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Archive for February, 2019


Anyone who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy also grew up with the Kenner line of action figures and other toys.  Eagerly awaiting kids learned about each new figure and each new ship and playset via commercials during Saturday morning cartoons.  They also learned about them in the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs and mini-catalogs that accompanied certain ships, games and playsets–making checklists from the catalog for Santa was a key component of being a kid.  Over the next two days an auction house in Valencia, California is selling off a Star Wars fan’s ultimate dream collection.  At its Vintage Toys and Collectibles Live Auction, auction house Prop Store is auctioning off a spectacular collection of the Star Wars toys most kids from the era are familiar with, plus many of the rarer toys and prototypes that were known for decades to exist only through rumor and occasional obscure references.  Among the collection is a high-quality collection of nearly 100 pieces from Lucasfilm executive Howard Kazanjian.

Long before the latest Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill mentioned in interviews that certain Lucasfilm professionals received the line of new tie-in toy products as they were rolled out.  He mentioned that his kids enjoyed most of them, and he’s joked about wishing he’d saved some in the original boxes because of the sale prices some achieve today.  Kazanjian was also on that distribution list, and he maintained the toys he received in the mail for 40 years, some boxes were never opened and remain in near mint condition.  Prop Store’s auction catalog is incredible, a full color book of photographs and descriptive information almost as exciting as the auction itself–an extraordinary trip back through time even if you’re not able to drop $5,000–minimum–on a rare vinyl-caped Jawa or Yak Face variant action figure.

Bop bags, a Luke headset radio, Give-a-Show projectors, all the ships and action figures you remember, and trading cards are just the beginning,  The auction is featuring the rare Cloud City cardboard playset kids first saw in the Sears catalog–the only early playset that included four action figures (currently bidding at $400).  There’s the radio-controlled Sandcrawler (currently at $2,500), rare plush toys each starting at bids in the thousands of dollars, and all but the rare IG-88 figure in the large-sized version that was created for the key characters to match up with G.I. Joe and The Six Million Dollar Man.

But the 3.75-inch action figures make up the bulk of the toys hitting the auction block today.  The rare vinyl-caped Jawa even before the auction starts is already bid up to $6,000 (all bidders must pay the strike price plus more than 20% of the price for now-standard auction house fees).  An original R2-D2 is at $4,000, and if you want one of the rare “Power of the Force” Yak Face figures, it’s going to cost you more than $8,000.  At the end of the initial run of The Empire Strikes Back, I remember an entire wall of Yoda figures at my Target store being sold on clearance at fifty cents apiece.  That action figure type in this auction has already been bid up to $1,000.  In hindsight the figures on that clearance display were worth a small fortune.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

We were dazzled by 2017’s debut fantasy by Curtis Craddock, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (reviewed here at borg), and have eagerly awaited the sequel, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery.  It was worth the wait!  No sophomore slump here—Craddock plunges us right back into the action, magic, and intrigue of the Risen Kingdoms, introducing new characters, sorceries, and subplots in a standalone adventure that is every bit as engrossing as the first book.

Returning father-daughter heroes Jean-Claude and Princess Isabelle find themselves once more adrift in scandal and conspiracy, this time hunting down (and fending off) shadowy murderers.  While the Saintsborn nobles are losing their divine sorcery to a mysterious illness, the “Unhallowed” are suddenly turning up with magic of their own—often gone awry in grisly ways.  The balance of power tips precariously, as Gran Leon, Emperor for decades, suffers the ravages of the plague.

As Jean-Claude hunts the pair behind the murders, known only as the Harvest King and the Bone Queen, Isabelle is courted by a handful of new figures, all with motives of their own.  What does her long-lost sister really want?  What about Gran Leon’s exiled, unmagical son?  And what about her beguiling new bodyguard?

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No one could have predicted when the original Star Wars won six of ten Academy Awards in 1978 that a new Star Wars film would be nominated 41 years later.  At the end of 2019 all will be known–with Episode IX to be released in December the entirety of George Lucas’s nine-part Star Wars saga will be complete.  Although the Skywalker family and its legacy is done, Disney and Lucasfilm will be sure that Star Wars is very far from over.  But expect this year to be full of nostalgic products looking back over the course of the four decades since we first saw the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…”  Two movie souvenir compilation books will take Star Wars fans across the film franchise.  Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide presents interviews and photographs behind and in front of the camera from Ron Howard’s film.  And today Star Wars: The Saga Begins arrives in book stores, taking a rare look back at the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  We have previews of both books for you to check out below.

In Star Wars: The Saga Begins readers will find articles collected from Star Wars Insider, the magazine that has provided fans with the latest fandom and news since 1994.  In September 1997 with Issue #35, fans got their first glimpses at what would follow the original trilogy, as publisher and fan club president Dan Madsen provided updates in each issue with producer Rick McCallum.  Unfolding until 2005 and beyond, Star Wars Insider provided first looks at new prequel ships, characters, and locations.  Interviews explained what was happening behind the scenes of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith from the likes of director George Lucas, actors Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Logan, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Brian Blessed, plus concept artists Ralph McQuarrie and Doug Chiang, composer John Williams, costume designer Trisha Biggar, sound designer Ben Burtt and many more.  Star Wars: The Saga Begins is packed with concept artwork and prototypes of creatures and props, plus storyboards and costume designs.  And it has hundreds of photographs.

A similarly designed look at Solo: A Star Wars Story can be found in Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide Readers will find Star Wars Insider interviews and profiles from director Ron Howard, writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, actors Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, and Thandie Newton, plus composer John Powell, creature maker Neal Scanlan, and costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon.  The Ultimate Guide is full of good detail shots of the Millennium Falcon and sections featuring the newly designed Imperial armor and ships created for the film.

Here are previews from each book, courtesy of Titan:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After the 2019 Academy Awards recognized genre films Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and gave top awards to Green Book and Roma, ABC aired the pilot for a new series.  Whiskey Cavalier begins with a solid pilot episode, and you can find it in its weekly timeslot beginning Wednesday evening on ABC.  It borrows from two familiar sources for network TV: the spy genre, like Mission: Impossible, iSpy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Avengers, and Chuck, and the “will they or won’t they” investigation shows like Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and Private Eyes.  Whiskey Cavalier–the military/NATO spy call sign for FBI agent Will Chase (yes, that’s his name), stars Scott Foley opposite CIA Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan.  It’s more action and fun than drama–a good thing that works for this offbeat new series.

The first episode finds Agent Chase as a sad sack agent, recently dumped by his French girlfriend, crying as he listens to songs from his break-up mix tape, assembled from recommendations from other FBI agents.  Those familiar with Michael Dorman’s lead character in Amazon Studio’s series Patriot will see much in common between the leads.  Chase doesn’t have his heart in his job until he’s in action, and then he becomes full-on Jack Ryan (actor Scott Foley has a vibe crossing Jack Ryan series star John Krasinski and White Collar co-star Tim DeKay, and the pilot includes a humorous reference to his Chris Evans’ Captain America appearance).

As Chase tries to intercept an alleged hacker/thief/traitor, CIA Agent Trowbridge steps in, and that’s when the chemistry begins.  You can almost hear the 1970s movie trailer voice-over: “What can happen when we combine this sensitive FBI agent and this tough-as-nails CIA spy?  Can they work together to save the world without killing each other?”  And yet, the pilot was edited into a fast-paced drama, not at all bogged down in origin story, and it supplies a supporting cast of characters that seem to gel from the start, played by Ana Ortiz, Vir Das, and Tyler James Williams.  In brief, it’s fun and it works.

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First airing in March 2013, BBC’s police procedural Shetland is part mystery, part action, part suspense drama set in the stark and beautiful Shetland Isles.  It follows detective inspector Jimmy Perez, played by Douglas Henshall, as he and detective sergeant “Tosh” MacIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) and detective constable Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson) solve unusual crimes in a rural part of the world that has its own set of rules.  Season 5 has begun on the BBC in the UK, and it will be coming to the U.S. delayed by only a few weeks, arriving this April.

The series is loosely based on characters and stories from a set of novels by Ann Cleeves.  We named season four of the series the best British/UK series of 2018 in our year-end wrap-up here at borg.  Take a look at our review of season four here.

BBC released a preview for the series’ next season.  After a gruesome discovery, Perez and his team track the murderer in a complex investigation.  Here’s the trailer for season 5 of Shetland:

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A classic board game and TV show are getting new tie-in comic book series and a classic creator and character are all coming to IDW Publishing this year. IDW announced several new books this week to expand their line of monthly series. The Hasbro board game Clue/Cluedo is getting a new comic book mini-series. The Netflix award-winning TV series GLOW is getting a limited series.  And Stan Sakai is bringing his world of the swordsrabbit Usagi Yojimbo to IDW with stories old and new, including a full-color, three-part series.

The Sakai announcement is bigger than a single series, as IDW says it plans to bring all 35 years of his Usagi Yojimbo stories into new collected editions–the black and white comic will be in full color for the first time–and new stories are being prepared.  Beginning in June, a three-part story set again in the Edo period in 17th century Japan finds Usagi “embroiled in a puppet drama where the players are not quite what they seem.”  According to Sakai, “Bunraku (Japanese puppetry) captures many elements that make the world of Usagi Yojimbo unique: an adventure filled with Japanese culture, folklore, and history.  It also features the return of a long-awaited fan favorite character and Yokai (Japanese supernatural creatures).”  Usagi Yojimbo #1 will be released in a main cover by Sakai, plus variants by Daniel Warren Johnson (Murder Falcon), Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and comics legend Walt Simonson

IDW returns to Clue tie-in mysteries with CLUE: Candlestick, a three-issue comic book miniseries launching in May. “Rife with puzzles, secrets, and lies, and everyone’s a suspect,” the series will be created by animator Dash Shaw writing, illustrative, coloring, and lettering a new Clue mystery.  Check out a preview of the new Clue series below, courtesy of IDW Publishing.
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As we first previewed here at borg last July, Titan Publishing and Alcon Media Group, the producer behind more than 30 films over the past 20 years, announced a partnership that will mean the beginning of an expanded universe of stories for Rick Deckard, Replicants, and the world of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.  Today Titan Comics released its first look at the new comic book series, and revealed its title, Blade Runner 2019The original film and this year have been the subject of millions of shared memes commenting on the fact that the real 2019 looks little like Ridley Scott’s 1982 vision of 2019.

The new series will be “in canon” comics and graphic novels that dive deeper into the Blade Runner world.  According to an Alcon representative, “The Blade Runner universe has barely been explored; there is so much more there.  It’s an honour to be bringing this world to life in new ways for a new audience – and to reveal tales from that universe that you’ve never seen before.”  Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, who endorsed the original film project in 1982, but died before its release.

New character concept drawings for Blade Runner 2019.

Launching this summer, Titan Comics’ new series will be set during the exact timeframe of the original 1982 Blade Runner film, and feature a mostly new set of characters and situations.   Artist Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) created the above first looks at characters featured in the new story.  He joins Oscar-nominated Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) and Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Super­man/Batman) on the series.

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Amazon Prime released its first trailer for the final season of The Man in the High Castle, our pick for last year’s best sci-fi TV series here at borg.  Last fall’s season three finale, “Jahr Null” (Year Zero), included a set inspired by 1960s sci-fi films where an experiment led by an alternate history Josef Mengele could forever imprint a Nazi-won World War II on any and all timelines.  The Liberty Bell was melted down, and the Statue of Liberty was destroyed, falling into New York Harbor.  Luke Kleintank’s Joe Blake and Rupert Evans’ Frank Frink are now out of the story, as Jason O’Mara’s Wyatt Price steps in to fill the void in the rogue hero department.

Helen and the girls have left Rufus Sewell’s John Smith, and Himmler is taken down in an assassination attempt.  Did he live or die, and does that mean Smith becomes Fuhrer?  With Germany’s move on the Japanese States thwarted, a revolution has gained traction out West, and Alexa Davalos’s heroic leader Juliana has finally figured out how to travel like Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s Tagomi.

Yes, a lot was resolved, but we’re also set up for much more in this coming season.  Will Laura Mennell’s Thelma Harris take on a greater role now that Bella Heathcote’s Nicole Dörmer was sent back to Germany for flaunting the law?  And what is the mysterious relationship in another timeline between Juliana and John Smith?

Check out this first look at season four of The Man in the High Castle:

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We haven’t seen Kevin Costner as an Oscar contender for thirty years, but the latest Netflix release has all the right elements for that kind of potential with Costner back with his Gary Cooper-esque style, and that Oscar possibility may line up for Woody Harrelson, too.  The first trailer for The Highwaymen has arrived and if you’re as much of a fan of The Untouchables as we are, this new historical drama about bringing the crime duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow to justice in 1934 may be just for you.  And with theatrical releases slated for two weeks in advance of its Netflix premiere, it may also be the Netflix movie that gets you to buy tickets and see it on the big screen.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Founder, The Rookie, Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Snow White and the Huntsman, A Perfect World) is putting aside the comedy of the famous 1967 version–Bonnie and Clyde with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which garnered ten Oscar nominations–opting for a gritty, realistic take on the brutal murderers and their bloody end.  Originally developed years ago by screenplay writer John Fusco (Crossroads, Young Guns, Marco Polo) to star Robert Redford and Paul Newman, the movie tracks Costner as Frank Hamer and Harrelson as Maney Gault, both real-life ex-Texas Rangers commissioned as special investigators by banks to finally capture the infamous robbers and murderers.  It’s hard not to see Costner’s Eliot Ness from The Untouchables, but this time taking on older cop Sean Connery’s role in the story, or even the Clint Eastwood role instead of the convict part he played in Hancock’s 1993 hot pursuit movie A Perfect World.

The supporting cast could hardly look better, with Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic) as Governor Ma Ferguson, and Hancock’s The Founder co-star John Carroll Lynch as Lee Simmons, along with Hancock’s The Blind Side co-star Kim Dickens.  It also features Thomas Mann (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Kong: Skull Island), and perennial TV and film favorites W. Earl Brown (The X-Files, Deadwood, True Detective) and William Sadler (Wonderfalls, Deep Space Nine).

Here is the trailer for The Highwaymen:

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A few big names are coming to theaters with throwbacks of a sort this summer, including Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway and Screen Actors Guild Award winner Lily James.  This summer the second adaptation of the 1964 comedy Bedtime Story comes to theaters, followed by a comedic take on the alternate history genre featuring the music of The Beatles.

The Hustle finds Hathaway taking on a role previously played by both David Niven and Michael Caine, with Rebel Wilson filling the shoes of a role played by both Marlon Brando and Steve MartinDoctor Who and Veep’s Chris Addison directs The Hustle, remaking both 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and 1964’s Bedtime Story The comedy also stars Doctor Who‘s Osgood, Ingrid Oliver, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Tim Blake Nelson, revisiting the story of a chance encounter between two con artists with strikingly different styles.  It’s coming to theaters this May.

A month later Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting) releases his next film, Yesterday, starring Himesh Patel (EastEnders) as a struggling singer who awakens one day to learn he is the only person that has ever heard of The Beatles and their music.  This parallel universe divergence allows him to introduce and become famous today for all of The Beatles songs as his own, to not surprisingly huge success.  Yesterday co-stars Lily James (Baby Driver, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Downton Abbey), Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049), James Corden (Doctor Who, Ocean’s 8), Ed Sheeran (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Ferdinand). 

Here are trailers for both The Hustle and Yesterday:

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