Category: Superheroes


We’ve seen Disney go back to the well as the norm lately, with a host of live-action remakes of animated movies from the “vaults.”  Ticking off the list so far have been Aladdin, Cinderella, The Jungle Book (twice), and Pete’s Dragon, with Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, the second take on The Jungle Book, and The Lion King remakes really more CGI than live-action, with a few centered on classic villains, including two Maleficents and one Cruella.  What other animated Disney films will audiences see adapted to the real world in the future?  So far news of pre-production has been mentioned for The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo & Stitch, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, The Sword and the Stone, yet another take on The Jungle Book, and spin-offs including Tink, Rose Red, and Prince Charming.  With more than a dozen live-action remakes of animated Disney movies in production, it’s a surprise to see a preview for one that looks like it could have been a standalone live-action film from the get-go.  Utilizing the production designer of The Lord of the Rings movies, Disney has upped the ante for Mulan.

Based on the 1998 animated Oscar-nominated film, which was based on a Chinese folk legend of a young heroine who posed as a boy to fight for her people (The Ballad of Mulan), with a lot of influence from Jin Yong’s heroine Huang Rong in Legends of the Condor Heroes, next year’s Mulan replaces roles voiced in the animated film that included Eddie Murphy, Harvey Fierstein, Donny Osmond, and Miguel Ferrer, instead showcasing a legion of Chinese and Chinese-American actors and a film steeped more in traditional Chinese folklore.  In the title role is Yifei Liu (also known as Crystal Liu) an actress who has grown up with roles in wuxia stories, starring in Return of the Condor Heroes, and appearing with Jackie Chan and Jet Li in John Fusco’s Forbidden Kingdom.  In the first trailer for Mulan (below) we meet her father, played by Wu Assassins and The Man in the High Castle’s Tzi Ma.  Other key cast members include Jason Scott Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) as Bori Khan, Gong Li as the Cyclone Mei-inspired witch Xian Lang, Rogue One’s Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, M*A*S*H and Star Trek’s Rosalind Chao as Hua Li, and Chinese mega-action star Jet Li as The Emperor.

Mulan is directed by Niki Caro, who you may know as the director of the fantastic and inspiring McFarland USA, among other award-winning films.  Clearly this is not going to be a shot-for-shot remake as we’ve seen with past Disney efforts.  Costumes were designed by Bina Daigeler (Volver, Grimm), and the music was created by the prolific film composer Harry Gregson-Williams.  The rich production look is courtesy of Grant Major (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Meg, X-Men: Apocalypse, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny).

Take a look at this fantastic, exciting new trailer for Mulan:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you can align the right fan with a project and come up with something great.  Add Mark Edlitz to that list and his fascinating, broad look at the James Bond franchise in The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy As audiences get ready for 2020’s No Time to Die, the franchise continues to be as popular as ever, through new fiction and non-fiction books, comics, music, posters, and more.   But how do you translate the master British spy from Ian Fleming’s original stories into new stories, or adapt the character to the big screen, to audio books and radio plays, and to spin-off comic books and novels?  Mark Edlitz is a long-time fan who took his tape recorder along to Bond conventions over the years and interviewed everyone he could find in front of and behind the camera, then expanded that into people behind the books and everything else he could find.  The result is the largest collection of Bond oral histories anywhere.  The result is The Many Lives of James Bond, now available for the first time, from Lyons Press.

Supplemented with sketch art (from artist Pat Carbajal) and peppered with black and white photographs of the interview subjects, Edlitz makes up for some of the big creators he was unable to interview by interviewing people close to them.  Interviewing people is not easy: Sometimes the subjects aren’t good at being interviewed, and oftentimes subjects are evasive for whatever reason.  But most subjects in the book said they felt a certain family connection to the honor of working on a Bond project, and were open with their thoughts.  It’s full of all kinds of surprises, and more insights than you can imagination about being Bond, from interviews with Roger Moore and George Lazenby, a stunt double, Hoagy Carmichael and David Niven’s sons (Fleming’s initial visions for Bond), and Glen A. Schofield, who provides his account of working with Sean Connery as voice over actor in a video game 20 years after his last Bond performance.  The Many Lives of James Bond also looks back to some early, pre-Bond film era performers.

  

Edlitz covers casting the role and directing Bond (from movie directors Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale), Roger Spotiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), and editor and unit director John Glen (who worked on eight films with four Bond actors)), writing words and working with the famed producers who own the Bond legacy (from interviews with more than a dozen writers, including three-time Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein), creating music for Bond (from songwriters Leslie Bricusse (Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice) and Don Black (who wrote songs for five films)), creating clothes for Bond (from Jany Temime (Skyfall, SPECTRE)), and even marketing Bond (in movie posters created by Robert McGinnis (Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die), Rudy Obrero (Never Say Never Again), and Dan Goozee (Moonraker, Octopussy, A View to a Kill)), all while trying to be faithful to Fleming’s vision while adapting when necessary to changing times.

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We’ll all forever scratch our heads over why it didn’t enter anyone’s mind at Marvel Studios to get Black Widow her own movie before Infinity War and Endgame.  Was it because they didn’t plan to kill off Black Widow in Endgame until the last minute?  In repeated interviews Scarlett Johansson doesn’t even seem to know why.  Captain Marvel was great fun, but wouldn’t it have made sense to have this film as the penultimate film in the decade-long, newly titled Infinity Saga?  But it looks like Disney and Marvel pulled it off.  Johansson as a younger Black Widow, and a great, fun, surprise cast gets the spotlight in the first trailer for next summer’s first likely blockbuster, which arrived this morning.

As you’ll see in the trailer below, Black Widow features the return of Johansson, plus adds Stranger Things and Hellboy star David Harbour as the Soviet answer to Captain America, the Red Guardian, Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) as assassin Melina Vostokoff aka Iron Maiden, Florence Pugh (The Commuter) as Yelena Belova, and de-aged Oscar-winning actor William Hurt, who started the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe off in The Incredible Hulk, back as General Ross.  Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow takes place following the events of Captain America: Civil War, so it’s not really all that long ago.  Recall when Natasha Romanov left Steve Rogers at the cemetery at the end of the film?  This is evidently what she alluded to when she left.  The villain is Taskmaster, but the identity of that actor/actress has yet to be revealed.  And Pugh’s character might be getting queued up to take over the Black Widow mantle later in this new phase (#4) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as her character has been known to use the title in the pages of the comic books.

 

Along with the trailer, a second poster was released Tuesday morning, following the red hourglass style of the first poster given to fans at Disney’s D23 Expo this year.

First previewed at D23 Expo, check out this first trailer for Black Widow:

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Three movies coming to theaters beginning in December feature actors known for their big-budget blockbuster superhero performances.  But this time they’re taking a more dramatic turn, with stories based on true events and heroics outside the realm of superheroes.

In the stylish trailer for the movie The Banker, it’s a new Marvel character team-up with Falcon actor Anthony Mackie and Nick Fury actor Samuel L. Jackson bringing in the X-Men movie franchise’s Beast, actor Nicholas Hoult, to change the face of banking and real estate in 1950s Los Angeles.

Just Mercy stars Black Panther and Creed’s Michael B. Jordan and Academy Award winner and Captain Marvel herself Brie Larson, opposite actors from the other side of the Marvel movies The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actor and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and The Incredible Hulk‘s Tim Blake Nelson in a story about justice on Alabama’s death row.

Burden stars Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker (Black Panther’s Zuri and Rogue One’s Saw Gerrera) as a preacher and Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn in Tron: Legacy) in a story about racial divisions in 1990s South Carolina.

Check out these trailers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest novel re-issue from the Marvel universe is an adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s original story arc from the pages of 1981’s series The Uncanny X-Men: X-Men: Days of Future Past You may have read the original classic comics, you may have seen the ground-breaking 2014 team-up movie, and now author Alex Irvine digs deeper into the original story that remains among comic book readers’ most acclaimed stories.  A recurring trope–the banning of individuals with superpowers–is the background for this story of a former member of the X-Men, Kate Pryde, who is sent back to the past from the dark, not-so-distant future on the brink of Armageddon.

Kate is sent back in time to try to change an event in the past, the murder of Senator Kelly by Raven aka Mystique, and the deaths of several others including Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert.  The deaths are the impetus to the creation and domination of Sentinels, giant robots that can track and destroy mutants–or anyone else–with ease.  X-Men stories tend to include so many characters that readers only get to view a few character arcs.  Writer Alex Irvine keeps his story crisp and constantly moving forward.  Here we see Kate Pryde returned to the past and in doing so she swaps consciences with her 13-year-old self–new X-Men recruit Kitty Pryde, begrudgingly taking the name of Sprite, who will one day embrace the code name Shadowcat.  She is sent to the past by the telepathic Rachel Summers, the future daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey aka Phoenix.

Irvine keeps his story to a core band of players.  In the future, it’s Logan aka Wolverine, Magneto, Ororo aka Storm, and Kate’s husband Peter Rasputin aka Colossus.  In the past, Kate in the form of Kitty must convince Storm, Logan, Colossus, Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, Moira and Charles to prevent Mystique, the Blob, and others from the Brotherhood of the Hellfire Club headed up by Emma Frost from wreaking havoc on Senator Kelly’s congressional hearing.

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Writer/artist Ed Piskor broke new ground with his epic history of the Marvel universe in a tiny package, with his Grand Design and Second Genesis trilogy series (reviewed here at borg only last year).  A complete throwback in style to comics of the 1930s through the 1970s, Piskor’s series included small, tightly crammed panels allowing for only minimal detail, lots of content per page, bright classic colors, and good ol’ fashioned newsprint pages (mmm… just smell that newsprint!).  But Piskor covered only one segment of the Marvel universe in his books:  The X-Men.  This week writer/artist Tom Scioli enters the picture with his own take on Marvel’s Grand Design series, focusing on the Fantastic Four in the new series Fantastic Four: Grand Design.

In Issue #1 Scioli takes readers through an origin story of the Fantastic Four: Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm, as they become Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing, all in a similar style to Piskor’s series.  As expected, readers can look for a lot of history in 45 pages, including meeting one of the Watchers, Doctor Doom, Black Panther, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Mole Man, the Hulk, the Celestials, the Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, and lots of other characters tucked into the corners.  Since the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I find it difficult to separate the comics from the movies, and every comic I read pulls me into the thought of how it might be adapted for the big screen.  If you haven’t been keeping up, along with the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and Namor all moved over to Disney’s MCU, and Scioli lays out one possible way the Fantastic Four could be introduced into the reel world dominated thus far by the Avengers.  Could the first Fantastic Four movie, or a Fantastic Four sub-series of films (like the Avengers) segue moviegoers into the missing pieces never before seen on the big screen like Namor, and pull in the above heroes and villains?  We’ll know in a few years.

 

Look for two covers by Scioli for the first issue of Fantastic Four: Grand Design, and one variant, a very cool homage to Frank Miller’s second issue of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns featuring the Thing in place of Batman, re-created by Ed Piskor (shown above with Miller’s original).  Want to have a look inside the first issue?  Here’s a preview of #1, and a sneak peek at Issue #2:

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A little bit Robocop, a little bit Bionic Man, a little bit Deadpool and Venom, a bit of The Punisher, and very Vin Diesel, the comic book adaptation of the 1990s Valiant Comics Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated superhero Bloodshot is finally making its way to theaters.  Sony Pictures released the first trailer for the film this week, and it has all of those components we’ve seen in the past decade from movies adapting comics beyond the traditional superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel.  The inclusion of nanites as part of Bloodshot’s powers make him the latest borg to make it to the big screen.  Whatever Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola or anyone else wants to say about superhero movies, these films are an art form in their own right, with their own language, look, music, editing, and story–just like every other genre of film.  Fans will be the only judge that matters when Bloodshot arrives early next year.

Diesel, who somehow seems to be the pick for Italian characters despite his own northern European roots, is a smart casting decision for Ray Garrison aka Angelo Mortalli (which fits Diesel so well), the new incarnation of the cybernetic warrior whose modified blood gives him regeneration abilities (think Wolverine) but also makes him controllable by others (think Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).  He has the action hero role solidly on his resume from his role as fast car driver and ex-con Dominic Toretto in seven (so far) Fast & Furious films and Xander Cage in two xXx films, and he brings sci-fi street cred playing Riddick in the Chronicles of Riddick series.  And, of course, he’s one-half of our favorite superhero duo, playing the voice of Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The movie co-stars Guy Pearce (hopefully more LA Confidential and less Iron Man 3), Eiza González (Hobbs & Shaw, Alita; Battle Angel, Baby Driver), Lamorne Morris (New Girl, Game Night), Toby Kebbell (Warcraft, Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes, Kong: Skull Island), Sam Heughan (Midsomer Murders, Outlander), and Talulah Riley (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World, Westworld).  Kick-Ass 2 writer Jeff Wadlow wrote this story, which will be directed by visual effects artists Dave Wilson.  Music was created by horror movie go-to composer Steve Jablonsky (Ender’s Game, Transformers series, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

As with Deadpool and Venom, this second tier character and footage is going to get superhero fans into theaters.  Here is the first trailer, with Vin Diesel starring in Bloodshot:

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FINAL PremeditatedMyrtle_HC_jkt_rgb_HR (1)

We have a cover reveal today for borg readers!  Take a look at this great cover by Brett Helquist, artist for A Series of Unfortunate Events and other great covers and picture books.  It’s for Elizabeth C. Bunce′s next book, Premeditated Myrtle, now available for pre-order here at Amazon.

As readers over the past decade at borg know, one of our frequent contributors of book and TV reviews is author Elizabeth C. Bunce, whose first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, I feature here every October as a recommended Halloween read.  Next up for Elizabeth is Premeditated Myrtle, the first in a new mystery series in the tradition of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Miss Fisher, Flavia De Luce, and… Quincy, M.E.  I, your humbled editor and Elizabeth’s husband, have been watching Elizabeth build her mystery series from the ground up–the second book has been written and the third and fourth mysteries are underway!  I know you’re going to love the adventures of intrepid twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle and her equally intrepid cat Peony (who also made the cover if you look closely).

Myrtle has a passion for justice and a Highly Unconventional obsession with criminal science.  Armed with her father’s law books and her mum’s microscope, Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of the latest developments in crime scene analysis, and Observes her neighbors in the quiet village of Swinburne, England, in the year 1893.  When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance.  With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.

“Covers are always a surprise for the author—seeing how someone else will envision your characters,” said Elizabeth.  “My agent leaked the news that Brett Helquist might be working on Premeditated Myrtle, so I had to pretend for months that I didn’t know!  I knew his work, of course, but what really sold me were his illustrations for A Christmas Carol.  There are no ghosts in my Victorian mystery, but Brett did an amazing job capturing Myrtle’s determined energy—and even more importantly, Peony the cat!  We went back and forth on a couple of sketches for hair and clothing, but what never changed was Myrtle’s perfect expression.  The scene he chose to illustrate was one of my favorites to write, so it’s been great fun watching it come to life in full color.”

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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.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For all the hype, CW Network’s latest series adapting DC Comics had an uneventful start this week.  After Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, and several crossovers, Batwoman is the next crimefighter to throw her dagger-lined gloves into the ring.  The pilot is a straightforward introduction following the Greg Berlanti model of the other CW Network shows:  A voiceover by the caped hero/heroine, backstory training in a far off strange land, and a tidy origin tied up in a bow with a closely-connected villain, to be the focus of conflict over the course of the first season.  And like the other series, excepting the later introduction of Superman in Supergirl and crossovers, there’s no expectation that one of the biggest characters of the DC line-up will ever show.  In this case, that means Batman, but the set-up for the first episode of Batwoman pretty much requires an appearance at some point in the show’s future.

Batwoman is Kate Kane, played by Ruby Rose, who has had cameo appearances in the other CW series, starred opposite Jason Statham in last year’s summer action flick The Meg, and she got to show her skills as a badass character in John Wick: Chapter 2, the last Resident Evil, and appeared opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.  She brings an edgy quality that matches the comic book superheroine, complete with tattoos that would distract from any other character but works for Kate Kane.  Batwoman changes the course for the CW Arrowverse, with real-world issues of lesbians in the military, gender identity, and bias, so hopefully the series ultimately finds the right balance to match that edginess.  The first episode very much reflects that less-than-edgy quality of Arrow.  But it’s only the beginning, and the other series in this genre took some time to get going, too.  Sorry–Rose doesn’t don that cool red supersuit in the first episode.

The only question is whether Ruby Rose, who seems to fit perfectly into the superheroine role and this take on the comic book story, can match the charisma and acting of series antagonist Rachel Skarsten, who plays Alice, an Alice in Wonderland-inspired villain who isn’t really who you think she is.  It feels early to let loose an identity bombshell, but Batwoman’s writers jump right in, revealing what you’d think would be big secrets (we won’t disclose them here).  Skarsten has had her share of fantastic badass roles, too.  She was Dinah Lance in the original Birds of Prey, Tamsin the Valkyrie in Lost Girl, and she was the young Queen Elizabeth on Reign.  Skarsten’s Alice has some similarities of the Arkham Asylum variety as that millennial-favorite character Harley Quinn, but Skarsten’s level of acting is more subtle and polished than we’ve ever seen Harley portrayed.

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