Category: Movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Stranger Things’s Millie Bobby Brown leads up a cast of Harry Potter alumni in Netflix’s fun new Victorian mystery, Enola Holmes, a sure-fire selection for streaming this weekend on Netflix.  Based on the novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes puts a new face—and name—to the Sherlock Holmes legend.  Enola (“Which backward spells alone”) is the much younger sister of the disapproving elder Holmes brothers, and their unconventional mother (played by Harry Potter’s Bellatrix Lestrange, Helena Bonham Carter).  On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola wakes to discover her mother has left without warning, leaving her only a hidden message in a book of flowers, and a hidden stash of cash.  Disappointed in her brothers’ lackadaisical approach to solving their mother’s disappearance, Enola determines to do it herself—finding herself tangled in another mystery along the way.  The runaway Marquess of Tewkesbury (Medici’s Louis Partridge) falls into Enola’s path, and she’s swiftly drawn into his case, which leads her from London, to his family estate, to a ghastly finishing school, and back again.

Brown turns in a strong performance as the headstrong Enola, the best moments of which come when she breaks the fourth wall to speak—or simply look—at the audience. She and Partridge have good chemistry, adding a hint of innocent young romance (but only a hint) to their partnership.  Brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin, My Cousin Rachel) steps into the role of film’s antagonist, while Sherlock (in a fun performance by Superman Henry Cavill) becomes an unexpected, if distant, ally.  Supporting cast includes Harry Potter film series alumni Frances de la Tour and Fiona Shaw, Doctor Who’s Claire Rushbrook, The Golden Compass’s Hattie Morahan, and one of England’s best villain performers, Burn Gorman.

Viewers looking for a faithful adaptation of the Springer books should prepare themselves for some changes.  Enola and Tewkesbury are older, and Enola’s search for her mother reveals a secret life behind her disappearance.  There’s more work for stuntmen and women, and less for the makeup artist, as the movie opts to showcase Enola’s physical prowess over her mastery of disguise and cryptography from the novels.  Looks for some young adult/adult violence in excess of the middle grade books, too (16-year-old Enola is drowned, beaten, choked, kicked).  It’s a bit difficult to pin down the time the movie takes place–a date of 1884 is given alongside the scene of Enola’s birth, which would put the date at 1900 for most of the action—but the plot centers around a suffrage reform bill before Parliament, the last of which was in 1884.  The clothing and technology likewise span the last quarter of the 19th century, including elaborate bustle-era dresses alongside early automobiles and film (both of which arrived in the mid 1890s).  So it’s a hodgepodge of Victoriana that sometimes works and sometimes confuses, but if you’re prepared not to take things too seriously, it all looks rather good (except for a gaffe with some obviously 21st century plastic shotgun shells).

Although it’d be fun to look forward to, unfortunately it doesn’t look like a series of movies lies ahead–marketing images for the film show Brown is not likely to be playing young teenagers much longer (which also doesn’t bode well for anyone wanting many more seasons of Stranger Things).

With attractive production design, lively performances, and a surprising mystery, Enola Holmes is a must-watch film for fans of Sherlock Holmes, detective stories, and Millie Bobby Brown.  Enola Holmes is streaming now on Netflix.  And be sure to check out Netflix Life’s recommendations for books to read if you enjoy the movie—including borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce’s new Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries, coming to bookstores October 6.

   

Insight Editions is returning to San Diego Comic-Con this coming weekend with lots of books, swag, signings, giveaways, and more to check out at the publisher’s booth (#3721).  We have their signing schedule below as well as their giveaways.  Anyone with a Comic-Con badge can get their badge scanned at the Insight Editions booth and pick up a free, limited edition poster and be automatically entered to win one of several giveaway sweepstakes.  The five posters to choose from feature Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Power Rangers 25th Anniversary, Firefly, and DC Comics, all representing current and forthcoming books from the publisher.

The Harry Potter poster features the upcoming release: Harry Potter: Creatures: A Paper Scene Book.

For the first giveaway, Insight Editions is partnering with the art collectible studio, Mighty Jaxx.  They have provided six of their latest DC Comics XXRay collectibles including Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Deadshot, Catwoman, Robin, and Supergirl.  One winner will be selected to receive all 6 figures.

For the second giveaway, Insight is partnering with Sideshow to give away a Chewbacca Premium Format 1/6th Scale Figure.  This premium format figure (valued at $500) is limited to 1,500 units.  Only one winner gets to walk away with this limited edition prize:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Thirty years after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home forever put a stake in the ground that whaling is a bad thing, you wouldn’t think a true-life whaling story would fare well, especially in movie theaters.  And you’d be right–director Ron Howard′s In the Heart of the Sea unfortunately lost more money than it cost to make.  And yet Howard’s deft direction combines some of genredom’s top stars with a solid script in a worthy interpretation of Herman Melville’s inspiration for Moby Dick apt to provide any audience with something to cheer about.  Far and Away meets Apollo 13, sea disaster and cannibalism in this 2015 release, a prime survival story now streaming on multiple platforms.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A British-led counter-intelligence operation calculated to deceive Nazi Germany during World War II that involved Allied coordination among the likes of Winston Churchill, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and British intelligence officer Ian Spelling sounds like the stuff of a suspense-thriller, right?  That’s not quite what you get in this weekend’s direct-to Netflix war movie Operation Mincemeat.  As genre movies go, count this spy movie as purely historical fiction, primarily a mix of the mundane steps of pulling off even the most unlikely–but true–adventures in international trickery with some romance thrown in for the legion of Colin Firth swooners.  Detailing the plot to throw the Axis off the scent of Britain’s invasion and liberation of Sicily using a dead body with faked documents dropped off the coast of Spain, the movie lands in the same league as all the other 21st efforts to re-conjure World War II–its bland, sentimental account doesn’t match the drama of contemporary Hollywood of the 1940s.  But if you like watching your favorite British genre actors chewing up the screen, it’s worth the time.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As with fans of the other big genre franchises, fans of the Harry Potter universe are always looking for what is coming next for their fandom.  While waiting for the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the next best thing is a visual journey into the artwork of the film series via Harper Design’s new 364-page, giant hardcover book, The Art of Harry Potter. A gallery of more than 600 images, The Art of Harry Potter covers the eight movies, all created under the watchful eye of Academy Award-winning production designer Stuart Craig.

This collection is entirely different from any behind the scenes art book we’ve seen, breaking down the films by environments, characters, beasts, artifacts, and the most eye-opening: the graphic art that grounded the films in the real world.  The graphic art includes photographs of book covers, key documents by MinaLima that were seen onscreen, potion bottles, magazines and newspapers, blueprints, maps, heraldry, Quidditch signage, food and beverage containers, posters, and tapestries.  Trying to mock up a Harry Potter room in your house?  This is your sourcebook.  With only eight pages of descriptive text, no in-depth interviews with creators, or the like, and only photo captions to guide you on your journey, consider this volume the ultimate album of the concept artwork that inspired the films.

The most unique section of the book looks into all the artwork that adorned the Hogwarts school and other environments.  These were images that may not have been seen on the screen at all, or images seen only in the corner of a frame flashing by quickly, but all worthy of gallery display.  Don’t expect to find photographs of actors or as-photographed screen images–these images represent the ideas that were developed over the decade between 2001 and 2011 that were then crafted into the final screen costumes, props, stages, and Harry Potter magic.

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Raya a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first animated movie created during the pandemic, with 900 creators working together to make a full-scale feature film from home.  The result is the best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.  The entirely computer animated film also sports three strong female lead characters and is backed by an all female technical leadership team.  The result is a movie blending elements of Asian culture on par with Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fantastical elements of The Lord of the Rings.  Count Raya and the Last Dragon among the creative works that shine brightly despite the adverse conditions of 2020. 

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As ardent fans of Stranger Things, Victorian mysteries, and all things Millie Bobby Brown (Intruders, Godzilla: King of Monsters), we were indeed excited to see the preview for Netflix’s new Enola Holmes, based on Nancy Springer’s novels for elementary (ahem) schoolers.  Teenager Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of two famous older brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin, My Cousin Rachel) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  When their unconventional mother (Helena Bonham Carter, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series) disappears, Enola sets off to track her down, much to the chagrin of her siblings.  Proving she’s ever bit as clever as her brothers, Enola (naturally) stumbles into a mystery.

The direct-to-Netflix film looks to be chock full of delightful Victoriana, and the source material is a fun twist on the Sherlock story.  We love seeing Milly Bobby Brown with her natural English accent.

And if you think this trailer looks like fun, allow me to point out even more diverting Victorian mysteries featuring an irrepressible young sleuth you’ll surely also enjoy.  My own new novels, Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle (currently an Amazon #1 New Release!) are being published October 6, in a rare two-book launch event extravaganza (to quote a publisher of our acquaintance).  Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has an unconventional obsession with criminology and a passion for justice… and a Highly Opinionated Feline Sidekick.  Netflix Life lists the Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries as part of its “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”

Here’s the trailer for Netflix’s Enola Holmes:

Begin by getting your first fix of Victorian sleuthing with Enola Holmes on Netflix September 23, and check out my new mystery series October 6, at Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Elizabeth C. Bunce / mystery novelist / borg contributor

By C.J. Bunce

Of all this year’s books we’ve read and reviewed at borg in 2018, more than 100 all told, we’re hard-pressed to find one that matches the beauty of design in The Archive of Magic – The Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, a new elaborately designed and detailed look at the film, the story, and the production of the new fantasy film from the mind of J.K. Rowling.  Not only is the photograph reproduction quality superb, every page incorporates the style of the film, created by the very designers who made the images for the film.  That’s MinaLima–the dynamic art duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima–who also designed props for the Harry Potter movies as well as a new series of classic book reprints (reviewed here previously at borg).

Writer/editor Signe Bergstrom provides several textual elements that make The Archive of Magic stand out.  She presents the narrative of the story itself in a way that will help moviegoers understand the sequence of events in the densely packed film.  She also incorporates in-world elements, like examining new characters and story elements, and she steps out of the fantasy and interviews the film’s creative staff, writers, and actors, to provide an in-depth guide through the production.  Readers will find final as-filmed versions of costumes and set production, in contrast with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which consists primarily of pre-production concept artwork (see our review here yesterday).

The Archive of Magic takes the paper ephemera book tie-in concept that has exploded in the past three years to another level.  Included are several reproductions of paper props that were key to the story, not merely set dressing, but the book also includes tipped-in reproductions of set dressing, too, created by the artists who made the very props seen in the film–for any past Harry Potter universe film replica props like this would sell for at least $10-20 each.  It begins with a deluxe hardcover, magnetic wraparound cover with gold embossed Art Nouveau designs.  Included are Leta Lestrange’s note she finds in the Ministry Records Room, a 3D-lenticular photo identification card for Newt Scamander, a book mark incorporating Grindelwald’s logo on paper stock like that seen in the film, Credence Barebone’s dual-sided birth certificate, Queenie’s postcard from Tina, the Spellbound magazine that incorrectly reports on a Newt Scamander/Leta Lestrange engagement, Nicolas Flamel’s business card that Dumbledore gives to Newt, Butter Beer logo label stickers, six reproduced newspaper pages, and two folded, full-size circus posters.

Take a look at this book trailer produced by Harper Design, and sixteen interior pages from the book:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a film inside the giant, magical world of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald seemed to come and go from theaters with little fanfare.  J.K. Rowling‘s newest world is a bleak one full of darkness, and without her trademark happier, lovable, wonderful bits to echo the Harry Potter universe that draws its fans to this new series.  The spin-off series may suffer from prequel-itis.  Does it indicate that, like George Lucas and his prequels, the bestselling living author might benefit from letting someone else step in to edit these screenplays into a more accessible story for her fans?  The original screenplay to Grindelwald clocks in at a whopping 304 pages, nearly three times the standard, and it may have been simply too difficult for the production to whittle it all down into a cohesive story.  Regardless of what you think of the finished film, it is difficult to deny the amazing level of work that went into the production design.  We’re featuring some great behind-the-scenes books that spotlight the artistry behind the film over the next few days, beginning today with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, by concept artist Dermot Power, who also penned the predecessor book The Art of the Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald showcases the work of fifty-five artists, with notations provided by each creator, including what they were commissioned to draw, what inspired the look, and where the piece belonged in the story.  Art Nouveau inspired much of the film, coupled with a very steampunk industrial look that did not appear in the Harry Potter films.  Highlights include blueprints for stage sets, concept art that influenced the various Paris scenes, the design for Grindelwald’s vial, circus images that didn’t make it into the film, and Newt’s half-flooded basement zoo.

Best of all, Power’s new book gets to the heart of what is missing on the big screen from both Fantastic Beasts films: more images of the elaborate, intricately stylized, fantastic animal creations.  Unlike many “art of” books, the author pulls out far more fully rendered drawings, paintings, sculptures, instruments, 3D set builds, character designs, and visual effects try-ons–concept artwork that didn’t make it into the final film.  He also provides clearer images of the creatures that did make it into the film but were lost in the shadows because of the dimly lit cinematography used in the film, like the ethereal half-animal, half-vegetable Kelpie.

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In the realm of fantasy, magical talismans are often the key to a character’s actions or journey, part of the goal, such as destroying the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, and they typically bestow power on their owners, such as Dorothy’s shoes that can transport her home in The Wizard of Oz or even King Arthur’s sword Excalibur, which bestowed him rule of all of Great Britain.  J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter includes many magical objects, including the horcruxes.  Even more integral to Harry Potter’s journey and all the wizards is the wand.  A major scene in all of the books and films is Harry obtaining his wand from Ollivanders–“T’aint no place better,” says Hagrid.  And the wand chooses the wizard, according to Mr. Ollivander.

Sometimes fans must wait for all the information they want about their favorite films and characters.  It’s been six years since the last Harry Potter movie premiered, but fans of the franchise at last have a photographic guide to the key wands designed for the principal named characters.  This week Insight Editions releases From the Films of Harry Potter: The Wand Collection, including new photographs of 66 actual movie prop wands.  Seventeen thousand wand boxes were created by the prop makers for the shelves of Ollivanders wand shop in Diagon Alley, according to the book, quoting late set decorator Stephenie McMillan.  After the wands were each designed by art director Hattie Storey and concept artists including Adam Brockbank, Alex Walker, and Ben Dennett, then supervising modeler and prop maker Pierre Bohanna would create a single “original” of each wand, which would be later be duplicated in resin or rubber for stunt work in multiples depending on the need of the production.

From the Films of Harry Potter: The Wand Collection begins with a brief discussion of the in-universe use of wands as written in J.K. Rowling’s books, along with an overview of the behind the scenes production creation of the props with interviews of cast members and prop makers.  The bulk of the oversized book, an elegantly designed hardcover in a long 12 x 6 inch format to allow for close-up photography of each wand, includes a brief description of the wand, the character wielding the wand in the film, and discussions with actors, designers, and excerpts from the source books.  Hagrid’s lengthy wand is featured in a double-sized pull-out image, the wand sporting his trademark umbrella component.  Another pull-out includes multiple handles of the Death Eaters, and another includes detail of the unique handle of the wand of Jason Isaacs’ character, Lucius Malfoy.

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