Archive for December, 2021


   

Review by C.J. Bunce

Two big storybooks for kids from Abrams fuse classic Christmas tales with traditional music boxes built into the books’ bindings.  Previously released is a retelling of The Nutcracker in rhyming verse illustrated by Bodil Jane, and new for this holiday season is Clement C. Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas {originally published as A Visit from St. Nicholas), illustrated by Raquel Martin.  Each includes a classic music box mechanism readers can crank to listen to music cheer for all to hear while reading.  Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker plays on the first book and Deck the Halls plays with Moore’s poem.

Take a look inside each book below.

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What inspired you this year to be a hero?

One of the major areas that got slighted for the second year because of the pandemic were donations to animal charities.  So we at borg are endorsing and hoping you’ll support all the worthy groups below that try to help those that can’t help themselves.  Please help give them a chance.

You don’t need superpowers to change the world.

You can change the world one dollar at a time.  And it may even help your own pocketbook if you make charitable contributions by the end of the month for your next tax filing.  Also, consider the wildlife and strays in your neighborhood and yard and put out a heated water bowl (available here at Amazon and pet stores for $20 or less) to help thirsty critters get through the winter, and consider a cat shelter for your yard (find instructions here). 

So change the world.  Please support the following awesome organizations:

Wayside Waifs

Great Plains SPCA

Alley Cat Allies

Humane Society

Operation Wildlife

ASPCA

Animal Rescue League

Bat Conservation International

American Anti-Vivisection Society

REGAP

Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary

Frankie’s Friends

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

Check out these great charities today and give if you can.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

 

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Call it an “upstairs/downstairs” police procedural.  Britbox’s newest original series, The Tower, follows a team of detectives investigating their fellow coppers after an incident on a London rooftop goes horribly awry, resulting in the death of a civilian and a veteran beat cop.  In three short episodes, the story grows increasingly complex as secrets are revealed, careers unravel, and conflicting loyalties test every character.  The British ITV series is now streaming on BritBox via Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything is related.  That’s what you’ll learn if you watched this year’s superhero movies, beginning with Black Widow, threading into Hawkeye.  Loki and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings wove their way into the coming Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness and even if you haven’t seen Spider-Man: No Way Home yet, you know from the trailers it, too, ties into the Multiverse with the appearance of Doctor Strange.  And we won’t say how, but if you decided to skip it (and it’s been available in different forms via theaters and digital home release for weeks now), Venom: Let There Be Carnage finally connects Sony’s Marvel world with the giant MCU you know from Disney (another big connection to tie the four corners of Marvel together this month if you’re paying attention).  Sure, we may have thought the Sony tie was going to happen in WandaVision, when Sony X-Men’s Quicksilver showed up on Wanda and Vision’s doorstep, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen.  The real deal finally began in the sequel to 2018’s Venom (reviewed here).  Yes, everything is connected.  But that’s not the only reason to make sure you watch Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

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It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  It’s time for the ninth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have several inductees from 2021 films and television – 16 in all, new borgs or updated variants of past members, bringing the borg Hall of Fame total to 281.

You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was named an honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive, not because of his incredible tech armor.  The Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids (as in Westworld, and as in the Synths of Star Trek: Picard, and the new Dark Troopers of The Mandalorian), we take their word for it.  Again, integration is key, but in the Hall, once a member, always a member.  

So let’s get on with it.  Who’s in for 2021?

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Our borg Best of 2021 list continues today with the Best Books of 2021.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2021 here, the Best Movies of 2021 here, and the Best in TV 2021 here.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame tomorrow.  We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.  So let’s get going!  

   

Best Sci-Fi, Best Tie-In Novel – Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward (Gallery Books).  An engaging read and fun-filled start to a new trilogy, full of great throwbacks to all the Star Trek series, with several surprise characters and incorporated events, and a great update to Wesley Crusher.  Runner-up: Star Trek: Picard–Rogue Elements (Gallery Books), by John Jackson Miller, provided a great story for a newer character, pulling into the mix the future of some familiar characters including the classic villain Kivas Fajo.    

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After the first of our two pandemic years, when we created last year’s preview of 2021 movies we admit we thought the year was looking iffy from a movie standpoint–so many films delayed or held back, others expected but canceled early in production, etc.  All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, a smaller but still impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.

Come back tomorrow for our best print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2021 here and Best TV of 2021 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2021:

Best Superhero Movie  Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony). Overlooked like the original Venom, sharp writing and faithful adaptation of the comics made for the best, most fun superhero movie of 2021.  Runner-up: Black Widow (Disney).  Despite the delays it was worth the wait, and it stands as a rewatchable and fun movie. Honorable mention: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney), a great tie-in to characters from throughout the MCU.

Best Action/Adventure Film, Best Visual Effects: Jungle Cruise (Disney), another Disney rollercoaster ride translated to the screen; a film that surprised us as the next incarnation of a Raiders of the Lost Ark-level adventure.  Runner-up: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney).  A solid martial arts adventure, a bus scene out of Speed, and great finale action.

Best Film, Best Drama, Best Director (Simon Stone), Best Cinematography (Mike Eley) – The Dig (Netflix).  A powerful film, exploring life at the precipice of change, missed and almost missed opportunities, the fleeting nature of life, and the survival of humanity through what we leave behind.  Runners-up for Best Film: The Courier (Amazon), Black Widow (Disney), one of the MCU’s best contributions.

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Today we’re continuing our annual year-end round-up with the Best TV Series of 2021.  If you missed it, check out our review of the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2021 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching. The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  It’s even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.  And the very best series get usually get canceled at the end of their first season because network execs will never figure out what we genre fans love.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg Series, Best TV BorgCowboy Bebop (Netflix).  Mustafa Shakir’s Jet Black expanded on the anime series to create a space pilot and bounty hunter as cool and real as anyone from the Star Wars universe.  His cyborg implants made him incredibly powerful–necessary in his dealings on behalf of Spike and his family.

Best Sci-Fi TV SeriesBest Western TV Series, Best Space Fantasy Series, Best Retro Fix, Best TV Soundtrack, Best TV Costumes – Cowboy Bebop (Netflix).  Only one science fiction series really knocked our socks off this year.  The stylish look and music, and the fun of the crew of the spaceship Bebop made us want to speed through this series.  For viewers looking for the next Firefly, this is it.  For fans looking for the best futurism, space realism, and the next Altered Carbon, this is it.  Its writing, direction, cast, and overall production values made the series this year’s series to talk aboutRunner-up for Best Sci-fi TV Series: Blade Runner: Black Lotus (Adult Swim), great sci-fi, faithful to the source material.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-fi TV Series: Resident Alien (Syfy) Alan Tudyk’s fish-out-of-water story and his alien story pulled us back to the roots of classic sci-fi with humor and drama as a bonus.

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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2021 compares?  Here are 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add three superheroines, an amnesiac bounty hunter, four police detectives, a thief, a grifter, a hacker, 13 martial arts experts, three soldiers, a god, a duchess, two college students, three Russian assassins, a spy, an actress, a cyborg, a bartender, a forensics expert, a hitman, and a helicopter pilot, with eight characters we’ve seen in past years and 13 all-new characters we’ve never seen in any medium before–all in a roster split between 21 television and 13 movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2021:

Antonia Dreykov aka Taskmaster (Black Widow).  Was there a more intriguing, surprising, gut-wrenching character this year than Olga Kurylenko’s super-powered cyborg?  She was one of the best costumed villains this year and certainly the most sympathetic, leaving the question: Where does she go from here? (Disney)

Faye Valentine (Cowboy Bebop).  Daniella Pineda’s spin on this classic sci-fi character couldn’t have been better.  Always eager, always excitable, always refreshing, as she pursued the dramatic journey to discover who she really is. (Netflix)

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Review by C.J. Bunce

No Time to Die It’s the 25th official James Bond movie and the 27th if you include the independent movie Never Say Never Again and the first version of Casino Royale, all part of the longest running movie blockbuster franchise that began in 1962 with Dr. No.  For those hoping for just one more Daniel Craig Bond movie: note that they should have quit while they were ahead, and rolled Spectre into a Daniel Craig finale.  No Time to Die is a slow, plodding retread of the Spectre plot.  It has a new main villain and several minor ones, but it’s missing all the style of previous Bond outings.  That’s thanks to the studio selecting movie director Cary Fukunaga for his first foray into big-budget cinema and using an over-long script that took five writers to create.  After a long wait–it’s been six years since Spectre and this was initially set for an April 2020 release–No Time to Die is finally streaming on Vudu and other outlets at sell-through prices.  But you may want to save your money and wait until it comes to Netflix or cable.

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