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Tag Archive: borg


Review by C.J. Bunce

If the third season of AMC’s/UK Channel 4’s sci-fi series Humans had a single theme this year it was sacrifice and heroism.  After Lucy Carless’s Mattie set off the course of events to give sentience to the show’s thousands of cyborg servants, who knew what direction showrunners Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley would take us?  Mattie had the series’ greatest crisis of conscience–her actions resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans and synths–yet she brought freedom to her friends and so many others.  With the shocking events at season’s end, she became poised to have an even more significant role next season.  As the lawyer and sole voice for synth rights among the humans, her mother, Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, became a symbol for the oppressed and a metaphor for civil rights struggles beyond the television screen.

The cyborg characters were no less powerful, coupling strong acting with a talented group of writers, to create what may be the most thought-provoking look at the “life” of borgs yet–showing a sympathetic and dramatic view through their eyes.  Gemma Chan’s Mia stepped forward to be the target of hatred among those trying to eliminate all the “damaged” green-eyed synths.  Defying all sense she became the figurehead for synth rights and brought on attack after personal attack.  From another approach, Ivanno Jeremiah’s Max stepped forward as leader of a gated community of synths, clinging to the vision that peaceful cooperation was the only solution to bridging the gap with humans.  This left Emily Berrington’s Niska in the role again as vengeance seeker, and more violent means to assist both synths and her human lover (Bella Dayne’s Astrid) harmed by ant-synth activity.  With these three characters the writers provided a mirror of society from different approaches, only to introduce other levels of modern reality: terrorism via new synth Holly Earl’s troubled Agnes and the covert acts of Laura’s newly assigned orange-eyed synth, Dino Fetscher’s Stanley.

But the writers didn’t leave out the impact on humans of a society divided, and that was most poignantly revealed through Laura’s flawed ex-husband, Tom Goodman-Hill’s Joe and his encounters with a familiar synth in hiding, Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss.  Karen discovers a young boy synth (Billy Jenkins’ Sam), an experiment left behind by the synth inventor, and she chooses to live in the open as human with the boy as her son in the heart of the anti-synth area of town.  Her performance and her character’s choices result in the most powerful and gut-wrenching segments of the season.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Colonel Carl Butler has done it all long before he is asked by his former boss and mentor–a general with plenty of influence to get things done–to take on a strange mission far away.  The son of a High Council member has gone missing and the investigation is at a standstill.  Butler is a semi-retired hero, he’s loyal to an old military boss, and that man has asked him to go on a far-away mission as a favor.  Butler takes the mission, but always has that niggling feeling all is not what it seems.  The price of the mission is great as he is put into cryo freeze for the long voyage ahead, but his wife is set up nicely with family for the duration.  It’s all a favor to someone who has always commanded his loyal and respect.

All goes downhill even before his arrival as he’s pulled out of cryo early.  On arrival Butler is immediately odd-man-out.  He is assigned some help, but he is disregarded by everyone in authority and all his efforts to sleuth-out what happened to the missing soldier are thwarted.  Even the medical branch won’t help, and a member of the press is persistent, asking why Butler was chosen for this mission and no one else.  That becomes the mystery for Butler, too, as much as discovering the story behind the missing man.  He’s on a space station and the planet below is at war with the alien inhabitants.  Butler does everything to avoid going planetside to meet with the local commander.  Can he stay away, or are all the answers down there?  And will he get those answers without taking command himself?

Arriving in bookstores tomorrow, retired Army officer Michael Mammay’s debut novel Planetside is a military conspiracy-thriller couched in sci-fi dress.  Heavier on the soldiering than the sci-fi, it has common elements you’d find in The General’s Daughter or Courage Under Fire (Mammay does it better).  Yet it is completely accessible to both fans of war novels and sci-fi readers thumbing the paperback rack for their next enjoyable read in the mystery genre, like Forbidden Planet, Blade Runner 2049, or Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (known to moviegoers as Edge of Tomorrow).  The author’s key strength in Planetside is the first person voice of Colonel Butler.  No doubt derived from Mammay’s years of encounters with similar types as a soldier in Desert Storm, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Butler has that stilted dialogue and manner that seems to define long-tenured soldiers in books and movies.  Both Butler’s inner voice and his orders to those around him give the novel fuel to skip along at a brisk pace.  Butler is very much in the realm of Colonel Graff in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and he could have fought alongside Sgt. Zim or Lt. Rasczak–although Planetside is not a story immersed in ground and aerial combat as in Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Mammay’s realism pulls readers in with some significant skirmishes along the way.

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One of the under-the-radar previews at this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was for the new James Cameron/Robert Rodriquez/Jon Landau sci-fi film, Alita: Battle Angel.  If you compare the trailer previewed Friday night at Horton Plaza’s Regal Theater to the earlier teaser from last December (see both below) you will see a stark difference, with clear improvements made in the interim in post-production, especially with the CGI face and movements for Alita the lead borg character in the film, with motion capture performance by Rosa Salazar.  Director Robert Rodriguez and producer and Oscar-winner Jon Landau headlined the panel Friday with Salazar and Keean Johnson, who plays Hugo.

WETA featured an Alita display at their booth. Hundreds of WETA Digital creators worked on the film.

Based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga comic Battle Angel Alita, the adaptation follows a doctor, played by Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, whose character is the latest Geppetto, creating Alita, a cybernetic girl.  The screenplay, written by James Cameron, takes the common borg origin sub-genre of science fiction (Frankenstein, Pinocchio, Edward Scissorhands, Ghost in the Shell, etc.), to make the next sci-fi warrior heroine.  The film co-stars Michelle Rodriquez, Casper Van Dien, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, and Jeff Fahey.

Check out the trailer for Alita: Battle Angel:

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Titan Publishing and Alcon Media Group, the producer behind more than 30 films over the past 20 years, announced a partnership that will mean the beginning of an expanded universe of stories for Rick Deckard, Replicants, and the world of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.  So expect new comic book series, tie-in fiction books, and maybe even a new book on Syd Mead and that tech noir futurism the franchise is known for.  It would seem the possibilities are endless.

In a press release issued late yesterday, the companies said they will develop and publish a variety of both fiction and non-fiction print media.  The program will feature new, “in canon” comics and graphic novels that dive deeper into the Blade Runner world.  They also plan to create a variety of publications focused on the visual and technical sides of the films.  Titan is also well-known for its Hard Case Crime imprint featuring the best of classic, lost, and new crime genre stories.  What better avenue to issue a vintage-style Deckard and femme fatale Rachael noir story than in a Hard Case Crime novel?

Alcon expressed its confidence that the world of Blade Runner will continue to organically grow in a way that refuses to sacrifice the quality, tone and high standards of this beloved property.  “We are extremely excited to be publishing Blade Runner comics and illustrated books,” said representatives of Titan.  “The Blade Runner universe has barely been explored; there is so much more there.  It’s an honour to be bringing this world to life in new ways for a new audience – and to reveal tales from that universe that you’ve never seen before.”

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, who endorsed the original film project in 1982, but died before its release.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel has diversified its creations on film and television so much that anyone can find a series or film that grabs them and surprises them with action, drama, strong characters, superheroics and great storytelling.  It’s going to be a subjective call for anyone, but the depth of every storytelling component in two seasons of Marvel’s Luke Cage makes it our nomination for the best superhero series yet.  With all that a comic book fan could want (except maybe supersuits), Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage, now on Netflix, rises to the occasion again.  The writers, actors, and other creators of Luke, his partners, and the crimelords of Harlem, could hold their own against any of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  A “best of” list of the villains of Marvel adaptations will no doubt have Loki and Killmonger from the movies fighting for top spots, but it also must now have Season One’s Cottonmouth Stokes, and this season’s trifecta of villains:  Bushmaster McIver, Shades Alvarez, and Mariah Stokes.

We compared Season One–which was borg.com’s Best TV Superhero Series of 2016 along with Cage actor Mike Colter and Misty Knight actor Simone Missick taking top acting kudos for the year–to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and again, Season Two is worthy of that comparison.  All the key social and cultural issues affecting every-day people inside or outside New York City neighborhoods, from the 1960s and today, work their way into the storytelling of the series.  The season kept its fresh approach with a new director at the helm of nearly every episode, while maintaining its focus thanks to Cheo Hodari Coker penning the overall story and leading the series as showrunner.  The show’s style is unique.  Even more than in Season One, nearly each episode featured the setting of the nightclub Harlem’s Paradise with an incredible performer on-stage with a relevant song to the episode.  Where a modern take on 20th century Speakeasy-inspired jazz and blues was the background for Season One, music derived from the roots of hip-hop and the heritage of key show characters in Jamaica defines the style this time.  This was topped off in the last episode with a song performed by Rakim that echoed Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s 1970s retro-funk series theme.

Family roots and legacies left behind top the season’s themes.  Along with the drama, the superheroics were present in Cage’s Power Man persona and new villain Bushmaster’s exquisitely choreographed battle scenes.  Charismatic actor Mustafa Shakir, who isn’t Jamaican, is perfectly convincing with the accent as Johnny “Bushmaster” McIver, and like Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk and series star Colter, Shakir looks like a superhuman with no need for any superhero costume.  And yes, Shakir performed most of the fabulous stunt fights with Colter, with training incorporating capoeira fighting, aptly selected for the series from its focus on power, speed, kicks, and spins.  Looking for the best superhero genre one-on-one battles at the movies or on television?  They can be found in Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  It’s even more refreshing because the series casts aside the current lazy trope in cinema of slow-motion action sequences, which can pull you out of the momentum of the action every time.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In all the flurry of late spring and early summer movie releases, don’t forget to see that X-Men movie sequel that drifted into theaters with less fanfare than the original two years ago.  That’s Deadpool 2, still in theaters nationwide in its fourth week, but probably phasing out soon.  So get to the theater before it’s gone.  More Ryan Reynolds sass and wisecracking, less of the supporting cast from the original, but more new characters fans of Marvel Comics and Marvel Comics-at-the-movies will want to see more of, Deadpool 2 has one big surprise you won’t glean from the trailers:  It’s a classic X-Men comic book story.

Take away the R-Rated humor and the jokes and you’ll find the backbone is a plot bringing the entirety of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise full circle.  The themes of that very first story from the first film in 2000, the movie called X-Men, return.  In X-Men we met young teenager Rogue (Anna Paquin), struggling with her abilities and the burden they place on her.  Despite the superhero vs. superhero storyline, the real villain was Senator Kelly, trying to pass a federal Mutant Registration Act (similar in plot development as the legislation that divides the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War).  Here we meet an out-of-control and mistreated mutant from New Zealand called Firefist (Julian Dennison), and the villain is another Senator Kelly-type trying to do-away with the mutants, played by familiar British actor Eddie Marsan.  Coming back to this theme 18 years later is a smart move–even in a flurry of humor we’re reminded that the stories were sourced in an effort to address teen readers trying to fit into the world.

New characters Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) are perfect transformations from comic to screen.  Cable is an expertly realized cyborg, not just a fill-in character but a fully developed new player in Marvel Studios’ arsenal.  Domino is a reminder that members of Marvel’s B-team line-up can steal the show (like Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past) when written well.  Any kid or kid at heart will appreciate a battle scene between Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Juggernaut (Ryan Reynolds) complete with its own humorous operatic accompaniment.  Time travel plays a key element in the story and Brolin’s cyborg is every bit as compelling as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s from the Terminator series, and the writers and director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick) tap into that with dropped references every chance they get.

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Reboot.  Recharge.  Rebel.

Next week the Synths return in AMC’s Humans, the series we pegged as last year’s best look at life living with and as a borg.  Humans is back for its third season with its season premiere Tuesday.  When we last left Humans, Lucy Carless’s Mattie Hawkins had uploaded the software to free the Synths–those very human-looking and acting cyborg servants.  Season 3 begins a year later–a year after all the Synths became fully conscious.  Since then life in British society has become strained as the oppressed Synth population fights to survive in a world that hates and fears them.

Similar to iZombie’s shift last season from a normal world to a world living side-by-side with zombies both at peace and at war, the Synths of Season 3 have their own community of outsiders split in two: The original green-eyed Synths are the rogues, not content with their second-tier status, and the new Series 11 “Orange Eyes” are the new, safe, properly configured and upgraded Synths.

The Synth family of Mia (Gemma Chan), Niska (Emily Berrington) and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) return, continuing to battle for their right to survival,  The rest of the Hawkins family is back, too, with Mattie’s parents Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) separated because of their divergent views of the Synths, and Mattie’s siblings Toby (Theo Stevenson) and Sophie (Pixie Davies) dealing with the upheavals all around them.

Here is a preview for Season 3 of AMC’s Humans:

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The best is back next month.  Television’s best comic book adaptation to date, the Emmy-winning Marvel’s Luke Cage, is returning next month as Season 2 arrives on Netflix.  Can Season 2 match the one-two punch of the first season?  It looks like we’re going to get a return of everything fans are after:  More Mike Colter protecting the streets of Harlem as “Power Man” Luke Cage.  The first trailer for the 2018 season is out and we’re learning a lot about what to look for in June as the next season is released on Netflix:  Supercop badass Misty Knight (Simone Missick) is bringing a new weapon to the law with her own cybernetic arm.   Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard is taking her place as leader of the underground criminal element.  Luke’s pal Bobby (Ron Cephas Jones) is back with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple to watch over Luke.  And even Theo Rossi’s master manipulator and henchman “Shades” Alvarez makes an appearance in the trailer.

The challenge of all superhero tales ultimately is the same:  How intriguing and compelling is the villain?  Season 1 had Shades and Mariah, Frank Whaley’s cool bad cop Detective Scarfe, Erik LaRay Harvey’s sinister Diamondback, and the awesome and gritty Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth.  With Scharfe, Cottonmouth, and Diamondback out of the picture, we’re getting a new villain: Quarry’s Mustafa Shakir is Bushmaster.  Showing Cage there’s always someone bigger and stronger to come along, Bushmaster surprises our hero with equal strength and power.

Does Bushmaster hail from the same mad science that created Cage, or is someone new behind the scenes?

Take a look at this first trailer for Season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nearly one hundred years after Bushnell’s Turtle (the submersible, not the sandwich shop), Jules Verne introduced the world to his futuristic advanced submarine the Nautilus.  In the pages of his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an expedition is investigating a giant sea monster that ends up being Captain Nemo’s famous submarine.   A predecessor to modern steampunk stories, 20,000 Leagues gets a sequel 145 years later in C. Courtney Joyner’s new steampunk novel Nemo Rising

Pushing aside Verne’s own sequel The Mysterious Island, Nemo Rising finds Captain Nemo a prisoner of the United States, jailed in a vault in Virginia in a form of solitary confinement and set to be hanged for destroying the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Partially destroyed but slightly rebuilt and sitting in drydock, the Nautilus would seem to be calling for its captain as a bevy of sea monsters begins to destroy European vessels in the Atlantic.  U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is eager to hang Nemo, but realizes he needs to negotiate a deal for Nemo’s cooperation to prove that these sea monsters are causing the destruction to get the international community off his back.  As the President dodges assassination attempts riding his trusty horse Cincinnati, he finally resorts to using a new invention, an airship, to redouble the efforts to see that Nemo completes his mission and learns the truth behind these attacks.  Accompanied against his wishes by the airship inventor’s intrepid daughter, Nemo seeks his own form of payback as he takes the choice of the mission over the gallows.  The result is a classic seafaring adventure any fan of classic science fiction or pirate tales will love.

First edition of the original Jules Verne Captain Nemo novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas.

With the pacing and action level of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, Nemo Rising reveals a brother-in-arms of Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab on the footing of a modern vengeance story as found in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Netflix’s The Punisher.  This Captain Nemo story is a fun read that will be gobbled up by fans of Verne (especially his novel Master of the World) and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  It also reflects the realism of living and working at sea, but without all the precise detail like you’d find in C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, the Patrick O’Brian Jack Aubrey books, or the famous mutiny stories–it’s more like watching their television adaptations.

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It’s been one long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2017, it’s time for the fifth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2017 films, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

In anticipation of the 2017 film Logan, last year we added Old Man Logan, Laura/X-23, and cyborg-armed mercenary Donald Pierce.  We also added Scarlet Johansson’s character The Major, previewing 2017’s live-action film The Ghost in the Shell.

We didn’t get the big ballroom at our venue reserved early enough for the induction ceremony this year, so it limited us to tapping only 24 named characters into the revered Hall of Fame this year.


As with last year, we’re granting a few early entrances this year, first to Simone Missick’s badass cop Misty Knight, who is getting a borg arm for season two of Luke Cage in 2018.


And here is an early look at Josh Brolin’s Cable, from 2018’s Deadpool sequel.  The borg comic book character Cable was a first round honoree to the Hall, so this is just another update to the character.


Onto this year… Kingsman’s almost-a-Kingsman Charlie was thought to have been killed off in the first film.  But he was back in the 2017 film Kingsman: The Golden Circle, sporting cyborg components.


A host of new borgs–Replicants in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?–returned to the big screen in Blade Runner 2049, including some new names and faces, like Ryan Gosling’s K

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