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Archive for September, 2019


Review by C.J. Bunce

A new cookbook has the recipes to get you through your travels wherever you are in the ‘Verse.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook pulls together foods seen throughout the series and some just inspired by it with lots of good in-universe commentary from Mal Reynolds and his crew.  I’ve been a fan of the sci-fi series since the San Diego Comic-Con 10th anniversary reunion (discussed here), and have reviewed every tie-in from the series released so far here at borg.  Banter of the crew is a great feature of many of the Firefly books published in the past ten years, and author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel gets all the characters right in her latest cookbook.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook is now available for all Browncoats from Titan Books–you can take a look at a preview of recipes below courtesy of Titan Books, and order a copy here at Amazon.

Among all the tie-ins, this is the first foray into the food of the series.  A great focus is placed on the types of meals that make sense in the ‘Verse for a ship’s crew, as well as Joss Whedon’s incorporation of a future filled with Asian influences.  Five-spice is a common seasoning incorporated into the recipes, along with ginger and soy sauce, and that simplicity of nomadic life that underscored the travels of Serenity come through, too, with everyday ingredients, like honey for a sweetener, and white sauce, brown sauce, and biscuits a key component.  You’ll find foods discussed on the series by the crew of Serenity, other foods tangentially seen on screen, with some added in a creative way to fill in the blanks in between.  The author includes appropriate specs for meals with simple ingredients but also some dishes from more extravagant fare (like you might find at a formal shindig on Persephone).  The only way to tell if a cookbook is good is to dig right in.  So I tested four of the recipes that appealed to me the most on paper.

First I made Simon’s Eggy Oat Mush from the Recipes for Shipboard Living section.  This turned out to be a hearty breakfast concoction, a savory oatmeal cooked with veggies, egg, and garlic.  The egg brings the flavors all together and it will fill you up for the day.  It had a unique flavor profile for anyone only accustomed to oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon or other sweeteners–different enough that you could see being stuck on a ship and coming up with this as a staple.  It took only 15 minutes to prepare, and would also make a good dinner side dish.

The prep for River’s Meat Pie could hardly have been simpler.  This recipe was in the Recipes from the Core Worlds–Underbelly section (as opposed to an “upper crust” item).  The result was a tasty dish, highlighted by the right amount of fennel, onion, and garlic, and a perfect pastry dough crust (pictured above, top).  I halved the cookbook recipe and it made four perfect hand pies, great for carrying to lunch any day of the week (think Hostess fruit pies, but savory).  The crust was well-suited for a hand pie, sturdy enough to hold everything in, yet nice and flaky.

Next up was the Blue Sun Canned Peach Cobbler:

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Another trailer has arrived for director and auteur Martin Scorsese′s new movie The Irishman (we ran the first trailer here), this time focusing more on Al Pacino′s take on ill-fated labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and comedic actor “Everybody Loves” Ray Romano bringing his charm back to audiences as Teamsters lawyer Bill Bufalino, asking questions of Robert De Niro as one of the guys alleged to have murdered Hoffa.

At first blush, the issue with The Irishman is twofold.  First, we’ve already seen Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, etc., when they were younger, and now they have been extensively de-aged via CGI and makeup for this film.  So we know what they looked like at the ages of the characters in the film, but they didn’t look like the de-aged characters in the trailer.  Second, preview audiences that have seen the movie in theater screenings have already commented on the dreaded “uncanny valley”–that difficulty in adapting the eye to the CGI efforts to make humans look real via digital effects manipulation.

The positive is that most viewers will see The Irishman on the small screen.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s CGI re-creation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin was easier for the eye to adapt to on the small screen than in the theatrical release where more detail was present.  Maybe the same will be true for The Irishman The film is a direct-to-Netflix release, and Scorsese is a tried and true filmmaker, so audiences have nothing to lose but three-and-a-half hours (yep, this is a long one, folks).

Check out this new trailer for The Irishman:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Cobie Smulders has enough street cred playing badass leads, including co-starring opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, serving as the most powerful non-superheroine of the Marvel movies as Maria Hill, and she’s the perfect Wonder Woman, although we only hear her voice as the character in The Lego Movie series.  So why head back to television?  Maybe after 200 episodes of being part of a hit ensemble cast on How I Met Your Mother, she wanted her own series?  Whatever the reason, it’s a win for TV viewers.  Her new project is Stumptown, and the first episode aired this week on ABC.

Smulders is promising as Dex Parios, an army vet with PTSD, who takes care of her brother and has a gambling problem.  Happily for her, everyone, including the head of the gambling house, seems to be on her side.  In her first case, she’s trying to locate the missing daughter of her deceased college boyfriend, in exchange for having a five-figure tab written off at the local Portland casino (yes, evidently Portland has had casinos since 1988).  Initially she fails, but before she’s totally written off by everyone except her brother (played by the engaging Cole Sibus), the writers skillfully show viewers why she might be a character to return to each week.  Dex is a fighter, while also a mess and a bit snarky, but hopefully that’s not all she is.  Her old red Ford Mustang and its broken cassette tape deck that offers up the right song at the right time is a nice throwback to Philip Glenister and his red Audi Quattro on the classic detective series Ashes to Ashes.

Along with good writing in its opener, Stumptown boasts a supporting cast that brings plenty to the show.  Jake Johnson (New Girl, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Jurassic World) as bartender pal Grey demonstrates again why he’s the best at playing the best friend.  If you missed Michael Ealy as a great cop on Almost Human (or as Slap Jack in 2 Fast 2 Furious) you’ll appreciate him back with a badge on this series.  Even better, it looks like Donal Logue (Gotham, Vikings, Life, Zodiac, Sneakers) will join the cast in next week’s episode.  The only thing the series could benefit from is tapping all those local Portland actors like NBC’s Grimm did so well.  Unfortunately, other than some establishing shots, it doesn’t look like the series will be filmed there.

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For Harry Potter fans and especially those who want to see every view of the film behind the scenes, your next find is probably going to require clearing off an entire shelf.  Beginning this month is a new series of books about the Harry Potter films, and it’s sporting the “film vault” legend.  We’ve seen “vaults” published for Star Wars, Terminator, Batman, Spider-Man, and all things DC and Marvel, but for Harry Potter the franchise needed 12 volumes to tell its story.  It’s Titan Books and Insight Editions’ Harry Potter: Film Vault and we have an extensive preview for borg readers below.  If you decide to collect the entire series, the spines will line your shelf to reveal the Hogwarts coat-of-arms, reminiscent of the Time-Life encyclopedic book series from the 1970s and 1980s.

With a franchise spanning eight films, you’d expect them to have collected tens of thousands of images of concept artwork and photographs of every scene, set, costume, and prop, and that becomes even clearer inside the pages of this series.  Beginning with Forest, Lake, and Sky Creatures, readers can dive into several areas of the story mythos, on to Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express, and the Ministry, to Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows, and Hogwarts Students.  Later volumes feature Creature Companions, Plants, and Shapeshifters, Hogwarts Castle, Quidditch and the Triwizard Tournament, the Order of the Phoenix and Dark Forces, and more.

 

Each volume has illustrations, design sketches, and behind-the-scenes photography, plus a look at the creative process that brought to the screen Harry and his friends with the help of costumes, makeup, and props.

Take a look at 26 pages from the first four volumes below, and a peak at the first eight covers:

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Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jeff Lynne is back with a new album, and if his first track is any indication, this is going to be big for fans of classic rock.  The band is Jeff Lynne’s ELO and the album is From Out of Nowhere and you can listen to the first track released from the album below.  With the original ELO (the Electric Light Orchestra) Lynne and ELO gained fame for the rock anthem Don’t Bring Me Down in the 1970s, with hits Strange Magic, Evil Woman, Mr. Blue Sky, Livin’ Thing, Xanadu, All Over the World, I’m Alive, and Last Train to London (and more) before Lynne turned his attention to becoming a successful studio producer.  He has co-produced big albums, including George Harrison’s comeback album Cloud Nine, co-writing albums with Harrison that led to the formation of rock supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, featuring Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Harrison, and Lynne.  He then co-produced Petty’s mega-hit album Full Moon Fever followed by Into the Great Wide Open, followed by records by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and more, working on albums for Joe Cocker, Aerosmith, Joe Walsh, and Brian Wilson.  If anyone knows how to put out a good album, it’s Jeff Lynne.

Have a listen and see if you agree:  The first song available for free from the new album, to be released November 1 (available today for pre-order on CD here, vinyl here, and digital/streaming here) is the title track From Out of Nowhere And it sounds just like an original Traveling Wilburys song.  His influence and long-time partnership with The Beatles is obvious.  I’d swear I can hear George Harrison echoing Lynne’s vocals, and my mind’s eye sees Tom Petty playing rhythm guitar with him on the stage.  It has the classic ELO sound but that’s probably thanks to Lynne’s unmistakably familiar voice and rhythms.  With all his work with The Beatles (minus John Lennon), with Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty, you could run this track on any of the albums Lynne produced with his peers and it would fit right in.  This song is classic Jeff Lynne.

Here’s the title track from Jeff Lynne’s ELO album From Out of Nowhere:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Your next creepy movie for fall is waiting for you now on Netflix.  It’s director Stacie Passon′s 2018 adaptation of award-winning author Shirley Jackson′s 1962 mystery thriller, We Have Always Lived in the Castle And although it is not technically a story about one of our favorite horror tropes, creepy little girls, you will meet two very creepy young adult sisters who live alone on the hill at the edge of town with a secret that may not be all that secret.  Taissa Farmiga (The Nun, American Horror Story) stars as Mary Catherine Blackwood, called Merricat, the stranger and younger of two siblings, with Alexandra Daddario (White Collar, True Detective) as the older sister, Constance.  No doubt inspired by the acquittal in the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, the movie (as with the original novel) takes places six years after the poisonings of the sisters’ parents, with Constance as the sole suspect.  Who really poisoned them?

Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland) delivers possibly his finest performance as Uncle Julian.  Present at the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law, Uncle Julian was also poisoned, but survived with an addled mind and failing body.  Constance seems to have never recovered from the accusations, and the townspeople certainly will not let the family forget.  Constance has a smile fixed as she goes about surviving each day, a PTSD victim ready to snap at any time.  Merricat is left to venture out once a week to get groceries and get lambasted by all those that looked down upon the family for their wealth and scandal.  Yet Merricat is happy with the status quo, burying her father’s possessions to ward off evil spirits and bad fortune.  As she tells us as narrator, Constance is the most precious person to her in the world.

But the sisters’ world comes crashing down as a cousin, played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Winter Soldier), appears in a sports car and begins taking over the house.  Worse for Merricat, Constance seems to be falling in love with him, and the new couple begins to make plans for the future.  In a world of oddities out of Great Expectations, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, can anyone in the house find normalcy or have any hope of getting their lives back?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Heroes of the past unite for a third time under Dynamite Entertainment management, as the trade paperback edition of The Lone Ranger: The Devil’s Rope hits the stands this week.  It’s 1887 in rural Texas, and wealthy landowners who have pressed Indian interests off their native lands are now doing the same for the farmer and rancher.  Their method?  Illegally taking lands and establishing boundaries with barbed wire, while influencing political interests to allow the illegitimate squatters to shoot to kill if anyone cuts the wire on “their” lands.  Sounds like a good time for a hero.

Enter The Lone Ranger, disturbed at lunch by a stampede caused by the first shots in the conflict.  The first murder is an excuse to enlist another hero from his past, Tonto, to help him confront the heavy tide of “progress.”  Writer Mark Russell (The Snagglepuss Chronicles, The Flintstones) incorporates an innovative technological marvel to build a simple, classic Western tale of frontier America.  Equal to the writing is the artwork by the artist known as Bob Q, whose simplicity echoes the barren landscapes his characters are fighting to protect.  The artist’s best feat is the expressions of his characters.  Black hat villains are easy to hate, and provide fodder for some sporting Texas Ranger justice by the original dynamic duo.  Lettering is provided by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

You won’t find a lot of bold vision or layered storytelling here compared to past stories of The Lone Ranger, but you will find a good, easy read, reflecting plenty of truths of the robber baron era, the struggle of Americans to build a nation, and pulp and cinema heroes who never grow old.  Readers of recent Jonah Hex and Zorro stories will likely enjoy the style and story in this book.  It also has bits of action and villains like you’ve met before in 3:10 to Yuma, The Magnificent Seven, and Django Unchained.

Here is a 12-page preview of the 138-page trade edition of The Lone Ranger: The Devil’s Rope, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In her most prolific year–at age 13–actress Jodie Foster made five movies, including two big hits, the Disney comedy Freaky Friday, and Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver.  Along with two forgotten films, Alan Parker’s kid musical Bugsy Malone and the Richard Harris drama Echoes of a Summer, the fifth Foster film from 1976 debuted.  Sometimes in horror, a little creepy goes a long way.  And it’s a good thing.  That’s the case with Hungarian director Nicholas Gessner′s The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.  I was about Foster’s age when I first saw this movie and the movie holds its own 43 years later–that same sense of confusion, not knowing where the story was going–that dread–coupled with a moody seaside New England setting on Halloween nets that feeling that autumn has at last arrived and it’s time to prepare again for the movies of the season.

As with the similarly paced and similarly brilliant The Watcher in the Woods (released four years later), Gessner’s film deftly juxtaposes sinister secrets against a pastoral town we all think we’d like to visit.  Foster is Rynn Jacobs, a 13-year-old girl who is living alone in Wells Harbor, Maine, when we meet her.  She dodges a 30-something pervert played by Martin Sheen, who keeps coming by her house, well aware she’s usually home alone.  His mother, played by Alexis Smith (The Age of Innocence, Dallas, The Woman in White), is a hateful woman who claims to be leasing the home to Rynn’s father, and enters the house without warning, moving furniture and Rynn’s belongings and riling young Rynn.  The woman is a snoop, and she seems to make more than an ordinary effort to try to meet the man of the house.  Rynn’s story of being alone changes a bit depending on who stops by, sometimes her father is upstairs asleep, sometimes he’s locked himself in his den working, other times he’s meeting with his publisher in New York.  Rynn befriends a local police officer along the way, who is also suspicious of the local pervert prowling around.  She’s kept up some kind of secret for at least three months now, but it’s becoming clear her world is about to spiral in on her.

Where are her parents?  She only divulges the truth when she meets a boy who rides by on a bicycle.  Played by Scott Jacoby (Return to Horror High, To Die For) Mario is a slightly older boy, ostracized for his limp, and a different kind of loner than Rynn.  The dread looms heavy.  What does Rynn have in store for another person wandering into her life?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the criticisms so far into the third trilogy of Star Wars movies (the third and finale episode, The Rise of Skywalker, is due out this December) is not making the most of the original cast.  This seems to go double with fan expectations for Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.  This is not some fault of fandom, it’s how Lucasfilm prepped its fans with great futures for Skywalker and his family, delivered via Timothy Zahn’s original sequel trilogy and then decades of brilliant stories via Dark Horse Comics.  There you’d find Luke Skywalker, grown into the role of Jedi Master, was everything you’d want from the hero we met in the movies.  Now fans can see that future in a History channel series streaming on Netflix, if they only bring along a little imagination.  That series is Knightfall.

The series follows a re-imagined history of the Knights Templar at the dawn of the 14th century.  If you ignore the historicity, good or bad, and see the film as a fantasy tale of knights in conflict and knights in training, you can see why the Jedi Knights were derived from these historic figures.  The Star Wars influence comes full circle as Mark Hamill himself joins the cast as a master knight named Talus in Season 2.  Here is that very same Luke Skywalker as you might have imagined him from Zahn and Dark Horse’s storytelling, war-weary and battle hardened, as he storms his way into the tale, leading and training knights, sometimes Mr. Miyagi style, sometimes with swords, sometimes with surprising methods.  Tilt your head a bit, cover one eye–do what you need to do–but some of Luke Skywalker’s best scenes as a Jedi Knight are in this series.  The very best is Talus’s final scene.  Mark Hamill, and Luke Skywalker, never were cooler than in his final conflict on the series.

Fantasy emphasis over history aside, for those students of the Middle Ages you’ll find a mix of truth and cinema twisted for story purposes, but overall this is that series about knights and swords, the Pope and the twisted King (they’re all twisted, always) and the beautiful Queen that you’re looking for.  The story follows hero Tom Cullen (The Five, Downton Abbey) as Landry, a wise but conflicted Knight Templar, whose band of trusted brothers botch protecting the Holy Grail, the same biblical cup so many medieval tales are based upon, but more of a McGuffin for this version of the tale.  Landry’s band of knights, Pádraic Delaney (The Tudors) as Gawain, and Simon Merrells (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Ashes to Ashes) as one of the best knights you’ve seen onscreen as Tancrede lead viewers from enough intrigue to keep them coming back for more.  Olivia Ross (War & Peace) is particularly engaging as Queen Joan, one of the only women characters in the series, and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) is great fun to watch as the regal yet conniving Pope Boniface VIII.  Of the bad guys, you’ll love to hate Ed Stoppard (Zen, The Frankenstein Chronicles) as King Philip (again, all kings are bad), and Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey, Charmed) as his on-again, off-again confidante and henchman.  As Cullen’s Landry and the Queen of France fall in love, how both the knight order and the King handle the aftermath is the conflict that plays out over 18 episodes, with the backdrop of a coming battle between France and England beckoning.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Is there a great movie to take your spouse for your anniversary?  Ready or Not may be the one.  An atmospheric Gothic story that doubles as dark comedy and horror-lite cautionary tale, it’s a fun flick that will get you in the mood for the holiday–Halloween, that is.  It’s about a wedding, about marriage, and marrying into a new family.  And in-laws.  It’s also about the dark side of families, the skeletons in the closet.  Australian actress Samara Weaving plays Grace, and we meet her on her wedding day, marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien), a young man who has tried to extricate himself from his eccentric family.  But now he’s back.  He warns his new bride that his family has a “first night” tradition, requiring her to participate in a game.  First she must draw a card and all she must do is play the game.  To her surprise, statistics of chance kick in and she draws the single dreaded card, for “Hide and Seek.”  The house rule for this game is the new member of the family is the target, and it’s a game played to the death.  Is the family crazy, or is there some real dark force behind their madness?

As you might guess from the trailers, it’s like Quentin Tarentino bought the rights to direct a Clue remake and merged it with another Kill Bill sequel and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.  Credit the setting with much of Ready or Not′s atmosphere, filming at mansions Casa Loma and Parkwoods Estate in Ontario.  Behind the action of characters running through the house is expert production design by Andrew M. Stearn (Chicago, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killjoys) and costumes (including a noteworthy wedding dress that devolved over the course of the film) by Avery Plewes (The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Discovery).  Fans of the classic creep-fest Wicker Man take note: This is another film about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Samara Weaving shows she’s ready to take on the big roles going today to the likes of Margot Robbie and Emma Stone.  A big high point of the film is the mix of quietly haunting and jumpy, rousing music, thanks to composer Brian Tyler (Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Aliens v. Predator: Requiem, The Final Destination, The Expendables, Thor: The Dark World).

Most of the fun comes from a supporting cast of familiar faces.  Genre TV watchers should recognize Orphan Black’s Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano, playing a hysterical sister and brother-in-law.  Other familiar faces include Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) as the bride’s mother-in-law (MacDowell seems to conjure Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill here), her husband is Clear and Present Danger’s Henry Czerny, with Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, Orphan Black), Hanneke Talbot (iZombie, Star Trek Discovery), and John Ralston (Haven, Reign) rounding out the key players.  The most interesting is the bride’s new brother-in-law, played by Shazam!’s Adam Brody.

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