Category: TV


Professor T

Review by C.J. Bunce

PBS is now airing a six-episode mystery series starring Ben Miller, best known for playing the first detective of many on the series Death in Paradise, an actor whose television work goes back to the early 1990s, including even a small role on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.  Miller plays Professor Jasper Tempest, the title character of Professor T, a British adaptation of a Belgian series about a quirky, obsessive, compulsive detective in the style of Adrian Monk, Prodigal Son’s Malcolm Bright, and Sherlock Holmes himself.  The series airs weekly Sundays on PBS, also available to stream in its entirety with a PBS Passport subscription.  Will this be another short-lived British police procedural, or can it survive in the ocean of similar series to find a second season?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery series like Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  The 2019 British series A Confession is streaming on BritBox in the U.S. via Amazon, and it may not be as good as any of these, but it does eclipse recent series like Dublin Murders, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, and CollateralIt is based on the real-life story of the murders of two women in 2003 and 2011, so the drama is dark and real.  And it offers up a cast of familiar genre actors that will make you want to take a look.

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BBC war of the Worlds b

Review by C.J. Bunce

Back in 2018 we celebrated the 120th anniversary of the publication of H.G. Wells’ genre defining science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds here at borg We’ve also reviewed several adaptations and retellings over the past decade.  The latest historical adaptation is a 2019 three-part BBC series now streaming here on Amazon Prime.  Director Craig Viveiros’ The War of the Worlds may be the best yet at blending the old and the new–the end of the 19th century with the demands of modern viewers.  Suspenseful, consistent with H.G. Wells’ Edwardian themes, this short series is chock full of very British characters and concepts taking on several science fiction cautionary paradigms: warnings of the dangers of new technologies, the cost of hubris, prejudice, and colonialism, and the adventures, fear, and trials that come with the unknowable future.

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After seeing Jim Henson and Frank Oz‘s The Dark Crystal return to theaters back in 2017 for its 35th anniversary, we were reminded why the movie kept up its status as the best live-action, high-fantasy film for two decades–until the arrival of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series.  The set for Aughra′s beautiful pinnacle of all set pieces–the location of that mechanical wonder called the Orrery–showcased a fantasy creation that has yet to be surpassed in any film.  We first mentioned Netflix green-lighting the return of The Dark Crystal universe way back in 2017 here at borg, as the studio began work on the ten episode series The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceAt last the first trailer has arrived (below) and the arrival date for the first season: August 30, 2019.  The best part?  Fizzgig is back, along with Aughra (voiced by Donna Kimball (Community)) and a re-creation of her incredible Orrery, and Henson’s vile Skeksis, complete with that familiar, creepily sniveling voice.  And as with the 1982 movie, the series uses puppets, which were created by Jim Henson Co.’s Creature Shop and Brian Froud, the original conceptual designer — there will be no CGI in the series.

Taron Egerton (Robin Hood, Rocketman, Kingsman series) will be playing the voice of Rian, Nathalie Emmanuel (Furious 7, Game of Thrones) is the voice of Deet, and Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass, Split, The New Mutants) is the voice of Brea (above)–making up the trio to lead the film as Gelflings.  Other Gelfling characters will be voiced by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series), Emmy winner Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, The Riches, Treasure Island), BAFTA nominee Mark Strong (Shazam!, Green Lantern, Kick-Ass, Kingsman series), Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones (Doctor Who, Harry Potter series, Marvel movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Golden Globe nominee Caitriona Balfe (Super 8, Outlander), plus Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games series, Captain America: The First Avenger), Shazad Latif (The Commuter, Black Mirror, Star Trek Discovery), and Theo James (Underworld series).

Voicing the Skeksis and urRu (or “Mystics”) are BAFTA winner Mark Hamill (Star Wars, The Flash, and Kingsman series, Batman animated series), Golden Globe nominee Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery), BAFTA nominee Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Wars series), Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key (The Predator, Tomorrowland), Emmy nominee Harvey Fierstein (Hercules, Independence Day), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The BFG), Ralph Ineson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Kingsman, and Harry Potter series), and Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live).  Other voice roles will be performed by the puppet actors.

Wait no longer–check out this great first trailer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Insidious.  That’s the nature of the threat to all life in the trilogy of novels called Star Trek Coda, which winds-up in David Mack’s character- and action-packed novel Oblivion’s Gate, coming to bookstores tomorrow.  Star Wars gave us the Death Star, but at least you could try to negotiate with the Empire.  The enemy here is more like a virus, where resistance may–this time–actually really be futile.

For every effort worth fighting for, somebody will stand in the way, attempting to thwart actions even when they are aimed to benefit everyone.  In this tale that role falls to Will Riker, although readers will find a different twist, different from doppelganger Thomas Riker but also similar, more Tuvix actually.  And despite the twist this Riker is as brilliant as ever.  As with Coda book one, Dayton Ward’s Moments Asunder (reviewed here), and book two, James Swallow’s The Ashes of Tomorrow (reviewed here), Mack pulls some of our favorite supporting characters in for a swan song of epic proportions.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everyone likes Paul Rudd, right?  Rudd is the center of a new comedy-drama on Netflix that began this weekend, Living with Yourself And his fans won’t be disappointed.  The same struggling character reaching for success–but just missing it–in shows like Ant-Man, Anchorman, and Clueless is back, but this time his character is actually characters, plural, and, like Ant-Man, this show has a sci-fi twist.

In fact you could spend the 3.5 hours of the eight episode, half-hour series spotting all the sci-fi tropes picked up in the script by Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show).  It all begins with a twist on Orson Scott Card’s short story Fat Farm (found in Isaac Asimov, George R.R. Martin, and Martin Greenberg’s collection, The Science Fiction Weight Loss Book).  In that story, a person goes to a secret clinic to lose weight, not realizing he is actually being cloned, and the “real” him shuffled off to a work farm for the rest of his life, while “new him” returns to his life slim and trim not knowing the difference.  In Living with Yourself, it’s Rudd’s character Miles who is unhappy not with his weight but his underachievement and overall dissatisfaction with himself.  A co-worker puts him onto a pricey spa that can solve his problems, which turns out to be a third-rate, pop-up cloning shop, where, unknown to clients, they get replaced with like-new clones of themselves and their old selves get suffocated and buried in the woods.  The cloning tech isn’t quite so refined so Miles experiences something like Total Recall’s schizoid embolism–instead of killing Miles’ older self, he wakes up in a shallow grave and must confront his new, cloned self.

This all plays out like another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Twins, with old Miles left to forge ahead with his stale, unrefined DNA and new Miles “cleaned” and ready to conquer the world.  But this is just in the first half hour.  If you stay around for all eight episodes (and Rudd is fun playing two characters, so why not?), expect to catch scenes straight out of Multiplicity, Gattaca, Rachel Rising, The Last Jedi, Harry Potter, even Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and more.  Rudd’s performance in dual roles is done so much in the actor’s laid back style that the double duty goes unnoticed, seamlessly, until the two halves confront each other in the season finale.  It’s not that kind of complex, award-winning visual effects work we saw from Tatiana Maslany as a dozen-plus characters in Orphan Black, but it doesn’t need to be.  The series hits on the classic internal struggle of man versus self, but this is first and foremost a comedy.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

One of the news items from this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was a push of completed Disney and Fox movies out several months to insure full movie theater returns for the studio, while pushing out the door in advance of a full audience return films like The New Mutants and Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to his adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, now arriving October 23.  Those of us excited for the next all-star Hercule Poirot adventure can be glad that at least means a home release sooner than later.  In the meantime Amazon Prime has a brilliant BBC production of a classic mystery novel, previously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, and adapted most recently in 2013, of The Lady Vanishes.  

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With Amazon Studios releasing a new, full-length trailer for its six-part series Good Omens, showrunner Neil Gaiman discussed his creative process for the book and the show at this weekend’s South by Southwest (SXSW 2019) conference and festival in Austin, Texas.  Check out his panel interview below, with Gaiman discussing the series and his creative process.  Gaiman co-wrote the novel Good Omens on which the series is based with Terry Pratchett way back in 1989.  Pratchett passed away in 2015, and now, led by Gaiman’s efforts, twenty-nine years after its creation the book is on its way to a TV adaptation later this spring.

In Good Omens the end of the world is coming, and opposite personalities in the form of an Angel and Demon are brought together to form an unlikely alliance to stop Armageddon.  They have lost the Antichrist, an 11-year-old boy unaware he’s meant to bring upon the end of days, sending the pair to find him and save the world before… The End.  The series combines the talents of Douglas Mackinnon, who directed episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who, and it stars David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viva Blackpool) and Michael Sheen (Passengers, Doctor Who, Tron: Legacy, Frost/Nixon, Alice in Wonderland).  Other big names appearing in the series include Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Hobbit, Star Trek Into Darkness), Jon Hamm (Baby Driver), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Muppets Most Wanted), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Michael McKean (Clue, Laverne and Shirley), David Morrissey (Doctor Who, The Walking Dead), Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards, Isle of Dogs), and Brian Cox (Shetland, RED, Doctor Who).

First, take a look at the new full-length trailer for the series, followed by the discussion with Neil Gaiman this weekend at SXSW 2019, and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The three 90-minute episode television series is one of those staples of the BBC that is both refreshing and infuriating.  It’s refreshing because it avoids all the padding that is so commonplace among those direct-to-binge, 10-episode shows premiering regularly now on Netflix and other streaming providers.  But it’s infuriating to find a series that is so well written and produced, you love the characters and wish there was more.  Much like another great 4.5 hour series we loved, BBC’s 2011 series Zen starring Rufus Sewell (reviewed here at borg), in BBC’s Quirke, Gabriel Byrne inhabits his lead character in one of his best performances, leaving viewers wishing the series would have continued for a few more seasons.  First airing in the UK in 2014, Quirke is now available on the BritBox streaming service, along with Zen.

Byrne (Vikings, Assault on Precinct 13, The Usual Suspects) plays Dr. Quirke, the chief pathologist of the Dublin city morgue in the 1950s.  He has an affinity for alcohol, his brother’s wife, and solving murders, partnering on- and off-the-books with the local police inspector played by Stanley Townsend (Ashes to Ashes, Sherlock, Zen, Galavant).  In what feels like three gritty Irish noir movies, we learn about the doctor’s family struggles as his past and future collide, as he investigates an orphanage siphoning babies from Ireland to Boston, as he connects the deaths of two women found dead from suicides, and as he tracks down the whereabouts of a missing friend of his daughter.

The focus of Dr. Quirke’s life is the well-being of his niece, played by Aisling Franciosi (Game of Thrones, Vera), who is really his biological daughter, raised by his step-brother and his wife when the girl’s birth resulted in the death of Quirke’s wife 20 years ago.  Quirke was adopted into his family, and years later his father (played by Michael Gambon (Harry Potter series, Doctor Who, Cranford)) continues to treat him with disdain, but he hides his own secrets.  Along with the Professor Dumbledore actor, look for the actress behind Harry Potter’s mother (Geraldine Somerville) as Quirke’s sister-in-law, and the actress behind Batman’s mother in Batman Begins (Sara Stewart).  Other genre actors include Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story’s General Dodonna (Ian McElhinney) as an influential politico, Ella Enchanted and Mr. Selfridge’s Aidan McArdle as the politico’s nephew, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Life on Mars, and Master and Commander’s Lee Ingleby as one of the men attracted to Quirke’s daughter, and Merlin, Doctor Who, and Humans’ Colin Morgan as a journalist.

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UNFORGOTTEN: LE PASSE DETERRE

Review by C.J. Bunce

British crime dramas deserve some credit as a group–and PBS Masterpiece for re-airing them.  Viewers never quite know what hoops the police will jump through next, the twists and turns a series will take, and what unlikely villain will end up at the end of each whodunnit.  That’s the test of all mystery series, whether you’re watching a strange villain and almost as strange cop in Luther or the tempered, well-intentioned Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart and her skeptical partner Detective Sergeant Sunny Khan tracking down 40-year-old crimes in Unforgotten.  With its fifth season currently in production, PBS is now streaming the first three seasons as part of its Passport membership, a chance for U.S. viewers to get caught up on the show.

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