Advertisements

Category: Retro Fix


We previewed Amazon Prime’s first trailer for the final season of The Man in the High Castle here back in February, and we had a glimpse at an opening scene from the first episode of season four.  Last year’s finale for the season, our pick for last year’s best sci-fi TV here at borg, featured a 1960s sci-fi scene with its own version of Stranger Things.  Another trailer is here, and this one finally confirms Chelah Holsdal′s bigger role as Helen Smith, wife of the new leader of the Nazis and former U.S. soldier, John Smith, played by Rufus Sewell.

With Germany’s move on the Japanese States thwarted, a revolution has gained traction out West, and viewers were left with series lead Alexa Davalos’s heroic leader Juliana seemingly understanding how to phase-travel like Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa′s Tagomi had done.  Helen and her girls have John Smith, and Himmler is taken down in an assassination attempt.  Yes, a lot was resolved, but we’re also set up for a big, brutal finale this next year, especially as Joel de la Fuente′s Inspector Kido gains more influence and power.  Who will win the battle for the World War II outcomes of all dimensions, the U.S., Japan, or Germany?  (Sounds like a game of Axis & Allies to us).

Is Helen Smith finally going to kill her husband John for letting her son die?  It seems likely Philip K. Dick would have approved all the updates and extensions to his novel in this show.  Here is the latest look at the final season of The Man in the High Castle:

Continue reading

Advertisements

If you wait long enough, any and every subject from the past will find its way to the big screen.  Coming next is a look at classic slapstick Punch and Judy puppet shows in the form of the new Australian movie, Judy & Punch The first trailer for the film is out, and it looks to have all the quirks of a fringe indie festival film, with some historical elements and high production value.  It stars Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, Alice in Wonderland) as Judy and Quarry and Justified’s Damon Herriman as Mr. Punch–two puppeteers trying to bring their marionette show to a strange English town.

Around since at least the 1660s, Punch and Judy shows have evolved and survived like some kind of street Shakespeare.  Ever changing to tie in the current politics or crisis of the day, the shows always feature Mr. Punch introducing the beautiful Judy, followed by antics including animal puppets like a crocodile, a dog, and a horse, and almost always a police officer or constable, a skeleton, and a baby.  The slapstick includes wrangling an unsuspecting audience, displays of showmanship, puppets dropping the baby, a horrified audience, and one or more puppet murders.

Judy & Punch is directed by first-time director Mirrah Foulkes, with production design by Josephine Ford (The Quiet Earth, War Machine, Picnic at Hanging Rock), and costumes designed by Edie Kurzer (Picnic at Hanging Rock).  Here is the trailer for Judy & Punch:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

We scuffled.  He had a gun.  So did I.  I’m alive.  He’s dead.

Twenty years before Jessica Jones, there was Ms. Tree, writer Max Allan Collins and artist Terry Beatty′s 1980s private eye with the clever homonym name.  Her husband a cop, killed by the head of a crime family, she sought her revenge and went to jail for it.  Now she’s back and the killer’s sister is looking to get her own revenge.  A private detective running her own agency, she finds her son has fallen in love with the niece of his father’s killer, the daughter of the woman who is now reaching out to her.  That’s where readers meet Ms. Tree in the first chapter of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother, a new collection of classic stories that will bring readers unfamiliar with Ms. Tree’s exploits current as she’s embroiled in her never-ending conflict with the Muerta crime family.  The 268 pages play out like a crime TV series, like Magnum, p.i. or Simon & Simon, maybe with some Rockford Files thrown in thanks to Collins’ ever-present noir style.

Ms. Tree is her own character.  She doesn’t have the quirks and antics of progenitors like Erle Stanley Gardner’s Bertha Cool or the meticulous process of a Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher.  But she does have the edginess we’d later see with Veronica Mars and Jessica Jones.  She’s a bit older, and because of Terry Beatty’s classic artistic style (reminiscent of Crime Does Not Pay and Dick Tracy), you may just wonder if she’s going to duck behind the curtains and emerge with a Miss Fury catsuit at some point.  Drawn by Beatty like a V.I. Warshawski era Kathleen Turner, she’s also not Jackie Brown–this woman plays by the rules, but the aura of her agency has that feel of Max Cherry’s agency in Elmore Leonard’s story.

With a style (in both writing and artwork) like Mike Grell’s Green Arrow, Collins populates his story with a variety of supporting characters like you’d find in the world of his Quarry series.  Characters like her friend on the police force Rafe Valer, and her colleague Dan Green, who has a hook for a hand in a call-out to J.J. Armes, the famous real-life detective in the 1970s (who had two hooks for hands).  The first book in this series, Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother, includes reprints of the stories Gift of Death, Drop Dead Handsome, The Family Way, Maternity Leave, and One Mean Mother, with an appendix featuring Collins discussing why Ms. Tree hasn’t made it to the small or big screen, and a related tie-in short story with a more modern take on the character (and without the pictures), Inconvenience Store.  Ms. Tree was featured in an earlier Hard Case Crime novel by Collins, Deadly Beloved.  In this volume Ms. Tree reads like it must have been the inspiration for Marge Gunderson’s storyline in Fargo, and the final seasons of In Plain Sight’s Mary Shannon.

Take a look at Beatty’s use of color, 1980s style, in these excerpts from the book:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

When you think of epic adventures, maybe first that comes to mind is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or George Lucas’s Star Wars.  Maybe the cinematic stories of Akira Kurosawa, like The Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, and Rashomon.  Or maybe your epic adventures are more fantasy, like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Conqueror, or historical, like Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, C.S. Forester’s Lieutenant Hornblower, or go farther back, like Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte De’Arthur, the Maya’s Popul Vuh, the Old English Beowulf, the Old Norse Poetic Edda, or even the stories of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey.  What if someone wrote an equally exciting, rich adventure in the 1950s that has been read by more than 300 million readers, and you missed it, simply because it hasn’t been translated into English yet?  That would be the first English edition just released of A Hero Born, by Jin Wong, the pen name of Chinese author Louis Cha.  His novels sold more than 300 million copies internationally over the past 60 years, but the series is finally available to U.S. readers.

Two men, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, grow up together around 1200 AD.  Becoming best friends and blood brothers, they get married and have their firstborn both due at the same time.  They swear loyalty to each other, including a vow binding the futures of their family together that will survive these men, just as intruding warriors divide and even kill members of their family, leaving the friends and their families to disperse and flee.  Enter the Seven Heroes of the South (known by their enemies as the Seven Freaks of the South).  When the two friends are feared dead, this elite Magnificent Seven of sorts, a fabulous mix of warriors with every type of skill and weapon, makes a bargain with one of the revered seven Immortals, Eternal Spring Qiu Chuji.  They will separately train the offspring of the men, and in 18 years return for a showdown to see who are the better masters or shifu.  To one of the women a boy is born, named Guo Jing, and it is his story–his mythic hero’s journey–that the reader follows in this first adventure, which takes him from birth into adulthood, toward a destiny he may not be prepared for.  Guo Jing does not know his life and training is all based on a wager.  What does it take to have honor, to have character, to be a hero, and what surprises will he stumble upon on his way to meet his destiny?

Books like A Hero Born are why we have words like “epic.”  First published in Chinese in 1957, A Hero Born is the first of 12 novels in Jin Wong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes series set in the 13th century, following the life of a family in a community under the Song Empire who escaped to join Genghis Khan and his people.  It’s hard to believe the novel wasn’t written a hundred or hundreds of years earlier, or that George Lucas didn’t base his entire Star Wars saga on this story.  Anna Holmwood′s use of prose in her translation is pure artistry–A Hero Born reads seamlessly as if the novel was originally written in English.  Holmwood conveys the meanings of the hundreds of Chinese terms without seeming to explain them, weaving cultural nuances, the unique characters, the rich history of China, the Mongols, and Jin, the Taoist philosophy, and visual kung fu choreography into easy reader understanding.  The world-building will suck readers in and leave you wanting even more.  Luckily the entire series has been translated now, to be released over the next few years.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

At last a new Nancy Drew television series has arrived, but except for the odd screencap (a quick shot of Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase, or Nancy Drew and The Secret in the Old Attic) it has little resemblance to the novels the series is based on.  Billed as a brilliant teen detective by the studio, CW’s Nancy Drew presents a heroine that is anything but, if the rest of the series is anything like the pilot episode.  If you like disinterested young adults begrudgingly solving crimes that would be solved quicker by reasonably motivated teenage kids with half a brain, then this is your show.  This is not the smart, driven hero detective beloved by generations of readers.

The pilot reveals yet another series-long mystery set-up, instead of a mystery-of-the-week a la The X-Files.  Coincidentally the pilot introduces the same kind of body-in-a-box mystery as the far more engrossing new series, Fox’s Prodigal Son (but compelling writing and acting is pulling me back for more of that series).  It even shares the same story of a split family and parents somehow conspiring (or not) over a corpse in a trunk, while tricking the younger version of the series lead that it was all a dream.  Nancy Drew unfortunately also shares a lead character much like the brooding under-achiever in this year’s new AMC mystery series NOS4A2, a series that handled strange mystery and a confused young woman protagonist more believably.

Nancy Drew is played by 23-year-old Kennedy McCann.  Sometimes a series will cast young adults for teenage roles and make it work, but McCann just doesn’t look like a high schooler (nor do her friends).  Nancy’s boyfriend is played by Tunji Fasim, and her key circle includes diner (think Twin Peaks, Riverdale, etc.) co-workers played by Maddison Jaizani, Leah Lewis, and Alex Saxon, with Nancy’s dad played by Scott Wolf, and his lover/city detective played by Alvina August.  The mystery begins with Nancy and her co-workers present as the last to see a local socialite alive–Nancy finds her dead in the diner parking lot, and everyone is hauled downtown to get interrogated.  The backdrop shuffled in is some local lore about a teenager who committed suicide by diving off a local cliff years ago, and Nancy coming to terms with her father after her mother recently died.

Continue reading

As we inch closer to Christmas, Hasbro Gaming is making its latest effort to breathe new life into its classic board games.  The new idea is mash-ups of classics, combining two games into one, which should tap into the nostalgia of long-time players.  The game company is taking its recently developed game Speak Out and its famous acquired Parker Brothers inventory Monopoly, Clue, Taboo, and Scrabble, and combining them with its celebrated former Milton Bradley games Candy Land, Connect Four, Guess Who?, Jenga, and Twister.  The result:  Hasbro Mash-Ups, some strange combinations, but new twists for family game night, all at less than $21 each retail price.

The best bet looks to be Monopoly Jenga.  This game adds some additional strategy to the wooden block game where players remove a piece of the tower one by one until the tower collapses.  The Monopoly twist is adding color-coded Monopoly properties as blocks: Railroads, Free Parking, Chance and Community Chest cards, and a Go to Jail block.  The goal?  Collect the most properties, property sets, and railroad blocks without making the tower fall.

 

The strangest is Hasbro’s Taboo Speak Out.  There’s something really creepy about a family game with mouthpieces, and the box cover art doesn’t help much.

 

Perfect for ventriloquists, but a problem for everyone else, the speaking barriers are the key twist to the fun classic Taboo game.  The rules are simple:  Give clues to get teammates to say the Taboo word on the card, without using any of the five forbidden words, all while wearing a Speak Out game mouthpiece.  Easy peasy, right?  Maybe not.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new cookbook has the recipes to get you through your travels wherever you are in the ‘Verse.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook pulls together foods seen throughout the series and some just inspired by it with lots of good in-universe commentary from Mal Reynolds and his crew.  I’ve been a fan of the sci-fi series since the San Diego Comic-Con 10th anniversary reunion (discussed here), and have reviewed every tie-in from the series released so far here at borg.  Banter of the crew is a great feature of many of the Firefly books published in the past ten years, and author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel gets all the characters right in her latest cookbook.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook is now available for all Browncoats from Titan Books–you can take a look at a preview of recipes below courtesy of Titan Books, and order a copy here at Amazon.

Among all the tie-ins, this is the first foray into the food of the series.  A great focus is placed on the types of meals that make sense in the ‘Verse for a ship’s crew, as well as Joss Whedon’s incorporation of a future filled with Asian influences.  Five-spice is a common seasoning incorporated into the recipes, along with ginger and soy sauce, and that simplicity of nomadic life that underscored the travels of Serenity come through, too, with everyday ingredients, like honey for a sweetener, and white sauce, brown sauce, and biscuits a key component.  You’ll find foods discussed on the series by the crew of Serenity, other foods tangentially seen on screen, with some added in a creative way to fill in the blanks in between.  The author includes appropriate specs for meals with simple ingredients but also some dishes from more extravagant fare (like you might find at a formal shindig on Persephone).  The only way to tell if a cookbook is good is to dig right in.  So I tested four of the recipes that appealed to me the most on paper.

First I made Simon’s Eggy Oat Mush from the Recipes for Shipboard Living section.  This turned out to be a hearty breakfast concoction, a savory oatmeal cooked with veggies, egg, and garlic.  The egg brings the flavors all together and it will fill you up for the day.  It had a unique flavor profile for anyone only accustomed to oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon or other sweeteners–different enough that you could see being stuck on a ship and coming up with this as a staple.  It took only 15 minutes to prepare, and would also make a good dinner side dish.

The prep for River’s Meat Pie could hardly have been simpler.  This recipe was in the Recipes from the Core Worlds–Underbelly section (as opposed to an “upper crust” item).  The result was a tasty dish, highlighted by the right amount of fennel, onion, and garlic, and a perfect pastry dough crust (pictured above, top).  I halved the cookbook recipe and it made four perfect hand pies, great for carrying to lunch any day of the week (think Hostess fruit pies, but savory).  The crust was well-suited for a hand pie, sturdy enough to hold everything in, yet nice and flaky.

Next up was the Blue Sun Canned Peach Cobbler:

Continue reading

Another trailer has arrived for director and auteur Martin Scorsese′s new movie The Irishman (we ran the first trailer here), this time focusing more on Al Pacino′s take on ill-fated labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and comedic actor “Everybody Loves” Ray Romano bringing his charm back to audiences as Teamsters lawyer Bill Bufalino, asking questions of Robert De Niro as one of the guys alleged to have murdered Hoffa.

At first blush, the issue with The Irishman is twofold.  First, we’ve already seen Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, etc., when they were younger, and now they have been extensively de-aged via CGI and makeup for this film.  So we know what they looked like at the ages of the characters in the film, but they didn’t look like the de-aged characters in the trailer.  Second, preview audiences that have seen the movie in theater screenings have already commented on the dreaded “uncanny valley”–that difficulty in adapting the eye to the CGI efforts to make humans look real via digital effects manipulation.

The positive is that most viewers will see The Irishman on the small screen.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s CGI re-creation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin was easier for the eye to adapt to on the small screen than in the theatrical release where more detail was present.  Maybe the same will be true for The Irishman The film is a direct-to-Netflix release, and Scorsese is a tried and true filmmaker, so audiences have nothing to lose but three-and-a-half hours (yep, this is a long one, folks).

Check out this new trailer for The Irishman:

Continue reading

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jeff Lynne is back with a new album, and if his first track is any indication, this is going to be big for fans of classic rock.  The band is Jeff Lynne’s ELO and the album is From Out of Nowhere and you can listen to the first track released from the album below.  With the original ELO (the Electric Light Orchestra) Lynne and ELO gained fame for the rock anthem Don’t Bring Me Down in the 1970s, with hits Strange Magic, Evil Woman, Mr. Blue Sky, Livin’ Thing, Xanadu, All Over the World, I’m Alive, and Last Train to London (and more) before Lynne turned his attention to becoming a successful studio producer.  He has co-produced big albums, including George Harrison’s comeback album Cloud Nine, co-writing albums with Harrison that led to the formation of rock supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, featuring Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Harrison, and Lynne.  He then co-produced Petty’s mega-hit album Full Moon Fever followed by Into the Great Wide Open, followed by records by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and more, working on albums for Joe Cocker, Aerosmith, Joe Walsh, and Brian Wilson.  If anyone knows how to put out a good album, it’s Jeff Lynne.

Have a listen and see if you agree:  The first song available for free from the new album, to be released November 1 (available today for pre-order on CD here, vinyl here, and digital/streaming here) is the title track From Out of Nowhere And it sounds just like an original Traveling Wilburys song.  His influence and long-time partnership with The Beatles is obvious.  I’d swear I can hear George Harrison echoing Lynne’s vocals, and my mind’s eye sees Tom Petty playing rhythm guitar with him on the stage.  It has the classic ELO sound but that’s probably thanks to Lynne’s unmistakably familiar voice and rhythms.  With all his work with The Beatles (minus John Lennon), with Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty, you could run this track on any of the albums Lynne produced with his peers and it would fit right in.  This song is classic Jeff Lynne.

Here’s the title track from Jeff Lynne’s ELO album From Out of Nowhere:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Heroes of the past unite for a third time under Dynamite Entertainment management, as the trade paperback edition of The Lone Ranger: The Devil’s Rope hits the stands this week.  It’s 1887 in rural Texas, and wealthy landowners who have pressed Indian interests off their native lands are now doing the same for the farmer and rancher.  Their method?  Illegally taking lands and establishing boundaries with barbed wire, while influencing political interests to allow the illegitimate squatters to shoot to kill if anyone cuts the wire on “their” lands.  Sounds like a good time for a hero.

Enter The Lone Ranger, disturbed at lunch by a stampede caused by the first shots in the conflict.  The first murder is an excuse to enlist another hero from his past, Tonto, to help him confront the heavy tide of “progress.”  Writer Mark Russell (The Snagglepuss Chronicles, The Flintstones) incorporates an innovative technological marvel to build a simple, classic Western tale of frontier America.  Equal to the writing is the artwork by the artist known as Bob Q, whose simplicity echoes the barren landscapes his characters are fighting to protect.  The artist’s best feat is the expressions of his characters.  Black hat villains are easy to hate, and provide fodder for some sporting Texas Ranger justice by the original dynamic duo.  Lettering is provided by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

You won’t find a lot of bold vision or layered storytelling here compared to past stories of The Lone Ranger, but you will find a good, easy read, reflecting plenty of truths of the robber baron era, the struggle of Americans to build a nation, and pulp and cinema heroes who never grow old.  Readers of recent Jonah Hex and Zorro stories will likely enjoy the style and story in this book.  It also has bits of action and villains like you’ve met before in 3:10 to Yuma, The Magnificent Seven, and Django Unchained.

Here is a 12-page preview of the 138-page trade edition of The Lone Ranger: The Devil’s Rope, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment:

Continue reading