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Archive for April, 2019


 

Does every hero have a dark side?  It’s impossible Quicksilver has a dark side.  But we’ll find out in five weeks as the 12th film in the longest running superhero movie series sees its second-to-last film with the theatrical premiere of Dark PhoenixThe series that started with X-Men in 2000 began as a knockout with the stellar casting of Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ultimately interweaving two separate casts that would include the likes of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as a younger Magneto, and James McElvoy as a younger Professor X.  With eleven films across 19 years we’d meet our favorite (or second favorite) Marvel superheroes and supervillains shine in X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Every hero has a dark side.

This week post-merger Fox released ten new character posters for the new film spreading that message.

 

Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain.  Kinberg has promised Dark Phoenix will be a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga than seen in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Here are all ten posters:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Following up on its successful look behind the entire Star Wars saga in The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures and Aliens (reviewed earlier here at borg), Abrams Books is bringing home the characters of Avengers: Endgame and the Marvel Studios long journey to get there in its new release The Moviemaking Magic of Marvel Studios: Heroes and Villains Incorporating its trademark interactive Cinemagic features, including booklets, interactive flaps, and accordion fold-out images of the concept art behind every major Marvel Studios superhero, Abrams has nicely timed this book for fans of the franchise who can’t get enough of the latest MCU film.  Full of color photographs and interviews with the producers, directors, art designers, costume and prop makers, and special effects magic makers behind the 21 films leading up to Avengers: Endgame, writer Eleni Roussos (The Art of Black Panther, The Art of Thor: Ragnarok) has pulled together behind the scenes insights that offer something new for even the most diehard fan.

Which characters wore practical, real-life costumes and armor, and which required motion capture and/or CGI effects?  What was the key element included in Marvel’s Avengers that Joss Whedon required to be added before he agreed to direct the film?  What do the contributors agree was the smartest strategic decision made for the Marvel films?  How did each artist convert the character from the comic book page to the finally constructed costume that appeared on the big screen?  What effects were the most challenging for each film?

Altogether The Moviemaking Magic of Marvel Studios: Heroes and Villains spotlights more than 100 individual superheroes, on-screen support crew, and the most colorful and memorable villains from the series, with significant creative and visionary contributions from Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, directors Anthony Russo, Joss Whedon, and Peyton Reed, visual development executive Ryan Meinerding and artist Andy Park, and costume designers Rebecca Gregg, Laura Jean Shannon, Mayes Rubeo, Alexandra Byrne, Anna B. Sheppard, Judianna Makovsky, Sheldon Differ, Louise Frogley, and Ruth Carter.

Take a look at this giant preview of The Moviemaking Magic of Marvel Studios: Heroes and Villains below, courtesy of Abrams Books:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After 21 movies and a decade of superheroics, the end arrived this weekend with Marvel StudiosAvengers: Endgame, already setting new box office records.  Nearly every seat at multiple screenings at my local theater was sold out this weekend, as was the case across the country.  Which means many have seen it, but even more haven’t. You can’t review a film without some details, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor: bookmark this and come back later.  The short version: If you’re a superhero fan and you’ve followed the previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you won’t want to miss it.  But re-watch both Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel first.  I’ve no idea how anyone will follow the events in the film without first seeing at least these two films.  Endgame is a good wrap-up to the first major story arc in the franchise and a fine segue into the future of the films.  But it’s not perfect (what ever is?) and I’m going to walk through some goods and bads from the film.

That means “there be spoilers ahead” so consider yourself forewarned if you continue.

Note to email subscribers: Clicking on the link will take you into the full review.

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With the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s Alien in full swing, yesterday for Alien Day 2019 we only scratched the surface of what is coming your way this year by way of non-fiction and fiction offerings about the film and franchise.  But before we get to previews, you’re not going to want to miss Alien returning to the theaters October 13, 15, and 16, 2019.  Fathom Events is again partnering with TCM Big Screen Classics for this big event.

 

The biggest news from the publishing front arrives this fall.  Titan Books is releasing Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists, an artistic tribute to the sci-fi horror masterpiece Alien.  Forty artists, filmmakers, and fans have been invited to contribute a piece of original art to commemorate the 40th anniversary.  Pieces range from alternative posters to gothic interpretations of key scenes.  Sketches, process pieces, and interview text accompany each new and unique nightmare.  In addition to cover artist Dane Hallett—an Alien: Covenant concept artist—the contributors include Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, Sam Hudecki, Tanya Lapointe, Star Wars concept artist and creature designer Terryl Whitlatch, Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and Jon Wilcox.

Tim Waggoner, one of the best tie-in writers of fiction is back with Alien: Prototype, where we find corporate spy Tamar Prather stealing a Xenomorph egg from Weyland-Yutani, taking it to a lab facility run by Venture, a Weyland-Yutani competitor.  Former Colonial Marine Zula Hendricks—now allied with the underground resistance—infiltrates Venture’s security team.  When a human test subject is impregnated, the result is a Xenomorph that, unless it’s stopped, will kill every human being on the planet.  You can pre-order Alien: Prototype now here at Amazon.

Three more new Alien books are in the works for this year.  Below we have your first look at Alien: The Blueprints.

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With the exception of the vast expanded universe of Star Wars and Star Trek, probably no other sci-fi property has branched out in as many exciting ways as the Alien universe.  Every new tie-in novel consistently has been packed with suspense and innovative takes on Weyland-Yutani and its influence years before, during, and after the events of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie.  Each year fans of Alien celebrate April 26 as Alien Day, reflecting not a specific day inside the Alien universe, but the designation of the moon in the film Aliens: LV426.  There’s even more reason to look back this year, as 20th Century Fox is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ridley Scott film.  Check out the Fox contest (expires tonight) here.  The recognizable Reebok stomper worn by Ellen Ripley in Aliens is coming back, too–part of the contest, and expected to be for sale soon here.

Next week for the first time U.S. audiences can access a documentary on legendary Alien concept artist and designer H.R. Giger streaming on OVID.tv, and we’ll be reviewing it soon here at borgDark Star: H.R. Giger’s World is a documentary on the artist’s unique vision, available May 3.

An eagerly awaited book for Alien fans is coming.  You’ll want to pre-order the new J.W. Rinzler guide to the 1979 film, The Making of Alien, here (we’ll be reviewing it in July).

No book or film has portrayed the people behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as more vile and despicable as author Alex White envisioned them in his novel released for Alien Day 2018, Alien: The Cold Forge, a sequel to the second film in the franchise, James Cameron’s Aliens.  The Company is proceeding to fulfill one of its initial ideas, to weaponize the Xenomorphs for military use.  Alien: The Cold Forge is Aliens as if written by Michael Crichton, a blend of Congo and Jurassic Park with aspects of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy tie-ins and Project X.

Last year we reviewed Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings by Dane Hallett & Matt Hatton (check out our review here).  This boxed edition contains two books, providing readers an insight into the most intriguing character from the Alien prequels.  The in-universe sketchbook contains more than 200 illustrations from the set and will take you inside the mind of David.  Plus Developing the Art of an Android provides an interview with Hallett and Hatton, the artists behind the sketchwork.

And there’s Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey (reviewed here), which reminds us: In space, no one can hear you meow.  Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents. Until one day his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted.  The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house trained.  This full-color illustrated book offers a cat’s eye view of all the action from the movie Alien.

Not enough?  You say you want a full-on fix of Alien today?  Check out any of these Alien tie-ins and films previously reviewed here at borg:

The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, by Owen Williams

Alien Covenant: Origins, by Alan Dean Foster

The Art and Making of Alien Covenant, by Simon Ward

Aliens: Bug Hunt, anthology

Alien: The Coloring Book

Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, by S.D. Perry

Aliens: The 30th Anniversary Edition

Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, by Roger Christian

Aliens: The Set Photography, by Simon Ward

The borg interview with Alien universe author Tim Lebbon

And yep, there’s more…

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It’s Arbor Day, so let’s revisit three books we’ve looked at previously at borg that remind us of the fragility and wonder of the magnificent tree.

If the Scots abandoned Scotland to nature, it would be the birch that would be the first tree to seize its chance, and a birch forest would walk the streets of Edinburgh.

Thomas Pakenham was referring to a gigantic pioneer birch tree in Rothiemarchus, Scotland, but he may have well been writing about the Ents, the grand, wise, old leafed characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In his book Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Pakenham reproduces his real-life journey across continents meeting some of the oldest inhabitants of the planet, even if they never actually “walked” the Earth.  In beautiful photographs and stories, he introduces readers to the most noble of Earth’s elders, a chance to marvel in awe at their enormous height, or breadth, of their obvious beauty or strikingly twisted, meandering, slim, or expansive forms.  Pakenham, the 8th Earl of Longford, an Anglo-Irish writer, historian, and tree enthusiast, selected trees “mostly very large, and mainly very ancient, and all with a strong personality,” highlighting the unique qualities unique to each remarkable individual.  His folksy speech and storytelling is refreshingly regional, providing an herbivorous mirror to fellow Brit James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.

To visit these trees, to step beneath their domes and vaults, is to pay homage at a mysterious shrine.  But tread lightly. Even these giants have delicate roots.  And be warned that this may be your farewell visit.  No one can say if this prodigious trunk will survive the next Atlantic storm–or outlive us all by centuries.

Thomas Pakenham’s photograph of the great Fredville oak, named “Majesty” at least as early as 1820 when it was sketched by artist Jacob Strutt.

And, indeed, even some of the trees pictured in Meetings with Remarkable Trees are no longer around, having succumbed to storm or man-made destruction.  Pakenham’s tome is something profoundly sacred or spiritual.  It’s peppered with historical references, literary allusions to specific trees, and including some very famous trees, whether a thousand years old or more than 200 feet tall.  It seems preposterous humans travel the globe to see manmade creations when we could be on pilgrimages to commune with these ancient living beings.  Sixty trees are grouped by personality: Natives, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies, and Survivors.  Once you’ve met Pakenham and his craggy acquaintances in this book, you’ll want to move on to accompany the champion of trees on a year in his life in his book, The Company of Trees: A Year in a Lifetime’s Quest.

A different approach to individual trees can be found in photographer Diane Cook and Len Jenshel’s Wise Trees (a preview is below).  Some ancient and many not so ancient, the trees in this book include 50 selected from five continents and identified for their historic or inspirational stories.

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If you agree 2017’s Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok was the best of the bunch, and you don’t get enough of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson this month in Avengers: Endgame, just wait a little longer.  In June, Men in Black International arrives, and the next trailer for that fourth film in the Men in Black franchise is here.  Check it out below.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones first created the fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the three films, only to be eclipsed by the man who would be Thanos–Josh Brolin–as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role the late Rip Torn served as the character Zed in the earlier films.

Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out.  Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers back in December for Men in Black International (check ’em out here).  Here’s the next:

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After a painfully long wait for fans, the CW Network renewed the hit horror comedy/drama iZombie for a fifth season last May.  A year later and that final season is here, beginning with its season opener next Thursday.  What began as a successful comic book series by writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint about a gravedigger zombie gal who eats brains to survive, took on its own life under the deft management of showrunner Rob Thomas, who had already dazzled his target audience with Veronica Mars Powerhouse star Rose McIver′s Liv Moore has become every bit the ace detective that Veronica was, but she also bridged the audience back to the pop culture references and off-the-wall fun Joss Whedon brought to TV audiences with the original badass heroine in his groundbreaking series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

McIver had the added bonus of playing a character that had to change up her performance every single episode while also appearing in nearly every scene, like Quantum Leap’s Sam Beckett and more recently Tatiana Maslany’s several sisters in Orphan Black.  And she has met the challenge with high energy along the way.

The first teaser for next week’s season opener, “Thug Death,” doesn’t give away much about the 13-episode series arc ahead.  But it’s something new: Liv and Malcolm Goodwin′s Clive Babineaux must solve a murder with no body and no brain.  And of course it’s clear there’s no skipping the craziness of the characters as we know them, except Robert Buckley′s Major, who probably needs to lighten up a little bit.  The excellent villainy of the past four seasons has smartly balanced out the heroes’ story: first with the brilliant Steven Weber’s Vaughn Du Clark and his daughter Gilda (Leanne Lapp), then with Eddie Jemison’s mobster Stacey Boss, followed by the return of Veronica Mars lead Jason Dohring as the questionable zombie law enforcer Chase Graves, and meanwhile the writers built the character arc of Robert Knepper’s Angus into compelling new territory.  Who will be the villain this year?

Check out a peek here with this preview to Season 5’s season opener for iZombie:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As you drift along through IDW’s new mini-series, Ghost Tree, don’t be surprised if the story evokes Japanese folk tales, like Momotarō or last year’s Oscar-winning animated short film Bao.  Unlike so many comic book stories today, Ghost Tree is not an action-driven spectacle, but a refreshingly slow supernatural journey into the past for a young Japanese expatriate.  His name is Brandt, and he is returning to the home of his youth because of a promise made to his grandfather a decade ago.  And that takes him to a meeting in the woods near his grandmother’s home.

Writer Bobby Curnow (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist Simon Gane (Godzilla) paint a delightful, engaging, and haunting snippet from Japanese culture, bridging two generations, with a tale steeped in the otherworldly realm of so many Asian legends.  Take Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo and merge it with something spooky that awaits in the forest–like something just this side of the dark of Kim Eun-hee’s Kingdom–and you’ll find the setting for Ghost Tree.  

  

It’s a journey of self-discovery for grown-up Brandt, but what more can he learn from his grandfather now that he’s gone?  Can he help the lost souls in the woods and take home lessons from his grandmother to solve his own problems?  Learning from mistakes and regret, a haunted tree, and an assembly of souls that are drawn to it, plus monsters, and disembodied samurai?  It’s no wonder the first printing of Issue #1 has already sold out in pre-orders.  What prompted the advance sell-out?  The description or that creepy character standing atop the cliff?  Whatever the reason, the first chapter matches the hype.  It’s coming to your local comic shop this week, and if you happen to miss it, don’t worry because the second printing is close behind.

Take a look at this preview of Issue #1 of Ghost Tree, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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In the battle between kung-fu grip and the bionic eye, will life-like hair or better, stronger, and faster prevail?

We first previewed this crossover series here at borg back in February 2018.  Now the adventure series is available in a trade/graphic novel edition.  It’s a story that has been played out millions of times in the backyards of kids who grew up with both G.I. Joe and The Six Million Dollar Man.  It’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vs. The Six Million Dollar Man, last year’s crossover series from IDW Publishing and Dynamite.  Is this merely a crossover or also a team-up?  You’ll have to read it to find out, and you won’t want to miss it.  The villain is COBRA, and that infamous G.I. Joe threat and organization of evil has hacked Steve Austin’s cyborg circuitry to become a tool against Team Joe.

So it’s Colonel Steve Austin, COBRA Commander, Storm Shadow, Baroness, Zartan, and Major Bludd against Hawk, Scarlett, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, and Ace.  But the good guys have more than one ace up their sleeve, as they introduce one of our favorite borgs, borg Hall of Famer, Mike Power, The Atomic Man.  Finally–a face-off between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Atomic Man!

This is as much about toys as comic book characters.  Pitting the famous 1960s-70s 12-inch tall Hasbro “fighting man” G.I. Joe team (or small-scale figures, or animated series, if you prefer) with Adventure Team member (and second cyborg hero) Mike Power against the first cyborg Steve Austin–who appeared on millions of TV sets and produced one of the best selling 12-inch action figures of all time.  This was a fantasy played out in living rooms and sandboxes all over.  Technically this story isn’t the G.I. Joe of the 1970s, but the reboot universe Joes from the 1980s–the animated series, the mini-figures, and beyond.

As recounted in the recent Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, G.I. Joe began as an action figure line in 1963 to fill an untapped niche for boys alongside Barbie for girls. The Six Million Dollar Man began in 1972 as the hero of Martin Caidin′s novel Cyborg (previously reviewed here at borg), and was adapted two years later into a four-season television series starring Lee Majors.  Cyborg Mike Power, The Atomic Man, was Hasbro’s response to the popularity of the Bionic Man on TV.

For anyone not following G.I. Joes in the 1970s, here is the original comic page meet-up and origin story with Major Mike Power and G.I. Joe:

The original Mike Power had a cybernetic “atomic” right arm and left leg.  The new iteration of the character has prosthetics on both legs.

Here is a preview of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vs. The Six Million Dollar Man:

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