Archive for August, 2013


Major Crimes cast Season 2

By C.J. Bunce

Breathtaking.  Gut-wrenching.  This week’s summer season finale of Major Crimes should underscore for any naysayers TNT’s decision last week to renew the series for a third season.  Major Crimes wrapped its eleventh episode of the second season this week with what may be the best dramatic episode of television this year.  Revealing the murders by a “poster boy” model of several innocent victims, the producers took us on a different path through the Major Crimes typical police turf to a place we didn’t really want to go.  Creepy and disturbing in the way Medium once revealed its violent crimes, the audience was left on the edge of their seats not for any grand climax but simply marveling at how each of the cast members aided in solving the crime.

A good balance of crimes of the week and the key thread of teenage informant Rusty kept this amazing 12th year of this ensemble cast fresh, intriguing, and impressive.  Newcomer Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) made us wonder if he will ultimately be around for his trial or whether he’ll skip out and run away, especially in light of a batch of harassing letters he is receiving that purport to be from The Closer carryover criminal Stroh.

Rios and Sanchez

The big shake-up this season—and the series thrives on shake-ups—was the entry of D.D.A. Emma Rios, played by Nadine Velazquez.  Velazquez is hard to read.  By all appearances she is playing Rios as an incompetent lawyer.  Rios is completely out of her element in nearly each episode as the team ends up in the autopsy room, as she tries to simply communicate with the detectives (poor Det. Sanchez), or operate in a courtroom.  Where last season we had doubts about Detective Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), and before that even Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell) herself toward the end of The Closer, this season Sykes fits right in and we’ve been on Raydor’s side for a long time now.  Rios?  Rios is painful to watch.  What do the writers have up their sleeves?  Are we supposed to hate her as we used to hate the scheming tactics of Assistant Chief Taylor (Robert Gossett)?  The bottom line is we’ve grown to like Raydor, and Taylor, and Sykes, so we’re taking it on faith that Rios will come through for us at some point.  She certainly keeps the crime squad on its toes.

A trilogy of episodes this season featured Tom Berenger as Captain Raydor’s semi-ex-husband Jack.  Berenger hasn’t been better and here he played a failed husband who also understood–and seemed to want to help–Raydor’s live-in Rusty in a way that Sharon noted was something he failed to do with his own kids.  Ultimately Sharon pushes Jack away, but we hope we see him in future episodes.

Jack and Sanchez in Major Crimes

One of the highlights of the season was the completely off-the-wall episode “There’s No Place Like Home,” with a variety of guest stars from classic TV including Tim Conway (McHale’s Navy, The Carol Burnett Show), Marion Ross (Happy Days), Ron Glass (Firefly, Barney Miller), Paul Dooley (Alf, Sixteen Candles, Grace Under Fire), and Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, Remington Steele, Barney Miller).  The gritty, sometimes gory nature of the L.A. crimes in the series beg for more comedic episodes like this one.  We’re still holding out for the next episode featuring the comedic duo of Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and Flynn (Tony Denison).  We almost saw this as they were accused of bumbling a witness in the episode “I, Witness,” a fun episode that left the guys playing clean-up and catch-up.

Rusty’s fear and angst grew last week with the episode “Backfire,” as the Major Crimes squad pursued the murderer of a young woman who was an FBI informant. The FBI botched its protection of their witness, and as Rusty followed along at his normal after-school haunt he had more reason to believe neither he, nor those around him, are safe as he waits to testify against Stroh.

Major Crimes crew

Where will Rusty end up now that his friend Kris (Madison McLaughlin, Supernatural) has revealed his secret about the letters?

We’ve got a long wait to find out.  Major Crimes returns November 25, 2013, with the mid-season restart episode “Pick Your Poison.”

Itty Bitty Hellboy Issue 1 cover   KISS Kids Issue 1 cover

Of all the kids comics titles out there how could we possibly pass up previewing a title like Itty Bitty Hellboy?  Dark Horse Comics’ new five-issue mini-series hits comic book stores in two weeks, August 28, 2013, but we’ve previewed it so you have time to order it from your local shop or add it to your pull list.

Itty Bitty Hellboy at first blush has the look of My Little Pony or Adventure Time–bright and cheery colors and fonts and wacky-styled characters and stories.  The difference is that the title character is a demon with an irregular-sized arm who is almost a caricature of the Hellboy in the standard monthlies.  (Where’s that broken horn?)  He’s that feisty little spawn we saw in Hellboy the movie, yet he fits right in with this crowd of a neighborhood of kids, much like you’d find in Peanuts or The Simpsons.  His lifelong friend Liz is here, as well as some rather unusual friends you wouldn’t find in Springfield.

HBYIB-1-PG-04-7d1b3

Broken into multiple stories that help develop our understanding of Hellboy and his friends, Itty Bitty Hellboy feels like a cross between Calvin and Hobbes and Spy vs. Spy.  It’s good, innocent fun any kid will like and any parent should approve of.

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Heroes of Cosplay competition

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Last week Syfy premiered its new reality series, Heroes of Cosplay, which follows a group of hardcore hobbyists on the convention and competition circuit.  borg.com readers will know that cosplay (costume play) is a branch of the costuming hobby that’s all about dressing up as your favorite genre characters, from fantasy, sci-fi, gaming and especially anime.  Frankly, we were a little skeptical—another reality competition series? And, will they make the costuming community look like buffoons?  But we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it.

As is the norm with reality series these days, the pilot featured a fair amount of drama, melodrama, psychodrama, and a little bit of cosplay.  Filmed at Wizard World in Portland, Oregon, this February, the episode offered tantalizing glimpses at a number of recognizable and wish-we-knew-what-that-was awesome hand-crafted character recreations.  The culmination of the episode was Wizard World’s first cosplay competition, featuring our intrepid stars and some unidentified cosplayers from the con, and their amazing and prize-worthy work.  The wonderful, giant My Neighbor Totoro costume (which made third in the competition) was not by one of the cast members but may just have to be added to the borg.com list of best ever cosplay costumes at a Con.

Judges and Merida on Heroes of Cosplay

The main cast is made up of a number of hobbyists and aspiring professionals, and helmed by famed professional cosplayer (yes, evidently there is such a thing!) Yaya Han.  The inclusion of Han, now a judge instead of a competitor, offers a much-needed stability and authority, and she seems to fill the role of unofficial series host.

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HOT FUZZ Cornetto Time

In your quest for the ultimate scrumptious sci-fi fix, if this doesn’t cure your munchies nothing will.  Cornettos.  They look like the American ice cream cone called the Drumstick but Brits claim they are much better.  Since we can’t get them in the States we’ll just have to take their word for it.  Yum… they sure look good.  Cornettos have been featured in the Edgar Wright comedy films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, hence the moniker the “Cornetto Trilogy” or the “Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy” (or spelled “Flavours” if you like).  And if you’re hungry for two great comedies and the latest and greatest film starring the awesomely funny one-two punch Pegg/Frost combo, then you have one chance this Thursday night at more than 150 screens across the U.S.

Shaun of the Dead Cornettos

At 5:30 p.m. local time Thursday August 22, 2013, select theaters will show Shaun of the Dead–the greatest zombie spoof movie ever, and maybe just the greatest zombie movie, too.  Pegg plays Shaun, who is drifting through life with a dull job, Liz–his girlfriend ready to walk out, a quirky mom, a stern stepdad, annoying roommate Pete, and only his best pal Ed and his favorite haunt the Winchester to bring focus to his chaotic life.  So when an apocalyptic zombie uprising arrives, he is well prepared to head it off.

Keep Calm and watch Shaun of the Dead

Following Shaun of the Dead is the cop movie spoof Hot Fuzz.  Pegg is back this time as police officer PC Nicholas Angel who is too good at his job to the point of making everyone around him look bad so he is promoted to a small, rural English town called Sandford that has no crime.  There he partners with Frost’s character PC Danny Butterman to investigate a series of murders, including a local shopkeeper played by former James Bond Timothy Dalton in a great, quirky role.

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Mouse Guard The Black Axe hardcover

By C.J. Bunce

In his very best storytelling in the world of Mouse Guard so far, David Petersen takes us through his unique style of beautiful words and illustration on an epic adventure in Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, as noble mouse Celanawe (pronounced khel-en-awe) searches for a legendary symbol and talisman.  That’s saying a lot considering this third hardcover edition of Mouse Guard continues Petersen’s already brilliant 2008 Eisner Award-winning Mouse Guard : Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152.

Despite his great earlier work this new legendary tale manages to convey even more emotion, more fear, empathy, and excitement for these little warriors in their elaborate world within our own world.  Taking place years earlier than the past tales in 1115, three unlikely individuals are brought together as a reluctant Celanawe learns about a destiny shared by himself and another mouse, the older and wiser matriarch Em, shared relative of an ancient bloodline, whom Celanawe is directed to protect by his own matriarch, Bronwyn.

Mouse Guard The Black Axe interior page

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Broadchurch Tennant and Whittaker

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Two episodes down and we at borg seem to be the only viewers utterly underwhelmed by BBC America’s hotly-anticipated new import, Broadchurch.  Lured in by trailers featuring some of our genre favorites, including Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block), David Tennant, and Arthur Darvill (both, Doctor Who), we eagerly cleared our schedule and tuned in, expecting the sort of dazzling drama that series like The Hour and Life on Mars have led us to expect from BBC.  We won’t tell you what happened next (it makes borg.com reviewer Elizabeth C. Bunce seem soulless), and we won’t waste the bandwidth trying to shout over the accolades.  Instead we’re putting our energy into giving other disappointed viewers what they really wanted from the eight-part series.  Unfortunately for many American viewers, several of these shows have not yet made it to Region 1 (U.S.) DVD, but they are well worth tracking down.

If you tuned in to see…

Whittaker in Marchlands

Jodie Whittaker as a grieving mum, try Marchlands (reviewed earlier this year here at borg.com)

The luminous Jodie Whittaker gives a haunting, nuanced performance as a young mother trying to come to terms with the disappearance of her daughter, while stifled by life at her in-laws’ home and the judgement of local villagers.  Also starring Denis Lawson (Bleak House, Star Wars) and Doctor Who’s own River Song, Alex Kingston (Arrow), Marchlands is a complex look at the lingering resonance of one family’s tragedy.  Plus there are ghosts, which in borg.com’s opinion is always a bonus.  (And if you love Marchlands then you’ll want to see the follow-on series Lightfields we also reviewed here).

Morrissey and Tennant in Viva Blackpool

David Tennant investigating a murder in an idyllic seaside village, check out Viva Blackpool (just Blackpool in the UK)

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Joker graffiti in Batman 1989

By C.J. Bunce

American Graffiti.  Just two weeks ago the George Lucas classic coming of age film about high school graduates in 1962 came back for the first national release in movie theaters in decades (we discussed it here at borg.com).  In a series of interconnected vignettes Lucas gave us a snapshot of kids and cars and cruising culture, popular then and now.  American Graffiti wasn’t the original title, and, as the story goes, the film’s backers had no idea what the title meant, but it was better than Another Quiet Night in Modesto or other proposals so they just went with it.  No graffiti actually plays into the plot, and the viewer can conceive his or her own meaning to this now classic movie title.

Graffiti as pop art?  Actual graffiti in America, in many ways hasn’t changed a lot, and it doesn’t share the same feelings of nostalgia as the eponymous film.  A form of vandalism, its very nature is something covert, rebellious and illegal.  Spray paint is the medium and the canvas is anything and everything from highway overpasses to train cars to building walls.  The stealth required gives the creator a challenge–maybe even the adrenaline rush that fuels some that are behind it.  Over the years the costs to city governments to wash or sand or scrub off graffiti prompted many cities to work with local graffiti artists–designating projects and mural locations where local creators could show off their creativity.  It’s a constructive bridging of law and order and a radical form of expression.

Iowa State Fair 2013 butter cow

A freshly cleaned up butter cow at the 2013 Iowa State Fair.

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The Wolverine Japan theme poster

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

It’s strange to be reading December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the Worldby Craig Shirley and read all of the vitriol directed against Japanese people in the days after Pearl Harbor in the summations of newspaper accounts.  I know that not using derogative terms to talk about groups of people is a relatively new concept, but looking at the headlines and words used in newspapers still gave me pause.  (The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the chapter I just read mentioned Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Redskins.)

I recently saw The Wolverine and it begins at the other side of the story of WWII, nearly four years after Pearl Harbor when the sovereign land of the Japanese was hit with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the planes of the United States.  Logan is a prisoner of war in a special constructed cell that buries him in a hole well beneath the surface of the earth.  A bomber passes overhead. A Japanese officer rushes to release POWs from their jails.  He finally cuts the lock from Logan’s cage as well after a bit of deliberation and joins his fellow officers as they face the horizon in the position to commit seppuku before the bomb hits Nagasaki.

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Arrow logo Season 2

Last month we learned that Summer Glau had joined the Season Two cast of CW Network’s Arrow series, slated to play Oliver Queen’s business rival Isabel Rochev in a recurring role.  Since then Arrow’s creators have revealed even more about Season Two.

Enter The Flash

First, the big news is bringing in fellow Justice Leaguer Dr. Barry Allan aka The Flash in at least three episodes next season, with the possibility of a spinoff series of his own (although we wonder how you can possibly beat the original The Flash TV series, which remains not only at the top of the superhero TV efforts but also qualifies as one of the best appearances of a superhero in any medium).  According to series executive producer Andrew Kreisberg at a press briefing when The Flash reveal was announced, “When you first meet Barry Allen, he’s just a forensic scientist working for the Starling City Police Department so, he’s just an ordinary man when we meet him.”  We won’t see The Flash until the 8th episode of Season Two, and no actor has yet been announced for the role.

New Black Canary

A new Black Canary

Wait a second.  Laurel Lance is Black Canary, right?  Or at least Dinah Lance was Black Canary for decades in the comic book history of the character.  Turns out CW revealed actress Caity Lotz (Mad Men) has been tapped to play Black Canary on the series.  So what gives?  Kreisberg has been interviewed and he seems to be sidestepping the question while seeming to reveal that Laurel Lance will be Black Canary, but somehow after Lotz fills the role.  Sounds to us like Laurel may take the mantle from Lotz down the road, much like Laurel took the Black Canary title from her mother in the historic DC Universe.  The Arrow writers can juggle the DCU characters but won’t move too far off the mark.  We think fans will not be happy if they don’t get to see Katie Cassidy as Black Canary.

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Bill Murray not in Stripes

It’s not a title that, by itself, will draw crowds to the theater.  But how often does a movie have much more than one reason to get you into the theater to see it?  Maybe its an actor you love, a genre, the fact it is based on a book or property you’re interested in.  The Monuments Men, with its first trailer released this past week, has almost too many reasons to see it to count.  “In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.”  Yep, it’s not about Mount Rushmore.  So let’s take a quick look at what this movie has to offer, to bring in viewers for different reasons.

Everyone is always trying to make a war movie that’s not a war movie, add some twist to the genre to make it slightly different to entice new crowds to give war movies a try.  Saving Private Ryan tried it, making a war movie into more of a kidnapping film with the modern trend toward challenging the components of war vs the old Frank Capra-type pro-nationalism films.  And how unique was Quentin Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds?  In fact, if Brad Pitt hadn’t starred in that movie, you’d think he’d have been a shoo-in for The Monuments Men.  Why?  Because with George Clooney and Matt Damon in pursuit of a seemingly impossible goal, this looks like Ocean’s Eleven all over again.

John Goodman Monuments Men

And speaking of impossible goals, this also looks like The Dirty Dozen, although the trailer tells us there’s eight soldiers engaged in this mission.  Who isn’t ready for another movie of the Dirty Dozen variety?  Remember how good the beginning of Captain America: The First Avenger was with Tommy Lee Jones as a general in the World War II recruitment scenes?  Or go back to Bridge on the River Kwai and recruiting William Holden to go back to the battle.  Of course these are all plays on the original Western recruiting warriors film, Seven Samurai.  And just look who gets recruited for this new mission.

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