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Some of the best dystopian futurism in years came to a conclusion this year in the pages of Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019, the official comic book sequel to the cult classic 1982 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott.  Co-written by Michael Green, the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of Logan, Blade Runner 2049, and Murder on the Orient Express, and prolific comics writer Mike Johnson (Batman, Star Trek, Transformers) with artwork from Andres Guinaldo (Nightwing, Justice League Dark), this year’s Blade Runner 2019 story arc found an ex-Blade Runner named Ash returning from the Off-World colonies to the rain-soaked future Los Angeles.  A new Replicant will lead an animated series from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim this fall, taking Philip K. Dick’s Replicants into the untapped territory of the year 2032 in Blade Runner: Black Lotus.  Check out the very Alita: Battle Angel-evoking series coming this fall in this first trailer, released at San Diego Comic-Con 2021 aka Comic-Con @Home this weekend:

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Momoa Dune

I don’t like sand.  It’s all coarse and rough and irritating.  And it gets everywhere.

We have yet to see anyone get a live-action Dune to be exciting yet, and a new San Diego Comic-Con 2021 trailer for the new Denis Villeneuve movie doesn’t give us much hope it will happen anytime soon.  One of the reasons Star Wars was so successful was that George Lucas cast relative unknowns in his leading roles, and the new trailer for Dune reveals why that was a good thing.  It’s not Frank Herbert’s characters jumping off the screen but familiar faces that stand out, like Aquaman Jason Momoa and his trademark comedy one-liners, Galaxy Guardian Dave Bautista, Star Warrior Apocalyptic Oscar Isaac, Spider-friend Zendaya, and Thanos himself Josh Brolin.  (Were there only superhero movies to cast from?)  The images in this week’s trailer for Dune, the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sand… er… spice planet world, could easily be spliced from the wide-angle, sparse landscapes of Villeneuve’s recent Blade Runner 2049.  He also is conjuring bits of cinema’s sandy sci-fi heritage, like George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and you may even recognize shots straight out of the Star Wars J.J. Abrams movies (and the prequels), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Chronicles of Riddick, and John Carter of Mars.  You’ll see a lot going on in this trailer, which inexplicably adapts only the first part of Herbert’s novel.  But is there anything new to get audiences back in the theater?

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   sdcc 2021 attendee

In-person cancellations have not kept every event this summer from canceling entirely.  One of those is typically one of the summer’s biggest events, San Diego Comic-Con.  As with last year’s Comic-Con At Home, events for SDCC 2021 are proceeding this week, once again providing a rare opportunity for fans of all things pop culture a chance to sit through the kinds of panels you might see were you to attend in person in any regular year–without standing overnight in lines.  You can even grab a lanyard off the rack, print your own badge (for you and your pets), cosplay with your family, and load the panels up on as big of a screen as you have.  Check out some suggestions for building your own fun convention week experience with SDCC 2021 below.

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Anna movie pic

Review by C.J. Bunce

Luc Besson, master of the spy movie and the female assassin, created perhaps his best work in the genre with his 2019 action thriller Anna Poor distribution and studio problems caused the film to get only a minor theatrical release, but it’s at last widely available, streaming to anyone free on iMDB TV.  If you’re like most movie fans and missed it, you’re in for a surprise that rivals many similar action thrillers by one of the greatest writer-directors of our time, including his 1990 film Le Femme Nikita with Anne Parillaud (and its English remake, Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda), and the 1994 movie The Professional (Natalie Portman, Jean Reno).  Besson also wrote the screenplays for The Transporter starring Jason Statham (2002), Taken starring Liam Neeson (2008), and Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana (2011).  So he knows action, and that’s several assassins, spies, and action sequences in Besson’s personal dossier in additional to his greatest feats, the epic science fiction films The Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets It’s that last film he tapped for the star of Anna, a spy movie that’s not a retread on the director’s past work but a superb achievement, with a badass lead and story even better than another spy favorite, Atomic Blonde. 

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Fight Girls 1 cover FIGHTGRL 3

Review by C.J. Bunce

Eisner and Harvey Award winner Frank Cho, one of the best cover artists and known for his fantastic renderings of women as well as his humor and storytelling, begins his next mini-series in the amped-up Hunger Games-inspired series Fight Girls As with his last five-issue mini-series Skybourne (from BOOM! Studios), Fight Girls features strong women characters.  But this time they are fighting for survival and the right to rule their kingdom as “Queen of the Galaxy.”  Out now from new publisher AWA Studios, Fight Girls is a mix of Cho’s Skybourne and Jungle Girl, and it has what every comic book reader could want: Cho created the covers, and the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new group of action heroines.  It’s a great start to the story, with big action, gorgeous artwork, and it’s a lot of fun.

Take a look inside the first issue and check out all five of Frank Cho’s covers for the series below.

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Glass magician cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Caroline Stevermer’s acclaimed historical fantasy work now includes a tale of turn-of-the-twentieth century New York City and its magical elite.  In The Glass Magician a stage magician discovers there’s much more to her identity—and her talents—than she ever realized.

Thalia Cutler is a natural-born stage magician.  Trained in the craft by her late father and his lifelong friend, now her manager, Thalia and her tricks entertain crowds on the East Coast vaudeville circuit.  But this is not exactly the 1905 East Coast of our world; this is an alternate historical America where people with real magic live alongside the Solitaires, or mundane folk.  Well, not quite alongside: the wealthy Traders are the elite and powerful upper crust of society, barely deigning to acknowledge the Solitaires; and the solemn Silvestri keep to themselves, literally communing with nature.

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Willy Wonka theaters

Three cinema classics with benchmark anniversaries will make their way back to theaters this summer as part of Fathom Events and TCM Big Screen Classics screenings across the U.S.  First, just before the very similar looking Jungle Cruise arrives in theaters starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the original odd couple on a jungle river ride, director John Huston’s The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn is back next week celebrating 70 years since its release.  It’s followed in August by the original kids’ fantasy-horror thrill ride Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder.  It celebrates its 50th anniversary.  And in September, frequently hailed as the greatest movie of all time, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane arrives in theaters for its 80th anniversary.  The movies will have a limited release, but will be available on hundreds of movie screens nationwide.

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SurrealEstate c

Review by C.J. Bunce

Tom Rozon is looking like you probably haven’t seen him before–or at least for the past 10 years.  The handlebar moustache from his stint as roguish Doc Holliday on Wynonna Earp is gone, and that lack of facial hair he’s sported for his outlandish roles in Vagrant Queen on back to Lost Girl and beyond makes the real estate agent he plays in his next series seem boyish, trustworthy, and kindly–he looks at least 10 years younger than his 45 years.  The new series is SurrealEstate, and the pilot episode that aired Friday on Syfy has all the makings of a regular addition to any good genre TV follower’s DVR.  It begins with fantastic writing and dialogue, from new TV creator George Olson and writer Gillian Muller (Endlings, Life with Boys). 

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joe angle banner 2x

Normally this would be the kind of news you’d find at San Diego Comic-Con, which was canceled this year again because of the pandemic.  Hasbro is farming out to action figure and pop culture collectible company Super7 to deliver two new action figure lines, rebooting the classic small-scale action figures based on the 1980s G.I. Joe animated series.  One line will he a step down from the original articulated figures from the 1980s, and the other will be a step up.  The step up is the Ultimates line, articulated 7-inch scale figures with extra arms, heads, and a variety of other accessories.  The step down is the Kenner-style 3.75-inch ReAction line, with less articulation than the original line, but with more series-accurate designs and still more variety–including new figures–to come.

The first wave of G.I. Joe ReAction figures includes Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Baroness, Cobra Commander, Destro, Kwinn, G.I. Joe infantry (in three skin colors), and Cobra Troopers (in three skin colors and two costume styles)–for 15 variants in all.  The first Ultimates wave includes four figures–Duke, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and the Cobra Battle Android Trooper (BAT).  These are in addition to the new -inch and 12-inch figures that are tie-ins to the coming Snake Eyes: G.I. Joes Origins movie (check those out here).

joe 2  joe 1

See detailed views of each figure below.  You can order the Ultimates line now and pre-order all the ReAction figures from the first wave via the above links.

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thebigsleep 2  thebigsleep 4

Review by C.J. Bunce

The first thing to know about Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel The Big Sleep is that it was published three years after James M. Cain published the serialized Double Indemnity.  If your only knowledge of The Big Sleep is the big-screen adaptation directed by Howard Hawks starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with a screenplay written by the likes of Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner, you should go back and read the novel to see how wrong Bogart is for the lead detective Philip Marlowe.  Both the novel and significantly modified movie version are convoluted tales of murder and mayhem, but the novel is better than the film in many ways.  Its value is in its shocking subject matter for the 1930s and being an early entrant helping to establish hardboiled crime novels as a genre.  Readers were first put inside the brain of Marlowe in this story, which reads like an effort to adapt Cain.  Chandler also was a reader of Cain’s work and along with Billy Wilder, Chandler would adapt Cain’s Double Indemnity for the screen.  Still in print, The Big Sleep is available in trade paperback here at Amazon.

Eight decades after its first publication, how does Chandler’s novel hold up?

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