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Category: Movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Both Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) tried it, but didn’t complete it in time.  Professional comic book writers and artists and especially the combination writer/artist most likely have all heard of the 24-hour comic challenge, but not everyone has given it a try.  Twenty-seven years ago comic book writer/artist Scott McCloud came up with the idea to improve his skills and speed in creating a 24-page comic book complete with story and art, which normally can take about 30 days.  The result was not so much a contest but a personal achievement challenge like running a marathon or climbing a mountain.  A new documentary titled 24 Hour Comic, directed by Milan Ercig, screened for attendees Saturday at the Marriott Grand Ballroom at San Diego Convention Center as part of San Diego Comic-Con.

Eight participants.  24 hours.  Gravitas Ventures’ 24 Hour Comic follows an event hosted at my old local comic book shop, Things from Another World, in Portland, Oregon.  24 Hour Comic is both a celebration of the Portland comic book creator scene and a close-up look at eight individuals of differing levels as they each try to meet the challenge.  Not everyone makes it to the end.  Four-time Harvey Award and Eisner Award winner Scott McCloud appears in the film, describing the origin, process, and history of the 24-hour challenge, which is hosted by comic book shops, schools, and art studios around the world, often following a designated annual 24-Hour Comic Day.  Eisner and Harvey Award winner McCloud wrote the useful guide to sequential art Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and several other comic book art texts.  He also compiled several attempts at the 24-hour comic in his book 24 Hour Comics, where he showcases the efforts of Neil Gaiman, Steve Bissette, Alexander Grecian, and others.

The rules can be found here, and are detailed in McCloud’s book.  The biggest surprise having read about the contest and several 24-hour comics over the years was that I assumed the artists used standard comic book pages, those full-sized 11×17-inch art boards.  In the film each artist uses what appears to be paper half that size, splitting each sheet into two full pages, which would seem to take less time to fill.  Ercig introduces us to his eight subjects, each in different phases of skill, from a 13-year-old girl to a 16-time participant, a web creator, a design professional, independent creators, and an ex-creator returning to give the process another try.  The final works for those who completed the challenge?  We don’t get to read the entirety of the final books from any creator in the film, but the excerpts given are surprisingly polished. Far from the frantic scribbles you might expect from anyone missing a night’s sleep to work round the clock, the comics appear professionally done, clever, and humorous, reflecting each artist’s creativity and talent.  The film is dotted with interviews by several well-known faces, including Dark Horse Comics president Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics editor-in-chief Scott Allie, cartoonist Batton Lash, and graphic novelists and digital creators Arnold and Jacob Pander.

The hour-long documentary provides a fair look at a cross section of a profession where the median income for a full-time comic book artist is about $38,896, according to the film.  Although the challenge is not a competition per se, a few participants throw about some contrived and good natured trash talk to keep the film light-hearted.  One participant had some interesting insights into the comic book profession, a bit of a creators’ quagmire: “You work on a project you don’t care about, but make good money, but you work on a project you do care about, and don’t make any money on it”–something reflected in many fields, no doubt.  This is not a time-compressed look at the 24-hour period of this challenge, but provides interviews with subjects about their status at intervals throughout the day, night, and following morning.  So to fill some of the time Ercig follows two subjects on a quick trip to Stumptown Comic Con, other subjects are interviewed at local studios or homes, and another is followed on a side trip to Seattle to discuss a commission project.  The majority shared how difficult it is to succeed in the comic book industry, and one tried and left the industry after initial success because it couldn’t pay medical bills.

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The first instinct of diehard fans of any classic book, song, TV show, film, or anything else, is to flinch at the notion of a remake or reboot of a beloved original.  For years we here at borg.com have included The Watcher in the Woods as a favorite recommendation of a ghost story.  It’s a Disney film unlike any other Disney film–the rare instance of a movie being stronger than its source material (the novel by Florence Engel Randall), a Gothic ghost story (or is it?) that may be the creepiest and scariest story the studio released, certainly the spookiest of the 1980s.  So a remake that is being released this year for the Lifetime channel being previewed at San Diego Comic-Con this year is going to hit our radar.

As a kid, the film bridged being surprising enough to get you to jump out of your seat without being an adult horror movie. As an adult, I have recommended The Watcher in the Woods to friends for children’s Halloween parties, and it’s proven still to be a hit for kids into their pre-teens.  Melissa Joan Hart, known best for her Sabrina, the Teenage Witch series, is directing the remake, and as with the original, she enlisted one of the best to ground the film, Anjelica Huston, who takes on the role made famous by Bette Davis.

The result?  Hart has at a minimum completely nailed the trailer.  In an interview below she discusses concepts kept and concepts updated.  But when you get to the trailer, any concerns for the remake pretty much vanish, like the key image of the trapped, blindfolded girl in the film.  And the creepy woods as a singular character.  In the original, “Bond girl” actress Lynn-Holly Johnson (For Your Eyes Only, Ice Castles) and Kyle Richards played the sisters with Richards at the height of her child-actor career between Halloween and Little House on the Prairie.  In Hart’s new movie, these roles are played by young actors Tallulah Evans and Dixie Egerickx.

Even if you don’t agree Hart gets this one exactly right, you’re going to watch it because it’s on cable, and why not?  Check out this nicely spooky trailer from Comic-Con:

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Thor poster comic-con 2017

In today’s Marvel panel in Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center for San Diego Comic-Con 2017, fans first learned details about Ant-Man and The Wasp.  Michelle Pieffer was confirmed to be playing Janet Van Dyne, Laurence Fishburne will be Bill Foster, Killjoys’ Hannah John-Kamen will be Ghost, and Walter Goggins will be Sonny Burch.  And we will get to see Michael Douglas don the Ant-Man suit.  Hopefully this footage will be made public soon.

Next, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, and Karl Urban all were on the panel for Thor: Ragnarok, introducing a great new trailer for the film.  In Marvel Studios third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring Thor, Thor: Ragnarok, we catch up with Hemsworth’s Thor–absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War.  Where’s the (now short) golden-haired hammer-wielder been?  In the first trailer for the film we see him imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his hammer and struggling to return to ward off the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela, played by Cate Blanchett.

Directed by Taika Waititi, produced by Kevin Feige, Thor: Ragnarok.  The movie includes newcomers Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), and Karl Urban (Skurge).

Check out this new trailer for Thor: Ragnarok:

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Although it still has that same look and feel of the recent Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–it actually looks more like last year’s Suicide Squad–Warner Bros. revealed the latest team-up trailer for Justice League today at Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center.  This time the studio is smartly leaning on the success of Wonder Woman to reveal the inclusion of Themiscyra in the movie.  We’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Batman, with his best work probably his cameos in Suicide Squad, and we’ve seen Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman this year in the first solo Wonder Woman title film.  Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash have had some screen time in various images from Warner Bros. promoting this film, and the last trailer (here) highlighted Ray Fisher’s Cyborg.  Now, in this nearly four-minute long trailer, they all get to be seen.

Justice League, another Zack Snyder creation handed off for last-minute clean-up work to Joss Whedon, arrives in theaters later this year along with Wonder Woman, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and Spider-man: Homecoming.  Will Justice League deliver enough punch to equal The Avengers?  Can Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment ever stand a chance at catching up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This is the best look at the League in trailers for the film so far.  This looks more like the work of Whedon than Snyder, or are we just hopeful?  Check it out for yourself–here’s the latest trailer for Justice League:

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We first mentioned the movie Ready Player One six years ago in our review of the Ernest Cline novel here at borg.com.  Warner Bros. kicked off Comic-Con Saturday today at San Diego Comic-Con with director Steven Spielberg, a few cast members, and the author showing the first trailer for the movie.  The audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton and currently available free here at Amazon with an Audible sign-up, has been a huge hit with fans, almost taking on a life of its own.  But how does the first preview compare to expectations?

Start counting the Easter Eggs now: Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, the Back to the Future DeLorean.  What else did you find?

Ready Player One stars X-Men: Apocalypse’s Tye Sheridan, Killjoys’ Hannah John-Kamen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Ben Mendelsohn, Star Trek and Star Wars’ Simon Pegg, and Bates Motel’s Olivia Cooke.

Here is the official HD version shown at Comic-Con, Warner Bros.’ first trailer for Ready Player One:

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Visitors to San Diego Comic-Con this weekend have a chance to view screen-used costumes from three popular sci-fi franchises.  Disney, CBS, and the Prop Store have each created displays to showcase movie costumes for fans.  Three Star Wars characters from Star Wars: The Last Jedi are represented in the Star Wars pavilion at booth #2913 inside the convention hall.  The Prop Store is featuring one Serenity costume set to sell at auction at a later date, on display at booth #3845.  And CBS gives those not attending SDCC 2017 an opportunity to check out a dozen new Star Trek: Discovery costumes at the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery in San Diego.

Inside the convention center, the Star Wars display features Resistance pilot uniforms for Poe Dameron, Nien Nunb, and Dameron’s wingman, Abednedo alien C’ai Threnalli, as well as one of the film’s BB-8 droids.  At the Prop Store display, several costumes from various movies and TV series are on display, including one of the Malcolm Reynolds costumes used in the Firefly TV series sequel Serenity, worn by Nathan Fillion.

 

At the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery, Star Trek fans can see a display of new Starfleet, Klingon, and Vulcan costumes and props from Star Trek: Discovery, and get a photo sitting in one of three originals of the captain’s chair used in the new series.  Costumes include a new Starfleet EVA spacesuit and one of James Frain’s costumes worn as Sarek in the series.  New Starfleet props of the tricorder, phaser, and rifle echo original series props, where Klingon bladed and disruptor props are entirely new, reflecting a more ornate design scheme than fans have seen before.  Intimidation is clearly key to the new Klingons, who still sport their cloven-toed boots and familar tradition–small etched lettering on the knife blade on one d’k tagh blade states in Klingonese, “There is honor in death.”

Binderup trek 3

Check out a few photos:

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We’re running down several trailers released to start off San Diego Comic-Con this week.  One trailer defines what Comic-Con is all about, as Stan Lee looks at the Netflix series based on his creations.  The best trailer is Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, the fantasy director’s next monster movie, this time featuring his own take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Another good trailer is what plays out as a commercial for the giant robot “Jaegers” in a first look at the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, including star John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Attack the Block).  Below you’ll also find trailers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Natalie Portman in Planetarium, and the fantasy world version of the AlienNation buddy cop trope, Netflix’s Bright, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton.

We’re also including several trailers from the past week to get you caught up.  These include A Wrinkle in Time, Mary Poppins Returns, Blade Runner 2049, a teaser for The Incredibles 2 (sort of), and a Blu-ray preview for Gifted starring Chris Evans.

So let’s get started with The Shape of Water:

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “unfair” repeated more on the Internet.  At San Diego Comic-Con this week Radio Flyer–the classic wagon company–revealed its latest kids’ toy, Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder.  You can hear adults everywhere gasping–trying to decide whether they are willing to be jealous of their kids–and buying them one.

It’s pricey, listing at $499.  But–WOW–does it look like fun, even if it’s not really a hovercraft.  Here is the marketing description from Radio Flyer:

Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder by Radio Flyer is modeled after the sand-pocked and sun-faded X-34 craft from Star Wars: A New Hope. With seats for 2 riders, an interactive dashboard with lights and real movie sounds, and a 5 mph driving speed, this speeder provides a truly galactic driving experience. 

Here is a promotional video of the Landspeeder in action:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This weekend sci-fi and fantasy fans finally get to see French director Luc Besson’s singular vision decades in the planning as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets arrives in theaters.  An adaptation of the fifty-year-old, popular, French comic book series Valerian and Laureline, the film delivers in a magnificent, grandiose way only Besson could deliver.  As with his sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, Besson–who also directed Lucy, The Professional, and La Femme Nikita–has added another genre-defining film to the list of must-see sci-fi movies.  If there’s any criticism due, it may be that the film in places is too much like The Fifth Element, but where Valerian falls short, it makes up for it with wall to wall action and alien creations that look nothing like anything Hollywood has ever produced.  It’s rounded out with spectacular production design by Hugues Tissandier (Lucy, Taken, The Transporter) and a riveting score by composer Alexandre Desplat (The Golden Compass, Argo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

  • Best use of 3D cinematography in a movie to date?  Check.
  • Best visual depiction of strange new worlds and new alien life in a film to date?  Check.
  • Best hold-onto-your-seats spaceship rides through these strange new places?  Check.

Credit Besson, WETA Digital, Industrial Light and Magic, and hundreds of other visual effects, special effects, make-up, costume and prop creators–Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks like nothing you’ve seen.  Combine 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and The Fifth Element, and you’ll have an idea of Besson’s big screen epic filled with all sorts of wonderful images.

Valerian is a snapshot of a day in progress in the life of two cocky space pilots.  The leads are two attractive, snarky and sassy, young and very modern, would-be lovers in a typical “will they or won’t they” set up–Valerian, played by Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-man 2, True Blood), and Laureline, played by model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad, Anna Karenina).  Besson peppers the landscape of the big action sequences with the bare threads of their relationship, showing us if their relationship has room to be anything else beyond mere partners.  Beyond their through-line is a race to uncover the mystery behind an Avatar-inspired race of willowy peacelovers ravaged by war.  How are they related to a vision seen by Valerian, and are these peaceful people really the good guys or the bad guys?  But most of the time Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets is a non-stop rollercoaster ride as the leads assemble clues and rescue each other a time or two, as they try also to rescue a missing commander and uncover the mystery behind two unusual items in their possession: a rare magical pearl and a wide-eyed, pint-sized creature with extraordinary abilities.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It is a study in East meets West, or at least it tries really hard to be.  Visually The Great Wall will likely be the most beautiful film you see this year.  The worldbuilding is on a grand scale, epic, and worthy of the historic monumental icon of China.  The intelligently thought out military structure and interplay of weapons, color, purpose, props, and costumes is second perhaps only to Peter Jackson’s Tolkien world fantasy films.  The costumes are exquisite–detailed, rich, stylized, ornate, and simply phenomenal.  But like many big movies this year, it is a weak story that keeps The Great Wall from its potential.

If you’re a fan of classic action films from China, you will have no problem jumping right into the action of The Great Wall.  But if you’re easily distracted by new things, you probably should skip this one.  Its style of storytelling and dialogue are unique for a mainstream Western release so it is understandable why the film had problems attracting audiences here, even beyond all of the politics that accompanied its release (the objection of some in Matt Damon’s lead role, a Caucasian lead in a medieval, epic story about China–whitewashing as discussed with respect to Doctor Strange–similar to criticisms when Tom Cruise was the lead in a Japanese-focused story in The Last Samurai).  And if you don’t like subtitles, you probably won’t be drawn to The Great Wall.  But you’d be missing something spectacular.  So many features make the biggest budget film in China’s history worthy of at least one viewing.

You’ll find much telling instead of showing, something better films of the Western tradition endeavor to avoid.  You’ll witness soldiers marveling at what by all counts is an epic military battle, but then they actually state as much.  It’s a quirky thing that will probably make the average Western moviegoer shudder a bit.  Yet if you look beyond the almost characteristically Eastern movie abrupt dialogue shifts, interspersed tangent story elements and nonlinear style, you’ll find some great takeaways.  Like one of the year’s best, badass heroines in Tian Jing’s swashbuckling Commander-turned-General Lin Mae–a powerful dragon killer in command of the entire Chinese army whose cliff-diving daredevilry and death-defying air balloon war machines evoke the best World War II movie action sequences.  The martial arts stuntwork is like that of no other movie this year.  The special effects are impressive, especially the interplay of set construction and battle scenes and heretofore unseen methods of combat and destruction used to defend the wall.  The purely CGI creations–WETA and Industrial Light & Magic’s mythic Tao Tei dragons–look real, and they even have their own layered culture with the ability to plan an intelligent battle strategy.

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