Advertisements

Archive for May, 2019


It’s not a Fast & Furious, or Deadpool, or Kickboxer movie like her past films, but mixed martial arts pro-turned-actor Gina Carano is getting her next leading role, following up on last year’s post-apocalypse B-movie, Scorched Earth.  It’s called Daughter of the Wolf, a snowbound survival tale in the vein of Liam Neeson’s Taken movie series.  Carano will soon co-star opposite Pedro Pascal in Lucasfilm’s live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, but first she’ll go head-to-head with iconic genre actor Richard Dreyfuss as her character fights to get her son back from a kidnapper and his accomplices.

Could Daughter of the Wolf be part of a trend of solo action films Carano adds to her portfolio, just as action stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Jason Statham once stacked up a vast list of smaller action movies between co-starring stints in major films?  Carano certainly has the physical prowess, style, and charisma to be tomorrow’s next action hero.

Take a look at this trailer for Daughter of the Wolf:

Continue reading

Advertisements

Warner Brothers continues to struggle with how next to turn the DC universe of films into a cash cow like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  First a report that Ben Affleck′s replacement will be Robert Pattinson, an actor known for both the lucrative Harry Potter franchise and Twilight franchise, was then followed by a report that Nicholas Hoult was being considered.  Hoult, co-star of the X-Men movies as Beast, among other roles, makes more sense, as first–he has the charisma and look to be both Batman and alter ego Bruce Wayne, and second,–because he’d follow that common casting preference that already has seen two dozen actors playing superheroes flip from DC characters to Warner characters or vice versa.  These reports were followed by word that two other actors were on the Batman shortlist: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who already portrayed both Quicksilver in the MCU and Kick-Ass in his own series) and Armie Hammer.  Why wouldn’t they just stop with Armie Hammer?  If the studio has already ruled out Denzel Washington (just watch him in the Equalizer franchise, he’d be perfect!), then the closest to how Batman and Bruce have been drawn in the comics for 80 years is Armie Hammer.  He has that John Hamm suave manner and he’s already shown he can play a great hero opposite Superman Henry Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  With the next new comics adaptation it does seem like Warner Brothers may be doing something right.  It’s on television instead of at the movies, where the Arrowverse group of series has seen greater success than the studio’s movie efforts.  It’s the new Batwoman series, and the CW released the first trailer for the series late this week (check it out below).

For whatever reason, Warner Brothers, the CW, etc. are hesitant to put their prime DC character–Batman–on the small screen.  Just like they were hesitant showing Superman on Smallville back in “the WB” days, or giving Batman his due within the Gotham series continuity.  But this new Batwoman series looks like it could be the closest viewers are going to get to a TV bat-hero.  Series star Ruby Rose proved she has the charisma and physicality for a major superheroine/action role in The Meg, Resident Evil, Vin Diesel’s XXX series, and the John Wick series.  Her character of Kate Kane aka Batwoman in last August’s CW Arrowverse crossover “Elseworlds,” the highlight of the event (along with John Wesley Shipp donning his 1990 Flash costume), was received well by viewers.  The new trailer seems as “Batman” in look and feel as anything Warner has produced for TV–or film.

Even better, the great Rachel Skarsten (former Black Canary of Birds of Prey and star of Lost Girl and Reign) plays a villain named Alice–Batwoman’s twin sister who took on the persona of an evil Wonderlander in the comics–who looks like she can run circles around Harley Quinn.

Batwoman has been one of DC Comics′ most fascinating characters since she was re-designed by Alex Ross for DC’s 52 series in 2006, but she really came into her own in 2009 in the Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series written and drawn by Eisner Award nominees James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli, and she was fleshed out further in 2010-2013 in the award-winning Batwoman solo series written and drawn by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.

Take a look at the first trailer for CW’s Batwoman:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of any character or universe love their fandom and often can’t get enough of it.  It’s why writers keep writing new versions of Frankenstein 201 years later and new stories featuring James Bond 66 years later and Sherlock Holmes 132 years later.  Fans of writer Mickey Spillane′s Mike Hammer novels (or the Darren McGavin or Stacy Keach television series) have not just the 13 novels Spillane wrote beginning 72 years ago, but now a full two dozen thanks to Spillane’s co-conspirator of hard-boiled crime and his successor, Max Allan Collins.  In last year’s centenary of Spillane’s birth, that meant the release of the unpublished first Mike Hammer novel Killing Town (reviewed here at borg).  Using the combined talents of Spillane and Collins, it’s a crime story as good as they get.  With the latest team-up of Spillane and Collins, Murder, My Love, Collins proves he has mastered the voice of the famous cop-turned-private eye.  This book is 100% end-to-end Collins, as the writer says he worked from Spillane’s notes but all of the prose is new material.  And that’s fabulous, because this book is all Mike Hammer at his best.

As with Killing Town, Collins’ Murder, My Love is a shorter Hammer novel and a quick read.  Personally at 200 pages I find it the ideal length–all pulp novels, classic paperback mysteries, true crime novels, etc. should be able to be gobbled up in a single trip (like on a Greyhound bus from Detroit to Cincinnati or a train from Omaha to Denver).  I soaked up Murder, My Love in two sittings, and it was an entirely satisfying read, complete with Hammer and his assistant/also cop-turned P.I., Velda, who Collins writes cleverly here first person in a few pages of “off-camera” playback that is some of the best material in the book.

Max Allan Collins signing at San Diego Comic-Con in 2018.

It’s a story set later in Hammer’s career, with Collins establishing a perfect picture of New York City from a few decades ago as he takes a U.S. senator on as a client, a senator with White House ambitions.  Unfortunately he and his wife have a history of extramarital affairs and now someone else knows, resulting in blackmail.  Hammer and Velda embark on the detective work, interviewing the subjects of the senator’s liaisons.  Once they find the schemer behind the blackmail, that’s when the body count begins.  One-by-one the possible suspects end up dead, and Hammer isn’t exempt from getting in the line of fire.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

For the 40th anniversary of Alien, OVID.tv is streaming a stunning, eye-opening documentary about the life and visual creations of H.R. Giger, who won an Academy Award for his design work on the science fiction/horror classic.  Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World features interviews with Hansruedi “H.R.” Giger (pronounced geeger) at his home and during his travels in the weeks before his death in 2014.  Interspersing archival footage and interviews with those who knew Giger best, his wife Carmen, his ex-wife, a psychiatrist, his former partner, his agent, the archivist of his personal collection, and others (even his Siamese cat Müggi makes several appearances), writer/director Belinda Sallin assembles a picture of the complex man, his unique creations, and his influences.

If you’ve viewed footage of Guillermo Del Toro’s vast collection of horror memorabilia (via interviews or in books like his At Home with Monsters), all housed in a lavish setting, imagine a home as fabulously creepy but built like an old abandoned grotto, centered around Giger’s horror paintings and statues, complete with dark corridors, and those eerie squeaky doors and stairs of a recluse’s hovel in a vine-covered corner.  His “biomechanik” artwork, sculptures, and storage drawers are wall-to-wall, his book collection haphazardly stacked on shelves and in the bathtub, (real) skulls are tucked into nooks and crannies, a set of doors inside the modest front door is covered with paintings of his trademark human-alien hybrid characters, and an Academy Award is filed between dusty objects on another shelf.  A mini-train ride through the vines outside the house take visitors on a haunted house ride through birth, life, and death.  This is a haunted house, but devoid of spirits.  Ray Bradbury’s attic in every way, only it isn’t.  It’s Hansruedi Giger’s house.

Artists of any genre and fans of the Alien franchise can get an unprecedented, detailed, personal look at a man known for his disturbing imagery.  Dismissed for decades by the mainstream art scene for Giger’s popular status in Hollywood, Alien indeed made Giger famous just as Giger made Alien famous.  The influences behind his often dark and grotesque images will not be surprising: his father bought him his first human skull at the age of six, and his sister took him to a museum to scare him by showing him an actual mummy.  Both of these things frightened the little boy, but he forced himself to look at these things repeatedly until, as he says in the documentary, he overcame his fears.  But the nightmares never seemed to dwindle.  He speaks of his dreams as a key influence, but he told a psychiatrist that the frightening images he saw lost their power when he committed them to canvas.  He also acknowledges LSD use as the prompt behind some of his work.

Continue reading

 

Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all it’s not really Bruce Lee.  The character’s name is John Lee, and he’s an agent after the same target but backed by a different government–the South Korean intelligence agency–and with different objectives than our title character, Mr. Bond.  Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 is smartly written by Greg Pak and drawn by Marc Laming, Stephen Mooney, and Eric Gapstur in a way that makes it easy for readers to imagine what could have been one great movie.  More as if Bruce Lee was portraying his Dragon than Kato, this Mr. Lee and Mr. Bond are well-matched adversaries.

Until they aren’t.

Taking some of the best bits from the spy trope, what will happen when MI6 teams up with South Korean spies against a common foe?  It’s Man from U.N.C.L.E meets Bond, as villains from MI6’s past start popping up, including Oddjob and Goldfinger.  A suitcase will explode if removed from, or taken too far away from, its handler.  One town of innocent people has already seen the potential of this new technology.

This series has everything.  Great tech gizmos, exotic women counter-spies, and locations across the globe.  Mooney’s artwork is fantastic, reminiscent of Mike Grell and Rick Hoberg’s pencil work during the spy years of the DC Comics Green Arrow comic book series (including a great new character similar to their Shado).  And Bond’s dialogue reveals Pak knows the character well.

 

Take a look at this preview, courtesy of Dynamite Comics:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Twenty years ago the last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered, and for its anniversary a crowdfunding project funded a feature-length retrospective on the series.  Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind will be familiar to any fan of Deep Space Nine who has delved into the special features found in the DVD sets or online via YouTube.  It’s full of those reminiscences, albeit updated, diehard fans have viewed countless times in interviews with cast and crew and via panels at the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.  But the unique feature for this new documentary is a reunion of writers from the series who sit down and block out what a possible next episode of the series might include.

Deep Space Nine showrunner and executive producer Ira Steven Behr leads the documentary, hitting the high points of his seven years creating Deep Space Nine, intercutting new and old interviews with key and supporting cast members, a few members of the production staff, co-creator Rick Berman and the man representing the business side of production, Kerry McCluggage, former chairman of Paramount Television Group.  Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind does not look closely at the production from a design, costumes, props, music, or technical standpoint, but is almost exclusively focused on the writers and actors, and why the crew thinks its show was different from competing programs in the 1990s (although some art production familiar faces including Herman Zimmerman, Michael and Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler make brief appearances).

The writers room reunion of Behr, Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Hans Beimler, and Robert Hewitt Wolfe talking through a spec script idea for a new 20th anniversary reunion episode is a great guide for anyone wanting a glimpse at the process of developing a television show.  Backed by a cartoon art/Ken Burns-esque multimedia mock-up of characters and sets by artists Magdalena Marinova, Kai De Mello-Folsom, and Luke Snailham, it’s a better presentation format than watching more talking heads.  The result feels quite like a Brannon Braga or Ronald D. Moore series finale episode (see Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “All Good Things…” and Star Trek Voyager’s “Endgame”), complete with a time jump and appearances by grown-up regular players, in this case Jake Sisko and Molly O’Brien.  Vedek Kira?  Captain Nog?  With some make-up and new costumes, the writers’ episode creation would have actually made a fine final episode to the series, providing some resolution to the fate of Avery Brooks′ Captain Sisko.

Continue reading

 

As HBO’s series Game of Thrones wraps with its final episode next week, Insight Editions is releasing four books highlighting the artwork of the series.  With photographs and interviews looking behind the scenes of what visually made the series stand apart from other fantasy series, these books will show how it was all done, keeping fans returning to the series for re-watching as pre-orders begin for the eight season set on Blu-ray.

Game of Thrones: The Costumes showcases what makes the actors look good, from the practical layered fabrics of Winterfell to the finery of King’s Landing.  Suits of armor, dresses, uniforms, capes, and robes all will be shown in detail.  Series costume designer Michele Clapton discusses her own creations, providing a view of never-before-published drawings and up close views of fans’ favorite wardrobe pieces and integral prop components.  Game of Thrones: The Costumes is available for pre-order now here at Amazon.

Series storyboard artist William Simpson takes viewers through his vast trove of concept art in Game of Thrones: The StoryboardsSimpson developed much of the show’s action, character, and environments through his thousands of sketches and designs.  Fans can watch how early imagery made its way to the final season layouts and the step by step formation of the series’ key scenes.  Simpson’s Game of Thrones: The Storyboards is available for pre-order here at Amazon.

Principal Game of Thrones unit photographer Helen Sloan showcases the as-filmed characters, locations, and key moments in The Photography of Game of Thrones (now available for pre-order here).  Writer Michael Kogge has put together an assemblage of behind the scenes imagery for this deluxe compendium.

Continue reading

Just as iZombie has aired its first episodes of its final season, showrunner Rob Thomas is readying Season 4 of the series that made him famous, Veronica Mars Eight new episodes of Veronica Mars are coming to streaming service Hulu this summer.  The new series finds the snarky private investigator five years after the events of the 2014 crowdfunded movie with more detective stories of So-Cal noir.  Original actors returning include Kristen Bell (Veronica), Enrico Colantoni (Keith), Jason Dohring (Logan), Percy Daggs III (Wallace), Francis Capra (Weevil), Max Greenfield (Leo), Ryan Hansen (Dick), Ken Marino (Vinnie), Daran Norris (Cliff), and Adam Rose (Max).

Rob Thomas is back as script writer, so expect the same quirky dialogue and pop culture references he’s written for iZombie and the first three seasons of Veronica Mars.  Don’t forget, Thomas’s two Veronica tie-in mystery novels are part of Veronica Mars canon.  If you missed them, catch our reviews of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line here, and Mr. Kiss and Tell here.  Based on Thomas’s use of actors from Veronica Mars in his five seasons of iZombie, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some cameos from a few members of his iZombie cast to make an appearance.

Sorry, Thomas has not yet announced a few key actors from Veronica’s past for the next eight episodes, including best pal Tina Majorino (Mac), or boyfriends Chris Lowell as Piz, or Teddy Dunn as Duncan, or a lost twin sister of murdered friend Lily (Amanda Seyfried).

Hulu has released a trailer for the series.  Check it out:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Is he a superhero?

A character who gives of himself to save lives, repeatedly, using his unusual mental and physical abilities–that’s pretty much our definition of superhero.  If The Punisher is a superhero, if Batman would be a superhero without the costume, then you have the The Equalizer Denzel Washington is back again, in the sequel to the surprise 2014 reboot of the 1980s television series, and if you missed Washington as this character in 2014, it’s time to catch up, as The Equalizer 2 makes its way to several steaming platforms, including Vudu and Amazon Prime, and it’s now showing on Starz.

And what a sequel!  It is another one of those rare films that surpasses its predecessor.  More intrigue, more action, and even without the origin story from the first movie, The Equalizer 2 proves audiences don’t need it to jump into a finally crafted story of spies and revenge.  Washington is back as Robert McCall, and he’s The Saint, Ethan Hunt, James Bond, and The Shadow all rolled up into one.  This time he’s started a new life in Boston, and learns about the city through his job as a Lyft driver.  Diehard film fans really only need to see the one other name on the marquee with Washington to know what they’re in for: Antoine Fuqua.  Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter, The Magnificent Seven) directs the film like he does all his others, like he has something to prove.  The Equalizer 2 is worthy of its popular and critically acclaimed star, and Fuqua adds to the character with a spectacular setting for the film’s finale: a hurricane pummeling the coast of Massachusetts.

If you’re looking forward to the new Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, you have another reason to catch The Equalizer 2, as the series star Pedro Pascal (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The Great Wall) plays a former team member of McCall in his CIA days.  The subplots may even be better than the main story, and in one McCall mentors a young neighbor played by Ashton Sanders (Moonlight).  Other supporting roles are filled by some familiar faces, including returning actors Melissa Leo (Homicide, Oblivion, Wayward Pines, Veronica Mars) and Bill Pullman (Deceived, Independence Day, Spaceballs), plus the always versatile Sakina Jaffrey (Heroes, Sleepy Hollow, Mr. Robot).

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

People have been colorizing photographs nearly as far back as the invention of photographs in the early 19th century.  Hand-painted photography took personal photographs from cold and lifeless to something more real, vivid and exciting.  Although methods for actually developing photographs in color existed as far back as the 1860s, it was rarely done.  Mid-twentieth century colorizing became a popular pastime, and so many people can look back to family portraits in color (by hand, with pencil or other coloring) regularly found in the 1940s and 1950s, just as color film became more available to the public.  Attempts of the past to accurately add color to historical images sometimes were made with reference to actual objects or people–such as matching eye color and hair color via reference to paintings or contemporary written descriptions–to ensure the accuracy of color choices.  But no single effort has been made to accurately colorize historical photographs until recent digital technologies made it more possible.  Brazilian artist Marina Amaral has become well-known for her coloring work, and she has teamed up with historian and journalist Dan Jones to create an extraordinary new history text, The Color of Time: A New History of the World, 1850-1960 It is a must-read for history buffs and anyone who could use a brush up on their history knowledge.

Readers first will be attracted to The Color of Time (titled The Colour of Time in European editions) first for Amaral’s 200 colorized images (she has colorized images seen in this book plus many more).  But the book’s value is equaled in Jones’s history text, which stitches together photographs of important subjects from the beginning of the tintype to 1960, when black and white was still prevalent, with a chronology of every major world event and figure in between.  So The Color of Time is, in a sense, a world history textbook (this one is ideal for teaching high school world history or as a supplement to a first year college history survey course) with the added benefit of bringing historical figures to life via color.  Amaral has noted it is nearly impossible to perfectly capture every color correctly (you’d need historical access to every item in the camera’s lens), but Amaral has researched the clothing, objects, and people who are the subjects of this book to get as close as possible.  Historical figures–many presented for the first time in color–include Darwin, Marx, Lincoln, Tolstoy, Edison, Stanley, Schliemann, Pope Pius IX, Sitting Bull, Barton, Twain, Mata Hari, Curie, Einstein, Villa, the Red Baron, Rasputin, Louis Armstrong, Lenin, Stalin, Michael Collins, Elie Wiesel, Hitler, Mussolini, Earhart, FDR, Mau, Gandhi, Churchill, Elvis Presley, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Castro, Guevara, and Mandela.

A surprising number of these photos take on a new life in color.  A spectrum of color in the Times Square photo of a sailor and a nurse in an embrace on VJ Day brings out the happy dispositions of nearby watchers.  The blue sky in a Wright Flyer image accentuates the fragile, finely geometric balance of the famous inventors’ first airplane.  A colorized image from 1900 of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid makes them look like movie stars of the Golden Age of cinema.  Perhaps nothing compares to the beauty of England’s Crystal Palace in 1854–you can almost smell the clear, blue water in the great pool.  Another image shows the tan wooden infrastructure of the Statue of Liberty’s hand, while being built.  The famous 1895 Montparnasse rail crash is even more jolting in color.  But the strangest jolt may come from an image of a handsome young man that could be a young Clint Eastwood–it is instead of a man days before his hanging, for stabbing President Lincoln’s secretary of state while his co-conspirator killed the President a few streets away.

Continue reading