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Archive for July, 2011


Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

[with spoilers]

Last year Syfy launched an all-new paranormal series inspired by a Stephen King novel (The Colorado Kid), Haven, about an FBI agent-turned small-town cop in a tiny seaside town where Odd Things Happen.  After an uneven start, Haven eventually found its feet, with writers and performers hitting their stride at “As You Were,” and finally delivering the fall 2010 TV season’s most exciting season finale.  “Spiral” left us with a brilliantly-executed cliffhanger, revealing that Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) may not be who we—or she—have been led to believe.

That outstanding lead-up to Season 2 should have smoothed the way for an equally riveting season premiere, but for whatever reason, “A Tale of Two Audreys” fell short.  When we left Haven for the winter, Agent Parker and Officer Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) were guns-to-gun with… Agent Audrey Parker, carrying a badge, her FBI credentials, and (it turns out) all of Audrey’s memories.  It seemed we were finally going to get a clue about “our” Agent Parker’s identity, and the discovery that she might not be Agent Parker after all was electrifying.

So what went wrong?  Well, instead of seizing upon the notion of New Agent Parker being the Real Agent Parker, leaving Our Audrey’s true ID in the air, they went in the less-exciting direction of declaring New Parker an imposter, a victim of Haven’s mysterious Troubles who only believes she’s Audrey Parker.  Clearly the mystery is ongoing; nothing of this storyline was resolved in “A Tale of Two Audreys,” so there’s still a chance to recover this storyline (and the hint at the very end of the episode does go a long way toward redeeming it).  But they missed a chance for some great intriguing drama by shunting the Audrey vs Audrey issue aside for the moment.

As for what this episode did focus on, the “Trouble of the Week” was likewise disappointing.  The Ten Plagues of Egypt hitting Haven should have been riveting, as the plagues increase in dread, leading up to the inevitable Death of the Firstborn Sons.  But here they played out rather sedately, hopping from plague to plague with little rising tension building between them, only to culminate in an almost entirely tension-free climax, where the Trouble just… stopped.  More time was spent cleaning up loose ends from last season, introducing new complications, and firmly establing the Rev as this season’s villain, but despite all the mysteries afoot, “A Tale of Two Audreys” felt a little phoned-in, as if given the choice between high drama and ho-hum, they took the more boring path every time.

Still, “Haven” has recovered from weak episodes before, and I don’t believe this misstep is crippling.  There’s enough about the show to keep viewers tuning in, and the questions introduced in “A Tale of Two Audreys” are still intriguing, even despite their currently lackluster execution.  Emily Rose’s Audrey Parker is a smart, likeable heroine who stands out from the Fiesty Female Cop mold, and the male leads (Eric Balfour and Lucas Bryant) have great chemistry.  I’m convinced they can pull this together and deliver a solid season two, and I’m looking forward to what Haven has to offer this summer.

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Although the initial news earlier this summer was that Marvel Comics seemed to be pulling back its presence from the San Diego Comic-Con this year, you wouldn’t know it from the line-up.

First off, Captain America: The First Avenger will have its world premiere Thursday at Comic-Con.  The movie will play exclusively at the UA Horton Plaza with Captain America-themed festivities happening throughout the day. Paramount and Marvel will host a free fan screening at 10 A.M. with the movie’s star Chris Evans hosting the screening.  Swag for moviegoers at the Con will include RealD® 3D collector’s glasses and a limited edition poster. A grand prize package of Captain America merchandise and other Marvel items will be given away to a select audience member at each screening.

More free swag and for-purchase Marvel items available at the Marvel booth:

·          Art.com limited edition posters given out during special signings by Joe Quesada, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid, Greg Pak, & Humberto Ramos

·          S.H.I.E.L.D. Pins, Captain America Pins, Daredevil pins, Ultimate Spider-Man pins-lots of pins!
 
·          Peavey Guitars (www.peavey.com) – All weekend long, Marvel will be giving away exclusive guitars featuring Marvel characters (Check out the photo below!)
 
·          Captain America Shield iPhone 4 Phone Cases
 
·          Marvel’s The Avengers Eye Patches
 
  
And there are plenty of big names scheduled for the four days at Comic-Con, including writers, editors, artists, moviemakers, and actors:
 
Thursday:
 
10:15-11:15 Marvel: Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way— With talent scout C. B. Cebulski, artists Skottie Young (Ozma of Oz) and Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spider-Man), and Marvel SVP of brand planning & communications Mike Pasciullo (Room 6DE)
 
12:00-1:00 Spreading The Darkness: From Comic Book to Video Games and Entertainment— The Darkness creator Marc Silvestri (X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia) and team members from Digital Extremes and 2K Games discuss not only the comic but the upcoming video game, The Darkness II (Room 9)
 
1:00-2:00 Marvel Digital: What’s Next?! Comics…and Beyond!— Members of the Marvel Digital Media Group (Room 7AB)
 
1:00-2:00 Stan Lee, Yoshiki, and Todd McFarlane panel—Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront)
 
4:00-5:00 Breaking and Staying In— Andy Schmidt (X-Men, Five Days to Die, Comics Experience founder), writer Mike Costa (G.I. Joe: Cobra) and artist Zander Cannon (Top 10) (Room 30CDE)
 
4:30-5:30 Marvel: Next Big Thing— Panelists Greg Pak (Incredible Hulks), Jonathan Hickman (Fantastic Four), Jim McCann (Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol), Nick Spencer (Ultimate X), editor-in-chief Axel Alonso (Room 6DE)
 
Friday:
 
12:30-1:30 Marvel: Year of the X-Men— Writers Marjorie Liu (X-23), Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force), and Chris Yost (X-Men: First to Last) and editor-in-chief Axel Alonso (Room 6DE)
 
1:45-2:45 Marvel: Amazing Spider-Man and His Avenging Friends— Creators Zeb Wells (Avenging Spider-Man), Rick Remender (Venom), Mark Waid (Daredevil), Greg Rucka (Punisher), Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spider-Man), senior editor Steve Wacker, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso (Room 6DE)
 
4:00-6:30 Sony showcase—

Ghost Rider-Spirit of Vengeance — Live on stage: directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) and stars Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, and Johnny Whitworth.

The Amazing Spider-Man — Appearing in person are producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, director Marc Webb, and new Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy — Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

 

Saturday:

10:30-11:30 Marvel Television— Marvel’s head of TV Jeph Loeb, a first look at the premiere of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes season two (Room 6BCF)

2:00-3:00 Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski (Thor movie comic, Superman Earth One, World War Z movie, Babylon 5) (Room 7AB)

2:00-3:00 Hasbro: Marvel—Thor, Captain-America: The First Avenger, Spider-Man and Marvel Universe lines (Room 9)

2:45-3:45 Marvel: Cup O’ Joe—Marvel’s chief creative officer Joe Quesada (Room 6BCF)

Sunday:

12:30-1:30 Marvel: Fear Itself—Greg Pak (Alpha Flight), Cullen Bunn (The Deep), Nick Spencer (Iron Man 2.0), editor-in-chief Axel Alonso (Room 6DE)
 
Have fun!
 
C.J. Bunce
 
Editor
 
borg.com
 

DC Comics revealed Monday that it will publish a compilation of the first 52 new DC Comics #1 issues from its September re-launch in December.  If you’re like me and you skip regular issues and wait for the trade paperback version, this may be for you.  The book will sell at $150, but for that you get all 1,216 pages. 

Starting July 20, at Comic-Con and retailers nationwide, DC Comics will be debuting a guide to the new re-launch titled DC Comics – The New 52.  It will be available for free and will include a six-page guide and reprints of all 52 relaunch #1 covers.

DC Comics also revealed several Comic-Con giveaways and exclusives that had not yet previously been disclosed:

  • DC will have a green screen where guests can get a photo with the new DCU Justice League.
  • DC will give away its own oversized swag bags featuring the Justice League.
  • DC will give away various “Wayne Manor” casino chips.  DC did not mention whether these have any value or will be exchangeable for anything or whether it is just a Comic-Con collectible treasure hunt item.  The chips will be available in six colors and denominations up to $100.
  • Also available: DC 52 postcard checklists, posters and pins.
  • Limited edition portfolios featuring DC 52 covers for $39.95.  Only 520 copies of each volume will be available per day.
  • Limited character action figure “Zoom” from the Flashpoint series.
  • The full panel schedule including DC Comics speakers can be found here.

DC Comics also has revealed several Issue #2 covers for the 52 re-launch, including this one for Green Arrow

I have to ask: Since when did Wolverine become Green Arrow?  What’s with the weird stubble/sideburns?  I’m also not a fan of the suit.  He looks more like Connor Hawke from the last issues of the original run of Green Arrow, not our Ollie Queen.

Hrm…

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

While we wait for the opening night of Cowboys and Aliens on July 29, two days ago we walked through the top western movies to get psyched for Jon Favreau’s big budget clash of Old West and classic sci-fi story.  Today we run down the best alien movies Hollywood has created.  We’re not thinking so much about aliens in their native environment, or Star Wars and Star Trek films would top the list, but unexpected human encounters with otherworldly, friendly and not-so-friendly brethren. 

1.  THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951).  It should be no surprise that a movie from the director of West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and the editor of Citizen Kane and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) makes the top spot of this list.  Robert Wise’s classic story would fit solidly alongside the best Twilight Zone episodes.  And story is the point–no modern glitz and special effects necessary.  Michael Rennie appears to be just a man.  But he is not.  He is Klaatu, a visitor who has come to observe us in his flying saucer with the giant robot Gort.  How would we react to an alien visitor?  The first look at ourselves revealed paranoia and fear–it is the original self-reflection story that would later inspire V and Alien Nation.

2.  PREDATOR (1987).  He’s a hunter.  A collector.  And he’s on vacation.  That doesn’t sound like a high calibre story description.  Substitute the alien visitor and Predator is a western not unlike High Noon.  Our creature is a visitor with a secret past like any of a number of Clint Eastwood gunslingers.  And he is just as cool, a hunter that would stand firm alongside Boba Fett, Bossk, Dengar and Zuckus.  His make-up is unreal–truly alien to us–and he looks like a Nausicaan–that race that shoved a pool cue though Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Let’s see, who has an unusual skull that would look good on his trophy mantle?  How about that melon on Arnold Schwarzenegger?  There’s a cool vibe throughout the film and a great cast–and what other genre film features two future state governors?  And one of those gauntlets looks like Daniel Craig’s from the Cowboys and Aliens trailers.

3.  CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977).  But for Star Wars this picture would have gone off the charts the year it was released.  Because of multiple Star Wars viewings by me in 1977 and 1978 (I saw it ten times with my brother and sister instead of going to see anything else), I didn’t get to see this movie until years later when it was released on video.  But once I saw it, I realized how grand in scope it was.  Mix all the episodes of Leonard Nimoy’s old TV series In Search Of… and you’ll end up here.  A ship in the middle of the desert, a 1940s squadron appears out of nowhere, and we keep seeing this shape, painting it, making models of it.  Near the place where the Sundance Kid grew up is a destination for sci-fi fans now, at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.  And those five musical tones.  And an alien kidnapping scene, revealing nothing about the aliens, toys that seem to come alive, shocking and scary.  Invaders or friends?  Richard Dreyfuss’s second best movie.  One of Spielberg’s best.

4.  E.T.,THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982).  Not only did Close Encounters and The Day the Earth Stood Still teach us that aliens can be our friends, with E.T. a lot of us would never think to put up a fight when the invasion arrives.  Ugly but lovable, E.T. was funny, thrilling, and made us all cheer.  Ignore the recent edited, updated version–the original was just fine, thank you very much.  A classic pop culture film that gave us several catch phrases: “Home,”  “I’ll be right here,” “Be good,” “Phone home.”  And I am still addicted to Reese’s Pieces.  Another great Spielberg picture in his long list of blockbusters.

5.  ALIENS (1986).  Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson had it right when he said, “Game over, man, game over!”  The polar opposite of the aliens-as-friends films, these exoskeletal aliens have nothing in common with humans.  As villains, there is nothing for us to sympathize with.  They will just exterminate us.  This was a wake-up call for everyone who wants to meet our galactic neighbors.  Stay home and draw your curtains instead.  It was destiny that someone would pit them against Predator years later and it was no contest that we’d cheer the Predator.   And I don’t care what anyone says about the first movie with these monsters, Alien–Aliens, the sequel, was tons better with less unnecessary gross-outs.  You’ve seen one stomach burst, you’ve seen them all.  Skip the sequels but check out Aliens vs Predator for even more fun.

6.  THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984).  When Robert Preston, the original salesman from River City in The Music Man, comes to your planet looking to sell you something, like being a Starfighter, you know you have a different kind of film.  Here we expand the alien movie archetype from either good  or bad–aliens are shades of gray, like people, some are good, some are evil.  Directed by Nick Castle, John Carpenter’s colleague, a simple, quiet movie that has a lot of heart and makes everyone wish they’d get Alex Rogan’s calling.  And Grig’s make-up was the greatest thing until Enemy Mine.   With a great ending for the bad guys, with an all-time classic exchange:  “We’re locked into the moon’s gravitational pull!  What do we do?”  Answer?  “We die.”  Back in the days of arcades, this movie rivaled Tron as to coolness factor.  “Greetings, Starfighter.  You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.”  Where can I sign up? 

7.  THEY LIVE (1988).  This is a John Carpenter classic reviewed in an earlier post and puts Carpenter’s storytelling up there with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Here, the story goes that Earth has already been invaded and They have been living amongst us.  We could just ignore them.  After all they aren’t hurting anyone.  But once we see them they are sooo ugly.  And we were here first.  Some of us will play along to get the “good life”.  But for one guy trying to keep to himself, this is something he can’t ignore.  The truth must get out.  Roddy Piper is here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubblegum.  But no happily ever after will be had here.  They are here to stay.  On the one hand, some movie watchers and critics dismiss They Live as just another action flick.  But if  you pay attention, like with all Carpenter movies, you can see Carpenter’s masterwork is much more complex and dips into our own world’s politics and those who do, and those who don’t, sell-out.

8.  ALIEN NATION (1988).  Much more than just a morality play and allegory to our own prejudices, Alien Nation digs into the struggles all lifeforms surely must face in a multi-species environment.  What motivates us, how do we get along with others?  James Caan (The Godfather, Elf) and Mandy Patinkin (Princess Bride) were perfectly cast as human and Tenctonese cops.  The film’s themes prompted an immediate successful TV series starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpont.  Beyond the deeper themes, it’s a great police story and an odd, but fun, buddy movie of the Odd Couple variety. 

9.  WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005).  I almost didn’t see this remake in the theater.  But Tom Cruise movies are exciting and enjoyable 95% of the time.  So I saw it and just re-watched it a few weeks ago.  Here we see the futility of combating an invasion of even slightly more technology and might than us.  The situation really is hopeless.  All one can do is run.  As in They Live, with War of the Worlds the aliens have been here for a long time, only here they parked their vehicles here and are just now coming back to rev ’em up.  This movie has great special effects, truly creepy unsympathetic villains, and a lot of dread.  You really feel the pain of the result of alien visitors who don’t want to be our friends.  Yet another Spielberg blockbuster.

10.  DISTRICT 9 (2009).  A great film of political complexity.   A variant on Alien Nation, yet the same basic story.  An extraterrestrial race is forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth.  Their vessel runs out of resources and parks itself over South Africa.  It’s a blunt morality tale about the brutality of prejudice.  This one will strangely make you cheer against the humans.  Luckily for the visitors, they find a kindred spirit in a government agent who is accidentally exposed to their biotechnology.  You’ll find yourself asking:  What are your values?  How do you treat others who are different?  Where would you draw the line between life worthy of mutual respect and not?  Its documentary-style filming and non-American cast is refreshing and new.  And half the time you have to cringe at the protagonist’s actions.  Are we with him or not?

Honorable Mention: Starship Troopers (giant bugs destroy Rio de Janeiro, Johnny Rico is a classic western hero type), Enemy Mine (like Stagecoach, a human is stuck with an alien and even without a common language they come to realize how alike even different species can be and how valuable relationships can be formed by just trying to get along).

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Reviewed by C.J. Bunce

Harry Potter never had it easy.  A kid with a dark destiny thrust into a world of muggles as a baby from a world of hidden magic and secrets.  As his story progressed no matter how many people acted in support of him, in the last two of seven episodes we learn that maybe the cards were stacked against him from even before his birth.  And only at the end do we learn the truth and his destiny is finally revealed.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, debuted in the UK last weekend and this weekend in the U.S. to record midnight screening and opening day box office sales of $92.1 million.  Thankfully, our devotion to Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends over 13 years of our lives was rewarded with a satisfying conclusion.  It’s not a perfect film, or even close to it, but it is a lot of fun and if your expectations after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, were as low as mine, you might just walk out as pleasantly surprised as I was, willing to go back for another screening. 

Look forward to the best Harry Potter movie since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  And it is much better than Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

Highlights of  Deathly Hallows, Part 2, include: 

  • Our favorite underdog, background character Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) finally gets his due screentime, and if there is any young actor we want to see more of post-Harry Potter, it is this actor as an adult. 
  • We get to meet a new resident of Hogwarts, Helena Ravenclaw, played beautifully by Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting, Elizabeth, Gosford Park, State of Play, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, No Country for Old Men).
  • We get to meet Albus Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth Dumbledore, played by the brilliant Ciaran Hinds (Excaliber, Sum of All Fears, Phantom of the Opera, Road to Perdition, Tomb Raider, Jane Eyre, Race to Witch Mountain).
  • Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, who will will not back down and demands to have her say, gives a performance that could very well have been the female lead in this movie.
  • A superb scene of a rescue from Gringotts of a white dragon, incredibly lifelike and a satisfying scene.
  • In the 3D version, we get to see Hogwarts like never before, with an introductory shot of the mysterious, ever-watching Dementors, seeming to bookend our flight as we soar into the dark journey ahead.  In fact, this is the best 3D movie I have seen–nothing over the top or dazzling–but good enough that you feel like you are eavesdropping on a conversation between Harry, Hermione and Ron from under the stairsteps.  Or that you could grab a prop, like the Sword of Gryffindor, or like one of those thousands of gold chalices under Gringotts, from the production set.  I actually forgot it was a 3D movie.

My negatives are with the story, and the decision to break the novel into two films, more than the film itself.  Although it was a fun read, I did not love the novel.  I thought J.K. Rowling saved too much for the end, after three previous forgettable installments where not a lot happened.  Too much crammed into the last book, and if better planned out, some of the revelations in this last installment could have been more subtlely peppered through the prior installments.  And the jam-packed story was all too rushed. 

As an example, (a spoiler for those who have not read the book or seen Deathly Hallows, Part 1):  Rowling seemed to spend a lot of time with Harry’s sadness at the death of Dobby the Elf, yet snuffed out the life of Harry’s closest companion going back to day one at Hogwart’s–the only one at his side even while he had to live with the Dursley’s–his pet owl Hedwig.  And she goes on to snuff out beloved characters almost willy-nilly in my mind without much reflection by our hero.  Loyal readers probably will figure this occurs off-screen, but again I think the story presses forward like a freight train out of control at times–it must, because there are too many ends that need tied up.

 

Ultimately the tying up occurs, and we can walk out of the theater with our questions answered.  Finally, there did not seem to be enough Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), and when we did see them, Hermione’s role was more of a watcher than the heroine we’ve come to love.  There was not enough of Severus Snape’s (Alan Rickman) story, and I also am still not a fan of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) make-up and don’t believe Voldemort will go down as one of the best cinema villains despite Fiennes top-notch acting.

The slow, almost boring, parts of Deathly Hallows, Part 1, after watching Part 2, tell me that there never was a need to break the book into two films.  With the new Twilight installment following suit by splitting a book into two movies, to me this reflects greed of the franchise and nothing else.  For the sake of moviegoers, hopefully this is not the wave of the future.  Prices at my theater were at an all-time high.  With returns of $92 million on the first day, and all the blockbusters this summer, Hollywood can’t be doing that bad.

All said, this final installment is great entertainment, a must for Harry Potter fans, and an excuse to play catch-up on any past Harry Potter episodes you may have missed (for the three people out there who haven’t already seen them all).  The film offers a denouement that is a great wrap-up, thoughtful, and hopefully removes all possibility of any need of any future installments in the franchise.

Postscript for anyone who likes to see screen-used costumes and props–the Smithsonian Institution is arranging an exhibit of costumes from the Harry Potter franchise.  More details to be announced.

After a year of advertising, Cowboys and Aliens finally arrives in theaters June 29.  With a sci-fi western starring the coolest James Bond ever (Daniel Craig) and our favorite scoundrel/spice smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), our current favorite actress on-the-rise, Olivia Wilde (Quorra in Tron: Legacy, Thirteen in House M.D.), and the coolest director cranking out hits, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf), this movie is going to really have to screw it up to not be the biggest blockbuster of the year–even competing against Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, another Harry Potter movie, another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, another Planet of the Apes movie, another X-Men movie and another Transformers movie.

And what do you look forward to the most?  The first big western in years?  Harrison Ford finally in a genre movie again?  Daniel Craig playing another cool as ice character?  That Boba Fett-style gauntlet blaster?  Favreau is on a roll with his recent films, and the trailer looks like it came out of a Philip K. Dick short story.  So while we’re waiting, eagerly, for Cowboys and Aliens to premiere, let’s run down a list of the all-time best westerns and alien movies.  We’ll start with the westerns and in two days we’ll look at the best alien movies.

1.  STAGECOACH (1939).  The best western director, John Ford, shooting in the best western location, Monument Valley, with the best western movie star, John Wayne.  A character study more than a standard shoot ’em up, the relationship of people trapped and how fear affects a small group dynamic and how each deals with an unseen threat just around the next turn.  Heroics and prejudice and good guys and bad guys.  Cowboys and Aliens is an obvious play on Cowboys and Indians, and this film follows a stagecoach ride under a threat of Geronimo and his posse–a real story of cowboys vs Indians in frontier America.  The source of the modern cool customer Han Solo-type, Wayne plays a tough but valiant Ringo Kid.

2.  FORT APACHE (1948).  Horse soldiers of the frontier, a mix of dying and dealing with command and authority, another John Ford and John Wayne partnership with a tough as nails Henry Fonda and the Ford/Wayne ensemble B-team of Victor McLaglen and Ward Bond.  Co-starring the no longer just a kid actor Shirley Temple.  This must have been what it was like to spend your years living out of a military fort.  Wayne grows in acting skill, develops his own persona and defines his swaggering hero with the confident and cocky Captain York.

3.  HIGH NOON (1952).  The rarity of a true hero in the face of real danger with no help from anyone.  Gary Cooper’s Marshal Kane must decide whether he is a runner or whether he must take a stand.  With Thomas Mitchel and a brilliant but frustrating Grace Kelly as the new Mrs. Kane.  Those who don’t like High Noon are usually frustrated with everyone but Cooper.  That’s because you’re supposed to be frustrated–sometimes people just don’t do the right thing until someone comes along and shows them the way.  Most of the film doesn’t make you feel good.  That’s why High Noon is not a garden variety western but a stand-out masterpiece.

4.  HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973).  Clint Eastwood directs himself in his best western role as the mysterious stranger.  I’m a big fan of genre bending and like Cowboys and Aliens bridges sci-fi and westerns, here we see a natural bridging of western meets ghost story.  Or does it?  Paint the town red?  Right on.  Seek a little revenge?  You bet.  Where Eastwood’s  other westerns seem to blur together, Drifter stands out as a film that seems to go a little crazy from the desert heat.

5.  THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962).  More John Ford directing John Wayne?  Yep, it’s because they were that good together.  And here we add on Jimmy Stewart as honest, frustrated but determined lawman turned senator, Ransom Stoddard.  Stewart’s Stoddard is a bit of High Noon’s Gary Cooper, but without the skill and edge.  Liberty is played by an oily, vile Lee Marvin in one of his best film roles.  And believe it or not, John Wayne again builds on his performance as the swaggering early Han Solo-type, including even a plotline pretty much stolen for the original Star Wars.  Whose steak did Liberty kick to the floor?  That was my steak, Valance.  Who shot Liberty Valance?  Watch and find out.

6.  MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946).  Yep, another John Ford directed masterpiece, again with Henry Fonda along with Ward Bond, but minus Wayne.  Walter Brennan is top-notch here playing the mouth flapper that made him famous.  The story is the most well known legend of the west:  the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature plays Doc Holliday.  Even if you know the story, Ford shows us how the streets of Tombstone were painted in blood more than a century ago.  Others have tried but no version of the story comes close to this classic.

7.  SHANE (1953).  Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur are perfect here, with real-life cowboy Ben Johnson along for the ride.  Neither a farmer nor rancher, Ladd’s Shane has his own code and his code is about being kind and reserved, despite his gunslinger past.  Like Wayne in Stagecoach, Cooper in High Noon, Stewart in Liberty Valance, and Eastwood in Drifter, Shane’s loner with the hidden past is sewn from the same cloth.  Not cool in a modern way, but in an example-setting way, Shane shows a young boy what kind of a man to grow up to be.  Like the triumph of the human spirit in several other great westerns, Shane is about looking out for the other guy.

8.  SILVERADO (1985).  My favorite western.  Lawrence Kasdan’s masterpiece that reintroduced the western genre and proved that you can make a western today every bit as good as decades ago.  The best ensemble western ever, yet it honestly pulls bits and pieces from all the other classics.  Kevin Kline’s Paden is an everyman just trying to get by, pulled into something he wants no part of.  Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner are brothers on their way to California who stop off on one last visit to their sister.  Too bad that the man who runs Silverado now is the son of the guy Glenn’s character went to jail for killing, and he just won’t let it go.  Enter Brian Dennehy as the sheriff and the Old West’s most perfect bartender named Stella, played by Linda Hunt. “Cobb can’t hurt me if he’s dead.”  With Danny Glover, Patricia Arquette and John Cleese.  Where’s the dog, Paden?

9.  THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960).  John Sturges directs an all-star cast in the best remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson are each skilled with their own special powers.  They must team up to complete a simple task–and selecting the team for the job is just plain fun.  Charles Coburn is solid as the expert in knife throwing.  A rollicking, exciting western.  Sturges’ line-up of heroes and familiar images of an up-and-coming western town is classic Old West.

10.  BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969).  Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross star in the other most famous story of the west.  Bank robbers and the best ever buddy movie.  The trio play off each other so naturally you really miss these people after the movie is over.  Great fun, with popular music of the day.  “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” as a pop song behind Newman and Ross’s bicycle ride reflects a carefree spirit that must have accompanied the actual risky band of gunslingers.  The film stands strong today and on multiple viewings Newman and Redford only seem to get better.

HONORABLE MENTION: RIO BRAVO (John Wayne in a low-key performance, with some classic gunfight scenes, including a slick dive and rifle throw and catch scene you’ll have to rewind and watch again and again), BEND IN THE RIVER (Jimmy Stewart and the best western scenery outside of Monument Valley), ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (John Wayne’s quiet anti-hero/hero and the innocent Gail Russell have chemistry and somehow manage to come off as made for each other).

MUSICAL WESTERNS YOU SHOULD NOT MISS:  OKLAHOMA! (“the farmer and the cowman can be friends”), PAINT YOUR WAGON (Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin singing a good musical under backdrop of the sudden growth of a western town)

Delve further into the genre and check out these other actors from classic westerns:  Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Glenn Ford, Gabby Hayes, Tom Mix, Audie Murphy, Roy Rogers, Randolph Scott, and the Sons of the Pioneers.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

Just hours ago Warner Brothers released the first look at the highly anticipated 2012 release The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  The first of a two-part movie adaptation of the first book of Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien and follow-up to the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings series has had its ups and downs, first with doubts the movie would even get made, then with Peter Jackson (happily) replacing Guillermo Del Toro as director, then local worker hurdles to overcome earlier this year.  Current release date is December 2012, but it looks good so far and there will plenty of familiar faces and a few new residents of Middle Earth.

Martin Freeman, who just garnered a BAFTA Best Supporting Actor Award for playing Watson in the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock plays our hero Bilbo Baggins, and here is the first look from Warner Brothers:

Bilbo reviewing a long note after an unexpected visit from what turns into a houseful of dwarves…

And a more familiar face, the return of Gandalf the White (Ian McKellen):

…looking a bit concerned…

And a production photo of Peter Jackson and Martin Freeman:

And if that weren’t enough to whet our appetites, we have an early look at the several dwarves.

Nori, Ori and Dori:

Bifur, Bofur and Bombur:

Kili and Fili:

And Oin and my to-be favorite Gloin (I may have to adjust my Gimli outfit to match this father of Gimli):

Hopefully Warner Brothers will start to release photos more frequently as we get closer to the film’s release.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

From time to time you hear of references to an artist as THE cover artist, the most sought after, etc., but no artist can touch what Alex Ross has been able to do with his paintbrushes.  His work is instantly recognizable from its sweeping heroic themes, idealistic and optimistic characterization, and an elevation of the human form to not only superhero but from superhero to godlike magnificence.  His use of color, tricks of light, chromes, reflections and high contrast imagery include themes of hope, confidence, power, pride and sometimes even fear.  So with the above pantheon of DC Comics Gods-of-sorts from the cover to the Justice series as #15 and the below Marvel Comics “Avengers Assemble” print sold at San Diego Comic-Con International in 2010 as #14, we introduce a sequence from #15 to #1 of the most striking, stunning, and powerful creations to be featured on comic book covers, posters and marketing materials by Alex Ross–and our “just plain favorites”–created over his standout career so far.

13.  THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST.  Ross created this work for the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and it is currently on display at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  Those monkeys are… still creepy and Margaret Hamilton’s witch is still one of the best villains of all time.

12.  PRINCE NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER, AND HIS CREATOR, BILL EVERETT.  Ross created this piece for the 60th anniversary of the classic Marvel character and his artist gets equal billing, in black and white and reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s self portrait work.

11.  FLASH GORDON DVD COVER.  Created by Ross for the 2007 special edition release of the DVD, Ross has said Flash Gordon was his favorite movie.  A photograph of Max Von Sydow as Ming, the nemesis of Flash, couldn’t look any better than this painting.

10.  SUPERMAN, STRENGTH #1 COVER.  This Ross homage to Action Comics #1 features Ross’s most painted superhero, Superman, the man of steel, doing what he does best.  If only filmmakers would get an actor to play Superman that actually looks like Ross’s vision of Superman!

9.  PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.  A 2008 print and Wizard magazine cover of the 44th president of the United States–an homage to Ross’ own similar Superman design.  An artist that can make even a president look cool.  Obama is known as a comic book fan, and was featured on a cover of Spider-man, among other books.

8.  KRYPTO, COVER FOR SUPERMAN, ISSUE #680.  Ross features heroes of all sorts in his designs, but often elevates the underdog to supreme being, and with Superman’s dog here he is shown atop a marble lion.

7.  CAPTAIN MARVEL FROM ROSS’S GRAPHIC NOVEL “KINGDOM COME.”  I once spoke to a friend of Alex Ross.  A close friend.  Who amazingly looked just like Captain Marvel.  Not a coincidence, as Ross regularly paints heroes using his friends as models.  This page showing Superman kneeling before him, best shows what Ross could do with even a standard catalog hero of the past.  He restored the legendary “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal” to exactly that status.

6.  THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.  This pantheon piece was used individually and as shown below on numerous posters and books.  I love it because, with all the incarnations of the JLA, Ross gets the team exactly right with every member that should be on the team.  From the mightily small Atom to Superman, this is who I also think of as DC’s main fighting force.  Could these guys be more cocky?

5.  THE JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN, FROM GRAPHIC NOVEL “BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN” COVER.  Here we get to see the dark side of Ross–his exquisitely frightening Joker, in a dance with his best gal, the homicidal Ms. Quinn.  What a couple they make, especially as illustrated by Ross.

4.  GATCHAMAN DVD COVER.  Like Ross’s ability to make Captain Marvel and other classic superheroes appear great once again, Ross can take nostalgic series, movies, characters, darned near anything and make us want to revisit these characters.  Whether you saw this Japanese earliest modern incarnation of anime as G-Force or as Battle of the Planets, these kids turned heroes are as familiar as old friends.

3.  SPACE GHOST ISSUE #1.  When I saw this issue hit the stands I had to have it.  The one problem with Ross only working cover art is that you expect the interior pages to be just as good as the cover art, which is why Justice and Marvels are such great treats to the eye.  With Space Ghost, Ross takes an obscure hero that we best know as a TV show host and makes him every bit the counterpart to Superman & Co.

2.  WIZARD COMICS COVER ART, BATMAN’s ENEMIES.  This is one of Ross’s most univerally acclaimed images and rightly so.  Everyone is too close for comfort and Batman goes toward the baddest baddie’s throat first, his #1 foe, The Joker.

1.  SESAME STREET’S SUPER GROVER, PACKAGING ART FOR PALISADES TOYS 2005 ACTION FIGURE.  How can you beat this painting?  If you don’t remember Grover from Sesame Street, dig around You Tube and watch some old episodes.  Before Elmo… there was Grover.  The muppet who loved everyone, meek and mild, he’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and more.  And when times are tough, and there’s no one to protect us all, who will rise to meet the challenge?  It is Super Grover.  When I saw this print at a con a few years ago I froze in my tracks and just couldn’t believe it.  It’s not just the art, sometimes it is the choice of subject matter that tells half the story.  Kudos to Ross for thinking of this one.

Well that’s my list.  Please drop us a comment if you think I have any glaring omission or if you just want to chime in with your list.

*All images above Copyright by Alex Ross or his publishers.  Many of these prints and original art are for sale on his website at www.alexrossart.com.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the hiatus between Season 2 and last night’s Season 3 opener of Warehouse 13, only one question was pecking at viewers’ minds.  Why would Agent Myka Bering, played by Joanne Kelly, co-star and female lead of the show, leave after only two seasons?  Luckily for fans we don’t have to wait all season to find out.

Warehouse 13–the SyFy Channel series that expands upon the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the thoughtless government lackeys carted off the Ark in the final scene.  Okay, not that exact warehouse, but something bigger and better–think the nation’s attic meets the X-Files or the short-lived series The Lost Room.  Except with the X-Files you had monsters of the week, and here, like Friday the 13th (the Canadian TV series) or Ray Bradbury Theater, you have an artifact of the week–some seemingly mundane throwaway item that we learn in fact carries some otherworldly power, often causing or created by the famous event or person the artifact is tied to. 

Last night’s episode “The New Guy” started with all the regulars back in their stride (minus the missing Myka), with Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) working a textbook case of the out-of-control, would-be artifact-of-the-week with Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti).  This time the artifact is one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars (hey, didn’t I see that in the NYC Hard Rock Cafe?), wreaking electric havok, only to be tamed by Claudia’s cool guitar skills, and a little extra playing after she gives it the purple glove treatment–despite being scolded by Warehouse leader Artie Nielsen, played by the top-notch character actor Saul Rubinek (who played my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation villain Kivas Fajo).  A team of Pete and Claudia!  Great idea!  Even better, Claudia is now the promoted Agent Claudia, long removed from her character’s weaker slacker introduction in Season 1, she now is confident, large-and-in-charge of all Warehouse tech.

But then a rescued hottie flirts with our hero Pete, and he–ignores it.  What?  From there we are spun into uncertainty–like Pete and company, we need Myka back.  Pete is not the same.  The guy who Myka referred to as “Artie, it’s Pete, it’s a win when he doesn’t lick anything” is just not his normal hilarious self.  And as a viewer you start to wonder how grim the show will be without our reliable straight arrow Myka. 

Enter Steve Jinks, played by Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Veronica Mars, In Plain Sight), an ATF agent who witnesses the strange Hendrix guitar antics, and Pete and Claudia’s resolution, but he can’t believe it.  Steve, who has a perceptive skill to know the difference between someone lying and telling the truth, is pushed away at the ATF and Artie taps him as Myka’s replacement.  Friendly enough, he still is no Myka, and worse yet, he doesn’t get Pete’s jokes.  And Pete drops some great one-liners in this episode.  Steve is now the new guy–a full team member and Pete begrudgingly brings him along to pursue the actual artifact of the week, a certain folio (“it’s not a book, it’s a folio”) of letters with popular lines of antiquity that are killing the people who read them–only these are not actual lines uttered by historical people, more like lines from a play.  Shakespeare?  Wait, Pete knows someone who can help, someone who knows all this “Walter” Shakespeare, the “Bird” of Avon gobbledygook.  Myka?

Everything finally comes together by the end, sort of, and we’re off to another season of sleuthing, with a surprise visit by H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray), who will soon be the star of her own ScyFy Channel spin-off, according to Warehouse actors.  Another interesting idea.  After two seasons Warehouse 13 is picking up steam–the cast is familiar now and play off each other well and with some new guest stars expected this season, including a Star Trek line-up of Rene Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan, and our favorite Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner as the Warehouse doctor, we have some good TV to look forward to.

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

For the past 6 seasons TNT’s The Closer has consistently been one of the strongest dramas in Prime Time.  With its inexplicable mix of graphic violence, quirky and lovable characters, and domestic chaos, the show delivers its own original brand of police procedural whodunnit.  Led by Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, the entertaining ensemble cast keeps viewers tuning in weekly every summer.  Now The Closer’s last season has begun, with typical solid writing and performances. 

“Unknown Trouble” follows a mass murder in a rap music label-owned LA mansion.  Real-life rapper Reason’s music provides the undeniably catchy baseline for the whole episode–both literally and metaphorically.  But the real reason we tune in is for the drama of Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson’s personal and professional life.  And “Unknown Trouble” delivers here as well.  Within the first 20 minutes, the Major Crimes squad is plunged into organizational chaos and a wrongful death lawsuit, both of which had me fairly bubbling over with rampant speculation over what’s to come in the next 20 episodes (10 into fall, 5 winter and 6 next summer)–and beyond.

Because although Season 7 may be The Closer’s and Sedgwick’s last, it was released today that much of the cast has signed on for a Major Crimes spinoff to begin where The Closer finale leaves off.  This is happy news indeed, as I have begun to tire of Brenda’s constant angst, but knew I’d miss Flynn, Provenza, Sanchez, Tau, Gabriel and Buzz.  What could be better?  But 20 episodes is a lot of room to send off the current crew.  And lots of questions to answer–Where will Chief Pope (JK Simmons, Spider-man, Law and Order) end up?  Will Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica) lead the squad?  Can Fritz (Jon Tenney, Green Lantern) and Joel continue living with Brenda?  Looks like plenty of The Closer entertainment to keep us watching through next year.