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Archive for March, 2016


Eddie Izzard 27 marathon

But is he Superman or The Flash?

This weekend Eddie Izzard proved he can do anything.  Renaissance man and jack-of-all-trades, he is one of the world’s funniest comedians, performing some of the best stand-up routines you’ll ever watch.  First known for his cross-dressing performances, he became a fixture in some of the best movies and film roles of this century, including key roles in superhero shows like Powers, Mystery Men, and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.  On television, he could be found in lead roles in Treasure Island, The Riches and Hannibal, in popular movies like Ocean’s Twelve and Shadow of the Vampire, and doing voice work on films like The Chronicles of Narnia and the animated movie Igor.  He is one of those rare performers who can play it for laughs and also transfix viewers in the most serious drama.  His work in Valkyrie should have netted him an Oscar.  As for his status in the comedy elite, the members of Monty Python have referred to him as The Lost Python.

Izzard talks the talk and walks the walk.  He’s among the highest echelon of British philanthropists, giving millions over the years to bringing about political change and social reform.

And he has now established he can run with the best of them.

Izzard comedian stand up

Yesterday at age 54 Izzard finished running 27 marathons, more than 700 miles, in 27 days.  His running achievement took him across South Africa for Sport Relief, a charity that benefits the poor and impoverished across the globe.  The 27 days reflected the number of years Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and Izzard finished his run beneath a statue of Mandela in the city of Pretoria.  In doing so he raised nearly $2 million from donors.  And it wasn’t easy.  He was forced to skip one day for health reasons, but fulfilled his pledge by running two marathons on the 27th day.  Wow.  What did you do yesterday?

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Legend of Tarzan poster

Dozens of adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan have made it to the big screen and TV, and the newest version is out this summer, director David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan.  It’s not another Disney adaptation although the 1999 Disney version was a good film.  This new version offers some nice CGI with its Planet of the Apes-style apes and other animals.  It also includes some updates to the original story.

The biggest draw for comic book movie fans will be the lead actress, Margot Robbie, as Jane.  Robbie will be portraying Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad later this year.  Stellan Skarsgård’s (The Avengers, The Hunt for Red October) son Alexander is Tarzan.  A major league cast supports this film, including two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz, Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent, and Academy Award nominees Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, and John Hurt.

Check out this first full-length trailer for The Legend of Tarzan:

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Breslin Haunter

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of ghost stories, and I’ve lamented before how hard they are to find among all the slasher horror gore fest flicks that pass for scary fare these days.  So I’m always excited to stumble across a new one on film.  One such recent discovery is Vincenzo Natali’s quiet Canadian production Haunter, starring Abigail Breslin (Maggie, Ender’s Game, Signs), Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black, Nikita), Michelle Nolden (RED, Lost Girl, Everwood, Nero Wolfe), and veteran TV fixture Stephen McHattie (Adam-12, Kojak, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Quantum Leap, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Haven, Watchmen, 300, A History of Violence).

It’s 1984, and Lisa Johnson (Breslin) feels stuck in a rut:  Every day is just like the next.  Just like the next, and she’s the only one in her family of four who’s noticed.  The same Walkie-Talkie wakeup call from little brother Robbie (Peter DaCunha), the same pancake breakfast, the same friendly quarrel with Mom (Nolden) over the same load of laundry.  (“I did the laundry yesterday.  You just don’t remember that I did.”)  Wearily she trudges though clarinet practice, Dad fixing the car in the garage, a conversation about a birthday celebration that never comes, and the same episode of Murder She Wrote.  Until one morning, she’s startled Awake by a creepy noise in the laundry room, and discovers that her house, and her family, are at the heart of a long history of dark secrets.  And another girl—another family—needs Lisa’s help, if she’s ever to escape the time loop.

Haunter-Abigail-Breslin

Many parts of Haunter will feel familiar, maybe even derivative—but that’s OK.  In some parts it feels like a remake of The Others, and there are echoes of The Ring and every knockoff of Groundhog Day you’ve ever seen.  (See one of our early takes on time loops at borg.com here).  But it works, and it works well.  Lisa’s world is tightly focused and claustrophobic, and her navigation of several parallel timestreams is seamless and gripping.  Director Natali, known for his work on projects including Orphan Black, The Returned, Hannibal, and The Strain, has richly layered the film with finely wrought symbolism, from the leitmotifs of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” playing throughout, to Lisa’s Souxie and the Banshees concert T, to the dark fairytale iconography Lisa must wade through to learn the truth.

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Quicksilver X-men Apocalypse

One of the best directors of his generation, Bryan Singer teased us in 2014 with the year’s best superhero movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past.  He teased us by showing us Quicksilver, the young speedy mutant, but only for a small portion of the film.  Played by Evan Peters, the scene where he breaks Michael Fassbender’s Magneto out of a Pentagon prison is the single best transformation of a superhero from comic book to screen.  His disarming of guards in slow motion to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” is now the stuff of legendary cinema, and that just left fans begging for more.

And it looks like Singer is going to deliver what X-Men fans want the most: More Quicksilver.

Beast and Quicksilver

Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Oscar Isaac is Apocalypse, the original mutant the film’s (and the Marvel Comics Universe’s) biggest modern villain.  Rounding out the cast are actors both old and new to the franchise: James McAvoy as Professor X, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.

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Peanuts movie clipIt’s something that fans of Charlie Brown and Snoopy have been waiting for, for several reasons.  The Peanuts Movie hit theaters late last year, but it was lost in the movie season among the spectacle that was Star Wars released just weeks later.  Yet if you saw it in the theater, you realize this movie was a keeper.  The Peanuts Movie is what all family movies strive for:  classic characters, good-natured humor, something to enjoy for every moviegoer.  The very young will love Snoopy and understand the relationship of the Peanuts kids that we older folks have known and loved for years, in newspaper funnies, in paperback editions, and the many Peanuts specials.  The Peanuts Movie does something else–it provides the best version of Charlie Brown and friends we’ve seen since the original 1965 favorite A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The Peanuts Movie gets it right from the beginning, in its pedigree.  It’s written by Craig Schulz, Charles M. Schulz’s son and a writer on the Community comedy series, and Charles’ grandson, Bryan.  So, unlike the onslaught of lackluster adaptations that have plagued the Dr. Seuss properties after his death, the same heart and soul of Charles’ creation is as powerful as ever.  The writers have turned to the source material for many interactions in the film, like Lucy’s converted lemonade stand/psychiatry office and the famous wall where Charlie and Linus ponder the worlds’ problems, and yet they have updated the story in subtle and important ways that are both loyal to the original and still give loyalists a satisfying pay-off.  And don’t worry, the updating ends with the inclusion of standardized tests–you won’t find any cell phones, smart phones or texting issues for the kids in this movie.

The story centers around Charlie Brown’s attraction to the little red-haired girl who moves in across the street and the lengths he will go to to try to impress her.  This love affair was the core of many original Peanuts comic strips, based on Charles Schulz’s real-life attraction from afar with a red-haired girl.  Snoopy’s parallel exploits in this movie mirror this love affair, as he pursues his own love story on paper, revealed to us as a story of a dog trying to win over air pilot Fifi in his World War I Sopwith Camel fighter plane on a mission in France, also taking on the famous Red Baron.

Peanuts blu-ray

The Peanuts Movie hails from Blue Sky Studios, who brought us the Ice Age franchise.  Even without a 3D television the depth of field here is spectacular, and with the 3D effect director Steve Martino does not shell out standard 3D gimmicks, but lets the characters simply float off the comic strip and into their own full-color, beautiful “real” world.  The backgrounds look like the homes and backyards of any American town cul de sac.  And if you look close enough you’ll see Snoopy finally has fur.

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Miss Peregrine Peculiar movie poster Eva GreenJPG

She played one of the best characters ever in a James Bond film as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.  She played the witch queen Serafina in The Golden Compass.  And she had a lead role in two films adapting Frank Miller graphic novels.  Now Eva Green is taking on an updated Mary Poppins-inspired character in her next role.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a new movie based on a 2011 fantasy novel of the same name.  Eva Green is Miss Peregrine, the head of an academy a la Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Miss Peregrine Peculiar movie poster 2016

An impressive director and cast highlight the popularity of this property.  Tim Burton will direct, with a cast including Ender’s Game’s Asa Butterfield, and heavy hitters Samuel L. Jackson, Dame Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, and Rupert Everett.

Here is the first trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children:

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Wynonna Earp banner

It’s a supernatural Western from a creator-owned property published by Image Comics and IDW Publishing.  Wynonna Earp is a modern-day gunslinger.  And demon hunter.  She’s the brainchild of comic book writer Beau Smith.  Based on his comic books about a present-day, great-granddaughter of the famous lawman Wyatt Earp, Wynonna’s story isn’t your standard Western fare.  Think in terms of a dark Wild, Wild West and you’re halfway there.

After years on the run and in juvenile detention, Wynonna Earp is finally coming home.  The only problem is no one back home wants her to return.  But when she becomes the town’s only hope of eradicating mysterious demons, Wynonna must choose which side of the law she wants to fight on in order to clear the name of her legendary great grandfather Wyatt Earp once and for all.

Wynonna Earp hails from executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras, who created the awesome, kickass woman-focused shows Lost Girl and Killjoys.  The 13-episode Canada-produced series stars Melanie Scrofano (Damien, Gangland Undercover) as Wynonna, Tim Rozon (Being Human, Instant Star) as Doc Holliday, and Shamier Anderson (Defiance, Constantine) as Agent Dolls.

Wynonna Earp comic cover

Here’s a preview of the TV series:

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curse-of-strahd

Review by Art Schmidt

Count Strahd von Zarovich is having guests for dinner – and you are invited.

The latest storyline in Dungeon & Dragons 5th Edition debuts this Tuesday, March 15, 2016, and much like the three previous storylines (Tyranny of Dragons, Elemental Evil and Rage of Demons), it takes a tried-and-true theme from the original edition of the “world’s greatest roleplaying game” and re-vamps it, adding in more flavor, updating the theme, and expanding it with many more areas to explore.  Curse of Strahd takes one of the most beloved adventures from 1st Edition D&D’s Castle Ravenloft and presents a large, in-depth and exciting reincarnation of the classic adventure for players and game masters of all levels of expertise.

The campaign book for the Rage of Demons storyline, entitled Out of the Abyss, was an excellent adventure, but that manual is thick with rules and can be difficult to run in several places, lending itself to a more experienced game master and players.  Curse of Strahd is just as well thought-out and immersive an experience, but can be handled by those with less experience and even, dare I say, newbie game masters looking to cut their teeth on a meaty adventure.  And CoS has the meats!

Waaaay back in the first iteration of Dungeons & Dragons (before anyone thought to call it “First Edition” because, hey, that’s all there was!), adventures were typically narrow of scope and limited to a couple of locations.  They were meant to be played in a single or handful of sessions, and then the game master would have to look elsewhere for another challenge for their players.  And most of these adventures were the stuff of pulp fiction; simple goals, thin plots and lots of monsters to hack your way through in order to gain the treasure and gold.  And everyone loved that.

RAVENLOFT

Then along came Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance, Darksword Trilogy and Death Gate Cycle fame) and he had the audacity to think “Why are these monsters here?  Why are they trying to defeat us?  What’s their story?”  Tracy and his wife Laura came up with Count Strahd von Zarovich, a tragic but thoroughly evil and menacing figure modeled after the original vampires of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel and Nosferatu of early cinema.  Then they wrapped an immersive story around this figure, with NPCs (non-player characters, for the uninitiated), locations and lesser foes who made sense, who thoroughly belonged in the adventure and had more depth than a set of statistics to be overcome by the power-hungry party of adventurers.  To top it off, they added a groundbreaking 3D map (shown below) and guidelines for adding an ambience to the story that no other adventure had ever provided before.

Thus was born Ravenloft, one of the most popular and loved adventures (and then series) in all of tabletop role-playing game history.  It has been re-created and expanded in almost every edition of Dungeons & Dragons ever since, for better or worse (as these things always go, more worse than better).

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Mad Max costumes

Movie fans who live near Southern California have a chance to get an up-close look at several screen-used costumes from George Miller’s Academy Award winning film Mad Max: Fury Road.  The Warner Bros. Hollywood Studio Tour will feature as part of its “Stage 48: Script to Screen” interactive exhibit key cast costumes, including Tom Hardy’s Mad Max, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, Richard Carter’s The Bullet Farmer, Angus Sampson’s Organic Mechanic, and John Howard’s People Eater.

Costume designer Jenny Beavan, who won this year’s Oscar for her costumes created for the film, also garnered the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Costume Design, and has nominations for Best Costume at the BAFTA Awards and the Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Fantasy Film.

Fury road costumes

For $62 per person visitors to Warner Bros. Studio in Hollywood can take a three-hour tour, or for $295 they can take a deluxe six-hour tour, including a guided tour of the famous Warner Bros. backlot.  Check out the Warner Bros. Studio Tour website for more information.

Check out this video preview of the Mad Max: Fury Road costumes displayed at the Studio:

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Marvel's Captain America: Civil War Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016

Marvel Studios released the second trailer for Captain America: Civil War, the first film from Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Just like in the comic books, the Avengers aren’t getting along, just like the ever-recurring Avengers v. X-Men stories, and like the similar themed Batman v. Superman from the DC Universe.  The bickering and inability of a team of super “heroes” to resolve differences shows why hero worship isn’t a good thing.  Nice role models!  Sure, the good guys fighting good guys storyline has been around as long as the superheroes themselves, but Marvel has been dwelling on this since early in Phase I.  So if you think the Captain America vs. Iron Man feud is getting old, you’re not the only one.  But the real enemy is Thanos, and war against Thanos is on its way in this new Phase of films.

What would be more fun to see?  How about the studios get their acts together and have the Avengers battle the X-Men?  If Spider-man–who makes a welcome appearance in the latest trailer shown below–can make the studio leap, let’s show fans what can really be done.  And check out that new Spidey-suit.  Finally, a suit that looks as great as we imagined it from the comic books.

team-steve-rogers-captain-america-civil-war-trailer

If you’re scratching your head over the Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III distinctions, how about a quick walk through Marvel’s plans.  Phase I includes, in order, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avengers, and The Avengers (or Avengers: Assemble in the UK).  This was the introduction of characters, S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA, and revolved around the Tesseract, which is one of the Infinity Stones.

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