Archive for November, 2019


Three movies coming to theaters beginning in December feature actors known for their big-budget blockbuster superhero performances.  But this time they’re taking a more dramatic turn, with stories based on true events and heroics outside the realm of superheroes.

In the stylish trailer for the movie The Banker, it’s a new Marvel character team-up with Falcon actor Anthony Mackie and Nick Fury actor Samuel L. Jackson bringing in the X-Men movie franchise’s Beast, actor Nicholas Hoult, to change the face of banking and real estate in 1950s Los Angeles.

Just Mercy stars Black Panther and Creed’s Michael B. Jordan and Academy Award winner and Captain Marvel herself Brie Larson, opposite actors from the other side of the Marvel movies The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actor and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and The Incredible Hulk‘s Tim Blake Nelson in a story about justice on Alabama’s death row.

Burden stars Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker (Black Panther’s Zuri and Rogue One’s Saw Gerrera) as a preacher and Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn in Tron: Legacy) in a story about racial divisions in 1990s South Carolina.

Check out these trailers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest novel re-issue from the Marvel universe is an adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s original story arc from the pages of 1981’s series The Uncanny X-Men: X-Men: Days of Future Past You may have read the original classic comics, you may have seen the ground-breaking 2014 team-up movie, and now author Alex Irvine digs deeper into the original story that remains among comic book readers’ most acclaimed stories.  A recurring trope–the banning of individuals with superpowers–is the background for this story of a former member of the X-Men, Kate Pryde, who is sent back to the past from the dark, not-so-distant future on the brink of Armageddon.

Kate is sent back in time to try to change an event in the past, the murder of Senator Kelly by Raven aka Mystique, and the deaths of several others including Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert.  The deaths are the impetus to the creation and domination of Sentinels, giant robots that can track and destroy mutants–or anyone else–with ease.  X-Men stories tend to include so many characters that readers only get to view a few character arcs.  Writer Alex Irvine keeps his story crisp and constantly moving forward.  Here we see Kate Pryde returned to the past and in doing so she swaps consciences with her 13-year-old self–new X-Men recruit Kitty Pryde, begrudgingly taking the name of Sprite, who will one day embrace the code name Shadowcat.  She is sent to the past by the telepathic Rachel Summers, the future daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey aka Phoenix.

Irvine keeps his story to a core band of players.  In the future, it’s Logan aka Wolverine, Magneto, Ororo aka Storm, and Kate’s husband Peter Rasputin aka Colossus.  In the past, Kate in the form of Kitty must convince Storm, Logan, Colossus, Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, Moira and Charles to prevent Mystique, the Blob, and others from the Brotherhood of the Hellfire Club headed up by Emma Frost from wreaking havoc on Senator Kelly’s congressional hearing.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In art director and designer Roger Christian’s book Cinema Alchemist (reviewed here at borg) readers learn how the Oscar-winning set designer changed the way audiences see the future through intentionally distressed sets and props and the clever incorporation of real-world components.  In books like Dressing a Galaxy, Star Wars Costumes, and Star Trek Costumes, readers can see how costume designers create what we think of as the future.  Now writer Dave Addey takes science fiction fans back to visit how visionary filmmakers of classic science fiction used futuristic and sometimes even classic fonts and type styles to convey what lies ahead and in his book Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies, available now from Abrams Books.

At first focusing on what he believes to be the most pervasive font of the future, Eurostile Bold Extended–used in Back to the Future, Apollo 13, Battlestar Galactica, Independence Day, and hundreds of other films–Dave Addey highlights seven key science fiction films and how they used a wide variety of typeface designs to make us see the future.  2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Wall·E, and Moon (alas, no Star Wars, possibly because it is not technically science fiction per se) each get taken apart and dissected.  With numerous screencaps, and identification of several dozen font designs inside the films and used in marketing via posters and other advertisements, readers will be surprised what set designers came up with over the past 50 years.

Addey finds some of the fonts made famous in film have filtered into our daily lives as real-world corporate logos–Gill Sans Light, City Bold, Univers 59 Ultra Bold Condensed, Manifold, Futura Bold, Kabel Book, Computer, Micr, Data 70, Stop, Handel Gothic, Pump Demi, Swiss 911 Ultra Compressed, Gunship–these will all be familiar to you even if you don’t know them by name.  With his own pop culture knowledge and sense of humor, he has also built his own framework to analyze the success of these fonts, using manipulation via italic slant, curved lettering, straightening others, adding sharp points, adjusting kern or spacing, creating slices through letters, adding texture, adding a bevel or extrusion, and/or a star field background, although he says no title font has yet used them all to become the most futuristic of all.

Here is a look inside the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not every motion picture warrants a behind the scenes look at the production, cast and crew, but it’s easy to see why Gemini Man does.  Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Ang Lee pushed moviemaking to its next level with this year’s film about the impact of cloning and clone technology bundled in a big-budget action film starring down-to-earth film star Will Smith.  Lee shot the film in 120 frames per second instead of the standard 24, and he used both 4K resolution and 3D, utilizing a unique camera rig.  Boasting the first major motion picture to star the same actor in two roles as the same man at different ages, required adapting current technology to get the job done, but the project steeped for several years for the technology to be ready.  Michael Singer′s new book Gemini Man: The Art and Making of the Movie digs into the film process with extensive interviews with Bruckheimer, Lee, and the key cast and crew, revealing the extensive work required to get the film from idea to screen.

Singer takes readers from the film’s inception 20 years ago as a Disney film to the first day of shooting last year when production finally began, to each major scene and set piece.  Fans of the movie will find it all here, from Will Smith’s scenes as an assassin spotting his target aboard a speeding train, to his character’s return home back in Savannah, Georgia, to the motorcycle action sequence in Cartagena, Colombia, to the castle in Budapest, Hungary, and Smith facing off against a younger version of himself, to the Gemini compound and secrets that bring the story all together and illustrate the humanity behind the futurism.

The best sections in the book recount the motion capture/performance capture process and Smith and his double playing opposite each other in key action scenes.  The author doesn’t leave readers to be guided by second-tier production staff, instead having the top filmmakers on the picture themselves discussing in their own words how they changed technology step-by-step to bring Gemini Man to life.  This includes interviews with producer Bruckheimer, co-producer David Ellison, director Lee, actors Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, and Douglas Hodge, Smith’s double, Jalil Jay Lynch, plus director of photography Dion Beebe, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer, technical supervisor Ben Gervais, costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb, stunt coordinator J.J. Perry, and more.

Here is a look inside Gemini Man: The Art and Making of the Movie:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Start with the obvious comparison: Marvel’s Iron Fist.  If you were disappointed with that series, get ready for what you probably wanted.  It’s called Wu Assassins, and the ten episodes of the new direct-to-Netflix series arrived late this past summer.  Wu Assassins weaves so much into its ten very different chapters of its storytelling, you’ll quickly find it’s not only an American attempt at a wuxia martial arts heroes show–it bends the genre into a supernatural, urban fantasy story with characters on the brink of their unique brand of apocalypse, with several Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grimm parallels.  And lots of lots of great hand-to-hand fight scenes.  This may not measure up to being the next Buffy or a top Chinese tale like Legend of the Condor Heroes, but as a watch-alike, it far surpasses the Buffy spinoff Angel, as well as most of the Marvel Netflix series.  If Netflix can pull together series like Wu Assassins, especially with absolute writing freedom and without the need to rely on some existing brand like DC or Marvel (or anything Disney), then its future is secured.

The world of Wu Assassins begins in our world today, as we meet Kai Jin, played by 36-year-old Indonesian actor and burgeoning martial arts pro, stuntman, and fight choreographer Iko Uwais.  Kai is a young master chef who wants to own his own food cart in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  This is a Chosen One story, and Kai is introduced to a world where the Chinese philosophy of wuxing is interpreted to rely on human masters of the elements of this world (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) who can exist both in this realm and a supernatural otherworld.  In the middle of an already difficult life, Kai is tapped as the Wu Assassin and he is told by a bellwether and instructor from the otherworld named Ying Ying, played by Celia Au (Lodge 49, Iron Fist, Gotham), that he must kill the Fire Wu, who just happens to be Kai’s adoptive father, known by most as Uncle Six.  He’s not just any dad, as Uncle Six, played masterfully by the scene stealing Byron Mann (The Expanse, Arrow, Smallville, Dark Angel), is also the head of the Chinese crime family, the Triads.

Kai’s Buffy-esque band of friends includes a restaurant owner named Jenny Wah (Li Jun Li, The Exorcist, Quantico), her drug-adled brother Tommy (Lawrence Kao, Sleepy Hollow, The Walking Dead), and Kai’s oldest friend Lu Xin (Lewis Tan, Iron Fist, Deadpool 2), who is a suave up-and-coming thief of high-end cars.  Spliced into the story is a San Francisco cop played by The Vikings queen Katheryn Winnick, a badass on a motorcycle who knows her own street fighting and inadvertently witnesses the magic of the otherworld while undercover trying to bust gang activity at China Basin.  These lead characters are just the beginning, as the series packs in a few seasons’ worth of ideas, and all of it is great fun.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If a movie project languishes for twenty years, thee might be several reasons to explain why.  Gemini Man, in theaters now, has had both Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer involved in the idea behind the film, but the timing didn’t seem right for them–digital technology had not yet evolved where an actor portraying a 51-year-old could fight himself at age 23, in a believable way.  Now here we are in a Hollywood (New York City, Atlanta, Toronto, etc.) where motion capture performances are the norm.  It’s not a spoiler if it’s in the movie poster, and that’s the case with Gemini Man.  The movie is Will Smith, a retiring government assassin, who must face off against a younger version of himself, raised and trained for combat.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that Gemini Man: The Official Movie Novelization, is a character study of what might happen when an assassin meets himself.

If you’re a fan of science fiction, a rush of prior stories and films should come to mind.  First of all the novelization, which does not give an author credit, instead listing the screenplay writers, Darren Lemke, David Benioff, and Billy Ray, reads very much like an early Philip K. Dick short story expanded to be novel (or movie) length.  The spoiler (if you can call it that) is that there aren’t many surprises.  How would a trained assassin react when confronting a younger clone of himself?  This is a single sitting read, filled with some interesting characters (the kind you’d find in supporting roles in any film, like Mission: Impossible, the Bourne Legacy films, Tomb Raider, or even Dick adaptations like Paycheck.  It’s also heavy on the action, something that would be spotlighted with CGI in the film, leaving the characters in the novel to internalize what is happening on the big screen.  The story feels like it was written for Will Smith.  His character Henry Brogan is the same guy we’ve seen Smith play in Bright, Suicide Squad, I am Legend, Hitch, I, Robot, Enemy of the State, and Independence Day.  Which fortunately means we have a likable protagonist.

The novelization brings in bits and pieces from across decades of science fiction, from addressing the question of how you select who you clone (from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), to how you control your newly minted human military weapon (from The Manchurian Candidate), to how you survive when the world is crashing in on you (from the Jason Bourne, Shooter, and Mission: Impossible movies), to how you react when you learn you are not really you (from RoboCop, Moon, and the new series Living with Yourself).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How do you get your kicks?  Maybe you buy them online, maybe at a mall shoe store, or a classic locally owned standalone shop.  Wherever you buy your sneakers, tennis shoes, running shoes, however you define them and whatever you call them, they are as personal a purchase as anything you need, jeans, T-shirts, socks, etc.  According to author and frequent writer on the shoe industry Elizabeth Semmelhack, a small but growing crowd of shoe buyers are looking for shoes that express their personality, in what has become an industry taking in billions of consumer dollars in a merger of haute and popular culture.  This week fans of exclusive shoe wearing–and collecting–have a new guide to this burgeoning trend, Collab: Sneakers X Culture, from Rizzoli/Electa books.

This is the latest of the high-end art books from Rizzoli that focus on style and culture in areas you might not have thought about.  This full-color hardcover with a textured leather shoe feel–and a book mark that is really a yellow shoe string–has photographs representing the spectrum of designer sneaker collaborations with a key focus on the 21st century.  Shoe companies have partnered with all sorts of “personalities of the week” to advertise, market and even influence the evolution of sneakers going back to the very first examples of the modern athletic shoe.  You can search your favorite shoe manufacturer right now on Amazon with the word “Collab” and find the latest combination of celebrity–usually the latest pop music icon or athlete, but sometimes including social media influencers, too–and shoe manufacturer that partnered with them because together they believed they had the right fit.

Concept artwork for the Pyer Moss x Reebok, DMX Daytona Experiment 2.

It begins with a smart foreword that sets up the background for anyone not familiar with this mash-up of two worlds by rapper Jacques Slade.  Author Elizabeth Semmelbeck takes readers back to the beginning, with shoe innovations conceived by Adi and Rudi Dassler, Josef Waitzer, Jack Purcell, Robert Haillet, Stan Smith, and Chuck Taylor.  She documents Walt Disney, Run-DMC, Chanel, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, Rihanna, and dozens of other shoe and artists “collabs” in the book’s 256 pages.

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Joel Edgerton, best known for his role as Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels and co-star of Midnight Special, and David Michôd direct of 2017’s direct-to-Netflix Brad Pitt movie War Machine, have come together to write the latest adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V, in the new direct-to-Netflix drama, The King.  Michôd directs the film with Edgerton co-starring.  Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar, Homeland) stars as the man who would be King Henry V, who seeks the advice and confidence of Edgerton’s Falstaff.

This is the first major film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V with an American actor as the King.  The best received version was the Oscar-winning 1989 version, titled Henry V, starring Kenneth Branagh in a classic take on the King in contrast to Chalamet’s much younger appearing character.

The next Batman, Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), plays the French Dauphin, with Ashes to Ashes and Mission: Impossible’s Sean Harris as William, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Ready Player One) as King Henry IV, and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp (Yoga Hosers) as Catherine of Valois.  Critics in Europe have criticized both Chalamet and Pattinson for their affected accents, Chalamet’s British English and Pattinson’s French.

Here is the trailer for Netflix’s The King:

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The first big Jumanji movie (we’re ignoring the 1990s version), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, was such a brilliant, laugh-out-loud, adventure and rollercoaster ride, it made the freezing winter two years ago a bit more tolerable.  With a Halloween snowfall across the U.S. and a likely colder winter again, the sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, may just save us again from the winter blues.  Directly competing against the final Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker, the real competition isn’t going to be about seeing them once, but it will be about which you go back to again.  Now with two trailers out following the first trailer four months ago (if you missed it, watch it here), Jumanji: The Next Level appears to have everything that made us laugh the first time–and more.

In the previous film teenagers get sucked into a video game and emerge in the roles of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Mouse-not-Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart in his funniest performance ever), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).  In the second trailer we see that returning director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg have shuffled the roles, swapping in one of the kid’s grandfather, played by Danny DeVito, and his friend, played by Danny Glover.  The next adventure brings back Nigel (Rhys Darby) as gamerunner and somehow Nick Jonas is back, too, as long-time player Alex–or will Alex really be someone entirely new?  They could change up all these character roles over and over and we’ll keep coming back for more.

And there’s a new poster:

What’s funnier, Bethany’s new character or a stack of great Kevin Hart jokes?  Here’s the next, and final, trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Traveling Wilburys had a Volume 1 and 3–two fantastic, memorable albums each with chart topping hits, and it was said Tom Petty’s successful and acclaimed Full Moon Fever fit between as a sort of unofficial Volume 2.  Jeff Lynne′s ELO′s eagerly-awaited next album is out, From Out of Nowhere, and it could be the unofficial Traveling Wilburys Volume 4–all the beats, all the instrumentation, tempo, and lyrics are there.  But this time it’s Jeff Lynne carrying the album, since we’re long past a time when Tom Petty, George Harrison, or Roy Orbison are around to contribute anything but in spirit.  The evocative sound makes sense, since Lynne worked with Harrison and Petty on other albums in addition to Lynne’s status in the rock god supergroup as Otis-Clayton Wilbury.  Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr. would be proud–you couldn’t ask for more from Lynne and ELO, the combination of songs on the new release is a mix of styles across the catalog of ELO songs and absorbs several of the band’s biggest influences and partnerships over the band’s 40-plus years.

All of the songs were written by Lynne, including the great romping roadhouse blast One More Time, which fits the Wilburys sound in songs like She’s My Baby (with a little cow bell and a little… Phantom of the Opera (!?) as a bonus).  The biggest hit here might be Time of Our Life, another chugging, Wilbury soundalike that would have fit perfectly with the back of the railcar videos from that band’s Volume 1 album.  The title song From Out of Nowhere begins the batch of Wilbury-esque songs–it’s like Tom Petty and George Harrison are singing back-up (they aren’t, of course, but this sounds like it could have been written for Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Into the Great Wide Open album, another project produced by Lynne).

It’s not just the Wilbury sound that comes through.  You’d swear Goin’ Out on Me is a cover of an old Beatles hit–Lynne conjures the sound of Paul McCartney’s trademark voice in this slow, bad-love ballad (Lynne worked on McCartney’s Grammy-nominated album Flaming Pie).  Or Help Yourself, a song made for George Harrison’s voice if there ever was one, which would have played nicely on Harrison’s Cloud Nine album (another album produced by Lynne).

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