Category: Sci-Fi Café


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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National convention organizer Wizard World will be hosting key cast members from across the 56+ years run of the BBC’s Doctor Who today as part of its Wizard World Virtual Experiences tour taking place through the summer.  From the 7th Doctor and his Companion, to a memorable sort-of Doctor, to the head of Torchwood, to members of the Paternoster Gang, and notables William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill and more–fans can see them all free on a live-streamed panel and/or check out individual opportunities for photographs and autographs for a fee.  It all happens today, June 17, 2020, online at noon Central Time.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s always a big surprise when the holiday episode of Doctor Who is a critical not-to-be-missed episode.  When we last saw the Doctor, she was trapped millions of light years away in an alien prison.  The New Year’s Day 2021 special Revolution of the Daleks is not a filler, out-of-continuity holiday showpiece, instead continuing after ten months have lapsed for the Doctor’s companions back on Earth, and after the Doctor has been imprisoned for years in that same relative time span.  If you missed this episode you missed: the return of John Barrowman’s universal fan-favorite character Captain Jack Harkness, another Law & Order/Law & Order UK crossover/reunion, the last we’ll see of some major characters, a new Prime Minister, a preview of a new companion, and one of the best Dalek episodes in the 57 years of the series.  As the studio releases word that Jodie Whittaker will be soon leaving the series, Revolution of the Daleks reflects that both her performance as the 13th Doctor and Chris Chibnall’s running of the series has finally arrived.  It’s a timeless story full of important, lovely emotional beats, fantastic new sci-fi special and visual effects, and a return to the classic framework and themes of the show’s past.

Let’s take a look at why this episode was superb and offer up some candidates for the 14th Doctor…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Plumes are cool.  I wear a plume now.

This week the Doctor and friends turn up at the very event that was the real-life origin point of Doctor Who, the series, and in fact all of science fiction: Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s summer at the retreat at Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva in Switzerland in 1816.  It was the historic “year without a summer,” believed the result of volcanic ash in the atmosphere.  More importantly for the future of science and technology and science fiction, it was the convergence of celebrity that resulted in Mary Shelley’s spark to write her novel Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel and–notable for fans of all things borg–the first borg novel.

Only this is Doctor Who, and so something is different, as one of the famed guests of the villa is missing.  In its 56 years some of Doctor Who’s greatest episodes have featured a re-look at historical places and events, and the fantastic new episode, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” may top them all.  The events of 1816 are well documented and writer Maxine Alderton (The Worst Witch, Emmerdale) used them to create the perfect blending of Doctor Who and history.  Directed by Emma Sullivan, Alderton’s story is expertly designed to weave together even the obscure historical facts and figures with the fantastical, while foreshadowing the focus of the season’s remaining episodes (find a peek at that below).  Just as the story of the creation of the first science fiction story takes center stage (also one of the early Gothic horror tales), so does the world inside Shelley’s novel peer into the world of the Doctor.

Save the poet, save the universe.

In a word, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” is perfection, as the seed of all science fiction meets its latest incarnation both from within the universe of Doctor Who and viewing Doctor Who from the outside as a work of science fiction itself–delivering a perfect threat to a single point in time that, if altered, changes everything thereafter and could obliterate the world as the Doctor–and the viewer–knows it.  Plus… a haunted house, ghosts, and a decision that could throw the future into chaos?

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It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2022.  We’re changing up this year’s preview by adding several trailers.  Unlike in previous years, we have trailers for most of these movies.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year.  In all we pulled 60 movies from the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production and slated for next year’s movie calendar.  Many of these will be more than familiar to you, as we’ve previewed some going back to 2019.

The biggest surprise is there aren’t a lot of surprises on the horizon, at least for big movies, like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Black Adam, Lightyear, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse, Halloween Ends, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, a new Predator movie called Prey, and The Batman.  Compare the below list to our 2021 list, 2020 list, 2019 list and even the 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list, and you’ll see the studios continue moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services.  Hollywood hasn’t made its way back to full production mode yet since the pandemic risks aren’t over yet, and it’s beginning to look like TV will be the location most people watch their movies for the foreseeable future, if not permanently.  What do the big movies have in common?  They’re all sequels–and more remakes of movies, books, and TV shows are on the way.

First up, the top 15 movies expected in 2022 that don’t have an announced release date yet, followed by our annual month-by-month rundown of trailers.  Grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2022 (and some you might not!):

  • Havoc –Tom Hardy stars as a detective in a crime drama directed by Gareth Evans (Netflix)
  • Enola Holmes 2 – sequel, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill (Netflix)
  • Prey – the fifth movie in the Predator franchise will be a prequel, starring Amber Midthunder as a Comanche who must protect her tribe from the alien threat (Hulu)
  • Pinocchio – live-action version of the fairy tale stars Tom Hanks as Geppetto and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiminy Cricket (Disney+)
  • The Amazing Maurice – animated young adult fantasy about a sentient cat, based on the 2001 book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, starring Emilia Clarke, Hugh Laurie, David Thewlis (theatrical release)
  • Blonde a biopic about Marilyn Monroe starring Ana de Armas, with Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • Wendell and Wild – comedy duo Key and Peele create a stop-motion dark horror comedy (Netflix)
  • The Gray Man –the Russo brothers direct a film about a an ex-CIA agent, starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas (Netflix)
  • The Adam Project – sci-fi movie stars Ryan Reynolds as a man who goes back in time to get his younger self for help (Netflix)
  • Spaceman – sci-fi movie stars Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan (Netflix)
  • The School for Good and Evil – long-delayed young adult fantasy with Charlize Theron (Netflix)
  • Slumberland – kids fantasy adventure starring Jason Momoa and Kyle Chandler (Netflix)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front remake of novel adaptation, this time starring Daniel Bruhl (Netflix)
  • Blade of the 47 Ronin sequel to 47 Ronin, starring Mark Dacascos (Netflix)
  • Deep Water – another Ben Affleck bad marriage “erotic psychological thriller,” with Ana de Armas (Hulu).

January

The 355  Spy/thriller, starring Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Bingbing Fan, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, Sebastian Stan – January 7.

The Tender Bar – Coming of age story starring Ben Affleck and Christopher Lloyd (Amazon) – January 7.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania – Latest entry in the animated franchise (Amazon) – January 14.

Scream – Horror, the big reboot/sequel stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette – January 17.

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While moviegoers are awaiting the new trailer for DC Entertainment’s Aquaman coming this weekend from San Diego Comic-Con, studios have slipped in a few other film trailers you may want to check out:

Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown in the next installment of the franchise.

Welcome to Marwen is a Robert Zemeckis drama featuring Steve Carell as a post-trauma victim who uses action figures to re-create his lost world.

Patient Zero stars Doctor Who’s Matt Smith and Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer with the irrepressible Stanley Tucci.

And Overlord appears to be J.J. Abrams’ attempt to mash-up an M. Night Shyamalan horror thriller with Quentin Tarentino’s over-the-top World War II action flick Inglourious Basterds.

Check them all out:

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Still aren’t in the Christmas spirit yet?  With no Christmas day episode of Doctor Who this year, Netflix is filling in the gap with an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina called “A Midwinter’s Tale,” another solid episode of the series taking the story forward where the first season left off, and delving into some classic tropes of American and Victorian Christmas lore.  It’s all with the twist of the darker, horror-infused world of the show, but as Miranda Otto’s character Aunt Zelda says, “Christmas is the best time for ghost stories.”  See A Christmas Carol, as an example.

Plenty of Christmas episodes of past genre television series are available right now, most via services you may already subscribe to, others for a few dollars (and some you may find free to watch on YouTube).  How about starting with the unofficial sequel to Die Hard and Die Hard 2 starring Reginald VelJohnson (Ghostbusters, Tron: Uprising) in his third appearance as Sgt. Al Powell?  He’s one of several actors guest starring in a trilogy of Christmas episodes of Chuck, available on Amazon Prime.  First is “Chuck vs. the Crown Vic,” then VelJohnson and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) in “Chuck vs. Santa Claus,” rounded out with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Arrow) and Stan Lee in an early cameo as himself in “Chuck vs. the Santa Suit.”  But be careful, you may end up getting sucked into the rest of the series, starring Zachary Levi (Shazam!, Psych the Movie, Thor: Ragnarok), Yvonne Strahovski (The Predator, The Handmaid’s Tale), and Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Leverage, Castle).

In the same vein as Sabrina, check out Grimm with Christmas episodes “Twelve Days of Krampus” and “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas,” both available on Amazon Prime.  “Twelve Days of Krampus” provides one of the best illustrations of Krampus, the folkloric character who has been a subject of this time of year for more than 2,000 years.  Ever get coal in your stocking?  Learn more here.  And you’ll find some familiarity with the critters in “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” as the new Sabrina episode.  Each of these Grimm episodes is among the best of Christmas episodes, and overall great episodes of the series.  And if paranormal shows are your thing, don’t forget the Supernatural episode, “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”  Catch it on Netflix.  The Winchester Brothers pursue some pagan gods at Christmastime, revisit their own Christmas past, and try to share a Christmas together as only they could.

That brings us to six classic Christmas episodes.  How about six more?

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarantino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorsese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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You really can’t beat waking up to the biggest entertainment news of the year.  Yesterday the BBC teased that we’d see a reveal of the next Doctor on Doctor Who, the 13th Doctor, to take over for the lead role of the iconic 54-year science fiction franchise currently played by Peter Capaldi.  After the men’s Wimbledon final today, the BBC released the big news:  Finally, the BBC is breaking new ground, for the first time casting an actress as the next Doctor–a woman in the role played previously by 13 men on television (counting unnumbered War Doctor John Hurt), and not only a woman, but a great genre actress at that–35-year-old Jodie Whittaker, who hails from West Yorkshire.

Whittaker is best known for her starring role along with Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ John Boyega in the science fiction cult classic Attack the Block.  She also was featured in the great British ghost story series Marchlands and most recently in the drama Broadchurch.  Replacing Doctor Who’s showrunner Steven Moffat is the previously announced Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall.  Whittaker said in an announcement today, “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet….  It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor.  It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope.  I can’t wait.”

When David Tenant regenerated into Matt Smith for Smith to become the eleventh Doctor on the series, Smith’s Doctor initially thought he was female because of his hair, teasing fans a bit and planting the seed for a gender change to be coming in the near future.  “I’m a girl!” he shouted.  Also, the addition of a female Master (Michelle Gomez) in recent seasons helped prepare viewers for the change.

Check out yesterday’s teaser, followed by the big reveal:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How far back has this latest chapter in J.J. Abrams mash-up of science fiction and giant monsters been brewing?  Back to his 2011 summer coming of age release Super 8?  Like M. Night Shyamalan, all of Abrams’ projects, whether as executive producer or director or even writer-director, may not be successful, but they both take exciting risks with their projects.  Cloverfield was a well-crafted homage to Godzilla pictures.  10 Cloverfield Lane was a genre surprise, a mix of straight dramatic horror that ended up as a sci-fi monster movie.  And this week Netflix released a theatrical worthy next installment, The Cloverfield Paradox, this time providing that relentless sci-fi horror fix perfected with James Cameron’s Aliens.  And like Shyamalan’s recent thriller Split, a cool surprise is in store for viewers.

The Cloverfield Paradox is easily comparable to one of the best Doctor Who space station-based episodes (think The Waters of Mars).  In fact absent Matt Smith or David Tennant you might forget you’re not watching Doctor Who as so many tropes from Whovian space disaster episodes are weaved into the film.  And that’s a good thing for fans of the type of science fiction stories that Doctor Who tends to attract.  The cast of The Cloverfield Paradox forms a crew you wish would be around for a TV series.  Led by David Oyelowo (Star Wars: Rebels, Jack Reacher) as Commander Kiel, with physicists played by Daniel Brühl (Rush, Goodbye Lenin, Captain America: Civil War) as Schmidt and Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2) as Tam, and other crewmembers played by John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island, Alien vs. Predator), Aksel Hennie (The Martian), and Chris O’Dowd (Thor: The Dark World), the space station Cloverfield has a legitimate international crew.  But the focus is on crewmember Hamilton played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast, Jupiter Ascending), who leaves her husband (Roger Davies) back on Earth after her children die in a fire to help the scientists test a particle accelerator.  The success or failure of that test could mean a leap ahead for the planet or certain doom.

Anyone who has ever read an issue of DC Comics can understand the multi-verse science here.  Dabbling in quantum physics comes with uncertain risks, and after nearly a year of failed trials, when the station finally creates a stable particle beam, something has changed.  Leaving the audience always wondering whether this is going to be another Aliens episode or something else, the effect of the anomaly creates the stuff of The Philadelphia Experiment, smashing one reality into another.  One of the results is the appearance from another parallel universe of a Cloverfield physicist played by Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  Only Debicki’s character was not on the mission in the universe the film started out in, and as radio signals reflect an apparently altered Earth below, the loyalties of the crewmembers come into question.  It’s all great fun, and the production quality is good enough–with bonuses like crew costumes from Academy Award-winning designer Colleen Atwood–that it’s a shame audiences can’t watch this play out on a big movie theater screen.

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