Archive for November, 2021


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a rare thing.  For more than 50 years TV series have fought back after cancellation to snatch a TV movie or several (see The Incredible Hulk and Veronica Mars) or holiday special (see Columbo, Kojak, The Brady Bunch, and a lot of classic TV) or moved to another network (see Medium and Community) or extra seasons years later (see Twin Peaks and The X-Files) or even a big screen movie (see Serenity) but rarely capture the spark of the original.  Let Psych join Longmire and Leverage as the rare exception.  The second “sequel to a sequel,” Psych 3: This is Gus, arriving this weekend on Peacock, is a marked improvement on the first two movies, showing that James Roday (now reclaiming his real name as James Roday Rodriguez) and Dulé Hill′s hilarious crime fighting duo “still got it.”  Better yet, the entire gameplay of the storytelling is back, thanks to creator, writer, and showrunner Steve Franks giving fans a lighthearted mystery just as witty and silly and fun as an original episode from Psych′s eight-season run.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Earlier this month here at borg I reviewed Moments Asunder, Dayton Ward’s first act in a trilogy of books that are intended as a major shift in the tie-in novel universe of Star Trek.  The story is a giant convergence of many major nexuses of the Star Trek television series’ casts of characters from the original series to Voyager, with an older and wise Wesley Crusher as experienced Traveler (see TNG: “Journey’s End”) at the heart of the tale.  The book is an engaging read and fun-filled start to the trilogy full of great throwbacks and surprises.  The action doesn’t let up in the second novel, James Swallow’s The Ashes of Tomorrow, which digs deeper into the futures of all the key Deep Space Nine characters, and it pits Jean-Luc Picard against an old colleague and friend.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of either of the three stars of Red Notice will probably flock to this latest direct-to-Netflix movie just to see their favorite star in their next picture.  But Red Notice, which arrived on the streaming platform this weekend, is another production that falls into the vibe of the old direct-to-VHS movies–it’s something you’d watch for free on cable but probably wouldn’t pay full movie ticket prices for it.  Going back to the first of Netflix’s exclusive production/distribution projects, Brad Pitt’s War Machine, subscribers began to see this trend, which, despite enormous box office budgets and big-name directors and actors, deliver only ho-hum content.  These include The Cloverfield Paradox, Extinction, IO, Polar, The Irishman, and Mank.  That isn’t to say Netflix never gets it right.  Roma, The Highwaymen, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Extraction, 6 Underground, and Rebecca are exceptions.

But how do you go wrong with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot?  When that’s the only thing you deliver.

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Just as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has been a great relief to fans of the character after so many years of just not getting it right, moving upward to replace Tony Stark as leader of the new Avengers, Sony Pictures seems to be bringing it all crashing back down to earth.  Earth of the past.  Or that’s how it looks in the latest trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home, with the full pantheon of villains–ghosts of Spider-Men past–make their way into the Multiverse of Madness, revealing the true leader of the Avengers is probably Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Some of the best Doctor Who stories can actually be found outside the television series.  Take for example the hundreds of audio books from Big Finish.  In what other franchise can you find spin-off dramas featuring the very stars of the franchise, as well as other award-winning actors?  Another place you can find your Doctor Who fix is via Titan Comics.  Doctor Who fans across the world can find comic book writer Jody Houser tapping into some of Doctor Who fans’ favorite characters and concepts in the first issue of the new series Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf.  It’s at comic shops tomorrow.  Of course, that’s Wolf as in Bad Wolf.  Straight out of the gates we encounter David Tennant’s alternate 11th Doctor with Rose Tyler.  Better yet, the story crosses beams with the least utilized of all, Paul McGann’s fantastic eighth Doctor, (celebrating the 25th anniversary of his first appearance) plus Matt Smith’s popular 12th Doctor.  And an army of short, angry potatoes with guns.  And a Fez.  Oh, yes, there is much fun to be found here.

Check out a preview of Issue #1 below for borg readers courtesy of Titan Comics.

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Jungle-Cruise-Movie-Trailer-Dwayne-Johnson-Emily-Blunt

Review by C.J. Bunce

Some movies are exactly as advertised.  Count Jungle Cruise in that category.  And yet–it’s bigger and bolder and braver than you might have guessed from its trailers.  Comparisons to the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean, Romancing the Stone, and African Queen are all completely warranted.  Jungle Cruise is a big, sweeping adventure–and visual amusement park ride–that draws out the best of stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.  First previewed in autumn 2019, it’s another pandemic delay that has the scope and spectacle that would have made it the perfect box office hit in a normal year.  But at least now audiences can see what they’ve been missing as Jungle Cruise arrived this past weekend on the Disney Plus streaming service.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as any movie has been able to keep its secrets in the past few years, it’s hard to beat the surprises in the epic fantasy film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first film of Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without an Avengers headliner.  And when I say fantasy, I mean it–it’s got it all, a combination of the magical realm of Doctor Strange, the ancient, secret country hidden from the rest of the world like Black Panther, a mix of Asian lore, Shakespearean family squabbles (including a famous, Oscar-winning Shakespearean actor), and a plot–and dragons–right out of The Lord of the Rings (after all, Ten Rings are better than One Ring, right?).  It has action, it has ties to the old and new, and, thanks to co-star Awkwafina, it’s the laugh-out-loud funniest of all the Marvel movies.  And it’s finally arrived on Disney+ so mass audiences still staying away from movie theaters finally have a chance to see what they missed.

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The first two episodes of Marvel’s Hawkeye series are less than two weeks away.  After the mental anguish of this year’s first round of Marvel streaming series–depression and loss as the themes of WandaVision, self-doubt and imposter syndrome as the themes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and regret and hopelessness as the themes of Loki–Marvel fans have earned themselves a fun Marvel series, and Hawkeye looks like it will fit the bill.

In yesterday’s quick Disney Plus Day event, the streaming service previewed what should be another fun series, as critically acclaimed Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany looks like she finds it easy being green as the title superheroine of She-Hulk.  It’s a little harder to see what angle will be taken with Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight A deadly war of the gods with Egypt as a backdrop feels and looks like Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse.  And Iman Vellani stars in Ms. Marvel, which looks a lot Marvel’s version of DC Comics’ Stargirl.  New announcements include series Echo starring Alaqua Cox, Ironheart starring Dominique Thorne, Agatha: House of Harkness starring Kathryn Hahn, and Secret Invasion starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn.

Take a look at another great Hawkeye trailer, and our first glimpses (barely) at She-HulkMoon Knight, and Ms. Marvel below.

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Early this year The Strong’s National Museum of Play announced twelve finalists for induction into the 2021 National Toy Hall of Fame.  The contenders included nominees from previous years, including American Girl dolls, the Battleship board game, billiards (including pool), Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, mahjong, Masters of the Universe action figures, piñatas, the Risk board game, sand, The Settlers of Catan board game, and toy fire engines.

Only three would take their honored places in the Hall this year when they were announced at a ceremony this week at The Strong in Rochester, New York.  The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys “that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play.”  Criteria for induction include: Icon-status (the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered); Longevity (the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations); Discovery (the toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play); and Innovation (the toy profoundly changed play or toy design).  A toy may be inducted on the basis of innovation without necessarily having met all of the first three.  So what made this year’s cut?  American Girl Dolls, the Risk board game, and sand–yep, look out Anakin Skywalker, your least favorite thing is one of the favored playthings of this world.

The Hall of Fame, which began in 1998, is celebrating its 23rd year.  Reviewing the 75 previous inductees should provide you with an incredible flashback of nostalgia: alphabet blocks, the Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, Baby Nancy doll, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, bubbles, Candy Land, cardboard box, chalk, checkers, chess, Clue, coloring book, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Dungeons & Dragons, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Fisher-Price Little People, Frisbee, G.I. Joe, The Game of Life, Hot Wheels, Hula Hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, Jenga, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, Magic: The Gathering, marbles, Matchbox car, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, paper airplane, pinball, Play-Doh, playing cards, puppet, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, Super Soaker, swing, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, Twister, View-Master, Uno, and Wiffle Ball.

Which of these 12 toys would make your list for 2021?

The beauty of all these toys?  We did some of our own research and about 95% of them are still available for today’s generation of kids.  Just click the toy name above and you’ll find most available at Amazon right now.  Want to spoil your kid and get them one of each of the 78 toys in the Hall (or donate a set to your local community center)?  It’ll cost you about $1,840.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

An “inverted mystery” is a story that follows a criminal through the planning and commission of a crime–usually murder–from initial conception through the culprit’s ultimate downfall and apprehension (think Law & Order: Criminal Intent).  The focus is on the criminal’s mindset and how his dark scheme unravels.  Tim Major’s The New Adventure of Sherlock Holmes novel The Back-to-Front Murder is a twist on this subgenre… sort of.  Beginning with the classic Sherlockian setup—a client with a curious conundrum—Major’s novel unravels the puzzling murder of a London widower whom it seems no one would have any reason to want dead, least of all Holmes’s new client.  The trouble is, the client did plan the murder, down to the very last detail.

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