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Archive for May, 2019


After seeing Jim Henson and Frank Oz‘s The Dark Crystal return to theaters back in 2017 for its 35th anniversary, we were reminded why the movie kept up its status as the best live-action, high-fantasy film for two decades–until the arrival of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series.  The set for Aughra′s beautiful pinnacle of all set pieces–the location of that mechanical wonder called the Orrery–showcased a fantasy creation that has yet to be surpassed in any film.  We first mentioned Netflix green-lighting the return of The Dark Crystal universe way back in 2017 here at borg, as the studio began work on the ten episode series The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceAt last the first trailer has arrived (below) and the arrival date for the first season: August 30, 2019.  The best part?  Fizzgig is back, along with Aughra (voiced by Donna Kimball (Community)) and a re-creation of her incredible Orrery, and Henson’s vile Skeksis, complete with that familiar, creepily sniveling voice.  And as with the 1982 movie, the series uses puppets, which were created by Jim Henson Co.’s Creature Shop and Brian Froud, the original conceptual designer — there will be no CGI in the series.

Taron Egerton (Robin Hood, Rocketman, Kingsman series) will be playing the voice of Rian, Nathalie Emmanuel (Furious 7, Game of Thrones) is the voice of Deet, and Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass, Split, The New Mutants) is the voice of Brea (above)–making up the trio to lead the film as Gelflings.  Other Gelfling characters will be voiced by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series), Emmy winner Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, The Riches, Treasure Island), BAFTA nominee Mark Strong (Shazam!, Green Lantern, Kick-Ass, Kingsman series), Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones (Doctor Who, Harry Potter series, Marvel movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Golden Globe nominee Caitriona Balfe (Super 8, Outlander), plus Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games series, Captain America: The First Avenger), Shazad Latif (The Commuter, Black Mirror, Star Trek Discovery), and Theo James (Underworld series).

Voicing the Skeksis and urRu (or “Mystics”) are BAFTA winner Mark Hamill (Star Wars, The Flash, and Kingsman series, Batman animated series), Golden Globe nominee Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery), BAFTA nominee Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Wars series), Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key (The Predator, Tomorrowland), Emmy nominee Harvey Fierstein (Hercules, Independence Day), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The BFG), Ralph Ineson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Kingsman, and Harry Potter series), and Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live).  Other voice roles will be performed by the puppet actors.

Wait no longer–check out this great first trailer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you have made as many movies as have been in the Godzilla franchise (31, more than James Bond movies), you run the risk of making a sequel or reboot that ends up like Independence Day: Resurgence, or Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, or Man of Steel, or Alien: Covenant.  For some moviegoers, a quick fix with lots of CGI in one of their favorite universes is good enough.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters has many things in common with these movies, without quite being as good as any of them, or Godzillas of the past.  Inasmuch as moviegoers will see the great effort taken to be faithful to its predecessors, by bringing more than just Godzilla to the picture, by bringing in a significant number of character actors that will be familiar to audiences, and by trying to create more spectacular visuals than came before, the latest Godzilla movie, opening today, doesn’t match either the monster mayhem or the humor of its 20th century predecessors.

Stuffed with every over-used creature and action trope, some used repeatedly, Godzilla: King of the Monsters suffers from taking itself too seriously.  Its single attempt at levity is Get Out’s Bradley Whitford as a wise-cracking scientist who seems to be channeling Brent Spiner in the Independence Day movies.  But beyond that, this is a family drama, more talk and human family in-fighting than Godzilla screen-time, between Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown as Madison and her separated parents played by Kyle Chandler (Super 8) and Vera Farmiga (The Commuter) (in that way it suffers the flaws of the 2014 Godzilla).  For some credibility we get Oscar-nominated actor Ken Watanabe (Isle of Dogs, The Last Samurai, Batman Begins) to remind us of the creature’s 65 years as a Japanese kaijū icon.  Other than that, the production skipped Japanese actors for this installment.  The best character and performance comes from Charles Dance (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Bleak House, Gosford Park), who plays a terrorist.  His character is the lone voice who speaks sense in a film that only makes sense if you also believe ocean drillers are the best choice to pilot a space shuttle to save the world from an oncoming asteroid.  Armageddon, War of the Worlds, Cloverfield, The Day After Tomorrow, Pacific Rim and every other disaster movie is rolled up into a single package here.  Direction and decisions are all over the place.  Even in a crazy, kooky, over-the-top monster movie, audiences deserve a plot with a foundation with a smidge of reality, especially if the talking heads scenes get equal time with the clashing creatures.  So if you decide to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters in the theater, you’ll need to throw all logic and reason aside and try to enjoy the ride.

Although this wasn’t clear in the trailers, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is more than another franchise installment, it’s a direct sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla movie.  Five years later the world is learning how to live as 17 titans (monsters like Godzilla) surface across the globe.  Watanabe joins other returning cast members, including Oscar-nominated actress Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Blue Jasmine, Layer Cake), Oscar-nominated actor David Strathairn (Sneakers, The Firm, Eight Men Out, Memphis Belle), as they attempt to cause the titans to join forces in support of Godzilla instead of his three-headed dragon competition Ghidorah.  The best of the encounters finds the flying Rodan taking on a convoy of jet fighters, in a sweeping, well-choreographed scene that you’d expect from a Godzilla movie, although this scene and the rest of the monster scenes are mostly fuzzy and don’t make the most of high-definition camera capabilities or CGI.

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Dafne Keen tops the list of best child actors in movies, and her performance as X-23 along with co-stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart made Logan–and specifically the black and white version released as Logan Noir–my pick for the #1 best superhero movie of all time.  So it’s a big deal that Keen has been tapped in the lead role of Lyra Belacqua, the young protagonist of a new adaptation of Philip Pullman′s His Dark Materials–a Carnegie Medal-winning trilogy of novels and a favorite among a generation of readers, selling 18 million copies and translated into 40 languages.  It’s doubly exciting for a fan like me, as the story and character of Lyra was adapted to the big screen once already, in 2007, as the Oscar-winning The Golden Compass, my pick back in 2012 here at borg at the top position of my ten favorite fantasy films of all time (check out that and our staff writers’ lists from back then here if you missed it).  Keen is the perfecting casting decision for one of fantasy’s best-developed, and most fascinating supernatural worlds.

Coming from the BBC and to be released via HBO in the States, His Dark Materials will feature eight episodes the first season.  Take a look at the first trailers below.  Along with Keen as Lyra (who was played by Dakota Blue Richards in the film), the series stars X-Men and Glass’s James McAvoy as Lord Asrael (played by Daniel Craig in the film), Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott in the film), John Wick and Jessica Jones’ Clarke Peters as Dr. Carne (Jack Shepherd in the film), The Strain and The Borgias’ Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina (Eva Green in the film), Shetland and Outlaw King’s James Cosmo as Farder Coram (Tom Courtenay in the film) and Luther, The Prisoner, and Jane Eyre’s Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman in the film).  No voice cast has been announced for the several animal characters.  The series is directed by Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper.  Production for season one wrapped in late 2018 and a second season has already been green-lighted.

  

It’s a good time to catch up on the novels, beginning with Northern Lights (released as The Golden Compass in the U.S.), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, along with two sequels, Lyra’s Oxford, and Once Upon a Time in the North, and a book set in the same universe, The Book of Dust.

Here are the first trailers for His Dark Materials:

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The 24 issues of Matt Kindt′s Dept.H series is everything we look for at borg–science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir.  And it all arrived in one comic book series from Dark Horse.  Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and readers felt all of that come through. From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evoked the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the characters to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is one of the decade’s top comic book series.  And it’s now coming your way in two paperback omnibus editions beginning next week.

Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by Sharlene Kindt, his wife.  In part the series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case.  We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father.  Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary.  Who killed Mia’s father?  Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security?  Her father’s business partner Roger?  The frenetic head of research Jerome?  Demolition expert Bob?  Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily?  Her own brother Raj?  Or Aaron, the research assistant?  Or was it someone topside?

 

Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects.  How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air?  The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Anyone who has ever been in journalism school has had one or more internships, maybe with a local newspaper or with a magazine, advertising agency, or public relations firm.  Every intern is a target in one way or the other of the old-timers in the firm.  The intern gets talked down to as a matter of rite.  Usually at the end of the internship the intern gets sent along her merry way, and sometimes she gets an offer to stay on, usually at low pay.  This is the world of Stephen King′s novel The Colorado Kid, delivered in King’s trademark nor’easter style of dialogue.  A young woman from Ohio named Stephanie McCann is winding down her internship with The Weekly Islander, working for the “news staff,” a pair of guys who can’t seem to decide how long they’ve worked at the paper named Dave Bowie (no relation, to either) and Vince Teague.  Another reporter, from The Boston Globe, is asking the men about unexplained mysteries in the area for a features story, around the year 2004.  After he leaves, The Weekly Islander men proceed to tell Stephanie about a story they didn’t share with the Globe reporter, the unsolved mystery of The Colorado Kid, a man found dead against a trash can situated along a nearby beach back in 1980.  In a spin on Twenty Questions, Stephanie gets to ask all the questions–to learn the clues and what investigation transpired so far in the crime–and they answer in a very verbose and dragged out way that only local yokels would normally have the patience to listen to.  After years out of print, The Colorado Kid has been re-released by Hard Case Crime for the first time since the book was first published in 2005.  In fact it’s the book that kicked off the imprint, and lighted the spark to make it the popular publisher of crime fiction that it is today.  The first edition fetches a princely sum in the aftermarket, so the new paperback edition is a welcome event for crime genre readers.

Fans of King’s TV and film adaptations and Shawn Piller television series will recognize the novel as the impetus for the Syfy Channel series Haven (now streaming on Netflix) a show that also included Hard Case Crime’s Charles Ardai as a producer.  Here’s what they have in common: The Colorado Kid is set in the Northeast, it featured newspapermen Dave and Vince, one of the local policemen was named Wuornos, and there’s a restaurant in town called The Grey Gull.  I noted nothing else in common with the TV series, except a different story of the Kid (the series’ handling probably less satisfying than in the book).  Ardai, in a 2019 foreword to the new edition, surmises that King may have chosen to wait this long to reprint the book to provide some distance from the series, so fans wouldn’t confuse the two.  If you choose to take on The Colorado Kid–the novel–just don’t search for any supernatural twist or horror.  There isn’t any and there isn’t supposed to be.  It also doesn’t follow a mystery formula, but is more a folktale, a storyteller’s legend, something like the lost people of Roanoke (one of the mysteries that surfaces in the series).

 

If it sounds like I’m holding back some elements, it’s because some of the surprise worth holding back is in the bones of the tale (surprises like we found in the films Midnight Special, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Split).  With this story “the journey is the thing.”  First, the possibilities raised in the story are probably better than the story.  The Colorado Kid is a different type of tale, kicking aside all reader expectations–no matter what expectation you have coming into the story.  It’s full of Stephen King’s Maine, the local oddballs are few here, but we get plenty of their anachronisms, their dialects, and colloquialisms from storytellers Dave and Vince.  And as with the next Hard Case Crime book King would write, Joyland, it’s chock full of local charm (a more satisfying read, I reviewed Joyland as part of the official blog tour for the initial release here at borg in 2013).  The Colorado Kid is another example of why King is a bestselling author–his newspapermen keep you immersed in their little office along with Stephanie for the entire ride.  By book’s end you’ll more likely be ready to kill Dave and Vince for their quirks than the author for his… unorthodox… ending. Continue reading

 

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a comic book nearly two years in the making.  Or maybe 27 years.  And it may be the best single comic book issue of the year.  But as strange as the tale between the covers, the story of its creators is stranger still.  What you probably know is this:  In 1984 Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird published a single issue comic called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Intended as a spoof-parody-mash-up concoction of Marvel’s Daredevil and The New Mutants, Frank Miller’s Ronin, and Dave Sim’s Cerebus, the book sparked something much bigger for readers, becoming one of the most popular franchises for a few generations of readers and cartoon watchers (not to mention the impact it had via toys and movie tie-ins).  A couple unrelated–short-lived–parody spin-offs of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came and went unrelated to Eastman and Laird, including Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos and Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters.

What you don’t know is that eight years after the Turtles saw their first comic–in 1992–comic creators Shane Bookman and his brother Paul released their scrappy indie creation on the unsuspecting comic book universe: Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls Like Eastman and Laird, the Bookmans had their own share of ups and downs, tales of fame and fortune (evidently Eastman sold off his rights to the Turtles some 20 years ago, etc.).  So in 2017 Eastman and writer David Avallone and artist Ben Bishop (with Troy Little, Brittany Peer, Tomi Varga, and Taylor Esposito) took the Bookmans’ story to Kickstarter, and nearly 1,200 backers brought in more than $100,000.  Now it’s all done, first to tell the Bookmans’ story in a new monthly comic beginning this past week called Drawing Blood, and at the same time with a companion comic they created and discussed in their comic industry exploits, Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, Issue #1.

 

The result?  Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls is an idea as good as any Turtles tale you’ve read, and as finely crafted an origin story, full of action, top-notch writing, beautiful layouts, and exciting new characters: referred to as the Ragdolls (from the cat breed), they are three female cats who encounter gamma rays, cosmic rays, genetic mutagens, and who knows what other comic book superpower trigger was tapped, to become Tezuka, Otomo, and Miyazaki.  Speaking, Ronin-trained, defender cats.  Otomo is the most fearsome, Miyazaki speaks in Haiku poems, and Tezuka is a master tactician.

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Of the dozens of movies coming to your local theater between now and August, we spotted ten to highlight today.  Although Disney continues to recycle past hits into new variants, like Dumbo, Aladdin, Toy Story, and Lion King, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, and the rest of the pack are still holding their own with their latest efforts, all vying for the biggest box office win.  So along with Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home (partnering with Disney’s Marvel Studios) and the latest Disney purchase, 20th Century Fox’s Dark Phoenix, there’s Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters coming next week, Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets 2, Columbia and Amblin’s Men in Black: International, New Line and Warner Brothers’ Shaft sequel, Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Luc Besson’s Anna, and Columbia delivering Quentin Tarentino’s next feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, all in the coming summer season (realizing the studios don’t follow the actual calendar seasons).

You may have seen a few of these movie trailers before, but most we’ve been stacking up for today.  We’re even throwing in the trailer for the Downton Abbey movie, which eeks into the summer calendar, arriving September 20.

So start planning to fit these in.  This week sees Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown team up with Godzilla in the first big movie on our list, Godzilla: King of the Monsters The final X-Men movie of the 20-year run arrives the following week with Dark Phoenix We’re sure Men in Black: International will be a big hit.  And the third Marvel movie of the year arrives with Spider-Man: Far from Home for the Fourth of July weekend.  Some good prospects lie ahead!

In case you missed them, here are the movie trailers for the summer’s biggest releases:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Stickers as art?  Why not?  You’ve seen stickers for decades and used them for all kinds of purposes.  And they are all around you–on telephone poles, on city benches, on subways, on bus seats, on the walls of bathrooms in bars and pubs, even 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as Miles sticks his artwork all over his Brooklyn neighborhood–places not quite intended for communicating via a form of art.  Are they art, or just stuck-up pieces of crap?  This is the question posed by DB Burkeman, skateboarder and punk rocker turned DJ who bounced between London and New York collecting these images over the past 40 years.  He tells the story of stickers as street art in a book that updates his first book on the subject from 2010.  The new collection is Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap, From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art, coming in June from Rizzoli New York Publishing.  The out-of-print first volume, Stickers: Stuck-Up Piece of Crap, documented the subgenre as its own art scene, sought after by sticker enthusiasts, and the new volume reproduces more than 3,000 more sticker images.

Burkeman’s sticker art is contemporary art in the Banksy sense.  Often irreverent, sometimes humorous and even political, they are quick, cheap ways to convey messages and meaning between the artist and the pedestrian.  A fair analogy is our world of DIY culture where people can self-publish or do anything else because of technological advances–how can more artists become street artists any cheaper than making their own stickers and leaving them anywhere they can be seen?  Some artists even print their own stamps (also stickers) and send them to each other around the world.  The stickers Burkeman examines also include the nostalgic: Remember scratch-and-sniff stickers from the 1970s?  They’re still being produced, and a few are pictured in this volume (sorry, no scent).  From stickers on your fruits at the grocery store to billboards mocking corporate brands or politicians, and art pranks from artist-activists (and simple power socket stickers stuck on the walls at every other major airport these days), Burkeman connects it all together.

Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap includes commentary from a variety of collectors, DJs, artists, and others influenced or inspired by the medium, from Nathalie Richter, 1988 German half-pipe champion (and vintage sticker collector), to BMX legend Mike Humphrey (he put ’em on bikes), to Mark Mothersbaugh from the band DEVO (and one of filmdom’s great composers), to famous mosaic street artist INVADER, to indie film director Aaron Rose, to graffiti writers and DJs who leave there mark behind in sticker form.  The “OBEY” signs from John Carpenter’s sci-fi classic film They Live–they have a particular influence on artists, who have reinterpreted the signage in several ways, many pictured in the book.

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In 1984 The Terminator introduced us to Linda Hamilton′s young Sarah Connor and her first encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger′s now classic T-800 “Terminator” cyborg.  In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, director James Cameron amped up Hamilton’s role, resulting in arguably the best female character in all of science fiction movies (in a close heat with Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in Aliens, also from Cameron), while making Arnold’s T-800 a good guy.  In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, we watched Sarah’s son John Connor (played by Nick Stahl) and his future wife (played by Claire Danes) as they approached Judgment Day–the day of the technological apocalpyse.  In the fourth film Terminator: Salvation, audiences saw an older John Connor (Christian Bale) fighting the machines after the series’ Judgment Day, along with a young Kyle Reese played by Anton Yelchin, recounting the origins of the T-800 Arnold would embody later in the timeline.  With Terminator: Genisys, John (next played by Jason Clarke) and Kyle (played by Jai Courtney) arrive at the future point where humans travel back in time to prevent Skynet, and in that timeline John encounters his own problems, and Kyle returns to a modified version of the past where Sarah (played by Solo: A Star Wars Story and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke) is working with a T-800 (again played by Arnold, and again as a good guy) to prevent the Skynet future apocalypse from happening.

Welcome to the day after Judgment Day.

It’s now 35 years since we first heard the message from Kyle Reese given to Sarah Connor, “There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”  Producer James Cameron is back, with Tim Miller (Deadpool) directing the autumn theatrical release Terminator: Dark Fate This time we’re told audiences are supposed to ignore everything that came after Terminator 2, and substitute this next chapter, similar to the “picture hopping” the Halloween movie franchise has become known for.  The original Sarah Connor is back battling a Terminator.  Newcomer to the series, Mackenzie Davis is one, “almost human.”  And Gabriel Luna plays another, making them the faces of the next Terminators, following in the footsteps of Arnold, Jason Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Byung-Hun Lee, and Jason Clarke.

Check out this new poster for the film and the first trailer for the sixth Terminator flick, Terminator: Dark Fate:

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The detective strategy game Clue is making another comeback.  Today IDW Publishing is releasing the first issue of a three-issue comic book miniseries called Clue: Candlestick.  Writer-artist Dash Shaw is also serving as series letterer, bringing his stylized look to the usual suspects: Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Mrs. White, and Miss Scarlet.  Hasbro’s game turns 70 this year, so Shaw has compiled a new crime wrapped in secrets, lies, and puzzles, including a maze and coded message.  The puzzles can be unraveled by readers as they make their way through the mystery.

The best feature is Shaw’s incorporation of all the elements of the board game, including the familiar map of the house with connecting floor tiles, stone game pieces that serve as useful art on the grounds of Mr. Boddy’s estate, and, of course, the familiar weapons of choice.  To find out who is searching what rooms and when, you’ll need to solve a logic puzzle.  As with the expanded Master Detective version of the game, you may have more than you bargain for in the story’s first issue, including a focus on Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. White.  It turns out those weapons might have had some history.

 

In addition to Shaw’s main cover art, variant editions of each issue will form a triptych of the classic Clue suspects and their legendary weapons of choice.  Illustrator Jed McGowan (Time in Nature) designed a third variant cover for the first issue.  Each issue features additional story content and will feature new, removable Clue game cards on the back cover, based on the comic art in the series.

Here’s a preview of the first issue of Clue: Candlestick, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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