary of Spillane’s birth, that meant the release of the unpublished first Mike Hammer novel Killing Town (reviewed here at borg).  Using the combined talents of Spillane and Collins, it’s a crime story as good as they get.  With the latest team-up of Spillane and Collins, Murder, My Love, Collins proves he has mastered the voice of the famous cop-turned-private eye.  This book is 100% end-to-end Collins, as the writer says he worked from Spillane’s notes but all of the prose is new material.  And that’s fabulous, because this book is all Mike Hammer at his best.

As with Killing Town, Collins’ Murder, My Love is a shorter Hammer novel and a quick read.  Personally at 200 pages I find it the ideal length–all pulp novels, classic paperback mysteries, true crime novels, etc. should be able to be gobbled up in a single trip (like on a Greyhound bus from Detroit to Cincinnati or a train from Omaha to Denver).  I soaked up Murder, My Love in two sittings, and it was an entirely satisfying read, complete with Hammer and his assistant/also cop-turned P.I., Velda, who Collins writes cleverly here first person in a few pages of “off-camera” playback that is some of the best material in the book.

Max Allan Collins signing at San Diego Comic-Con in 2018.

It’s a story set later in Hammer’s career, with Collins establishing a perfect picture of New York City from a few decades ago as he takes a U.S. senator on as a client, a senator with White House ambitions.  Unfortunately he and his wife have a history of extramarital affairs and now someone else knows, resulting in blackmail.  Hammer and Velda embark on the detective work, interviewing the subjects of the senator’s liaisons.  Once they find the schemer behind the blackmail, that’s when the body count begins.  One-by-one the possible suspects end up dead, and Hammer isn’t exempt from getting in the line of fire.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the 40th anniversary of Alien, OVID.tv is streaming a stunning, eye-opening documentary about the life and visual creations of H.R. Giger, who won an Academy Award for his design work on the science fiction/horror classic.  Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World features interviews with Hansruedi “H.R.” Giger (pronounced geeger) at his home and during his travels in the weeks before his death in 2014.  Interspersing archival footage and interviews with those who knew Giger best, his wife Carmen, his ex-wife, a psychiatrist, his former partner, his agent, the archivist of his personal collection, and others (even his Siamese cat Müggi makes several appearances), writer/director Belinda Sallin assembles a picture of the complex man, his unique creations, and his influences.

If you’ve viewed footage of Guillermo Del Toro’s vast collection of horror memorabilia (via interviews or in books like his At Home with Monsters), all housed in a lavish setting, imagine a home as fabulously creepy but built like an old abandoned grotto, centered around Giger’s horror paintings and statues, complete with dark corridors, and those eerie squeaky doors and stairs of a recluse’s hovel in a vine-covered corner.  His “biomechanik” artwork, sculptures, and storage drawers are wall-to-wall, his book collection haphazardly stacked on shelves and in the bathtub, (real) skulls are tucked into nooks and crannies, a set of doors inside the modest front door is covered with paintings of his trademark human-alien hybrid characters, and an Academy Award is filed between dusty objects on another shelf.  A mini-train ride through the vines outside the house take visitors on a haunted house ride through birth, life, and death.  This is a haunted house, but devoid of spirits.  Ray Bradbury’s attic in every way, only it isn’t.  It’s Hansruedi Giger’s house.

Artists of any genre and fans of the Alien franchise can get an unprecedented, detailed, personal look at a man known for his disturbing imagery.  Dismissed for decades by the mainstream art scene for Giger’s popular status in Hollywood, Alien indeed made Giger famous just as Giger made Alien famous.  The influences behind his often dark and grotesque images will not be surprising: his father bought him his first human skull at the age of six, and his sister took him to a museum to scare him by showing him an actual mummy.  Both of these things frightened the little boy, but he forced himself to look at these things repeatedly until, as he says in the documentary, he overcame his fears.  But the nightmares never seemed to dwindle.  He speaks of his dreams as a key influence, but he told a psychiatrist that the frightening images he saw lost their power when he committed them to canvas.  He also acknowledges LSD use as the prompt behind some of his work.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all it’s not really Bruce Lee.  The character’s name is John Lee, and he’s an agent after the same target but backed by a different government–the South Korean intelligence agency–and with different objectives than our title character, Mr. Bond.  Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 is smartly written by Greg Pak and drawn by Marc Laming, Stephen Mooney, and Eric Gapstur in a way that makes it easy for readers to imagine what could have been one great movie.  More as if Bruce Lee was portraying his Dragon than Kato, this Mr. Lee and Mr. Bond are well-matched adversaries.

Until they aren’t.

Taking some of the best bits from the spy trope, what will happen when MI6 teams up with South Korean spies against a common foe?  It’s Man from U.N.C.L.E meets Bond, as villains from MI6’s past start popping up, including Oddjob and Goldfinger.  A suitcase will explode if removed from, or taken too far away from, its handler.  One town of innocent people has already seen the potential of this new technology.

This series has everything.  Great tech gizmos, exotic women counter-spies, and locations across the globe.  Mooney’s artwork is fantastic, reminiscent of Mike Grell and Rick Hoberg’s pencil work during the spy years of the DC Comics Green Arrow comic book series (including a great new character similar to their Shado).  And Bond’s dialogue reveals Pak knows the character well.

 

Take a look at this preview, courtesy of Dynamite Comics:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Twenty years ago the last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered, and for its anniversary a crowdfunding project funded a feature-length retrospective on the series.  Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind will be familiar to any fan of Deep Space Nine who has delved into the special features found in the DVD sets or online via YouTube.  It’s full of those reminiscences, albeit updated, diehard fans have viewed countless times in interviews with cast and crew and via panels at the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.  But the unique feature for this new documentary is a reunion of writers from the series who sit down and block out what a possible next episode of the series might include.

Deep Space Nine showrunner and executive producer Ira Steven Behr leads the documentary, hitting the high points of his seven years creating Deep Space Nine, intercutting new and old interviews with key and supporting cast members, a few members of the production staff, co-creator Rick Berman and the man representing the business side of production, Kerry McCluggage, former chairman of Paramount Television Group.  Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind does not look closely at the production from a design, costumes, props, music, or technical standpoint, but is almost exclusively focused on the writers and actors, and why the crew thinks its show was different from competing programs in the 1990s (although some art production familiar faces including Herman Zimmerman, Michael and Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler make brief appearances).

The writers room reunion of Behr, Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Hans Beimler, and Robert Hewitt Wolfe talking through a spec script idea for a new 20th anniversary reunion episode is a great guide for anyone wanting a glimpse at the process of developing a television show.  Backed by a cartoon art/Ken Burns-esque multimedia mock-up of characters and sets by artists Magdalena Marinova, Kai De Mello-Folsom, and Luke Snailham, it’s a better presentation format than watching more talking heads.  The result feels quite like a Brannon Braga or Ronald D. Moore series finale episode (see Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “All Good Things…” and Star Trek Voyager’s “Endgame”), complete with a time jump and appearances by grown-up regular players, in this case Jake Sisko and Molly O’Brien.  Vedek Kira?  Captain Nog?  With some make-up and new costumes, the writers’ episode creation would have actually made a fine final episode to the series, providing some resolution to the fate of Avery Brooks′ Captain Sisko.

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