Category: Movies


Alien3

Review by C.J. Bunce

The best work of some of the best creators, especially movie directors, happens when the creators are tested by someone else’s source material, where they aren’t allowed to indulge themselves with carte blanche resources and instead show restraint in their skill and craftsmanship.  Perhaps Stanley Kubrick’s best work really is his adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and Quentin Tarantino’s best work is Jackie Brown, his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch–both studies in how to create a perfect film.  Although 20th Century Fox obviously wasn’t ready for it, William Gibson, known for “cyberpunk,” actually handled his screenplay for the third Alien movie quite well, but it was summarily discarded.  Next month, dressed up and fleshed out is Pat Cadigan’s Alien3–The Unproduced, First-Draft Screenplay by William Gibson: A Novel Pre-order Cadigan’s novel adaptation now here at Amazon.  Readers will find no cyberpunk here, but what Gibson handed in was a better Alien franchise story than what became Alien3, not quite Alien or Aliens, but still one great thriller.  Understandably, however, the script was rejected by the studio for missing a key feature that couldn’t be overlooked.

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Is this a stand-up fight or another bug hunt?

Would Aliens–that epic sci-fi war movie sequel to the groundbreaking sci-fi horror tale Alien–have been half as great without the performance of Bill Paxton as Colonial Marine Private Hudson?  Tens of thousands of fans came out to celebrate Paxton and his performance in the film when news spread of his passing this February.  Always willing to recite a line from one of his movies for fans, you have to think he would have loved a read like Aliens: Bug Hunt, a new anthology from Titan Books.  Aliens: Bug Hunt hones in on the gritty band of spacefaring soldiers as 19 authors share 15 new short stories of the Alien universe.

The new release, just after the Aliens 30th anniversary and nicely timed to this month’s theatrical release of Alien: Covenant, provides stories before and after Aliens, some sci-fi, some horror, action and drama, or a mix of each.  One story tells the tale of Corporal Hicks before the events in Aliens, and a personal mission to locate the cause of his wife’s death.  Another story details an operation of the Marines in an encounter with a hostile alien menace unrelated to the Xenomorphs.  One story provides insight into the synthetic Bishop and how he came to be the determined and decisive crew member we met in the series.

The anthology was edited by Jonathan Maberry with new works by Maberry and a “usual suspects” list of tie-in book writers and more.  Dan Abnett, Rachel Caine, Larry Correia, Keith R.A. DeCandido, David Farland, Matt Forbeck, Ray Garton, Christopher Golden, Heather Graham, Brian Keene, Paul Kuppenberg, Tim Lebbon, Marina J. Lostetter, James A. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Mike Resnick, and Scott Sigler contributed stories.

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here, and the Best in Television 2018 here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best Read, Best Sci-fi Read – The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey (Titan Books).  The Synapse Sequence is one of those standout reads that reflects why we all flock to the latest new book in the first place.  The detective mystery, the future mind travel tech, the twists, and the successful use of multiple perspectives made this one of the most engaging sci-fi reads since Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.  Honorable mention: Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).

Best Retro Read – Killing Town by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime).  The lost, first Mike Hammer novel released for the 100th anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s birth was gold for noir crime fans.  This first Hammer story introduced an origin for a character that had never been released, in fact never finished, but Spillane’s late career partner on his work made a seamless read.  This was the event of the year for the genre, and a fun ride for his famous character.  Honorable mention: Help, I Am Being Held Prisoner, by Donald E. Westlake.

Best Tie-In Book – Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded Edition novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).  Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back had we encountered a Star Wars story as engaging as this one.  Lafferty took the final film version and Lawrence and Jon Kasdan’s script to weave together something fuller than the film on-screen.  Surprises and details moviegoers may have overlooked were revealed, and characters were introduced that didn’t make the final film cut.  Better yet, the writing itself was exciting.  We read more franchise tie-ins than ever before this year, and many were great reads, but this book had it all.  Honorable Mention: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove (Titan).

Best Genre Non-fiction – Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young (Insight Editions).  A compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films, this new work on Hitchcock was filled with information diehard fans of Hitchcock will not have seen before.  Young incorporated behind-the-scenes images, costume sketches, and a detailed history of the circumstances behind key films of the master of suspense and his work with some of Hollywood’s finest performers.

There’s much more of our selections for 2018’s Best in Print to go…

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Ghostbusters novelization

Review by C.J. Bunce

The most eagerly awaited movie of 2021 is also the most eagerly awaited movie of 2020.  That’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a direct sequel to Ghostbusters I and 2, slated for release in theaters November 11, 2021, after multiple delays.  Will it actually happen?  Who knows.  But while you’re waiting, you can get your fix of those days of Ghostbusters past while you’re at the beach, soaking in the sun with the original novelizations thanks to a new reprint combo from Titan Books, Ghostbusters: The Original Novelizations of Ghostbusters 1 and 2.  For anyone who has only watched the movies, you can gain a little more insight to the characters, many who will be back in the new movie.

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Alien Alex White

Review by C.J. Bunce

Three years ago here at borg I said no book or film has portrayed the people behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as more vile and despicable as author Alex White has envisioned them in the novel Alien: The Cold Forge, a sequel to the second film in the franchise, James Cameron’s Aliens.  In that story the Company is proceeding to fulfill one of its initial ideas: to weaponize the Xenomorphs for military use.  Alien: The Cold Forge was Aliens as if written by Michael Crichton, a blend of Congo and Jurassic Park with aspects of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy tie-ins and Project X.  As vile, greedy corporate types go, White upped the ante.  White’s sequel, Alien: Into Charybdis, is different, but a must-read for fans of the first chapter in what could have been a trilogy of novels, as this book is nearly twice the length of the first at 560 pages.  A mix of Office Space (without the comedy) meets Rogue One and Dungeons & Dragons, this is a dark adventure in a giant research facility of international IT and network guys duking it out over what goes where and why that just might make readers feel like someone is flipping a die before the characters enter the next room.  Continue reading

Kansas City Comic Con 2017 has been an event full of fun for both visitors and the creative guests the attendees came to meet.  One of the show highlights was a Green Arrow Quiver/Sounds of Violence reunion of writer Kevin Smith and artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks.  The trio delved into the impetus for bringing Oliver Queen/Green Arrow back from the dead back in early 2001 after the character had been killed off and replaced with Connor Hawke as the Green Arrow for a generation of readers.  “I was a big fan of the character going back to the day.  I loved Grell’s Longbow Hunters and I loved the book that followed Longbow Hunters.  It was like a Vertigo book, but wasn’t technically a Vertigo book, but it was very grown-up.”  When Smith was visiting the DC Comics offices discussing a Superman screenplay back around 1996, Smith said he popped his head into Green Arrow editor Darren Vincenzo’s office and said, “Hey, man, if you ever want to put Green Arrow in the Top 10, let me write the book.  I think I got a story.”  A year later when Smith was working on Daredevil, Vincenzo recalled the conversation and asked if Smith was serious about Green Arrow. 

Smith, Hester, and Parks had each worked with editor Bob Schreck, who had just moved to DC from Oni Press, where Schreck had been co-founder.  Schreck wanted Smith for the Green Arrow project idea and asked who he’d like for his artistic team, and Smith suggested Hester and Parks in part because of their work on Swamp Thing.  “I fell in love with it deeply,” Smith said.  The team was solidified and they moved forward with the project.  “Having these two dudes enabled me to go where I wanted to go,” Smith added.  Already established artists at the time with a catalog of works, Hester and Parks expressed gratitude to Smith for selecting them for the project and Smith said the collaboration with Hester and Parks on the project helped cement his position in the comic book industry as a creator who is now regularly tapped for insight into the comics industry in documentaries on comics, among other things.  “The only reason I get to be in that stuff is because I have credibility in the comic book community because of stuff like Quiver.  Quiver was the one particularly,” Smith said, further noting the book won national awards.

And speaking of Mike Grell, Grell was also a guest at KCCC this year. Always great for a conversation, Grell was busy working on sketch commissions for attendees this weekend.

Smith also discussed working with Dynamite Comics to bring together later projects with Phil Hester and artist Jonathan Lau on Green Hornet and The Bionic Man.  Hester said there was much back and forth communication in creating the story, and Smith emphasized the collaborative effort, “I used to be a guy that was like ‘oh, I just want to write it myself–I don’t want any input.  And then one day you work with people who add something, and then it’s ‘God, that’s incredible!'”  He used as examples contributions from Chris Rock in his film Dogma and Will Ferrell in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back–both actors who made contributions to the script but didn’t ask for or want any writing creditsand creator David Mandel in the animated Clerks.  When fans reference great lines that Smith didn’t write he said he makes sure to credit the writer.  “It’s important for collaborators to cite those people who are your collaborators.”  The panel was hosted by the Worst Comics Podcast Ever’s Jerry McMullen (shown above after the panel with Hester, Parks, and Smith).

Lee Meriwether and Doug Jones at KCCC 2017.

In the celebrity autograph area at KCCC 2017, a reunion and momentous meet-up involved actress Lee Meriwether and actor Doug Jones.  Both Meriwether and Jones worked together on the film The Ultimate Legacy, which also starred Raquel Welch and Brian Dennehy.  Meriwether and Jones are unique in that they represent contemporaries in acting but also represent bookends of a sort for the 51-year Star Trek franchise.  In addition to her many famous roles in series like Barnaby Jones, All My Children, and Batman, Meriwether played the character Losira in the original Star Trek series episode, “That Which Survives.”  Jones, an actor who has performed both as creature characters where he is often unrecognizable–a Lon Chaney of today as one fan referred to him–as well as more standard roles, has performed in more than 150 films and TV series (from one of the creepy Gentlemen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” to the creature in next month’s new Guillermo del Toro release The Shape of Water).  Plus Jones has appeared in 100 commercials, including as the classic McDonald’s moon-shaped mascot “Mac Tonight.”  And Jones currently plays the alien leading character Lieutenant Saru on this year’s latest Star Trek incarnation, Star Trek Discovery.

Gary Fisher and his family meet attendees at KCCC 2017.

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As previewed in the superhero crossover Marvel vs. Aliens covers, a new Alien series begins next month under the Marvel Comics label, and it’s going to arrive with a first issue full of variant editions.  The best news?  You’ll meet a new Jonesy-inspired cat aboard the ship, this time a black cat, likely to blend in the shadows.  So let’s see Marvel’s take on the franchise–below check out an inside look at the new franchise cat, a dozen Alien series covers, and a shiny tie-in comic storage box available at comic shops.  And in case you missed the Marvel vs. Aliens covers, we’ve included the 22 covers Marvel is rolling out, too.

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by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Last month we offered our review of Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic film, Crimson Peak, raving over its atmosphere and performances.  Since it won’t be released in a home-viewing format for a while yet, how are we supposed to refresh our Crimson Peak fix until then?

Read the movie tie-in novel, of course!

crimson peak cover

Crimson Peak by veteran horror author Nancy Holder is a dead ringer for its onscreen counterpart, offering a scene-by-scene text recreation of the film.  But Holder often goes deeper, offering perspectives from characters not fully expressed on screen, elaborating on the story’s emotional arc, and adding to the haunting atmosphere with her own nuanced, sometimes surprising voice.

If you’ve seen the film, there’s nothing new here.  At times the book feels flat, as if the words alone can’t live up to the actors’ performances, and the author was required to give as close a blow-by-blow account as possible.  But in other moments, Holder’s own prose shines:

It watched the house’s breath scatter the dry leaves that drifted in, drifted by.  The walls were bleeding from fissures in the wallpaper.  Stab wounds, or a razor blade drawn across a vein? Moths flew out; maggots fed.  The mad head of the house was rotting, and night was dragging her wings across the moon, tracing filigree on the floor.  In the attic, more black moths were dancing because it was cold, because it was dark. Because they were hungry.

For the butterfly.

Oooh, shivery!

The biggest challenge here is the same minor plot weakness that caused the film to stumble a bit at the end.  With so much glorious setup, with the fantastic otherworldly intervention of the supernatural–which is what drew us to this story, after all!–Crimson Peak deserves a bigger payoff, a less predictable and mundane explanation for all the horror.  But Holder actually manages the material a little more deftly than it appeared on screen; the pacing is more dread-inducing as she doles it out piecemeal.  We already know what’s happening, and yet the book’s buildup is better than the film’s letdown.  Whatever Holder can’t render as stunningly via prose (del Toro’s visionary ghosts), she makes up for in suspense.

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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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