Archive for July, 2021


Anna movie pic

Review by C.J. Bunce

Luc Besson, master of the spy movie and the female assassin, created perhaps his best work in the genre with his 2019 action thriller Anna Poor distribution and studio problems caused the film to get only a minor theatrical release, but it’s at last widely available, streaming to anyone free on iMDB TV.  If you’re like most movie fans and missed it, you’re in for a surprise that rivals many similar action thrillers by one of the greatest writer-directors of our time, including his 1990 film Le Femme Nikita with Anne Parillaud (and its English remake, Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda), and the 1994 movie The Professional (Natalie Portman, Jean Reno).  Besson also wrote the screenplays for The Transporter starring Jason Statham (2002), Taken starring Liam Neeson (2008), and Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana (2011).  So he knows action, and that’s several assassins, spies, and action sequences in Besson’s personal dossier in additional to his greatest feats, the epic science fiction films The Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets It’s that last film he tapped for the star of Anna, a spy movie that’s not a retread on the director’s past work but a superb achievement, with a badass lead and story even better than another spy favorite, Atomic Blonde. 

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Fight Girls 1 cover FIGHTGRL 3

Review by C.J. Bunce

Eisner and Harvey Award winner Frank Cho, one of the best cover artists and known for his fantastic renderings of women as well as his humor and storytelling, begins his next mini-series in the amped-up Hunger Games-inspired series Fight Girls As with his last five-issue mini-series Skybourne (from BOOM! Studios), Fight Girls features strong women characters.  But this time they are fighting for survival and the right to rule their kingdom as “Queen of the Galaxy.”  Out now from new publisher AWA Studios, Fight Girls is a mix of Cho’s Skybourne and Jungle Girl, and it has what every comic book reader could want: Cho created the covers, and the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new group of action heroines.  It’s a great start to the story, with big action, gorgeous artwork, and it’s a lot of fun.

Take a look inside the first issue and check out all five of Frank Cho’s covers for the series below.

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Glass magician cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Caroline Stevermer’s acclaimed historical fantasy work now includes a tale of turn-of-the-twentieth century New York City and its magical elite.  In The Glass Magician a stage magician discovers there’s much more to her identity—and her talents—than she ever realized.

Thalia Cutler is a natural-born stage magician.  Trained in the craft by her late father and his lifelong friend, now her manager, Thalia and her tricks entertain crowds on the East Coast vaudeville circuit.  But this is not exactly the 1905 East Coast of our world; this is an alternate historical America where people with real magic live alongside the Solitaires, or mundane folk.  Well, not quite alongside: the wealthy Traders are the elite and powerful upper crust of society, barely deigning to acknowledge the Solitaires; and the solemn Silvestri keep to themselves, literally communing with nature.

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Willy Wonka theaters

Three cinema classics with benchmark anniversaries will make their way back to theaters this summer as part of Fathom Events and TCM Big Screen Classics screenings across the U.S.  First, just before the very similar looking Jungle Cruise arrives in theaters starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the original odd couple on a jungle river ride, director John Huston’s The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn is back next week celebrating 70 years since its release.  It’s followed in August by the original kids’ fantasy-horror thrill ride Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder.  It celebrates its 50th anniversary.  And in September, frequently hailed as the greatest movie of all time, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane arrives in theaters for its 80th anniversary.  The movies will have a limited release, but will be available on hundreds of movie screens nationwide.

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SurrealEstate c

Review by C.J. Bunce

Tom Rozon is looking like you probably haven’t seen him before–or at least for the past 10 years.  The handlebar moustache from his stint as roguish Doc Holliday on Wynonna Earp is gone, and that lack of facial hair he’s sported for his outlandish roles in Vagrant Queen on back to Lost Girl and beyond makes the real estate agent he plays in his next series seem boyish, trustworthy, and kindly–he looks at least 10 years younger than his 45 years.  The new series is SurrealEstate, and the pilot episode that aired Friday on Syfy has all the makings of a regular addition to any good genre TV follower’s DVR.  It begins with fantastic writing and dialogue, from new TV creator George Olson and writer Gillian Muller (Endlings, Life with Boys). 

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joe angle banner 2x

Normally this would be the kind of news you’d find at San Diego Comic-Con, which was canceled this year again because of the pandemic.  Hasbro is farming out to action figure and pop culture collectible company Super7 to deliver two new action figure lines, rebooting the classic small-scale action figures based on the 1980s G.I. Joe animated series.  One line will he a step down from the original articulated figures from the 1980s, and the other will be a step up.  The step up is the Ultimates line, articulated 7-inch scale figures with extra arms, heads, and a variety of other accessories.  The step down is the Kenner-style 3.75-inch ReAction line, with less articulation than the original line, but with more series-accurate designs and still more variety–including new figures–to come.

The first wave of G.I. Joe ReAction figures includes Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Baroness, Cobra Commander, Destro, Kwinn, G.I. Joe infantry (in three skin colors), and Cobra Troopers (in three skin colors and two costume styles)–for 15 variants in all.  The first Ultimates wave includes four figures–Duke, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and the Cobra Battle Android Trooper (BAT).  These are in addition to the new -inch and 12-inch figures that are tie-ins to the coming Snake Eyes: G.I. Joes Origins movie (check those out here).

joe 2  joe 1

See detailed views of each figure below.  You can order the Ultimates line now and pre-order all the ReAction figures from the first wave via the above links.

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thebigsleep 2  thebigsleep 4

Review by C.J. Bunce

The first thing to know about Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel The Big Sleep is that it was published three years after James M. Cain published the serialized Double Indemnity.  If your only knowledge of The Big Sleep is the big-screen adaptation directed by Howard Hawks starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with a screenplay written by the likes of Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner, you should go back and read the novel to see how wrong Bogart is for the lead detective Philip Marlowe.  Both the novel and significantly modified movie version are convoluted tales of murder and mayhem, but the novel is better than the film in many ways.  Its value is in its shocking subject matter for the 1930s and being an early entrant helping to establish hardboiled crime novels as a genre.  Readers were first put inside the brain of Marlowe in this story, which reads like an effort to adapt Cain.  Chandler also was a reader of Cain’s work and along with Billy Wilder, Chandler would adapt Cain’s Double Indemnity for the screen.  Still in print, The Big Sleep is available in trade paperback here at Amazon.

Eight decades after its first publication, how does Chandler’s novel hold up?

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Run book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

“Everybody can read comics,” says civil rights leader, real-life superhero, and Congressman John Lewis describing “get out to vote” preparations for an Alabama county primary in May 1966 in his new, posthumously published book Run: Book One, the follow-up to the award-winning three-book series of graphic novels called March March was Congressman Lewis’s story of his journey–really America’s journey–toward enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In Run: Book One Lewis continues the ongoing struggle for civil rights.  In comics form, the story is accessible to every audience, as the comics reader and comics convention guest knew well.

As students of American history may be aware, after every major historical success there is implementation, response, the aftermath.  Adults today can probably recall being taught about the Civil War in grade school, but how about the bitter struggles afterward during Reconstruction?  Similarly American History classes may have touched on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but did you learn about the key players and struggles that followed to implement the Voting Rights Act?  Run begins that next chapter as Lewis prepares to run for government office, and the country and the movement tries to gain a footing and leadership to take the country forward–a compelling story every American of any age should read.

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Tach main 2

Today we’re building a fully operational, sturdy plywood 3D study model of German engineer Dietrich Uhlhorn’s 1817 invention, the Tachometer, used throughout the 19th century in locomotives and later–and still today–in automobiles.  It’s a mechanism that, when the handle is rotated, movement is transmitted through a reducer, increasing the revolutions per minute (RPMs) and displacing twin weights in a rubber band-powered centrifugal unit.  The higher the RPM, the more centrifugal force separates counter weights, shifting a movable axle with a flywheel.  A dial is fixed to the axle, and the more the axle shifts (the higher the RPM), the more the dial arrow deflects, indicating higher speed rotation.  It’s the UGEARS Tachometer, the fourth model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here), the Gearbox (reviewed here), and the Random Generator (reviewed here).  The Tachometer is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  This kit, like the Gearbox we reviewed, is part of understanding basic engineering assembly design, most apparent in your family automobile.

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Professor T

Review by C.J. Bunce

PBS is now airing a six-episode mystery series starring Ben Miller, best known for playing the first detective of many on the series Death in Paradise, an actor whose television work goes back to the early 1990s, including even a small role on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.  Miller plays Professor Jasper Tempest, the title character of Professor T, a British adaptation of a Belgian series about a quirky, obsessive, compulsive detective in the style of Adrian Monk, Prodigal Son’s Malcolm Bright, and Sherlock Holmes himself.  The series airs weekly Sundays on PBS, also available to stream in its entirety with a PBS Passport subscription.  Will this be another short-lived British police procedural, or can it survive in the ocean of similar series to find a second season?

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