Category: Sci-Fi Café


Joseon has become a living hell.
No one will get out alive.
“We must stop it at all costs.”

Director Kim Seong-hun hid the secret to the cause of the zombie plague in the Netflix series Kingdom in plain sight, taking the first season to reveal its secret.  In season two the Crown Prince at last will return to confront his father and the clan of thugs that have kept him under guard, but not before the dead evolve into something worse.  The first South Korean series released by Netflix, Kingdom will see its second season arrive on the streaming provider next month, and Netflix has released its trailer (watch it below).  Sprouting from a well-documented, mysterious plague that killed tens of thousands of people in Hanyang (present-day Seoul) during the 19th century Joseon dynasty, the series transports the viewer to a fully realized Korea of the past, complete with opulent sets, costumes, and production values said to have cost nearly $2 million per episode.  The result matches a stunning script (based on a web series by Kim Eun-hee, who counts herself a zombie aficionado and proves it with this series), top acting from a slate of South Korea’s most award-winning actors, and cinematography showing locations most Westerners have never seen, with an exciting Braveheart of the Far East meets The Walking Dead genre action feast.

In the first season the king came down with smallpox, and on his death bed his latest wife, a young pregnant queen (played by Kim Hye-jun) schemed with her father and the king’s supposed confidante, Lord Cho (Masquerade’s Ryu Seung-ryong), to seize control of the throne, conspiring with Cho’s embedded clan of thugs to shun the true heir, the Crown Prince, played by Ju Ji-hoon (The Spy Gone North) as an earnest, Henry V-inspired leader.  The Crown Prince’s tough (and humorous) lieutenant  is back, assisting him on his journey, played by Sang-ho Kim (Octopus), with the doctor who joined them, played by Doona Bae (Jupiter Ascending), and the mysterious rifle-trained warrior, played by Kim Sung-kyu.  His past was the biggest secret that was left up in the air at the end of season one.

Deception.  Murder.  Conspiracy. 

We named Kingdom the best horror series and best import in our end of year wrap-up here at borg last year (read our full review here).  A prince who above all else looks to protect his people and lead them.  Swords and bow and arrow, and early rifles, as the only means of defense.  Gorgeous, truly cinematic imagery.  Western viewers got an incredible look at a beautiful island, forests, waterfalls, bubbling brooks, palatial estates, lakes and mountain views probably never captured for a wide modern audience, thanks to some stunning cinematography.  Fog, night, and fire eerily presented among cinematic storyboarded action sequences.  The music a blending of traditional, medieval, Eastern themes, and sweeping programmatic action movie cues.  The production sets and artistry are probably matched only by History’s Vikings of the current historical and fantasy TV series available.  And the expected horror of the zombie genre–sword beheadings were never filmed so believably.

Here is the trailer for season two of the big budget, cinematic television series, Kingdom:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

TKO Studios is the new comic book publisher that surprised the industry early this year with an entirely new way to entertain readers.  They release four books at once in a binge format paralleling Netflix TV streaming shows, and they offer each story available in a trade paperback edition and as six separate comic book issues in a boxed set.  Readers buy whichever format appeals to them.  The last positive is the publisher’s slightly oversized format, a size that allows more artwork space per page while still feeling like a comic book.  But this is all formatting.  The substance doesn’t pull any punches, with TKO bringing in some familiar, beloved writers and artists for their first round (check out our reviews of those series linked below).  So does the second round measure up to the first? It was worth the wait, and fans will be pleased.

We’ll begin with Eve of Destruction, a zombie survival story in the vein of The Walking Dead, but mixing in several other influences and concepts along the way.  The story is written by TKO’s CEO and co-publisher Salvatore A. Simeone and Steve Simeone, with lettering by Ariana Maher.  The heavy lifting comes from artists Nik Virella, Isaac Goodhart, and Ruth Redmond who fill six issues with non-stop action.  And if you’re a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing, you might agree the creatures have more than a little in common with that horror film.

 

On the night of an important school dance, a girl’s separated parents, both women, are feuding over how each is contributing to the parenting the girl.  A hurricane is closing in off the coast, and with it comes a change in biology fueled by changes in the Earth’s environmental conditions that are triggered by this new storm.  The nature of the threat is specific and unusual–it is only targeting men and boys, and the results are on track to produce a kind of extinction forecasted in the title.  Although it could be a story about feminism, it doesn’t have any time to even broach the ramifications of this threat.  This is a story about survival in the first hour of a disaster.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The first season of Netflix’s imported series Glitch is so well done, it’s easy to compare it to the first season of TV’s Lost–another genre-bending series that held enough back that viewers never quite knew the secrets behind the strange happenings to an unusual assemblage of characters.  That’s the good and bad part about Glitch, because by the end of the second season the story loses its way and ultimately doesn’t deliver the payoff the first season deserved.  That said, a great cast of Australian actors, including some familiar faces from the Star Wars franchise, and great mystery and intrigue ultimately make the series worth watching despite its drawbacks.  Something wicked this way comes–again–to Australia, co-starring Emma Booth, the lead in the Starz series The Gloaming.  When officer James Hayes appears one night at a cemetery in his small town of Yoorana, Victoria, who could know that people would begin pulling themselves out of their graves?  Is this a zombie show or something with more to say about humans and the world?  It’s not the payoff but the journey that is so much fun in this 2015-2019, three-season, 18-episode tale now streaming on Netflix.

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So many continuing genre TV shows!  CW’s iZombie, Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Riverdale.  Then we have all the fantasy genre shows like Vikings, Outlander, and Game of Thrones.  There’s The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and The 100.  HBO’s sci-fi series Westworld.  And new superhero shows–Black Lightning, The Defenders, and Gifted.

What do they all have in common?

All 16 were featured in panels this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con.  And each has a new trailer or special Comic-Con video recap leading into the next season.  The winner?  Check out yesterday’s exciting trailer for Stranger Things, season 2, (shown here at borg.com) which seems to eclipse them all.  But from today’s list make sure you watch Netflix’s The Defenders–if you liked any of the other Netflix Marvel series, this will be a must-see.  And the four minutes of iZombie is a great recap of fun TV.

So let’s get on with it.  Watch your favorites or check out all of them, straight from Comic-Con 2017:

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Last night the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films held the 44th annual Saturn Awards, honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres, held in Burbank, California.  Coming into last night’s presentation, Black Panther was nominated in 14 categories, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was nominated in 13 categories, and Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water were each nominated in nine categories.  In television, The Walking Dead led the nominations with seven, followed by Star Trek: Discovery with five.  You can never predict who and what will win at the Saturn Awards, but you can be sure they will be very fandom-centric picks.

Black Panther led the night with four wins, for Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release, Best Director (Ryan Coogler), Best Supporting Actress (Danai Gurira), and Best Make-up.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi followed with three wins, for Best Actor (Mark Hamill), Best Writing, and Best Editing.  In television, because of the Awards’ split between traditional TV shows and streaming shows, the expected suspects came out on top: The Flash and Marvel’s The Punisher as best superhero shows, and The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery each winning awards.  But the most wins was a tie, with three awards each for Better Call Saul and Twin Peaks: The Return.

Here are all the winners and nominees:

Movie Awards

Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release
Winner:  Black Panther
Nominees:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Logan
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Wonder Woman

Best Science Fiction Film Release
Winner:  Blade Runner 2049
Nominees:
Alien: Covenant
Life
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Fantasy Film Release
Winner:  The Shape of Water
Nominees:
Beauty and the Beast
Downsizing
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Kong: Skull Island
Paddington 2

Best Horror Film Release
Winner: Get Out
Nominees:
47 Meters Down
Annabelle: Creation
Better Watch Out
It
Mother!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not many sequels match the original.  One of those rare gems is Happy Death Day 2U, an impressive, hilarious, amped-up horror meets sci-fi version of the original horror comedy featuring one of our favorite tropes: time loops.  The first look audiences had of a sequel to the October 2017 surprise hit Happy Death Day was the trailer in front of the 40th anniversary screening of Halloween in October 2018, receiving overwhelming positive feedback.  Director Christopher Landon’s 2019 sequel is so well-written, so well-acted by star Jessica Rothe, it may be better than the original, and it’s good enough to warrant an ongoing horror franchise on the scale of the Final Destination series.  The movie revisits Teresa “Tree” Gelbman, a strong, quick-thinking college student who keeps waking up to the same day, learning she must save not only herself but her friends from a freakish masked killer.  Yes, Happy Death Day 2U is Tru Calling meets Groundhog Day, but this time it suggests why the events of the first film happened, with the addition of some of clever sci-fi in the vein of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

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Captain Kirk, The Fonz, Chewbacca, The Flash, Starbuck, the Weasleys, two Supermans, Tank Girl, and a slate of characters from The Princess Bride are heading to Kansas City

For twenty years Planet Comicon has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  And it’s only gotten bigger.  Last year’s show featured guests including Jason Momoa, John Cusack, Michael Rooker, Danny Trejo, and Alan Tudyk, and this year Planet Comicon Kansas City is bringing in some of the most memorable names from TV and movies from the past and present for its 20th anniversary show.  Leading things off, Captain (and Admiral) James T. Kirk, William Shatner is returning to Kansas City for the annual event, which takes place at Kansas City’s convention center at Bartle Hall, March 29-31, 2019.

The guy who invented cool, the first person to “jump the shark,” Arthur Fonzarelli “The Fonz” from Happy Days actor Henry Winkler is making his first comic-con appearance in Kansas City.  Star of last year’s big Star Wars event, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo is scheduled to attend.  Star of one of the best sci-fi TV series of all time–the reboot of Battlestar Galactica–Starbuck actor Katee Sackhoff will be appearing at the show.  Two co-stars of the CW’s The Flash will be on-hand for autographs and photographs: Danielle Panabaker and the original 1990 Flash, John Wesley Shipp, both attending the event for the first time.  And for more of your superhero retro fix, two Superman actors, Lois & Clark’s Dean Cain and Smallville star Tom Welling, will have autograph booths on the convention floor.

Famous for her role as Tank Girl, and star of A League of Their Own and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, actor/director Lori Petty will be in the house.  Harry Potter fans can meet actors that portrayed three of their favorite Weasleys: Ginny Weasley’s Bonnie Wright, and brothers Fred and George, James Phelps and Oliver Phelps.  Also in the fantasy movie realm, three stars of The Princess Bride are making their way to Planet Comicon 2019:  Westley’s Cary Elwes will join Prince Humperdinck’s Chris Sarandon and the inconceivable Vizzini himself, actor Wallace Shawn.

–there’s something for every TV and movie fanboy and fangirl at this year’s show.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

An overlooked 2018 sci-fi adventure mini-series is making its way to a trade collected edition tomorrow.  The six-issue story arc in Image Comics/Skybound’s Stellar is a mix of good sci-fi concepts and action-adventure imagery.  You’ll find big-eyed aliens similar in design to the villainous hunter Zando-Zans of The Last Starfighter, a rundown future world bent on destruction like in Firefly, fast-paced action and characters like that of Syfy’s Killjoys, and a lead heroine called Stellar who is stuck out of time, with a past and future hidden from her, evoking recent years’ Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel stories.

Writer Joseph Keatinge (PopGun, Shutter) takes on a surprisingly complex idea created by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Marc Silvestri (Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine) and delivers the kind of story that belongs in the graphic novel format.  Stellar moves from place to place, from time to time.  She pursues the evil Zenith, an alien monster she believes to be the cause of destruction in her future.  Or is he pursuing her?  She’s moving through time, encountering those who may be able to help her unravel the twisted time loop she seems to be stuck inside.

The pretty, futuristic stylings and color choices by artist Bret Blevins result in a standout read visually.  And Keatinge pulls elements in from all kinds of sci-fi stories to create uncertainty and doubt.  Readers will ask “what’s going on here?” more than once, with an ending that is both satisfying and interesting.  It’s not the kind of tale that needs a sequel, the complete story is right there.

Here are some preview pages of Stellar, courtesy of Image/Skyborne:

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Love and Monsters a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Initially marketed as Monster Problems, Love and Monsters is a surprise sleeper hit apocalypse movie, also marketed as an adventure comedy, which puts it into the camp of movies like the Jumanji series and Finding ‘Ohana.  It was scheduled for release last April, then delayed to late 2020 because of the pandemic, and you probably missed it.  Which is now a good thing, because it’s a nicely timed story about survival–namely surviving a big event and getting to the other side of that event, being able to breathe freely again, at least at some level.  Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, and Michael Rooker, it’s a monster movie so well done it is nominated for a visual effects Oscar in tonight’s Academy Award ceremony.  It’s now streaming on Vudu, Amazon, and DVD/Blu-Ray.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After its first episode back in 2015, we called it “your next favorite TV series.”  This week iZombie saw its last episode.

Rob Thomas hasn’t directed the blockbuster movies or gained the same fame, but he’s filled in the gaps on television for genre fans where Joss Whedon left off.  Along with giving us Veronica Mars (and refusing to let the world of Neptune, California, fade into TV history), Thomas brought Liv Moore and the post-apocalyptic zombie world of iZombie to life, a bigger and better heroine than the one found in the original Chris Roberson and Michael Allred comics.  That was thanks to New Zealand actor Rose McIver, whose versatility and charm took her from roles in Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Legend of the Seeker to create one of our newest favorite superheroes.  And with Thursday night’s fifth season and series finale episode it’s all over now, yet still leaving plenty of opportunity for future episodes, series, a film, or novels, just as Thomas has provided for his sleuth Veronica Mars.

Can the middle–the place of reason our heroes are striving to fight for–survive the extremism from both sides of the ongoing struggle?  In the finale, “All’s Well that Ends Well,” Thomas brings everything full circle, wrapping up every last plot thread for Liv, Major, Clive, Ravi, Peyton, Dale, Blaine, and Don E.  But he throws an eleventh hour wrench into the plot–the cure for zombies won’t help the kids with Fröhlich’s syndrome.  Are they doomed either way?  As always, Thomas leaves plenty of room for fun–the actors and characters, the banter, and that chemistry, that made iZombie so good for five seasons.  Along with McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, Rahul Kohli, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Bryce Hodgson, and Jessica Harmon formed probably the best ensemble cast on network genre TV.

A perfect series finale is a reminder of how iZombie matched the success of Grimm in so many ways, and filled the void left by that show so well.  iZombie also improved with each of its five seasons, and exponentially improved in its final season–as Grimm did–once the end of production was in sight, complete with the year’s best hour of TV, the noir send-up episode “Night and the Zombie City.”  Series like these prove that when ratings aren’t the only driving force and creators have freedom to take characters in new directions, audiences are in store for a real treat.

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