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Archive for October, 2018


Review by C.J. Bunce

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the rare show that tries to be many things and actually succeeds at them all.  If you are looking for the ideal way to spend this Halloween, absent a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, you’re not going to find a better TV pursuit than this new Netflix series.  It features a captivating lead in its teenage witch Sabrina, played perfectly by Kiernan Shipka, who shows every frustrating feeling, emotion, and indecision any teenager must go through, reflected in a mythology-rich world with enormous stakes.  Sabrina is a kid–a smart kid, but still a kid–so she makes the kind of mistakes teenagers make.  Raised in the occult world by a family of witch aunts and a warlock cousin, Sabrina is a half-breed (her mother was human, her father a high priest in the dark arts), but viewers will see she shares some commonality with Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books–she’s loyal, she’s book smart, she’s street savvy, and conscientious, dabbling in the magical world.  She also is trusting and able to be manipulated by the adults around her.  She may not be the fully realized, badass, confident heroine everyone wants to see–just yet–but by the end of Season 1 she’s well on her way.

The series protagonist is actually not Sabrina, but a demon who takes over the body of Michelle Gomez‘s Ms. Wardwell, a teacher at Sabrina’s mortal-realm high school, an ever-present mentor steering her out of dilemmas when Sabrina’s aunts fail to give Sabrina the help she wants.  Gomez, who played Doctor Who’s #1 nemesis The Master, is even more engaging here, fully inhabiting a character whose motivations are hidden by a fog–a blurred reality paralleled by a clever fuzzy tweak in cinematography throughout each episode.  Sabrina’s aunts, played by Miranda Otto, The Lord of the Rings #1 heroine who saved Middle-earth (“I am no man!”) and Lucy Davis, the #2 female lead in the WWI era of the movie Wonder Woman, unite to create a classic duet in the spirit of Arsenic and Old Lace.  Otto’s Zelda is strict and a devout believer in her dark religion, Hilda a sweet and doting aunt who gets excommunicated for her support of Sabrina.  All three actresses bring their genre star power to the series, providing a jolt of heroine gravatas to support the title character.

Sabrina is approaching her 16th birthday, when she must choose between the world of mortals and the world–and protections–of the witching world.  She must decide whether she will relinquish her decision-making from then on to the devil himself or take her chances as a mortal.  She is surrounded by those she thinks she can trust and others whose motivations are hidden in a dark world of several levels of good and evil.  Making sense of the darkness and evil and placing a pantheon of 56-old comic book characters he rejuvenated in the pages of Archie Horror comics four years ago onto the screen for a new audience is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, chief creative officer of Archie Comics, and executive producer and writer for the comics and CW’s Riverdale and Netflix’s Sabrina.  Quite shrewdly, Sacasa doesn’t comment on the dark religion of the series or any political stance his characters may reflect, instead letter the viewer bring their own value set to the show and making their own analysis.  Who do you want to cheer for, the equivalent of Darth Vader or Princess Leia in science fiction, or Sauron or Eowyn in fantasy?  Sacasa pulls from age-old classic stories, like Cain and Abel from the Bible, W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, John Carpenter’s films including The Fog, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and a classic horror film mirrored in the comics that might be a spoiler for Season 2–so we’ll hold that title back for now.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the 65 toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Radio Flyer red wagon weathered a few world wars and more to surpass its 100 anniversary last year, a feat achieved by very few businesses.  Boasting more than 100 million sold since Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin first offered to the public his wooden wagons, the iconic American toy that doubled as a plane, a car, and a spaceship is the subject of a new book, Radio Flyer: 100 Years of America’s Little Red Wagon, available today for the first time.  Check out several preview pages below courtesy of the publisher.

Written by founder Antonio Pasin’s grandson Robert Pasin and journalist Carlye Adler, Radio Flyer: 100 Years of America’s Little Red Wagon tells the story of a craftsman in early 20th century Chicago as the industrial revolution and over-population clashed.  As the Great Depression was arriving, Antonio Pasin found a way to lift himself out of the standard construction job.  After teaching himself English, he received an apprenticeship, and would go on to purchase steel and inexpensive materials, facing competitors using less-substantial wooden models, having migrated his business to support a full steel wagon.  The red wagon survived when many industrial products failed, even decades of toy stores that sold it.

The name Radio Flyer reflects the marketing mind of the toy company’s founder–blending two catchy new wave concepts: the radio and the airplane.  The name and colors would change a bit over time, including a Lindy Flyer following the popularity of Charles A. Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight, but the wagon would always return and was its most popular in the familiar red paint, with more than a dozen line-art logos used over the years, pictured in the book.  A history of the wagon, photographs of 100 years of advertisements, and stories of those who loved their own wagon, this book is for anyone nostalgic for classic Americana.

I got my Radio Flyer for Christmas when I was a few years old (shown above, I’m the kid in red with my brother and sister).  Just looking at my eyes it’s anyone’s guess where I was soaring off to in my new wagon.  I hauled everything in it–toys, sand, plants, and lots of stuffed animals.  One vivid memory was being pulled in it when it suddenly came to a stop and my head crashed into the edge.  My mother called the 1970s equivalent of 911 and I took my one and only police car ride–to the hospital.  No harm done, just a lump on my head for a while, and another wagon adventure under my belt.  The wagon, now about 45 years old, is still functioning like it was new, regularly hauling 40-pound bags of top soil to the yard.  (My siblings and I also had the corresponding red go-cart and tricycle).  You’ll find plenty of stories like mine (without the injuries) in Radio Flyer: 100 Years of America’s Little Red Wagon.

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The 2018 World Series is over with the Boston Red Sox win over the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, but as with the Super Bowl the movie studios provided viewers with new TV spots throughout the television coverage.  Four films were being promoted for the Thanksgiving holiday, and although all the trailers are from films previously announced, audiences have some new views to consider, to decide whether a film will be “in” or out,” after the last of the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie have been served.  The TV spots included new looks at Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Creed II, Green Book, and Instant Family.

We’ve already previewed earlier trailers for the next Fantastic Beasts installment and Creed II.  Green Book stars Marvel’s Luke Cage costar Mahershala Ali as a classical pianist on tour in the South in the 1960s, with The Lord of the Rings’ Viggo Mortenson is a bouncer that becomes his chauffeur.  Instant Family stars Mark Wahlberg (All the Money in the World, Ted and Transformers series, Planet of the Apes, The Other Guys) and Rose Byrne (X-Men series, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, 28 Weeks Later) as a couple who adopts three children from foster care.

   

We’ve included the most recent trailers for each of these four movies (and a few others we found).  Check them out:

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With Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki transported Japanese anime into the mainstream consciousness in the United States.  A dramatic fantasy story with gravitas and an incredible journey, Spirited Away would win the Oscar for Best Animated Film–Miyazaki’s only Oscar (except his lifetime honorary Oscar).  A modern fable in the classic tradition, 17 years ago audiences first met Chihiro Ogino, a brave ten-year-old girl not happy with her parents moving her into a new neighborhood.  But when she wanders off, she finds herself trapped in a world of spirits, beasts, and uniquely imaginative surprises.  Wondrous, curious, and even grotesque, something of everything is tucked into Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is not just any other movie.  Like Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, the film transcends the typical use of animated cinema, providing the kind of experience that will leave audiences discussing it long afterward.  Critics across the globe lined up in agreement–not only was it the highest grossing film in Japan’s history, the critical acclaim seems to know no end.  In 2016 it was listed as the fourth best film of the 21st century as picked by 177 international film critics.  Last year the New York Times called it the second best film of the century so far.

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The film is back in theaters for a limited three-day release beginning tonight as part of the Fathom Events series, in partnership with Studio Ghibli and GKids.  Spirited Away follows the brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

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This week the creators of Stranger Things are releasing the first comprehensive look behind the scenes of the popular Netflix series’ first two seasons in Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down–The Official Behind-the-Scenes Companion Along with a sneak peek at next year’s third season, the book is full of nostalgia from the series, a sci-fi/fantasy adventure all about nostalgia for the 1980s.  That comes through in the unique design on the cover, which intentionally resembles a battered, old book fresh off the revolving used book rack at the local supermarket.  Check out a preview below courtesy of Random House.

Look for full color photographs, concept art, and even some pull-out material.  Many of the photographs have not been published before.  Details include:

• original commentary and a foreword from creators Matt and Ross Duffer
• exclusive interviews with the stars of the show, including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and David Harbour
• the show’s earliest drafts, pitches to Netflix, and casting calls
• insights into the Duffers’ creative process from the entire crew—from costume and set designers to composers and visual-effects specialists
• deep dives into the cultural artifacts and references that inspired the look and feel of the show
• a map of everyday Hawkins—with clues charting the network of the Upside Down
• the Morse code disk Eleven uses, so you can decipher secret messages embedded throughout the text
• a look into the future of the series—including a sneak preview of Season 3

It also includes classic retro character sheets from Dungeons & Dragons, filled in for each key cast member.

You can pre-order Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down now at more than $5 off the cover price here at Amazon.  Check out this preview:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

— From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

It isn’t enough to tell us what a man did.  You’ve got to tell us who he was.

— From Citizen Kane

The battle between these two ideas becomes the screenwriter’s dilemma, particularly for a historical drama recounting actual documented events.  First, there are stories of famous people and events that touch so many that the details become less important than the mythology.  Whether peppered with embellishment and puffery, it’s what the multitudes think of as the hero.  Next, there is the desire to use the archival record to fill in all the details you know, to get as much of the story as technically accurate as possible.  For these movies, the detail often distorts the impact of the story or event, minimizing what makes the actions of a man or woman or event so historic or triumphant.  And that’s the struggle evident in First Man: The Annotated Screenplay, a new book that includes the consolidated draft script of the new film chronicling astronaut Neil Armstrong’s life leading up to the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969.

The beauty of the book is the full disclosure of the thoughts of two people, the screenwriter Josh Singer (The Post, The Fifth Estate, Fringe), and James R. Hansen, the historian and author of the only biography of Neil Armstrong authorized by Armstrong, First Man: the Life of Neil Armstrong.  Fans of NASA, of the history of spaceflight, science and technology will appreciate so many scenes that include verbatim text from the actual events.  For researchers and enthusiasts alike, Singer and Hansen include numerous reference citations showing the source of these scenes.  Yet even the bulk of these were edited for time and the needs of telling Singer’s story.  As revealed by both Singer and Hansen, the embellishments filling in the story between these sequences are many, so many that no scene seems to exclude artistic license by Singer–license that Singer freely acknowledges and defends as sincerely as someone defending a finely researched graduate thesis.  The scenes may be well-researched, educated, and heavily vetted speculation, but they aren’t reality.

Is it relevant, and does the final script reflect something of the aura missing from the space race and Moonshot that neither the director (born in 1985) nor the screen writer (born in 1972) were yet alive to witness?  Does the difference come down to the creative visions behind these movies, and established space race classics: bestselling author Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff that became the box office and critical hit The Right Stuff (directed by Philip Kaufman, who wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark), and the first-hand account by Jim Lovell in his book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, that became the box office and critical hit Apollo 13 (directed by popular filmmaker Ron Howard)?

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Each member of Queen was on another career path when they formed their band at the beginning of the 1970s: Freddie Mercury had been in art school, guitar player Roger Deakins studied electrical engineering, drummer Roger Taylor was in dental school, and guitarist Brian May studied astrophysics.  Years later May would go on to earn his doctorate in the field, and the rock star comes full circle this week blending a childhood hobby with his band and his passion for space science with the release of two new books: Mission Moon 3-D: A New Perspective on the Space Race and Queen in 3-D: Second Edition Many fans of Queen may not be aware that May had a unique passion for taking three-dimensional photographs.  He took 3-D photos as a young boy and transitioned to a 3-D camera as they became popular in the 1950s, and when Queen started to tour he continued.  The result is 300 previously unpublished 3-D photographs, capturing the history of Queen from the early 1970s to present day.  May has updated the book with more 3-D images, including images he took on the set of the new biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and the premiere release of this updated edition is timed with the release of the film this week in the UK and next week in the U.S.

The first history of any rock group created in 3-D and written by a band member, Queen in 3-D was a labor of love for May.  The photographs include shots taken on stage, behind the scenes, on the road, and during leisure time.  May shares recollections of his bandmates for the first time.  The book is particularly unique in its coverage of Freddie Mercury, who was normally shy and private, but comfortable and even playful when May brought out his camera.  The book is the result of a project he worked on during nights while touring with the band, and continuing on with a company he founded, The London Stereoscopic Company Ltd (check it out at www.londonstereo.com), which sells books, viewers, and more, sharing a passion for 3-D imagery across every subject.

Dr. May put his astrophysics knowledge and interest in the space race to good use as we approach next summer’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, releasing this week his next 3-D book project, Mission Moon 3-D: A New Perspective on the Space RaceWritten by May and David J. Eicher (editor of Astronomy Magazine), the authors narrate the story of Apollo and space travel leading to Apollo 11’s lunar landing in July 1969.  The Apollo astronauts were trained to take 3-D images, but primarily Dr. May researched NASA archives to sort thousands of images to present the same image in stereoscope form which, when viewed with his patented Lite Owl viewer (a viewer accompanies each book), provide full, detailed 3-D images.  The same science behind the human eye and camera fundamentals applied to the 19th century with the popularity of the stereoscope camera and viewer as with May’s use of 3-D images included in his books.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The music biopic is as much a cinema fixture as Film Noir or the Western.  Just look back at a quick swath of the genre and you’ll find Clifton Webb as John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever, James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, Jimmy Stewart as Glenn Miller in The Glenn Miller Story, Gary Busey as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams, Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in The Doors, Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, and Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.  If Milos Forman’s Amadeus was worthy of a Best Picture Oscarif the Academy gets it right–then director Bryan Singer’s new biopic Bohemian Rhapsody should also take home an armful of Oscars.  Actor Rami Malek, in one of the decade’s most immersive, riveting, and powerful performances, conjures the spirit of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in a sweeping whirlwind of music and seismic spectacle celebrating individuality.

Few bands have the extensive catalog of music that can support a 2.5 hour film with familiar hit songs that fit the mood of every scene as Queen has.  With the participation behind the scenes of Queen lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor as executive producers, from the first scene Malek’s Freddie Mercury will take Queen fans back in time, and yet it’s the casting of the other three band members that provides a cohesive whole, convincing the audience this was a real band, and a real family.  Where Oliver Stone came close to getting his four actors lined up as mirrors for The Doors, anyone who grew up with the band can see how closely director Bryan Singer came to matching up the acting talent to Queen’s members (and it’s right there for comparison with archival footage in the film’s end credits).  Audiences already knew Malek was a unique talent from his series Mr. Robot and his previous TV and film appearances.  Like Val Kilmer transformed into Jim Morrison, American actor Malek becomes Anglo-Asian rock god Freddie Mercury.  British actor Gwilym Lee (Ashes to Ashes, Midsomer Murders) is the all-out doppelganger of Brian May, and the next acting talent to watch for.  The growth of American actor Joseph Mazzello from the boy in Jurassic Park to bass guitarist John Deacon (with a seamless British accent) is an eye-popping surprise.  And Ben Hardy (The Woman in White, X-Men: Apocalypse, Mary Shelley) holds his own as edgy drummer Roger Taylor.

Anthony McCarten‘s (The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour) script has several parallels to both Amadeus and The Doors.  Some clever–and some audacious–decisions include scenes incorporating Mike Myers (Wayne’s World, 54) as record producer Ray Foster, Tom Hollander (Gosford Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission Impossible series) as lawyer Jim Beach, and scenes showing the development of Queen hits “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Will Rock You”–altogether 20 hit songs made the soundtrack, including five of the eight songs from the band’s memorable 1985 Live-Aid concert.

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New Army of Darkness Vampirella Red Sonja Bettie Page!  All four feature a Halloween theme plus there’s even more Vampirella and Red Sonja, a new Mars Attacks book, a new KISS book, and a James Bond hardcover.  If you’re prepping for Halloween weekend, you have plenty of books to get your Halloween spirit engaged, and cosplayers could get their next year of ideas from a single new comic book day tomorrow as Dynamite Comics delivers a great selection of new books to Elite Comics and your local comic book store.  We have previews for ten books below courtesy of Dynamite, and a big pile of variant cover previews.

  

In addition to Dynamite rolling out four one-shot stories for Halloween, James Bond: The Body is out tomorrow in its first collected edition.  Bryan Hill and Rodney Buchemi begin a new series featuring your favorite costumed band with KISS: Blood and Stardust (with 12 cover variants available).  A new Mars Attacks series begins, with ten variant covers.  The second collected edition of Legenderry Red Sonja arrives, plus two new Vampirella issues: Vampirella: Roses for the Dead (with a Billy Tucci cover available) and the Vampirella/Dejah Thoris crossover.

What more could you want?

  

Check out all of these 83 pages of previews:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Previously only available in a hardcover edition, the definitive look at one of the earliest and most successful comic strips and its creator arrives this week for the comic’s 90th anniversary.  The writer-artist is the late Belgian visionary Georges Remi, who went by his initials R.G., pronounced Hergé, his famous character a young reporter, adventurer, and detective named Tintin, and the book is Tintin: The Art of Hergé.  If you’re lucky, you’ve already seen Steven Spielberg’s ground-breaking 2011 animated movie The Adventures of Tintin, the culmination of decades of popularity of a boy and his dog Snowy who influenced and entertained millions of readers across the globe.  In the 1920s Hergé had the idea of making low-cost movies on paper, and the result was a comic strip stuffed with visual action that propelled the adventure forward like images pulled from a reel of film.  Tintin: The Art of Herge is available for pre-order here at Amazon today only and arrives in stores tomorrow.

Hergé and Tintin’s stories are intertwined with living history.  Sometimes Hergé would be on the right side and other times he wouldn’t.  But according to the book Tintin would inspire generations to take on investigative, daring, and spirited careers, and photographs show the kind of fandom in the 1920s that wouldn’t be a regular occurrence for pop culture icons until the likes of Elvis and The Beatles.  Readers will see photographs of Hergé from his early days as a boy scout publication artist, and trace the development of his boy hero–a direct ancestor of the animated tales of shows like Jonny Quest–full of a well-established supporting slate of characters that would become archetypes in their own right, like the clumsy and inseparable duo Thomson and Thompson, and Tintin’s odd choice for a sidekick, Captain Haddock.  Hergé built his fantasy universe atop the real world and real places, including cutting edge science in his story and art–research and realism factored into his stories.  When Tintin goes to the moon 12 years before the real moon shot, his rocket is based on aerospace engineer and space architect Wernher von Braun’s early designs.

Tintin: The Art of Hergé, written and produced by Michel Daubert and the Hergé Museum in Belgium and first published in hardcover in 2013, covers the artist, his life, his famous characters and books, the artist’s influences, the comic’s influences on others, and the modern museum that commemorates the artist’s works and impact.  At 480 pages this is the most exhaustive work on the artist and his comics.  The finest component is perhaps the depth of original sketches and complete strips reproduced spanning the 1920s to the 1980s, all pulled from the Museum’s archives.  The Museum itself, which honors the artist and his works with interpretations of his work by modern artists influenced by Hergé, is showcased in a chapter of the book, along with photographs and interviews.

Here is a preview of the book courtesy of Abrams ComicArts:

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