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Ten years in the planning.  Eighteen movies.  All of it the brainchild of master Marvel universe coordinator Kevin Feige.  Yet it’s still only halfway through the third act or Phase III of the grand Marvel Cinematic Universe saga.  Marvel Studios has promised to tie everything together, including every magical talisman holding the six Infinity Stones–in directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, the first of a two-part story, originally divided into simply parts 1 and 2.  The studio released a new trailer this weekend explaining more about the plot, plus a new poster for the movie that somehow crams in every key hero that will be packed into the movie.  Call it a St. Patrick’s Day present for Marvel fans.

And that’s a roll call that includes headliners Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider-man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackey), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Sean Gunn) and Groot (Terry Notary), Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).

Presumably the poster and trailer don’t tell all, so we’ll be looking for most of the support team to have an appearance, too, including Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), The Collector (Benicio del Toro), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Aunt Mae (Marisa Tomei), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Happy (Jon Favreau).  And they will all face off against Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Black Order members/Thanos’s children: Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) and two characters expected to be voiced by familiar, but as yet unnamed, actors: Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight.

So check out this trailer where the Marvel Cinematic Universe–The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy–come together in one film: Avengers: Infinity War: View full article »


It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest and most celebrated films.  Pairing Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, Hitchcock explored the ultimate con, the perfect murder, and a hopeless love story.  In Hitchcock’s stylish 1958 film Vertigo, the director also paints one of the most beautiful travelogues for the San Francisco Bay area.  The American Film Institute has declared it the all-time best mystery, the #12 best film score, the #18 best romance, the #18 best thriller, and the ninth best movie of all American films.  Over the years international critics’ polls have seen Vertigo move back and forth with Citizen Kane for the designation of best film of all time.  Celebrated directors François Truffaut and Martin Scorcese have heralded the film.  Vertigo is also the only film that featured Hitchcock himself as a trumpet player–you’ll just need to keep a watchful eye for his cameo.  And you can do that this weekend, as Vertigo is returning to theaters nationwide for two days to celebrate its 60th anniversary beginning this Sunday, March 18, 2018, as part of Turner Classic Movies, Universal Pictures and Fathom Events’ retrospective screenings of film classics.

Even more so than Otto Preminger’s haunting 1944 film Laura, Vertigo delves into obsession like no other film.  Stewart’s take on an ex-cop observing the beautiful wife of an old friend at that friend’s request is a character far removed from any other role Stewart had ever taken on.  And Novak really plays two women as the film is cracked into two halves–one a dangerous and enigmatic stranger, the other a young romantic from Salina, Kansas, trying to escape the decisions of her past.  You, too, will find it hard pressed to avoid becoming obsessed with the film (I’ve seen it at least twice in theaters and dozens of times on home video over the decades).

Behind the scenes film aficionados will appreciate that Vertigo was the first film to use the dolly zoom, the camera taking the dolly out while zooming in, thereby creating the dizzying vertigo effect throughout the movie.  John Whitney used an M5 gun director–an actual World War II anti-tank firing predictor, along with famed graphic designer Saul Bass’s spiral motifs, to create the film’s unusual opening title sequence.  Edith Head’s spectacular designs were behind Novak and Stewart’s memorable wardrobes.  The film was nominated for two Oscars, George Dutton for sound, and Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead, Sam Comer, and Frank R. McKelvy for Art Decoration/Set Decoration.

But probably most significantly for the ambience of the film, Bernard Hermann’s score is one of Hollywood’s finest, and Martin Scorcese summed up the music his way:  “Hitchcock’s film is about obsession, which means that it’s about circling back to the same moment, again and again…  And the music is also built around spirals and circles, fulfilment and despair.  Herrmann really understood what Hitchcock was going for — he wanted to penetrate to the heart of obsession.”  Years later the 2011 Oscar winner for best picture The Artist would use the spiraling love theme from Vertigo to achieve the emotion needed for its key scene.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a new generation, the new adventure-thriller Tomb Raider may be an entry point into the adventure genre.  If you like the concepts in Tomb Raider, you’re likely to love adventure classics like that other “raider,” Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Mummy, and Disney’s National Treasure series.  Tomb Raider borrows much from these movies, even key sequences that serve as the high points of the film.  The film itself?  It’s all about that upper-body strength and holding on for dear life.  (How many action films feature the hero holding on to the edge of a precipice with one hand anyway?)  It’s good, not great, but a fun enough popcorn flick for a late winter release, particularly to see someone the size of Alicia Vikander racing through all the required harrowing action scenes.  She leaps, fights, sprints, and dodges pitfalls, and gets kicked, punched, and bruised in a role typically reserved for the likes of Dwayne Johnson or Chris Pine.

In the role last explored by Angelina Jolie, Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ex Machina, Jason Bourne) becomes video game heroine Lara Croft, only this version of the story is more rooted in the real world, with less heroine posing and no cocky catch phrases, and more sweat.  The new Tomb Raider definitely fits alongside past video game adaptations, better than the prior films in the franchise, and nudging out more recent video game adaptations Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed. Unfortunately it comes on the heels of the immensely entertaining Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which opted for humor instead of drama. This isn’t a comedy, but would have benefited from some more levity along the way.

For an adventure about secrets and riddles, it doesn’t present much for the audience to sleuth out, as was done so well in the entertaining National Treasure movies But to its credit it has some good special effects and exceptional chase sequences that are best viewed on the big screen.  And this Lara Croft is always being chased or running from something.  A bicycle race early on and a foot chase across boats docked off the coast of Hong Kong are filmed like a riveting James Bond opener.  And an escape through raging rapids at the edge of a waterfall is perfectly executed and full-on exciting (in a good theater your acrophobia and claustrophobia may even kick in). The overall plot is a bit thin–Lara receives a key left by her father as she is about to sign an affidavit acknowledging his death and her inheritance, and she pursues clues to his secret work that leave her stranded on a secluded, legendary island housing an ancient tomb. This is about a fantasy video game character, so if you can push aside reality you may have a really good time.

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Harry Potter fandom shows no signs of slowing down, thanks in part to J.K. Rowling herself.  Just when we thought the Harry Potter universe had come to an end with Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she took her layered fantasy world across the ocean and introduced fans to Newt Scamander and a legion of new creature creations in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Now she’s giving her fans even more with the next chapter in the world of wizards and muggles, and giving us an early look at one of her most beloved characters.

That’s right, the 2018 sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald stars Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore, who is teaming up with Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander against a new foe we only got a sneak peek at in the finale of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them–Johnny Depp’s Gellert Grindlewald.  Warner Bros. has just released the first trailer for the new film and it looks like it might just rival the last chapter in the saga.

Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol will return as the adorable couple Jacob and Queenie, and Katherine Waterston is back as the magical auror Tina Goldstein.  Newcomers to the series include Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange (who seems to be a likely relative of Bellatrix later on) and Ezra Miller (Justice League) as Credence Barebone.

Check out this first trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you don’t follow international politics you may find it a strange thing when the current affairs of a country far away has eerily similar relevance to the affairs of your own country.  Americans will see that in a big way as “four days in the life” of local government and police affairs in London is the theme of a new four-part British mini-series called Collateral, just released on Netflix.  Sporting that “ripped from the headlines” vibe of the short-lived series Law & Order: UK, Collateral is probably not as thrilling as Homeland or State of Play, but it’s far more compelling and interesting than most recent detective mystery fare like the dreary but ambitious series Broadchurch.  It’s enough that Collateral is worth watching for the showcase of acting talent it features.  Not particularly gritty or fresh as all the police procedurals that have come and gone, and not full of any real surprises for a mystery series, Collateral feels less like a limited, finite series and more like the beginning of a new TV drama.  And it’s a good beginning.

Headlining Collateral is a Doctor Who fan’s dream team: Star of the best reviewed Doctor Who episode of its 50-year run, Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go, Mudbound) played Sally Sparrow in the Doctor Who episode “Blink,” and here she stars as an eight-year veteran of the police force, now pregnant (since Mulligan was pregnant while filming) and recognizable to locals in the city as a professional pole vaulter who ended her career with a well-televised bad landing.  It’s this level of character backstory that doesn’t add much to the plot of this four-episode arc, but provides prime fodder if the BBC were to pick up a full-series run.  Mulligan takes to the role quite well–her character is not quirky or much of a stand-out, just another detective working a case–and that fits the story.  The Master from Doctor Who, John Simm (Life on Mars, Intruders, State of Play) seems to fit well in any role and he’s perfect again here, starring in at least his third series featuring human smuggling.  He portrays a local official who is pulled into the murder of a Syrian pizza delivery boy.  His ex-wife was the pizza boy’s last stop, and she is played by Billie Piper, who portrayed the long-time Doctor Who companion Rose Tyler.  We get to see Piper in a very different role for her here, as a rather nasty mother of two who is a bit of a disaster herself even before the crime appeared in front of her apartment, in part due to her drug use and inability to move beyond her ex-husband.

The series is directed by S.J. Clarkson, well-known for many episodes of quality mystery television.  Clarkson knows her turf well, and she deftly handles what complexity and interconnected subplots the script provides.  She has directed great television from Life on Mars to Heroes, House, M.D. to Bates Motel, plus both The Defenders and Jessica Jones.  So viewers can trust they’re in good hands with this show.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two and a half years since we first met Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones in Marvel’s television universe.  Although we saw her as just one of the many super-powered characters packed into Marvel’s The Defenders last year, despite all she’s been through not much has changed with the private investigator.  That same angry, tough, bitter, and unhappy anti-hero is the same person we meet at the beginning and at the end of the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, now appearing on Netflix.  For fans of the fringe of the Marvel superhero world where little fun is to be had, Ritter’s gritty heroine stands alongside The Punisher (our favorite superhero series last year).  Yet despite its heavy dramatic component, it’s very much a superhero show, providing a complete picture of the downside of possessing superhero powers created by chemicals in a lab–a key fact of life for so many Marvel creations, including The Hulk, Deadpool, Luke Cage, the Fantastic Four, the Winter Soldier, etc.  For those viewers that thought Jessica Jones’s first season was the best TV had to offer, good luck comparing which is best after watching the second season.

But it’s not really Jessica who shines in Season 2 as much as the supporting characters, and the series doesn’t really reach its stride until Episode 7.  The real standout for Season 2 is a new super-powered character created by the same mad scientists that created Jessica Jones, actor Janet McTeer’s new complex antagonist Alisa.  Alisa is a driven, unstoppable human machine attached to a fantastic, layered core.  Alisa is older and wiser and far more powerful than Jessica or anyone else we’ve seen from the Netflix Marvel realm.  Two scenes with Alisa playing the piano really reveal what viewers are in for (and the cast of characters is up against).  Unfortunately for Alisa and everyone that she touches, she’s been pushed to the extremes, resulting in a decisively volatile foe.  As with Marvel’s Killmonger in this season’s big screen movie Black Panther, calling Alisa the villain of the show omits much about the character.  A cold-blooded killer?  Sure.  But even the worst can still have hope for redemption, especially if what made them bad in the first place was never their fault.  Or can it?

Right along with Alisa, Jessica’s step-sister Trish “Patsy” Walker–Jessica’s rather bland supporter and confidante in Season 1–really leaps into action in a breakaway performance that aims toward Linda Hamilton’s tough-as-nails heroine in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  Credit the acting range required of actor Rachael Taylor this time around and a stellar character arc created for her by the writing team of Melissa Rosenberg, Jack Kenny, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Gabe Fonseca, Lisa Randolph, Jamie King, Raelle Tucker, Hillie Hicks, Jr., Jenny Klein, and Jesse Harris.  Viewers may want to strangle Trish by the halfway mark in the season, but just wait–she only gets in deeper as the series progresses.

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Later this year classic characters from three well-known children’s stories will return in theatrical adaptations.   A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and friends will return in Christopher Robin.  Deja vu?  Don’t confuse this with last year’s film Goodbye, Christopher Robin, which starred Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, and Kelly Macdonald This new film actually features Winnie the Pooh and friends, along with a great cast of genre favorites: Ewan McGregor (Star Wars series, Brassed Off), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Doctor Who) and Hayley Atwell (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and voicing the classic characters, Jim Cummings (Pooh), Peter Capaldi (Rabbit), Toby Jones (Owl), and Brad Garrett (Eeyore).  The film is directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace).

The Grinch is back in a third major film incarnation from Dr. Seuss’s original book How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  This time Benedict Cumberbatch replaces the voice of the big Christmas baddie made famous by Boris Karloff in 1966 and reprised by Jim Carrey in 2000.  This version is titled Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.  This animated version incorporates current digital technology to provide a very modern looking update.  The trailer looks great.

And also for Christmas Mary Poppins is back in a sequel to the original 1964 classic that starred Julie Andrews as Mary and Dick Van Dyke as Bert the chimney sweep and bank president Mr. Dawes.  Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) takes on the lead role in Mary Poppins Returns, co-starring Meryl Streep (The Post), Colin Firth (The Kings’ Speech), Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote), Emily Mortimer (Hugo, The Kid), David Warner (Tron, Time After Time), Ben Whishaw (James Bond franchise), Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana), and Dick Van Dyke, this time as Dawes, Jr.

Check out these previews for Christopher Robin, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, and Mary Poppins Returns:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you were an artist and asked to create a modern, retro poster based on John Carpenter’s 1982 cult favorite sci-fi/horror movie The Thing, what would be your centerpiece?  Kurt Russell’s arctic helicopter pilot MacReady?  The mimicking monster in one of its many phases?  Maybe just the secluded facility among the snow drifts?  Incorporate the dogs?  The sprawling logo?  More than 350 artists were asked to do just that, and the result is publisher Printed in Blood’s The Thing Artbook, showcasing the many ways artists see the film, 35 years later.

Dedicated to legendary horror artist Bernie Wrightson, the book includes a foreword by Eli Roth (Death Wish), a few pages of storyboard concept art from comic book artist Mike Ploog and illustrator William Stout, and page after page of images based on the film, reflecting a first frame to last frame look at the movie.  Some designs hint at the horror that awaits, others provide an in-your-face look at the gory creature transformations the film is known for.  And several incorporate that marketing tagline, “Man is the Warmest Place to Hide.”  All attempt to challenge the senses, visions created in styles of impressionism, avant garde, mod, art nouveau, psychedelic, abstract, art deco, travel, or other retro/vintage homage–something from the myriad designs will appeal to every fan of the film.

Poster interpretations of The Thing from artist Adam Cockerton (left) and Bryan Fyffe (right) in The Thing Artbook.

Artists providing work for The Thing Artbook include Dave Dorman, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, Joe Corroney, Jeff Lemire, Ben Templesmith, Kate Kennedy, Francesco Francavilla, Dan Panosian, Tim Seeley, Adam Cockerton, Bill Sienkiewicz, Nicole Falk, Brian Rood, Peter Steigerwald, Tim Bradstreet, Sam Gilbey, Michael Godwin, Salvador Anguiano, Rio Burton, Neil Davies, Steve Thomas, Dave Acosta, Chris Sears, Cecil Porter, and hundreds more.

Take a look at some other images from the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred years ago today, March 9, 1918, mystery writer Mickey Spillane was born.  To celebrate his centenary crime novelist Max Allan Collins finalized two of Spillane’s unpublished works, and they will be published later this month for the first time together in one volume as The Last Stand.  Spillane was a mentor and friend of Collins, a crime novelist in his own right, most recently known for his Quarry novels, adapted into a Cinemax TV series.  Collins put the final touches on both a “lost” 1950s classic Spillane crime story novella with an appropriately two-fisted title, A Bullet for Satisfaction, and Spillane’s final unpublished novel from 2006, The Last Stand, a contemporary adventure tale set on a Native American reservation.  Collins includes a detailed introduction to the new volume recounting Spillane’s influence on the post-World War II paperback surge, on crime novels, and on films and books being made to this day derived from his legendary investigator Mike Hammer, including James Bond, John Shaft, Dirty Harry Callahan, Billy Jack, Jack Bauer, and Jack Reacher.

Two tough men:  One like you’d expect in a Spillane crime novel, a cop who is too tough for his own good and gets thrown off the force, fighting his way back.  The other, a seasoned pilot, someone out of a Louis L’Amour novel who lands in the middle of an Indiana Jones story, complete with the search for ancient artifacts and the guts to fight the toughest guy in town.

A Bullet for Satisfaction, from Spillane’s earlier years, is exactly what you want from a crime mystery, a dreary town with corrupt politicians, mob thugs, a few damsels in distress, and plenty of knives and guns and punches.  Ed McBain, James M. Cain, Earl Stanley Gardner, Donald E. Westlake–if you’ve read any of these authors, you’ll want to delve into Spillane’s works, and Satisfaction is a good start.

The Last Stand couldn’t be more different than Satisfaction.  It begins with an airplane crash and a pilot of vintage planes named Joe Gillian, marooned in the desert with a few candy bars and some cans of beer.  A set-in-his-ways ex-military pilot, he finds himself rescued in the desert and soon becomes blood-brother with Sequoia Pete, who takes him to his reservation.  As a treasure hunt ensues with global implications, a local thug jealous of Joe marks him for death.  Joe doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to get out of town as the FBI drop in, seemingly to keep the peace, but a lot more is going on out in this tiny desert village.  The Last Stand is heavy on banter between Pete and Joe–the relationship is very close to the sheriff and the Native American deputy in Hell or High Water, but “White-Eyes” Joe is not remotely as bigoted and unlikeable as Jeff Bridge’s sheriff in that movie.

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After the 1998 attempt to adapt the 1960s sci-fi series Lost in Space into a theatrical version, hope for a successful reboot was pretty slim.  The Netflix teaser for a new Lost in Space series two weeks ago didn’t give audiences much to go on, but a full-length trailer released this week may reveal just enough to pique sci-fi fan interest.  Nicely creepy sci-fi thriller music from composer Christopher Lennertz (Galavant, Agent Carter, Supernatural), slick new spacesuits by Oscar-winning costume designer Angus Strathie (Moulin Rouge, Deadpool, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), sweeping cinematography by Sam McCurdy (Merlin) and Joel Ransom (The X-Files, Continuum, Band of Brothers), movie level special effects, and a robot–a completely different robot from the original–with a sleek futuristic design.  And he speaks some familiar dialogue.  And what’s it about the cold of space–namely, winter parkas–that just draws us in every time?  Ten episodes–it’s on Netflix, so that really means we’re looking at a ten-hour sci-fi movie heading our way next month.

As for the robot, unlike in the original series he’s not a member of the crew, but he appears to have more of the role taken on later in the old series by famous Forbidden Planet and The Twilight Zone “guest star” Robby the Robot, a new encounter young Will Robinson discovered later in the series.  Robby was a Robotoid, a robot with the additional faculty of independent decision-making, regardless of programming.  So he wasn’t a borg, but something more than a robot.  Did the new series writers decide to combine the two robots into one?  Robby the Robot was the most famous sci-fi creation for generations of fans, so it makes sense that the new series will try to tie him in somehow.  But the classic B-9-M-3 robot was also a sci-fi icon.  The more humanoid look of the new robot looks a bit familiar.  Maybe he is just an advanced cousin of the robot Isaac from The Orville.  Nah.  The relationships between Will and the robot, and Will and Dr. Smith, were key to the original story, and look to be important again here.

So who’s in?

Molly Parker (Dexter, Deadwood) plays mom Maureen Robinson, Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Space Cowboys) is dad John, and the kids are played by Taylor Russell (Falling Skies), Minda Sundwall (Freeheld), and Max Jenkins (Sense8).  Engineer Don West will be played by Ignacio Serricchio (Bones, The Young and the Restless).  And Parker Posey (Superman Returns, Best in Show) is the notorious Dr. Smith.

Here’s a new, better look at Netflix’s Lost in Space:

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