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Category: Superheroes


jean claude van johnson

Sometimes you vote and your nominee wins.

That’s what we were hoping when Amazon Studios asked audiences last August what series they wanted to see move forward with a full season.  The underdog contender was a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action flick, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  We thought he did it again with a great series pilot last year.  And Amazon Studios agreed.

Amazon Studios has released a new trailer and a teaser plus a firm release date for season one–it’s available next month.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  We reviewed the incredibly fun pilot here at borg.com last year.  Jean-Claude is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, slippers, an iron statue, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 39-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 57).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) acting parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s real-life answer to James Bond.  As Johnson, Van Damme was the world’s most dangerous undercover operative.  And he’s back.

And he has plenty of disguises.

Here is the new teaser and full-length trailer for Jean-Claude Van Johnson:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Young Leland Melvin wasn’t the type of kid who dreamed about flying in outer space.  But he was guided by good parents and developed the right stuff to work for NASA for more than a quarter of a century that culminated in two space shuttle flights to the International Space Station.  Melvin has written his memoir and it has been published in a version for kids and a version for adults.  Harper Collins and Amistad Press’s Chasing Space is a book that every school library should carry, a book kids should read to understand that you can be anything you want to be.

Melvin credits a good mind-set for his ability to adapt to new situations and succeed in whatever he put his mind to.  But even with hard work, life manages to get in the way sometimes.  Unforeseen circumstances stopped him in his tracks at several points in his many pursuits, including college, where he was almost expelled for an alleged ethics violation.  In high school football he made a mistake that his coach allowed him to redo, resulting in him getting a scholarship to college.  His girlfriend and he were pulled over and a racist police officer tried to get him thrown in jail.  He played football for the Detroit Lions, but a recurring hamstring problem knocked him out of the sport.  He got another chance at football, this time for the Dallas Cowboys, but his leg stopped him again.  Only after returning to graduate school work did his career in science take hold, and once he graduated NASA was practically waiting for him.  But his pathway to space was tripped up by a problem with his ear while training.  And despite it all, and being one of the first African-Americans to forge a path where few had gone before, Leland Melvin worked hard, mentally and physically, and overcame everything thrown in his way to become one of only 550 humans to leave the planet and become an astronaut.  He is known by many as the astronaut that had his formal NASA photograph taken with his two dogs, Jake and Scout, who would later join him and Cesar Millan on an episode of Millan’s Dog Whisperer show.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis with Leland Melvin (left) and crew of STS-129.

Melvin flew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis during missions STS-122 and STS-129 and worked closely with astronauts that were lost on both the Challenger and Columbia disasters as well as current astronauts like Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams, who have continued to set new records in space aboard the International Space Station.  In Star City, Russia, Melvin worked closely with and trained alongside former Navy SEAL Bill Shepherd–the famed astronaut “who knew how to kill somebody with a knife”–as Shepherd prepared for the very first long-duration flight by an American and becoming the first commander of a crew based at the International Space Station.  Melvin even helped Russian scientists translate tech manuals into English in Moscow.  Surprisingly astronaut training for Melvin included extreme survival training and adventure hikes across America and giving talks around the world, learning to stretch the boundaries of his own abilities.  When one of his crews was without a medical officer, he volunteered and trained to add that role to his list of duties.  He spent months stitching up cadavers and working on emergency room patients to be ready for any kind of emergency in space, training under the eye of famous skilled surgeon Dr. Red Duke, the doctor that had admitted President Kennedy and Governor Connally at the Dallas hospital in November 1963.  All these seeming tasks and trials are not obvious things the average person thinks about when they hear the word “astronaut.”  Yet all prepared Melvin to be able to think on his feet should a problem occur, and that according to Melvin’s account, is the way of astronaut training.

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iBoy is a 2017 Netflix original movie that may appeal to fans of Unbreakable and Attack the Block starring Bill Milner (Dunkirk, X-Men: First Class) as Tom, a teenager in London readying for exams, who is friends with Lucy, played by Maisie Williams (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) who he has been infatuated with but never asked out.  After he finally works up the nerve he arrives at her apartment to find masked thugs attacking Lucy’s family and raping her.  His instinct is to run and call the police, but they shoot him in the head as he’s running away and they leave Tom for dead.

A dark and serious film with a sci-fi twist, iBoy is based on the 2010 novel by Kevin Brooks.  The film does not stretch much beyond its title, but it does offer up a British teenage thriller where the two survivors (Lucy of rape and Tom of the hole in his skull) grow together to help each other with their trauma, using sci-fi as a storytelling device.  The sci-fi element makes Tom a superhero in the realm of Bruce Willis’s masked vigilante in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable or Rami Malek’s hacker Elliot in Mr. ROBOT.  When the bullet hit Tom’s head it went through his smart phone, leaving bits of the phone technology in his brain permanently, too dangerous to be surgically removed.  Those bits soon allow Tom to tap into the electrical power and communications grid and he learns quickly how to harness his power to avenge the pain caused to Lucy, who stays home from school and doesn’t want to leave her apartment.  But Maisie Williams’ Lucy gets her own opportunity for revenge once the higher steps of the criminal underworld ladder begin to hone in on Tom as the mastermind that is putting them in jail one by one.

More drama than thriller, the film offers up a fairly simple plot, yet those intrigued by the life of teens in a big European city in the realm of Attack the Block’s street thugs will see that drugs and guns cause trouble for inner-city kids everywhere.  The visual sci-fi element–Tom pulling data from people and machines from all across the city–is nicely done, and the production overall is something better than a typical made-for TV film.

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We had a first look at Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa, the ruler of the kingdom of Wakanda whose alter ego is the Black Panther, in last year’s great superhero mash-up Captain America: Civil War, and a teaser trailer back in June.  Next year Marvel Studios is giving Boseman his own solo movie in the big screen release of Black Panther, based on the comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four.  The latest preview of the film arrived today.

T’Challa must defend his kingdom from being torn apart by enemies outside and within.  Boseman, who portrayed both Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42 (reviewed here) and Thurgood Marshall in last week’s release of Marshall (reviewed here), brings along an impressive supporting cast.  Adonis himself, Creed star Michael B. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, and Andy Serkis is Klaw, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Forest Whitaker is Zuri, The Hobbit and Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is Everett K. Ross, and Green Lantern’s Doctor Waller, Angela Bassett is Ramonda.

Creed’s Ryan Coogler directs the film with Creed’s Hannah Beachler providing some impressive production design work and Ruth E. Carter (Marshall, Selma) created some incredible new costume designs for this new Marvel world.

Here is the latest trailer for Black Panther:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new courtroom drama and biopic Marshall hits theaters across the U.S. beginning today.  Director Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang, House Party) recounts a case in the life of Thurgood Marshall, one of the leading U.S. Supreme Court Justices in the history of the bench.  We meet Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman, midway through the beginning of his career as lawyer and civil rights crusader.  After he already sued one law school for discrimination and graduated from another, he began defending individuals that were targeted as criminals based on race, and at the beginning of the film Marshall is struggling to justify to the NAACP, the organization that employs him, that his ongoing fight is worth the resources of the group.  Marshall needs a win for his own reputation and for the NAACP.  Plus, there is a man accused of a crime whose life is at stake.

The biggest surprise in the new courtroom drama is the risk-taking by Hudlin and Boseman in showing Marshall from his introduction not as humble and endearing, but cocky, abrasive, and confident.  Not the quiet Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird, or the lazy and arrogant Lt. Daniel Kaffee of A Few Good Men, the film establishes upfront that the young Thurgood Marshall, the future first African-American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, was already a brilliant and savvy attorney and outspoken and fearless even early in his career.  We only learn of the difficult rise he had in his life before the film takes place via stories told by Marshall to local counsel Sam Friedman, played by Josh Gad, as the case procedure unfolds and more facts surface.  Echoing his performance as Jackie Robinson in the biopic 42 (reviewed here previously at borg.com), the Marvel Studios Black Panther actor plays Marshall as decisive and determined.  The audience has no doubt he’s going to succeed, but the drama is in how he makes the system work for him and his client, risking Friedman and his firm or anything else that gets in the way, to get a favorable verdict.

Before Marshall won 29 of 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, before he successfully argued the landmark 20th century case Brown v. Board of Education–the famous school desegregation case–Marshall had to learn how to win with the deck always stacked against his clients.  The message is historically important and delivered without the preaching that often accompanies biopics.  But it would have served Marshall’s legacy better had Hudlin, and writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff, selected a case with universal impact.  Like the obvious: Brown v. Board of Education.  The matter-specific case selected instead is a bit unfortunate from a storytelling standpoint because it so closely mirrors the case in To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the great American novels of all time and also one of the great American films about jurisprudence and race.  Those familiar with Harper Lee’s 1960 novel may feel some deja vu.  But there’s no mimicry here per se, Lee’s novel was derived from an actual case from 1936 and State of Connecticut v. Spell was a real case that is used to attempt to showcase Thurgood Marshall, the man, the lawyer, and the civil rights crusader, in an introductory sense.  But the question remains: Why select a Marshall case that the master lawyer didn’t even get to argue?

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The Silent Seven–a mysterious crime organization from the 1920s-30s, from the time of Miss Fury and… The Shadow?  Batman and Robin encounter Professor Pyg and his transforming “Dollotron” masks as the villain crashes a New Year’s Eve party.  This is the Robin named Damian, Bruce Wayne’s son, a 13-year-old raised by assassins.  Batman must forge a relationship with his son as The Shadow appears out of the past and looking for answers.

DC Comics and Dynamite Comics have partnered for a blend of the past and the present as Batman and The Shadow collide in a new crossover series, arriving at comic book shops today with The Shadow/Batman Issue #1.  The Shadow: The World’s Greatest Mystery.  The Batman: The World’s Greatest Detective.  What if they encounter The World’s Greatest Evil?  As they protect New York, and ancient evil surfaces.  Can they work together to save their city?

Writer Steve Orlando (Batman/The Shadow, Justice League of America), artist by Giovanni Timpano (The Shadow, Transformers), and colorist Flavio Dispenza (Eclipse), come together to craft an action-filled noir story and a crossover of worlds and characters forged in comics’ Golden Age.  DC Comics’ key hero and Dynamite’s classic pulp character are an obvious team-up opportunity.

  

Check out a preview of Batman/The Shadow, Issue #1, below courtesy of the publishers, as well as a look at another giant release of variant covers–a showcase of comic art talent–from Issues #1 through #3:

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Named after the late beloved comic book creator Mike Wieringo, the first ever ‘Ringo! Awards were presented during an irreverent and humor-filled ceremony Saturday night at the end of the second day of Baltimore Comic-Con 2017.  This year the annual Harvey Awards were renamed in Wieringo’s honor.  Wieringo was an artist best known for his work on DC Comics’ The Flash, Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, and his co-creation Tellos (discussed earlier this year here at borg.com).

Voters from more than 100 countries selected the nominees and winners were picked from a final ballot by members of the comic book industry creative community.  Presenters last night included Mark Waid, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Amy Chu, Tom Brevoort, Walter and Louise Simonson, Terry and Robyn Moore, Kazu Kibuishi, Charlie Kochman, Lora Innes, Thom Zahler, Todd Dezago, and Craig Rousseau, with a keynote speech provided by multiple Eisner Award winner and Mouse Guard creator and David Petersen.

The ceremony provided two Hero Initiative awards, the Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award to Joshua Dysart, and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Marv WolfmanMultiple winners included John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell for their civil rights story March: Book III, winning for Best Original Graphic Novel and Best Non-Fiction Comic Work, and Skottie Young, recognized as Best Cartoonist and for his I Hate Fairyland as Best Humor Comic.

Darryl (DMC/Darryl Makes Comics) McDaniels awards Best Cover Artist ‘Ringo! Award to Frank Cho.

Here is the list of winners selected from the final ballot:

Best Cover Artist–Frank Cho (who accepted the award singing the “Thank You Very Much” song from Oliver)

Best Series–Vision (Marvel Comics)

Best Letterer–Todd Klein

Best Colorist–Laura Martin

Best Humor Comic–I Hate Fairyland, Skottie Young, Jean-Francois Beaulieu (Image Comics)

Best Original Graphic Novel–March: Book III, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions)

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Perhaps the best part of the film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were the two behind the scenes books that provided superb coverage of the costumes, props, and vehicles from the film: the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Tech Manual reviewed here, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film, reviewed here.  These books demonstrate that despite the negative reception of a film by audiences, fans of the beloved characters have some resources to find inspiration for their next cosplay or prop-building project.  The next in the line of books probing behind the scenes of the DC Comics universe created for the big screen is this summer’s Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling (author of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes).  Anyone needing good source photographs of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors of her origin story for their next cosplay project will find some great references here, including photos of the greatest of the Amazon warriors, Robin Wright’s badass general Antiope, plus swords and shields of key characters developed for the film.

The best section of the book provides interviews with two-time Academy Award-nominated production designer Aline Bonetto (Amélie) and Academy Award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (Topsy-Turvy) as they discuss the planning and development of audiences’ first look at Themyscira on film.  Both worked together closely coordinating design elements between their departments as concepts were developed.  You’ll find 192 pages of artwork, marketing images, on-location photographs, and costumes as they were sketched and later finalized for wear, all in quality color photographs on thick paper stock.  Costume designer Lemming notes that the entirety of the Amazon warrior costume components were prepared by hand, without 3-D printers or similar modern techniques, intending for the resulting products to look as the characters themselves might have made them.  Although Gadot’s costume was already set prior to Hemming’s involvement due to Wonder Woman’s introduction in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–the costume was designed by Academy Award-nominated designer Michael Wilkinson (American Hustle, Tron: Legacy)–Hemming discusses re-designing the boots and attempting to make the rest of the costume more comfortable for Gadot, and this was an element for the other costume designs as well, many of which would be used for stunt and action scenes requiring significant movement.

Two-time Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer (The Golden Compass, The Life of Pi) managed the film’s significant use of CGI along with practical effects where possible.  Westenhofer discusses stunt sequences (including the end of film fight scenes) and points out where the film required digital rendering to illustrate the story’s grand environments.

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For more than six years we at borg.com have been covering entertainment memorabilia auctions–sales of not merely replicas or mass-produced collectibles, but the real objects seen on film–rare or even one-of-a-kind costumes created by award-winning Hollywood costume designers, detailed props created by production crew, model vehicles created by special effects departments like Industrial Light and Magic, prosthetics created by famous makeup artists, set decoration, concept art, and much more.  Amassing a wide variety of artifacts from classic and more recent film and television history, London and Los Angeles-based Prop Store is hosting its annual auction later this month.  Known for its consignment of some of the most well-known and iconic screen-used props and costumes, Prop Store’s ultimate museum collectibles auction will be open for bidding from anyone, and items will be available at estimates for both beginning collectors and those with deeper pockets.

The Prop Store Live Auction: Treasures from Film and Television will be auctioning off approximately 600 items.  You’ll find the following movies and TV shows represented and more:  3:10 to Yuma (2007), 300, Aliens, Back to the Future films, Blade Runner, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Chronicles of Narnia films, Elysium, Enemy Mine, Excalibur, The Fifth Element, Gladiator, The Goonies, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Jason and the Argonauts, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the Indiana Jones films, Iron Man, the James Bond films, Judge Dredd (1995), the Jurassic Park films, Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman: the Secret Service, Lifeforce, Looper, The Lost Boys, The Martian, The Matrix, Men in Black III, Mission: Impossible (1996), The Mummy (1999), Patton, Pirates of the Caribbean series, Predators, the Rocky films, Saving Private Ryan, Scarface, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead, Shawshank Redemption, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Star Trek franchise, Star Wars franchise, Starship Troopers, Superman films, Terminator films, The Three Musketeers (1993), Tropic Thunder, Troy, True Grit, Underworld: Evolution, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willow, The Wolfman (2010), World War Z, and the X-Men films.

You can flip through the auction house’s hefty 360-page catalog, or start with a look at what we selected as the best 50 of the lots–what we predict as the most sought-after by collectors and those that represent some of fandom’s favorite sci-fi and fantasy classics and modern favorites.

  • Industrial Light and Magic 17 3/4-inch Rebel Y-Wing filming model from Return of the Jedi
  • Sark (David Warner) Grid costume from the original Tron (1982)
  • Julie Newmar’s Catwoman costume and Burgess Meredith Penguin hat from the classic Batman TV series
  • Buttercup (Robin Wright) Fire Swamp red dress from The Princess Bride
  • Chekov (Walter Koenig) “nuclear wessels” costume, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) costume, and Sulu (George Takei) double shirt from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Full crew set of costumes (Malcolm, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Inara, Kaylee, River, Book, and Simon) from Serenity (sold as individual costume lots)
  • Jack Nicholson purple Joker costume, plus separate coat and hat, from Batman (1989)
  • Enterprise-D 48-inch “pyro” model from Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) stunt shotgun from Unforgiven
  • Star-lord helmet from Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Mjolnir hammer from Thor

  • Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II jumpsuits made for Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
  • Witch-king of Angmar crown from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Val Kilmer Batman suit and cowl from Batman Forever
  • Maverick (Tom Cruise) flight suit from Top Gun
  • Geoffrey Rush Captain Barbossa costume from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Curse of the Black Pearl

And there are so many more.  Like…

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With so much noise in the movie marketplace this year, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, came and went with little fanfare.  But the hype of other productions and the failure of the studio to come up with a more audience-grabbing publicity campaign caused many to skip over the sequel to 2014’s surprise success, Guardians of the Galaxy (it’s really been three years?).  If you were one who missed it in the theater, it’s now available on multiple streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD, and it’s so much fun, and so good, it’s going to prompt us to resurrect our discussion of that awesome rarity: sequels that rival the original.

Get ready for more laugh-out-loud humor among the Guardians than in the previous film.  Now that the origin story is behind us, we get to know each character more after they’ve been working together and their relationships are well-established.  Prepare for more quotable lines from Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Dave Bautista’s Drax, and the voices of Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, and Vin Diesel, this time as a tiny Baby Groot as we met him at the end of the first film.  Returning characters who see fairly expanded screen time and are integral to the story more than before are Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Michael Rooker’s Yondu, and Guardians II director James Gunn’s brother Sean Gunn returning as the Ravager Kraglin.

As much as you’ll love the familiar players, the new characters and the storylines they bring to the table keep the film exciting to the very end.  First you have two big names, and unlike superhero movies of the past, they aren’t just in the film to get audiences into the theater:  Kurt Russell adds another compelling and multi-layered performance to his resume as Star-Lord’s father Ego, and Sylvester Stallone plays an important role as Stakar, a Ravager leader whose backstory intertwines with Yondu.  Adding to her nuanced villain roles (along with her role in 2016’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is Elizabeth Debicki (you may also recognize her voice in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Ayesha–you directs a fleet of pilots in spacecraft drones that are like nothing you’ve seen before.  And finally, the Marvel Universe is introduced to Pom Klementieff’s Mantis.  Some of the best scenes in the film, both dramatic and hysterically funny, come from conversations between Drax and Mantis.  An unexpected reference to Mary Poppins (!?) is probably the best line in the film.

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