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Archive for August, 2019


Review by C.J. Bunce

With his Vietnam veteran-turned-hitman Quarry, author Max Allan Collins has built a substantial, possibly never-ending crime noir series.  Now at book 14 and adding a 15th this November with Hard Case Crime’s release of Killing Quarry, Collins has surpassed the number of books Collins’ pal Mickey Spillane published about Mike Hammer.  Collins has finished or co-authored nearly as many crime novels with Spillane posthumously, reflecting the prolific nature of Collins’ crime writing and expertise.  And that’s not even addressing Collins’ noteworthy Road to Perdition, five other book series and countless tie-in novels.  Cinemax′s 2016 series Quarry is inspired by Collins’ character, and thanks to writers/show creators Graham Gordy, Michael D. Fuller, with an episode by Collins and another by Jennifer Schuur, you have eight intriguing episodes of television waiting for you.  Its eight episodes are now streaming on Vudu, Amazon Prime, other platforms, as well as home video.

Director Greg Yaitanes created a rarely seen snippet of history as the backdrop for the series, with show lead Logan Marshall-Green (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Prometheus) as Mac Conway, dubbed Quarry as the show progresses, accused with his friend of misdeeds in Vietnam as he returns home to Memphis after his second tour.  Along with the Vietnam War and its aftermath is turmoil with bussing a desegration that envelopes his friend’s family.  Costume designer Patia Prouty, who worked on Almost Famous, Justified, and Pulp Fiction, re-creates the good but mainly the bad designs of the era, with equally good art and production design that will have you feeling like you’re been transported back in time.  Conway is quickly reeled into a local (and somewhat yokel) crime underworld, resulting in his friend’s death and requiring him to kill for the local, quirky kingpin to earn off the amount his buddy owed.

It’s Cinemax, so expect more sex and bloody gore than necessary, but you’ll feel enough sympathy for Marshall-Green’s Conway as a put-upon anti-hero that you’ll keep coming back for more as ugly and as strange as he finds his circumstances.  The supporting cast fills into the layered characters nicely, with Jodi Balfour (True Detective) as his wife, Peter Mullan (Children of Men) as the kingpin called The Broker, Nikki Amuka-Bird (Doctor Who, Jupiter Ascending) as his friend’s widow, and Mustafa Shakir (Marvel’s Luke Cage) as her mysterious new admirer.  Damon Herriman (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood) is outstanding as an intermediary with The Broker, a layered character who has his own problems beyond his job as killer and killer’s aide.

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Welcome to the day after Judgment Day.

It’s been 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 in the franchise for the first time since Terminator 2, with Tim Miller (Deadpool) directing the November 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 with Linda Hamilton reprising her role also like Jamie Lee Curtis has done for Halloween.  (Although this is only Hamilton’s third movie as Connor, compared to Curtis logging four leading performances as Halloween’s Laurie Strode plus two more in the works–not that we’re keeping score).

The CGI-heavy action sequences we’ve seen so far look closer to the original film The Terminator than Cameron’s groundbreaking effects on Terminator 2: Judgment Day–we’re not sure that is what audiences were hoping for.  Newcomer to the series Mackenzie Davis is “almost human,” and Gabriel Luna plays a villain, making them the faces of the next Terminators, following in the footsteps of Jason Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Byung-Hun Lee, and Jason Clarke.  And, best of all, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back, as promised.  Although it’s difficult not to cringe when Hamilton says she hasn’t seen Davis’s kind of Terminator before, since audiences have, with Loken’s great Terminatrix in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Wouldn’t it be great if they just brought back Michael Biehn as a parallel timeline Kyle Reese?  The studio has announced Edward Furlong returning as John Connor, so anything is possible with Cameron and Miller here.

First here’s the new poster, followed by the brand new trailer just released, and seven additional teaser reels released yesterday, August 29, the franchise’s “Judgment Day”–

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Something in the air is hinting that autumn is on the way, and that means Halloween and more horror movies are coming.  This weekend a new twist on a modern trope arrives in theaters with director Jacob Estes’ new film Don’t Let Go Estes is a relatively new director, with the horror classic Ring sequel Rings under his belt.  His latest project is billed as drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, and thriller, and it’s from Blumhouse, so expect plenty of blood and gore.  The trailer suggests it has a science fiction element, too.

That’s the part that looks like the modern sci-fi movie classic Frequency (later made into a TV series), which starred Dennis Quaid and James Caviezel as a father and son who can communicate via HAM radio, years after the father’s death.  In Frequency (despite the rantings of how time travel works in Avengers: Endgame, ahem) you are able to alter the past, and in Don’t Let Go it looks like it relies on the same understanding of time.  After a man’s brother, sister-in-law, and their daughter/his niece are murdered, he gets a phone call from the niece, only she’s calling him her funeral–from two weeks ago.  So just like in Frequency, it’s up to the lead character to prevent a murder.  Time travel with a twist, this time with a horror set-up.

Don’t Let Go stars David Oyelowo (The Cloverfield Paradox, Star Wars Rebels, Jack Reacher, A Sound of Thunder, As Time Goes By) as an ex-L.A. cop, with Mykelti Williamson as his partner, Alfred Molina as their boss, Brian Tyree Henry as his brother, and young actor Storm Reid as his niece.  Whodunnit?  The cop, his partner, his brother, or the criminal element laid out in the trailer?

Here’s the trailer:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For most people making a hamburger, all you need to do is look to the McDonald’s basic menu to see what they’re probably grilling at home.  Bun, burger, ketchup, mustard or mayo, onions and/or pickles, lettuce and cheese.  The folks behind the Emmy Award-winning animated series Bob’s Burgers are trying to kick your routine up a notch with a new set of recipe cards spinning out of their successful book, The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers.  Series creator and producer Loren Bouchard has joined Cole Bowden, the guy behind the fansite The Bob’s Burger Experiment, to pull together a box set of burger recipes highlighting several of the joke burgers featured in the series in, The Bob’s Burgers Recipe Box: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers.

The box includes 35 recipes, each featuring a comedy burger variety Bob Belcher has featured as a “Burger of the Day” on the series, reference to the episode it was used in, a detailed recipe, and that familiar art style from the show.  The surprise?  The combinations of flavors throughout the recipe cards are legitimate–these are kind of ingredient combinations you’d find an iron chef putting together on the Food Network.  They’ve also included five bonus cards with Bob’s Burgers animation artwork on one-side and a blank side to catalog your own recipes for yourself or future generations of eaters.

Recipes include the “The Six Scallion Dollar Man Burger,” the “Onion-tended Consequences Burger,” “Chèvre Which Way But Loose Burger,” “Onion Ring Around the Rosemary Burger,” the “It’s Fun to Eat at the Rye MCA Burger,” and dozens more.   And for those who really don’t know what they’re doing, Bowden has included a starter card on how to begin.

So which burger did I try first?

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Disney and Lucasfilm have rolled out a two-minute clip relying primarily on the nostalgia fans have for the original trilogy, but also carefully selecting other bits from the franchise’s past (notably excluding anything from the spin-off films Solo and Rogue One) to get audiences ready for December’s last film in the third trilogy, Episode IX, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Callbacks include an image of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian laughing (footage the first trailer already showed being echoed again in the coming Episode IX), multiple shots of Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi (to affirm there’s a Kenobi series on the way), Jeremy Bulloch’s Boba Fett (to remind us all that The Mandalorian series is coming next), even a reminder of that carbon freezing chamber that preserved Han Solo, that The Mandalorian series trailer also echoed this past week.

But the biggest idea now is foreshadowed with both the inclusion of Ray Park’s Darth Maul and his double saber, and the absence of images of similar bad guys from the prequel trilogy (like General Grievous or Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku).  And that idea is that Rey–now with what appears to be the same configuration of lightsaber, is related to Darth Maul, boosted by the surprise insertion of the Sith villain into Solo: A Star Wars Story, which confirmed the Rebels animated series take that the character didn’t really die in The Phantom Menace.  Or maybe those new red lenses on C-3PO mean he’s been carrying some Sith message for his master, Anakin Skywalker, later Darth Vader, that is only relevant now.  Or maybe they’re all red herrings.

A new official poster for the movie reveals what many think is Emperor Palpatine, but what could easily be a cloaked Mark Hamill returning as the ghost of Luke Skywalker (Hamill referred to the poster Monday with the hashtag #lukethespook), and he looks happy as Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo duel atop what we understand to be part of a destroyed Death Star.  How much of the voiceovers have been Luke, and how many have been the Emperor, and could they all somehow really be the same manipulator?  It’s only a trailer, so there are no spoilers here, and it’s anyone’s guess what it all means.  Take a look for yourself:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Steeped in the Dungeons & Dragons foundations of R.A. Salvatore′s new novel, the adventure becomes so much a journey of a thousand skirmishes inside the stories of Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms that the biggest surprise is no D&D branding graces the cover.  Although it’s accessible for anyone without reference to Timeless (last year’s first book in the series), Boundless is the next chapter in Salvatore’s trilogy of novels following his well-known hero of the genre Drizzt Do’Urden.  Boundless has everything you’d expect from the character and his world, from demogorgons to psionics, armored dwarves to unicorns–and humans.  It’s now available for pre-order here at Amazon and arriving in bookstores September 10.

Boundless′s breakneck pace is why fans of Salvatore will find themselves jumping in and holding on tight for the entire novel.  The only time it comes up for air is in a series of diary-like entries by Drizzt that begin the novel’s four sections.  As it turns out, the leads of the story aren’t really Drizzt himself but his father, the resurrected weapon master Zaknafein, and the wise mercenary Jarlaxle, both swashbuckling schemers with skills and political connections–characters that make you want to skip over the subplots to see what they do next.  Despite a few subordinate heroes, like Arathis Hune, the giant Wulfgar, the psionist Kimmuriel, and the dwarf Thibbledorf Pwent, shifting the stakes from the shadows are the story’s female characters, with the priestess Dab-nay and the elf Dahlia as key players.

All the good fantasy tropes are here, a very Tolkien journey that may have readers plugging actors from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies into key roles, with the kind of twisty but grounded machinations you’d find in The Godfather, Part II and Amadeus, and dramatic evil queen-types as in The Huntsman.  Readers will find as much of the more comical-aside conversations of The Princess Bride school here as dead-serious high fantasy despite plenty of darkness.  The novel provides a favorable dice role for its heroes more often than not, but despite seemingly endless triumphs and last-second getaways by a half a dozen heroes, Salvatore leaves room for some real jeopardy for its characters, including serious carnage before book’s end.

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At Disney’s annual “D23” Expo this weekend, attendees can expect to get another big fix of Disney, and that includes costumes.  The costumes are from the more recent Disney years, with one display showcasing the new Mary Poppins Returns outfits, Time from Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa’s costumes from the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  Another wing featured Disney’s recent animated-turned-live action movies, and another focused on the villainy of the live-action films, all within a gallery of dozens of costumes foreshadowing a new book coming next month, The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between, available now for pre-order here at Amazon.  Check out a 16-page preview of the new 176-page hardcover volume below.

The book isn’t about Star Wars costumes (for that, we recommend Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, reviewed previously here at borg, and Trisha Biggar’s Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, reviewed here).  But that didn’t keep Disney and Lucasfilm from showcasing a dozen costumes of Star Wars armor tracing back a design history of Star Wars stormtroopers.  Check those out below.

Lucasfilm also previewed the new hero cast costumes from The Mandalorian streaming series from Disney+ (previewed here yesterday).  And note: Ewan McGregor confirmed he will be reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a forthcoming Disney+ series.

 

Check out this preview of The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between and some Star Wars franchise costumes on display at D23 this weekend:

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It’s not so much that Disney and Lucasfilm put together a movie based on every kid in the 1980s’ favorite background character, because George Lucas already made a movie about that guy, his dad, and a whole army of lookalikes.  It’s hard to find a cooler character than Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, until Lucas delivered on the fan service and inserted him into the original, special edition of Star Wars.  It’s not only that.  Or that, like Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s clearly a full-fledged space Western.  Or that fans get to see familiar elements of the franchise again, like carbon freezing, speeder bikes, scout walkers, patrol dewbacks, familiar bounty hunters, and Imperial bunkers hidden in the forest.  And it’s not that the lead is played by its rising young actors known for badass characters, Pedro Pascal and co-star Gina Carano.  Or that the series features a story by genre favorite Jon Favreau, with a host of episode directors like Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi, or noted Star Wars animaster Dave Filoni, or Solo director Ron’s daughter, actor Bryce Dallas Howard.

Well, it’s that, but not only that.

It’s that added gravitas that Star Wars is better at than possibly any other franchise.  It’s adding those dynamic, major character actors in supporting roles who make the magic happen sometimes even from the corner of the screen, from the likes of Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Christopher Lee, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, Linda Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Max von Sydow.  Would Star Wars be Star Wars without the characters these actors brought to life?  Definitely not.

For the latest trailer for the new streaming series The Mandalorian, that means Carl Weathers–who we saw in April’s “sizzle reel” at the annual Star Wars convention (yet to be posted by Lucasfilm, but check out a watchable version below), with a first look at Giancarlo Esposito, and that toughest of older tough guys in movies, director and Jack Reacher villain Werner Herzog.  Not seen in this trailer, but expected to be added to the list, is Nick Nolte, who we can imagine could get us to that similar kind of character as Woody Harrelson or Paul Bettany in Solo.

So check it out–your next look at The Mandalorian:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This summer Wizards of the Coast has come at its Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition adventures from a strange vantage point with its latest addition, Acquisitions Incorporated.  What if you viewed your next adventure into the Forgotten Realms as a business?  Overlay your Dungeon Master’s next adventure with the components of an enterprising CEO, rival marketeers, and your mundane workplace and what do you get?  Actual slobbering Barbarians at the Gate?  Office Space plays out not in those cold, grey cubicles but in any of your chosen D&D realms, as branding, marketing, team building, product placement, and even making your corporate headquarters takes on new meaning, as players step into familiar gameplay with an oddly familiar backdrop.

Grab your 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and DM’s Guide for fuller adventures, but in a single volume Acquisitions Incorporated really includes all you need for your first entrepreneurial effort, a six-level adventure, The Orrery of the WandererSelect a corporate logo.  Locate your headquarters–how about a tavern, a battle-worn castle (will cost you more in overhead), a chapel, a private library, an abandoned lighthouse, a blacksmith’s shop, a turnip wagon (that is bigger on the inside), or a waterproof canvas (where it’s always spring inside)?  Maybe your right hand man is a retired captain, a druid with an open door policy (all animals welcome), a chef, or the ghost of the previous owner (Jacob Marley as mentor, anyone?).  Plus you’ll have several insiders you may encounter, including a customs official and a knitter who can also wield a sword.  Upward advancement means your franchise can get an exclusive license to a region.  Staff members include a majordomo, untrained and trained hirelings, and task-specific crew.  If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant and had to clean a grease trap, you’ll appreciate the grease compartment as a weapon.  And who hasn’t made it to 3 p.m. and wished they had an escape pod?

Take your chances as one of a number of familiar corporate types, like a famous person’s kid, a failed merchant, a gambler, a plaintiff, or a rival intern.  Play your character like a barbarian, a bard, a cleric, a druid, a fighter, a monk, a paladin, a rogue, a sorcerer, a warlock, or a wizard.  Who needs to hire Deloitte when you can (wisely) enlist a cartographer, a decisionist, a documancer, a hoardsperson, a loremonger, an obviator, an occultant, or a secretarian to build your strategy.  It’s not all fun and games–this is a corporation, after all, so money needs to be made and tasks need to be completed.  You’ll be faced with Complications, like learning your company is accused of stealing someone else’s idea, staff members go missing, an audit finds a spy, or an angry staff member decides to sabotage your business.  Nothing is easy, whether it’s marketeering, misplaced philanthropy, a bad sales month, or simply rival competitors.  You’ll need to watch out for shady business practices as you schmooze and team build.  It’s all familiar, right?  So do you have what it takes to succeed in business in a fantasy realm?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Every fan of Stranger Things will likely approach a Stranger Things novel looking for something like an “X-File.”  Adam Christopher’s new novel Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town is about Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour in the Netflix TV series), and it takes place in 1977, seven years before a Christmas in 1984 where he is enjoying a winter in his cabin with his newly adopted daughter Eleven (played on the series by Millie Bobby Brown).  A few weeks after the events of Season Two, Eleven finds a box of Jim’s mementos and wants to know more about his past, so he decides to tell her a crime story from his days as a New York City detective.  So it will help the reader’s 432-page journey to know this is not an X-File–there is nothing fantasy or science fiction about Hopper’s past to be learned, no demogorgons or other monsters, and although it includes a few scenes with his wife Diane and daughter Sara, we never learn more about why they aren’t around when the series takes place.

Understandably reader expectations might be wrongly set by the folks advertising the book.  This is how Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town is marketed:

Chief Jim Hopper reveals long-awaited secrets to Eleven about his old life as a police detective in New York City, confronting his past before the events of the hit show Stranger Things.  

I don’t know what “long-awaited secrets” could mean for Stranger Things fans other than learning what happened to his wife and daughter.

But if you can get beyond a sci-fi/fantasy assumption, or if that is not even your expectation, then you’ll learn more about what makes Hopper tick.   In a story laid out like a 1970s prequel Law & Order episode, Hopper goes undercover in the style of Donnie Brasco or The Departed, except the undercover work begins and ends not over several months but inside of 12 days (making Hopper very lucky or some kind of supercop) between the Fourth of July 1977 and the aftermath of the real-life July 13-14 city power outage.  As a crime story for beginning readers of the genre, Christopher’s storytelling provides a thorough tale of an alternative cause for a real-life event.   He uses gangs, connecting Hopper, a new partner, federal agents, and research on returning prison inmates to the public after serving out their sentences in a hot summer where the Son of Sam was still yet to be captured.  It may very well say something about Hopper’s character, that he would select this story to tell his daughter.

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