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Category: Sci-Fi Café


Review by C.J. Bunce

Today a new young heroine arrives in the pages of a graphic novel called Scoop.  In Volume 1 with the first story arc titled “Breaking News,” we meet Sophie Cooper, a 14-year-old Cuban-American high school student in Miami.  It’s not the red hair and freckles that make her an outsider, it’s her dad.  He’s under investigation by a local bank for money laundering–under house arrest he’s trapped in his own home with an ankle monitor, while Sophie’s mother serves as a lawyer in the mayor’s office.  Sophie is ostracized by her peers at school and decides to take an internship with a local TV station in the hopes that she can learn something to help prove her dad is not what everyone says he is.  Sophie can’t help but make friends along the way, including a has-been TV anchor at the least popular station in town, who proves to be more valuable than she could have imagined.  While investigating a lead they encounter a strange otherworldly force that wrecks his car, and an undersea creature who helps her escape a pursuer who thinks she is getting too close to the truth.

“Scoop” becomes Sophie Cooper’s clever handle, her nickname (the first letter of her first name and first four letters of her last name), assigned to her by the news station.  Scoop has the framework to become the next Liv Moore from iZombie or Veronica Mars.  Sophie gravitates more toward the Veronica Mars angle–your basic teen crime detective–since this first volume primarily introduces the main characters, but writer Richard Hamilton and artist Joseph Cooper plant the seeds for a supernatural, X-Files-inspired future for the teen sleuth.

The imagery features a dose of Burn Notice style from the investigation plot, Miami setting, and locals that pop up in the series’ first 96 pages.  Also like iZombie, this is a story and characters not springing from a major comic book universe, so anyone can climb onboard from page one.  Sophie Cooper is exactly the kind of character you might see show up in a year or two on the CW Network, engaging and bright, with her precocious younger brother as an assistant she can tap into the latest technology to hone her investigative skills.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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Everybody who has ever loved a car can see something of themselves in the trailer for the latest film in the Hasbro Transformers movie series.  If you’ve ever seen an old car on its last wheel and thought there was something more to be brought back, then the young Oscar-nominated actor Hailee Steinfeld is you in the first trailer for this year’s Christmas release of BumbleBee.  In the same way that R2-D2 and BB-8, or Number Five, or WALL-E, or CHAPPiE, or Marvin, or Iron Giant, were made lovable in their iconic sci-fi films, Paramount and Hasbro are turning back the clock, scrapping the Michael Bay model that audiences have been tiring of, based on box office trending in the franchise.  Less action, more heart.

It’s a car, but it might as well be alive.  And better yet, BumbleBee–that classic toy yellow Volkswagen Beetle turned Optimus Prime-protector–is returning to its VW roots as this film shows him back in 1987, instead of the Camaro incarnation we saw in the movies.  Whether he is your favorite Transformer or whether that honor falls to Optimus Prime, this new film may be just the thing to jumpstart the franchise.

Steven Spielberg is again executive producer.  This entry looks more like a Spielberg picture than more recent sequels.  In case you missed it, here’s the trailer for BumbleBee:

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The second trailer for The Predator is out, and this time we get some clips of the latest incarnation of the classic intergalactic headhunter in action.  20th Century Fox released the first full movie trailer for the autumn release of The Predator in May, and the studio’s buzz for the alien’s return is now gearing up.  Cinematographer Larry Fong (Watchmen, Super 8, Kong: Skull Island) has said audiences shouldn’t expect a CGI-heavy film (like those recently flooding cinemas), but more old-school practical effects including a live-action Predator as seen in the original film.  From this new trailer, it looks like that means not just one–but at least two–Predators.

Although we initially surmised that the film would disregard the 21st century sequels, it looks like director Shane Black (who played the joking marine in the original Predator) is merely setting the film between 1990’s Predator 2 and 2010’s Predators.  The role of Jake Busey places the new film 30 years after the first sequel.  He plays the son of the character played by his dad, actor Gary Busey, in Predator 2.  The new trailer shows more of Boyd Holbrook, who played the cyborg villain of last year’s Oscar-nominated film Logan, and Sterling K. Brown, who played the king’s brother in Black Panther and the defendant in Marshall.

Other actors appearing in the movie include Lochlyn Munro (Riverdale), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, Dexter, The Handmaid’s Tale), Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse, Iron Man 2), Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland), Thomas Jane (Buffy the Vampire SlayerCrow: City of Angels), Trevante Rhodes (Westworld), and Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica).

Now check out this new trailer for The Predator:

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Everything is awesome.  

… and it looks like everything will be awesome again as Warner Bros. just posted the first trailer for the sequel to the surprise hit The Lego Movie, titled The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.  Five years have passed since Taco Tuesday, when mild-mannered Lego man Emmet Brickowski and his friend Lucy saved the day for Bricksburg using the Piece of Resistance, partnering with the Master Builders to defeat the evil Lord Business–and stopping the dreaded Kragle.  Now Emmet and his friends must face a new threat:  Lego Duplo invaders from outer space.

They come in pieces.

Strange new musical worlds are in store for our friends (courtesy of one of filmdom’s great composers, Mark Mothersbaugh).  The lead voice actors are back: Chris Pratt–the star of every other blockbuster this year (Emmet), Elizabeth Banks (Lucy), Will Arnett (Lego Batman), Alison Brie (UniKitty), Channing Tatum (Superman), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Nick Offerman (MetalBeard), and of course Charlie Day as Benny, the space-obsessed cracked-helmet hero.  They will be joined by new characters Sweet Mayhem (played by Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Stephanie Beatriz), Ice Cream Cone (Broad City‘s Arturo Castro), and Queen Whatevra (The Secret Life of Pets 2’s Tiffany Haddish).

   

With a film full of franchise tie-in characters and plenty of heart, The Lego Movie was a fabulous family movie, which led to The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie, plus at least 80 episodes of the current Cartoon Network animated series, UniKitty!  Warner Bros. also released the first poster for the film in advance of the trailer (above).

Check out this awesome trailer for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part:

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A month ago here at borg.com we discussed looking outside the comic book medium for the artwork of your favorite comic book artists.  You don’t need to look too far outside of comic books to find the next great artwork from fan-favorite cover artist Ryan Sook.  Every year just in advance of San Diego Comic-Con, comic book stores are stocked with the annual update to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.  First published in 1970, the 1,200 page log of nearly every comic book published to-date arrives at its 48th volume this summer, dated 2018-2019.  Known as the go-to guide for prices for a generation of collectors, Robert M. Overstreet’s book of prices and thumbnail photos is also a source to glean what’s happened in the past year by way of comic book trends.  It features its own hall of fame for comic book legends, plus full-color sections highlighting some of today and yesteryear’s best covers.

For this year’s comic book store exclusive hardcover edition, Gemstone Publishing tapped Ryan Sook to create a cover to commemorate 50 years of Planet of the Apes films.  Sook reached beyond the original to reflect imagery from throughout the Planet of the Apes movie saga– a great homage to the original shocking environment as Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor arrives in the future horrifying world of human scarecrows, with General Ursus leading the charge and the creepy denizens in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the return to the past by spaceship for the apes in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, to the militant world and apes under arrest in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, culminating with the eagerly-awaited first appearance of The Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  The familiar image of Roddy McDowall behind John Chambers’ Oscar-worthy make-up takes center stage–McDowall connects all of the films alternately as Cornelius and Caesar (and later as Galen in the TV series), and here he cleverly blocks the identity of the planet.

You can only purchase this edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in comic book stores, so put in a call to Elite Comics to make sure you get a copy when this new edition arrives in July.

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Fans of pop culture and comics have one more day to attend the fourth annual Wizard World Comic Con in Des Moines this weekend.   Held at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines, thousands of attendees from Iowa and neighboring states toured the halls and giant celebrity autograph and photo-op room, many in cosplay garb Friday and Saturday.  Even more people are expected to turn out for the show Sunday as Wizard World rolls out a “bring a friend free” promotion.  The show continues today 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Check out the event website here for more information.  Wizard World continues its national presentation of comic book and pop culture conventions next week as the show moves on to Columbus, Ohio.  After the success of the first two days of this year’s event in Des Moines, the fifth Wizard World Des Moines show is already being planned by show organizers for next year, to be held May 10-12, 2019.

Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Black Panther’s Winston Duke, and many other celebrities talked with fans in the show’s celebrity row signing area.  Comic book creators talked about books, and autographed books and art for fans.  We loved this new Green Arrow print from guest comic book creators Phil Hester and Ande Parks (with color by Mouse Baumann):

Even more than 20 years after the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, James Marsters (Spike) maintained a steady stream of fans waiting in line to meet him all day Saturday:

Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols returned to the Midwest.  Here she is being interviewed at the event for a local radio station:

Genre actor Jim Beaver (Supernatural, The X-Files, Deadwood, Enterprise) met and signed autographs for crowds of fans:

Nationally-known comic book creators were well-represented at this show.  Artist Phil Hester returned to Wizard World–here he is featured on the creator stage demonstrating illustration techniques:

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Back for another four episodes, the documentary-style series about toy lines and toy companies of the past The Toys That Made Us is now streaming on Netflix with its Season 2.  As with the first four episodes reviewed here at borg.com in January, the series really isn’t a show for kids, but a behind-the-scenes account of the good and the bad of the history of the toy business.  Because of the toy lines covered in this short Season 2–LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Star Trek–expect a more international flavor to the show’s coverage than of Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Barbie, and Masters of the Universe.  You can’t get around the fact that this is about business and business politics, with the added opportunity for those who just want to spot their very favorite toy of their youth to shout out during at least one of the episodes, “I had one of those!”

Back is the sugar-coated dialogue of the enthusiastic narrator Donald Ian Black.  The series continues to be of value mostly for the gold nuggets nestled within its lighthearted framework.  Excerpts of an interview with former Mego President Marty Abrams tops the list.  Despite the high highs and the low lows of his days leading Mego, Abrams seems to have been in the middle of a great time for the toy biz, seen in the first of the new episodes, where he admits passing up the deal to secure the valuable Star Wars account, supposedly for being out-of-town at the time.  The episode of Transformers is surprisingly emotional, including interviews with Optimus Prime himself, lo-o-o-ong-time animated film voice actor Peter Cullen (who was also the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore), and the much revered Hideaki Yoke, the Japanese company Takara’s lead designer responsible for the brilliant puzzle-piece designs of the vast Transformers line of characters.  As with Masters of the Universe, comic books were important to the development and success of Transformers, and viewers will learn Hello Kitty originated with comic book artists.  The most unexpected storytelling may come from the Hello Kitty episode.  Hello Kitty, a Japan-originated phenomenon turned international craze not tied to any book, TV series, or film, benefited from the coup of celebrities using the products publicly (without paying endorsement fees).  The discussion of the Japan cultural concept of kawaii and its relationship to the development of the Hello Kitty brand, character, and mythos will come as a surprise to most.

For Star Trek fans the episode featuring the franchise’s toy pursuits might have a few surprises.  Yes, that crazy Spock and Kirk helmet from the 1960s rears its ugly head again.  It’s too bad the show feels the need to explain what each franchise is first (we probably wouldn’t be watching if we didn’t), because fans would probably instead rather hear more about subjects the show creators didn’t leave time for.  We were looking for a discussion of the advance release of a line of Star Trek Generations action figures with costume styles that were changed before the film was released (a rare mishap), coverage of the very extensive (and once popular) line of attractive 12-inch scale action figures, the scope of the segment of Playmates company toys featuring characters from not only the series (discussed) but the movies through Star Trek: First Contact, and a little about the “why” of decisions behind toy releases, like why every NextGen line seemed to have two different Worf figures.  From the LEGO segment viewers learn a comprehensive overview of the company, plus some interesting bits like the fact that the early color scheme was directly inspired by the artist Mondrian, and that the outer space series caused the modern line of toys to really take off.  LEGO goes back some 80 years, and the history of the town that made it famous and impact of the brand is a great piece of history.  As with the rest of the episodes business and marketing trends are a great focus, and the 1958 LEGO patent for the interlocking brick–and loss of the patent–is part of that.

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Wizard World has added some major celebrities from genredom’s biggest franchises to this weekend’s event in Des Moines, previewed here at borg.com earlier this month.  David Tennant, one of Scotland’s greatest acting talents, has joined the slate of guests at the show.  Tennant is probably the most famous of the 21st century era stars of BBC’s Doctor Who, plus he has appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Blackpool, as the villain in Season One of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and he’s currently starring in Dean Devlin’s film Bad Samaritan, now in theaters.

He played the only Hobbit who could be trusted with the One Ring: Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, actor Elijah Wood is heading to Wizard World.  Wood starred as Frodo Baggins in both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, he appeared in Tron: Uprising, Sin City, Treasure Island with Eddie Izzard, and most recently he starred in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.  Also from The Lord of the Rings, Billy Boyd is scheduled to attend this weekend’s show.  Boyd played Frodo’s Hobbit friend Pippin and he appeared with Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, among other movies and TV shows.

Along with previously announced creators including Phil Hester, Ande Parks, and Chad Hardin, Wizard World has added guests Ant Lucia, DC Bombshells creator and artist, New Challengers and Bionic Man writer Aaron Gillespie, and writer Jai Nitz, El Diablo co-creator (with show guest Phil Hester) and writer of Dream Thief, Toshiro, and other comic books.

Wizard World Comic Con events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture, movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, and collectibles.  This is the fourth year for Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.

Show hours are Friday, June 1, 2018, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, June 2, 2018, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 3, 2018, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult admission.

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