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Archive for April, 2019


The master of the assassin sub-genre is back again.  You may know him for writing and directing The Fifth Element (starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (starring Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan), but you may also know Luc Besson as the writer and director of the 1990 film Le Femme Nikita with Anne Parillaud (and its English remake, Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda), and the 1994 movie The Professional (Natalie Portman, Jean Reno).  He’s also written the screenplays for The Transporter starring Jason Statham (2002), Taken starring Liam Neeson (2008), and Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana (2011).  Then he tied together his science fiction sense with his trademark badass woman leading role in 2014 with Lucy, starring Scarlet Johansson.  That’s several assassins, spies, and action sequences in Luc Besson’s personal dossier.

Besson is writing and directing his next film, too.  It’s called Anna, and he’s tapped the actress behind the unforgettable alien woman from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sasha Luss (who played the ill-fated Princess Lïhio-Minaa) as the title character.  From its first trailer (check it out below), Anna seems to be part Red Sparrow and part Atomic BlondeOr another La Femme NikitaBut it’s going to be very difficult for fans of spy movies to differentiate this latest entry from Atomic Blonde, especially if the film is really structured as revealed in the trailer.  It looks like it could be a remake, but it isn’t.

Some credibility and gravitas come from the presence of Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, whose own badass spy and assassin role in RED and RED 2 should come to mind.  Other actors in the film include Luke Evans (The Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit series) and Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Tron: Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises).

Here’s the first trailer for Luc Besson’s Anna:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In his new novel Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, author James Lovegrove embarks on his next journey with the crew of Serenity following his highly successful launch point for the first ever novel series for the franchise, last year’s Firefly: Big Damn Hero (reviewed here at borg).  It’s been thirteen years since we last saw a Firefly story like these two novels, which each contain the contents of about an entire movie.  Along the way creator Joss Whedon has authorized some shorter tales via the comic books (discussed here).  Firefly: Big Damn Hero was the Firefly event of last year, and this year we’ll have two novels competing for that honor, with Tim Lebbon′s contribution to the series of novels coming this fall in Firefly: Generations So how did Lovegrove’s Firefly: The Magnificent Nine compare to his Firefly: Big Damn Hero?

As with Firefly: Big Damn Hero, Lovegrove writes the voices of the entire crew perfectly.  This is another space Western, the core of the original series, and both books feel like natural progressions following the original 14 episodes (Firefly: The Magnificent Nine fits between the last episode and the 2005 film Serenity, allowing the inclusion of two fan-favorite characters–and they’re all fan-favorite characters–Hoban “Wash” Washburne and Shepherd Book).  In a significant way the challenge of writing new Firefly stories is that writers only have 15 “canon” stories to build from, along with any notes from Whedon’s story development.  The potential pitfall is mining the original episodes too much for throwback references.  At 336 pages that’s not anything to worry about for Lovegrove.  Yes, fans will appreciate the Easter Eggs throughout the tale: Jayne Cobb’s famous hat (“a giant piece of candy corn gone wrong”) does not get ignored here, and neither does his weapon of choice, Vera.  But the framework of the story allows for plenty of opportunities for Lovegrove to do more with the characters.  It’s hard to beat his ability to get inside the head of River in Firefly: Big Damn Hero–a difficult character who didn’t get enough time to get fleshed out in the series.  But this time River takes a backseat and Jayne gets the spotlight.  As a completely original story Firefly: Big Damn Hero wins, but not by a lot.

As the title should indicate, Firefly: The Magnificent Nine is an homage to the classic, epic Western The Magnificent Seven, its source Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and countless adaptations since.  It’s notable and important that this isn’t another actual adaptation or full retelling of the story, as Lovegrove takes his own tangent from the story after setting up the novel’s first act.  But he peppers the story with familiar references, like using actors’ names and Kurosawa himself for new characters in his story.  He also has plenty of Louis L’Amour tropes and references.  One thing this novel makes clear is there are at least as many opportunities for new novels in the series as there are Kurosawa movies and L’Amour novels to pull good ideas from.  So this isn’t merely another take on The Magnificent Seven so much as establishing that the nine heroes of the Serenity are worthy of that title.

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Now is as good a time as any to climb aboard the TARDIS with the Thirteenth Doctor in Jody Houser and Rachael Stott′s monthly Doctor Who series.  The book continues right after the season one finale, taking readers along with the Doctor and her latest companions Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan, and Graham O’Brien.  If you haven’t been keeping up, you can pre-order the first four issues of the new Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor series “A New Beginning,” now here at Amazon in a paperback trade compilation.  With Issue #5 on the stands a new story arc is underway, “Hidden Human History,” and Issue #6 arrives in comic book stores today.  Check out a preview of the new story arc below courtesy of Titan Comics.

Jody Houser, today’s most prolific comic book writer, joins fan-favorite artist Rachael Stott, completely reflecting the look and feel of the actors and characters from the BBC television series in their stories.  In fact each four-issue story plays out like a new episode of the show.  In the first four-part adventure “A New Beginning” the Doctor must escape new villains–the cybernetic Grand Army of the Just–and face a new alien threat, an intergalactic collector of rarities, as two manipulated human scientists get stuck in a time loop.  But as with the Doctor’s exploits old and new, not everything is what it seems.  Roberta Ingranata joins Rachael Stott as interior artist in the second adventure, “Hidden Human History.”  The Doctor and friends catch up with Stilean Flesh Eaters, also known as the Habsburgs’ Demons, as the TARDIS drops the crew into the 16th century.  Is the Doctor jealous of a history-themed podcast everyone else is following?

 

Colorists, inkers, letterers, cover artists on the first eight issues include Giorgia Sposito, Valeria Favoccia, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Viviana Spinelli, Sara Michieli, Andrea Moretto, Tracy Bailey, Richard Starkings, Will Brooks, Iolanda Zanfardino, Sanya Anwar, Rachael Smith, Claudia Ianniciello, Rebekah Isaacs, Dan Jackson, Sarah Jacobs, and John Roshell.

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In the coming mini-series Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others, Part One, writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson are back again with their wonderfully realized Burden Hill gang, the canine paranormal investigators and a feline familiar that earned them a Harvey Award and multiple Eisner Awards.  We’ve discussed previous Beasts of Burden stories before here at borg and the animal stories are among the best of the outgrowth of shorts from Dark Horse Presents, the best anthology series around.

Dorkin and Thompson first introduced their animal sleuths in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and they made regular appearances throughout the “Dark Horse Book of” series (all collected now in the affordable The Dark Horse Book of Horrors), earning them Eisners for Best Short Story and Best Painter.  In 2009 the beasts of Burden Hill received their own miniseries, Animal Rites, and in 2010, they met up with Hellboy.  In 2012, the gang was back in Neighborhood Watch.  And Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers won the Best Single Issue Eisner in 2015.   In 2016 the Burden Hill gang returned with the one-shot issue Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In followed-up last year with Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men.

This time we find the team defending Burden Hill again, but with the help of humans.  A team of paranormal investigators poking around Burden Hill disturb the graveyard where the ”Master” lies, setting off a chain of events that will have serious consequences for the animal defenders of the haunted town.  Dorkin’s animal stories coupled with Thompson’s watercolor painted artwork simply can’t be beat.

Take a look at some preview pages from Dark Horse Comics:

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It’s a twofold celebration:  It’s not only the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman, it’s also the 30th anniversary of director Tim Burton’s visionary film, 1989’s Batman, starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger.  On this year’s Free Comic Book Day, May 4, Fathom Events has pulled together the first of the four original Warner Brothers Batman movies: Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, and Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.  The four Bat-films will screen over four days as part of Fathom Events’ Batman 80th anniversary marathon.

My sister and I saw Batman on its opening night in June 1989, and stayed in our seats to watch it again.  The crowd erupted at every scene that revealed something iconic from the comics, but nothing compared to the ovation with the first appearance of the new Batmobile.  The excitement makes sense–audiences hadn’t been dazzled with superheroes on the screen in this way since Christopher Reeve appeared in 1977’s Superman, more than a decade before.  On the heels of Frank Miller’s success with the surprisingly dark and gritty four-issue mini-series The Dark Knight Returns in 1986, it was still a surprise when audiences got their first glimpses at Burton’s similarly dark, Gothic vision for the film.  His choice of then comedic actor Michael Keaton for Bruce Wayne and Batman drew the same kind of ire as any outside-the-box announcement today.  But Keaton was trying to show he had a different side, as demonstrated by his recent dark and outrageous role in Beetlejuice followed by his dramatic film Clean and Sober.  As for Jack Nicholson, everyone just wanted to seem him play the role his smile was made for, as the crazed, maniacal, murderous jokester The Joker.

So if you missed them the first time, you get Danny Elfman′s defining theme, plus Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney as Batman, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Chris O’Donnell as Robin, plus an arsenal of villains: Jack Nicholson as The Joker plus Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as The Penguin, Jim Carrey as The Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze.  And all four movies have in common Michael Gough as Alfred and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon.

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Remember how epic the “ultimate” eleven-movie Marvel marathon sounded back in 2015, or the 20-movie Marvel film festival last year where participating theaters screened only four movies per day?  Yeah, not so much after this next marathon arrives.

At only three theaters (so far?) AMC Lincoln Square 13 (New York), AMC River East 21 (Illinois) and AMC Metreon 16 (California), fans will have the opportunity to experience a movie marathon like no other–AMC and Marvel Studios’ 22 Movie Marathon.  Beginning Tuesday, April 23, this marathon has it all: Watch all 21 films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe all leading up to and including the latest, film #22, Avengers: Endgame.

We have no doubt that this will quickly sell out in any theater they decide to hold it.  This is how good the franchise is, how much the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies outweigh the worst, how crazy and devoted Marvel fans are, and how epic this could be.

The event will include marathon-only collectibles, and some sort of to-be-determined concessions offer.  Plus Avengers: Endgame will be screened at 5 p.m. local time April 25, about 55 hours after Iron Man begins on April 23, and one hour earlier than regular public show times.  Do you have what it takes to survive 58 hours in a theater?

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Archie with a crossbow.  Betty with an axe.  Jughead with a wooden spike.

No it’s not some strange version of Clue.  It’s all part of Vampironica, the Archie Comics series, now available as a trade paperback from the Archie Horror imprint.  Collecting Issue #1-5 of the series, Vampironica, Book One introduces the Veronica Lodge you always knew, until she is bitten by a centuries-old vampire.  So then what’s a teenage girl to do?  Turn Riverdale upside down in a search for blood, of course.

Siblings Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight) and Meg Smallwood partnered to co-write the story, adding a new realm to the imprint’s great re-imaginings of the 77-year-old Riverdale characters along with Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Blossoms 666, and Jughead: The Hunger.  Interior artwork and covers were created by well-known cover artist Greg Smallwood, and he worked on interior art along with Greg Scott, with colors by Matt Herms, and lettering by Jack Morelli.

The series has a great, lighthearted, pop culture vibe, like Scooby Doo and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and it’s not too much of a stretch to swap the leads in Buffy for the leads in this series, for anyone missing their Buffy fix).  The book includes a section with a few of the variant covers for the series, by Francesco Francavilla, Audrey Mok, Djibril Morisette-Phan, Marguerite Sauvage, Robert Hack, Fiona Staples, Matthew Taylor, and a bonus, Issue #4 of Jughead: The Hunger. 

Later this month Jughead: The Hunger faces off against Veronica in the next iteration of the two series, Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, Issue #1.

 

The Jughead/Veronica crossover will feature a story by Frank Tieri, interior artwork by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Joe Eisma, Bob Smith, and Ryan Jampole, colors by Matt Herms, and lettering by Jack Morelli, and covers by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Bob Smith, and Matt Herms, Francesco Francavilla, Robert Hack, John McCrea, and Dan Panosian.

Here is a preview of the new trade edition of Vampironica, Book 1, Issue #1 of Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, and some future covers from the series, courtesy of Archie Horror:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From an educational standpoint and an historian’s eye, the Holocaust is the most important subject of study for anyone to understand why humans look to the past for answers.  Every aspect of historical scholarship can be found in studies of the subject, understanding politics, religion, power, discrimination, survival, and the worst potential of mankind.  A powerful new documentary takes a new look at the Holocaust through the eyes of a grandson and great-granddaughter of one artist, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943), whose vivid, stunning expressionist and minimalist paintings document a broad look at life, tradition, and culture in Jewish Poland prior to World War II.  Produced, directed, and written by his great-granddaughter Elizabeth Rynecki, Chasing Portraits illustrates the competing challenges in the debate over the repatriation of cultural artifacts, as it also pulls in issues of borders, the distance of time, and the critical importance of studying art history.

Once you get past the first minutes, which seem to be filmed on an old camcorder, this amateur documentary steps up into a compelling journey, thanks in part to a musical score that ties it all together, by Matthias Zimmerman.  The German Nazis murdered Moshe Rynecki in a concentration camp in Warsaw in 1943.  Many of his more than 800 paintings and some of his sculptures and carvings were smuggled out.  Hundreds were taken out by his son and her wife, who escaped Warsaw with their young boy, the documentarian’s father.  Other works fall into the categories of gifts, works purchased legally, and works that may have been stolen and resold.  Elizabeth Rynecki first meets with her father in her documentary, whose house walls are lined with his grandfather’s paintings.  She also points to a closet where several works are rather haphazardly stacked, no doubt viewed only by few people over the past 70 years.  In one moment her father replaces a framed piece that falls to the side with a thunk.  This becomes a key scene–although it’s not clear that the director realizes it–as she does not circle back to it later.  It’s key because she begins a journey of discovery that takes her from the U.S. to Poland and Jerusalem, inside major museums and private collections, in part to reclaim what she believes are paintings that rightfully belong to her family today.  By the end of the film she acknowledges that tens of millions of visitors have admired her great-grandfather’s works in the museums, and she interviews museum directors that have clearly given the paintings the care any curator would give to his/her collections.

The question for the viewer becomes one of moral rights and legal rights–the debate over repatriation of cultural and artistic works.  And the crux of the debate over where these cultural works belong today–to descendants in private collections or on display in national museums as educational tools for a vastly wider audience.  Eventually Ms. Rynecki files a claim for three works held by a private person in Jerusalem, whose method of acquiring the works is questioned.  But ultimately she retracts the claim.  Along the way she interviews her father, who says he clearly would prefer to forget his memories of Poland during the war.  Yet he complies with his daughter’s requests to document his memories, until it becomes too much for him emotionally and physically.  Clearly there is importance to the works, to his experience, and to sharing both with future generations, and Ms. Rynecki encounters numerous crises of conscience as she takes each step forward in her pursuit.  How far should she go?  How far is enough?  Her time travel to the past explores these questions and much more.

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In marked contrast to the fun, fantastic, and surprising Warner Brothers release Shazam!, finally arriving in theaters in general release today and reviewed previously here at borg, film fans now have their first look at Warner Brothers’ fall release, Joker For a franchise from the same superhero universe, you couldn’t find a most strikingly dissimilar pair of films, if the first trailer for Joker is any indication of the rest of the film.  Joaquin Phoenix is stepping in this time to fill the role previously played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, Cameron Monaghan, and even Mark Hamill in animated versions, and countless others.  This time the character is named Arthur Fleck, so we don’t know whether this is truly the same as the other Jokers or just some parallel world incarnation of the larger-than-life, psychotic, clown villain who became a household word for TV audiences as portrayed by Cesar Romero in the 1960s.

If audiences and fans of DC Comics and DC movies know one character inside and out, it’s the Joker.  So why another movie with the Joker, and more to the point, why another origin story?  Phoenix, the multiple Academy Award-nominated actor from Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master, digs in with great, nuanced skill in all of his roles, and Joker will no doubt be any different.  So if you’re still a fan of the dozen recent dark visions into the superhero universe of DC Comics, Phoenix probably is a solid casting choice.  But can you really have a major Joker tale without Batman?  What about all that “creating each other” business?  The market certainly seems saturated with dark comics adaptations and we’re hoping Shazam! will grab audiences so we see more superhero films like it and The Lego Batman Movie ahead, or DC could split the difference and mine the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some fresh ideas.  But first, it’s going to be a Joker tale later this year.

Check it out for yourself, the first trailer for Joker:

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Hot on the heels of DC Comics’ big Detective Comics #1000 event last Wednesday, Marvel Comics is stepping in today with its next onslaught of variant covers.  It’s for The War of the Realms, a storyline written by Jason Aaron with art by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson, a Thor-centric event, bringing in the entire pantheon of superheroes from Marvel, the ten realms, assassination plots, and the fate of Earth hanging in the balance.  As Marvel boasts, “no corner of the Marvel Universe will be untouched.”  It even comes with its own theme song.

This is also your typical Marvel Comics multi-series crossover, with tie-in stories twined through several monthlies, like Journey Into Mystery, New Agents of Atlas, Giant-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Punisher, Uncanny X-Men, and Venom, plus Asgardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, Thor, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Champions, Fantastic Four, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Superior Spider-Man, Tony Stark, Iron Man, Spider-Man and the League of the Realms, plus War Scrolls and War of the Realms Strikeforce.  That’s a big, twisty storyline ahead for Marvel readers.

The War of the Realms variant covers are on their way with regularly available covers by Arthur Adams, J. Scott Campbell, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Frank Cho, John Tyler Christopher, Oliver Coipel, Amanda Conner, Russell Dauterman (wraparound), Adi Granov, Ron Lim, Nexon, Ryan Ottley, Pyeong Jun Park, George Perez, and Rodney Ramos (international connecting variant with next five issues).  A 1 in 10 variant by Russell Dauterman and Greg Horn, a 1 in 25 variant by Victor Hugo, 1 in 50 variants by Sana Takeda and Joe Quesada, a 1 in 100 virgin variant by Quesada, a 1 in 200 variant by Walt Simonson, and a 1 in 500 black and white Simonson cover.  Plus a blank sketch cover, and retailer incentive covers based on other purchases and store exclusives by Arthur Adams, Amanda Conner, Clayton Crain (trade, virgin) (Frankie’s), Gabriele Dell’Otto, Mike McKone (The Comics Mint) and Skan Srisuwan (Midtown).

That’s 31 in all.

Check them out:
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