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Tag Archive: Donal Logue


Review by C.J. Bunce

Probably the second best-known work writer Alan Moore is known for in the U.S. outside of his Watchmen series, Batman: The Killing Joke was both a retelling of the origin story of The Joker and the story of his using a physical assault on Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl to attempt to torture and ruin Gotham police commissioner Jim Gordon.  The book is one of the 1980s big four revolutionary comics (along with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and Watchmen) that caused a shift in how superhero stories are told (and it was the only comic director Tim Burton had ever read, setting the tone for the dark 1989 Batman movie featuring Jack Nicholson’s version of The Joker that Burton would begin filming only weeks later).  It’s a controversial graphic novel–the sexual assault and gunshot that resulted in Barbara Gordon losing the use of her legs and resulting in her change of persona to the deskbound computer whiz called Oracle angered many readers, and the ending is ambiguous and perplexing–why is Batman laughing at the end of the story?  Following the lead of the Marvel Comics new library of novelized adaptations of comic books and graphic novels, Batman: The Killing Joke is now the first of at least three new hardcover novel adaptations of DC Comics stories (to be followed by Batman: The Court of Owls on November 13, 2018, and Harley Quinn: Mad Love on February 12, 2019) published by Titan Books (also the publisher of the Marvel paperback novels).  Written by Christa Faust (Peepland, Fringe, Supernatural) and Gary Phillips (Violent Spring, Peepshow), their adaptation is a straightforward, faithful take on the graphic novel with a few updates.

The impact of the graphic novel cannot be overstated.  A key draw was the prestige format and the fact the book was a one-shot story, not like the three big predecessor books mentioned above that were monthly single issues compiled into a trade comic.  At the time we didn’t think the story would be absorbed into the regular continuity of DC Comics, but it slowly became a reference point even beyond its impact on Batgirl stories for the next 30 years.  (The book was so popular we couldn’t wait a minute to read it–one of my oldest friends was reading his copy on his music stand during our high school band practice, prompting the band director to throw it across the room, to our horror).

So how is the new novel adaptation?

You can’t really come up with enough synonyms for vile and despicable to describe The Joker in the original story and in this adaptation.  Before this story–and only about nine months before DC Comics would use fans to allow The Joker to kill Batman’s sidekick Robin with a tire iron in the pages of the Batman monthly comic book–The Joker was a bit of a silly villain.  Sure, he was always dastardly and Batman’s age-old key foe, but readers never saw him in such “true crime” acts so explicitly.  This is commonplace in the Batman stories now, but before you wouldn’t find a character shot, stripped naked, and photographed and another one stripped naked and tortured, both as plot devices ultimately used by The Joker to get Batman to show-up for the battle.  Authors Faust and Phillips do the most justice to Commissioner Gordon’s character, whose focus during his torture in a revived old amusement park is only the thoughts of his daughter’s safety and survival.  By the end of the book readers have learned that they couldn’t blame Gordon were he to walk away from these events as a destroyed pool of a man.  On the flipside, Barbara Gordon’s attack is handled partially from her viewpoint trying to understand what happened to her in real time, and partially from the view of one of The Joker’s stooges.  Barbara plays a more active role here in saving her father (and surviving), and instead of seeing herself as the victim she uses the bystander stooge to help further her superhero self into a new persona in a smartly conceived update via a coda to the story.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How far back has this latest chapter in J.J. Abrams mash-up of science fiction and giant monsters been brewing?  Back to his 2011 summer coming of age release Super 8?  Like M. Night Shyamalan, all of Abrams’ projects, whether as executive producer or director or even writer-director, may not be successful, but they both take exciting risks with their projects.  Cloverfield was a well-crafted homage to Godzilla pictures.  10 Cloverfield Lane was a genre surprise, a mix of straight dramatic horror that ended up as a sci-fi monster movie.  And this week Netflix released a theatrical worthy next installment, The Cloverfield Paradox, this time providing that relentless sci-fi horror fix perfected with James Cameron’s Aliens.  And like Shyamalan’s recent thriller Split, a cool surprise is in store for viewers.

The Cloverfield Paradox is easily comparable to one of the best Doctor Who space station-based episodes (think The Waters of Mars).  In fact absent Matt Smith or David Tennant you might forget you’re not watching Doctor Who as so many tropes from Whovian space disaster episodes are weaved into the film.  And that’s a good thing for fans of the type of science fiction stories that Doctor Who tends to attract.  The cast of The Cloverfield Paradox forms a crew you wish would be around for a TV series.  Led by David Oyelowo (Star Wars: Rebels, Jack Reacher) as Commander Kiel, with physicists played by Daniel Brühl (Rush, Goodbye Lenin, Captain America: Civil War) as Schmidt and Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2) as Tam, and other crewmembers played by John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island, Alien vs. Predator), Aksel Hennie (The Martian), and Chris O’Dowd (Thor: The Dark World), the space station Cloverfield has a legitimate international crew.  But the focus is on crewmember Hamilton played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast, Jupiter Ascending), who leaves her husband (Roger Davies) back on Earth after her children die in a fire to help the scientists test a particle accelerator.  The success or failure of that test could mean a leap ahead for the planet or certain doom.

Anyone who has ever read an issue of DC Comics can understand the multi-verse science here.  Dabbling in quantum physics comes with uncertain risks, and after nearly a year of failed trials, when the station finally creates a stable particle beam, something has changed.  Leaving the audience always wondering whether this is going to be another Aliens episode or something else, the effect of the anomaly creates the stuff of The Philadelphia Experiment, smashing one reality into another.  One of the results is the appearance from another parallel universe of a Cloverfield physicist played by Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  Only Debicki’s character was not on the mission in the universe the film started out in, and as radio signals reflect an apparently altered Earth below, the loyalties of the crewmembers come into question.  It’s all great fun, and the production quality is good enough–with bonuses like crew costumes from Academy Award-winning designer Colleen Atwood–that it’s a shame audiences can’t watch this play out on a big movie theater screen.

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gotham-court-of-owls

When we last saw Gotham, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) was returning to the series to lead a group of denizens from Indian Hill, a motley band of “enhanced” people created by Dr. Hugo Strange (BD Wong).  Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), no longer with the police force, is still working with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), but he’s now in bounty hunter mode, investigating the Court of Owls.

Gotham dials up more villainy in Season 3, beginning next week, with The Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), Poison Ivy (Maggie Geha taking over from the younger Clare Foley), Calendar Man from The Long Halloween, a Bruce Wayne doppelganger (David Mazouz), and more of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and his rise in power, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and his downward spiral, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Barbera Kean (Erin Richards), and Fish Mooney.  Morena Baccarin is also back as Gordon’s girlfriend Dr. Leslie Thompkins, along with Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Michael Chiklis as Nathaniel Barnes.

jim-gordon-ben-mckenzie

Check out these previews for Season 3 of Gotham:

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Gotham season 2 poster

Gotham, the great new series from Fox in 2014 that re-imagined Batman’s Gotham City before Bruce Wayne donned a cowl, will be adding even more villains in Season 2.  As a bonus, Michael Chiklis will play a new member of the Gotham police force.  Marketing for the series’ sophomore season promises the show will dig into the origin stories for The Riddler, which we’ve already seen a fair amount of in his portrayal by Cory Michael Smith, as well as The Joker and Mr. Freeze.  And the young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is expected to uncover more secrets from his father’s past.

But we’re most anxious to see what’s new with Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), and last year’s surprisingly good villain, Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin, played so well by Robin Lord Taylor.

But how will the writers fill the gap left by Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney?

Check out this latest trailer for Season 2 of Gotham:

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Gruffudd star of ABC Forever

We love good TV.  Nothing is better than looking forward each week to a show you can trust to have great writing and great acting.  We’ve made our way through several series again this year, trying out pilots for new shows and adding them into the DVR queue–if they made the cut.  Many didn’t.  We also re-try series that didn’t prompt us to watch in prior years.  Most lose out because they rely on shock over substance and storytelling.  Where we ended up was a list of what we love, and what we have recommended all year.  These series are our Best of the Best for 2014.

Our biggest disappointments?  The cancellations of the brilliant, futuristic Almost Human and the reboot of the TV classic Dallas–these shows were written by the best script writers around and will be sorely missed.  We hope you’ll give some of the following shows a try next year, or catch them on streaming media, if you’re not watching already.

Forever De la Garza and Gruffudd

ForeverBest TV Series, Best TV Fantasy Fix, Best Actor (Ioan Gruffudd), Best Actress (Alana de la Garza), Best Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Best Villain (Burn Gorman).  Contenders for the year’s best series were easy to spot:  ABC’s Forever or NBC’s Gotham.  In years past at borg.com we have favored cable programming, yet this year the networks surged ahead with these two superb series.  Forever nudged out Gotham for top prize because of its straightforward storytelling, small talented cast, superb dialogue, and fun situations.  Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Ringer, Fantastic Four) and Alana de la Garza (Law and Order) were perfect foils for each other in the lead roles, and each created compelling characters.  Judd Hirsch played son to younger Gruffudd’s unsinkable doctor and gave us the best father and son team on TV in years.  Burn Gorman’s chilling performances toward the end of this season were a great addition, setting us up for more fun next year.

Gotham clip

GothamBest TV Series Runner-up, Best Supporting Actress (Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney), Best Supporting Actor Runner-up (Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock).  NBC’s Gotham did many things we normally wouldn’t like, including taking source material and standing it on end and adding new characters to a classic story’s established cast.  Yet it all worked somehow with this intriguing re-imagining of Bruce Wayne’s backstory.  Catwoman and Batman were friends as kids?  The Penguin was a mole and stooge for key crime families?  Commissioner Gordon took Bruce Wayne under his wing as a child?  All of this worked, yet the best view into Gotham life was provided by Gordon’s partner, played by Donal Logue (Life, Vikings), and Jada Pinkett Smith’s sultry and ruthless gangster Fish Mooney.

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Grant Gustin as The Flash

Gotham is now two episodes past its pilot, with the premiere for Season Three of Arrow this week along with the pilot for The Flash.  There’s one more DCU series–Constantine–coming later this month.  We’ve seen the first entries of the DC Comics universe on TV for the Fall 2014 season, so how did the first of the season openers fare?

We had low expectations for Gotham.  A series in Gotham with all the Bat-villains and Jim Gordon, but no Batman?  Whose idea was that?  Yet, tight writing and a story that proceeds at a fast pace coupled with a superb supporting cast of characters and actors behind the roles really make this a series we’re looking forward to each week.  That “boy scout” lead role for cop Jim Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie, must be a thankless job, and far less fun to play than all those villains, including the best reason to watch Gotham in Gordon’s partner Harvey Bullock played by Donal Logue.  We reviewed the pilot earlier here at borg.com and we’re still happy with the direction of the series.

Routh on Arrow as Ray Palmer

If the season opener is any indication of the course of Season Three of CW’s Arrow, then consistency is the theme for this series.  We know these characters well now, and the actors all solidly fit in the shoes of our heroes, from Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen to David Ramsey as John Diggle, to Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak and Paul Blackthorne as Captain Lance, Arrow is a proven commodity.

Mix up Diggle’s role in Oliver’s team?  Taunt us with a relationship between Oliver and Felicity?  Kill off a major series hero?  The writers are sure going to keep us on our toes this year.

The highlight of all the DCU series so far is the introduction of Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer–the man who would be The Atom.  It’s not lost on anyone watching that we are seeing the former big screen Superman face off with the Green Arrow right before our eyes.  As we saw with the NBC series Chuck, Routh is one of the best actors to pop in for guest starring roles.  Let’s just not take too much time before we see him transform into The Atom.  Please?

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Gordon and Bullock

Review by C.J. Bunce

Creating a Gotham City derived from the dark and sleazy world of the 1989 Batman film, but with a “Gotham Confidential” film noir spin, Fox’s new series Gotham managed to hit all the right notes in its Monday night premiere episode.  Like LA Confidential, it even stars a ringer for Russell Crowe, actor Ben McKenzie (Southland, The O.C.) as the rookie cop James Gordon.  But it’s the supporting cast and some tight writing that sticks to key parts of the DC Universe backstory that will have us back again next week.

Some elements are modified for this TV adaptation, of course, like the presence of a young Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) at the murder of the parents of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz).  And Batwoman Kate Kane’s girlfriend and cop Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartegena) shows up far earlier in the DCU and, if we’re picking up the innuendo right, seems to have had a similar relationship with the would-be Barbara Gordon (now Gordon’s fiancée, not his daughter).  Will this Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards, Being Human, Merlin) go on to be Batgirl and/or Oracle?

Bruce Wayne in Gotham

But the most riveting and engaging performances in the pilot come from Gordon’s senior partner Detective Harvey Bullock, played by the ubiquitous Donal Logue (Vikings, Sneakers, The X-Files, Ghost Rider), almost reprising his gritty cop roles from the short-lived crime drama Life and the film Zodiac, and the introduction of a new villain, mid-level mob moll Fish Mooney, played in a sultry Eartha Kitt-inspired performance by Jada Pinkett Smith (Hawthorne, The Matrix Reloaded).  Logue proves again he could carry a TV series all by himself, and Smith also owns every scene she appears in.

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Gotham series banner

The 75th anniversary of the creation of Batman is approaching.  Continuing the theme of superhero television series revolving around crusaders defending their city, DC Comics and Fox released the first trailer for their new series Gotham.  Shifting from Arrow’s Starling City to the more famous Gotham City, DC Comics also is continuing its focus on a cast of supervillains, this time as a prequel starring Ben McKenzie (Southland, The OC), who previously was the voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne in the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.

But if the new series is able to latch onto some of the success seen by CW Network’s Arrow, it may be because of supporting cast, like the always great Donal Logue (Vikings, Life, The X-Files, Ghost Rider, Sneakers).  Gotham is also taking a cue from AMC’s Bates Motel, revealing the creepy pasts of Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), Poison Ivy (Clare Foley), the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), and the Penguin (Robin Taylor) in their early days in Gotham City.  On the downside, DC Comics is now taking a cue from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by leaving the key superhero–Batman– out of the story, other than the Bruce Wayne origin story from Miller’s Batman: Year One.

Gotham cast

Check out this first preview for Gotham:

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Cumberbatch in The Fifth Estate

The crux of the 1992 thriller Sneakers, reviewed here at borg.com last week, was all that mattered in the future is “Who controls the information.”  The problem behind every problem?  Too many secrets.  If everyone knew everyone else’s secrets, would that make us safer?  In Sneakers, the solution is a little black box invented by fictional Dr. Gunter Janek, a white haired, young, brilliant genius played by Donal Logue (Life, Copper).   His box is not just a decoder of secrets but THE decoder of secrets.  In a way Sneakers was prescient, but it took 20 years for the secrets to be revealed, not through a black box but via the Internet—led by a young Dr. Janek-looking genius, Australian editor, activist, publisher and journalist Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.

Logue as Janek in Sneakers

Next month actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who continues to prove he can play any role he attempts with aplomb, stars in his next leading role as Assange in the journalism thriller The Fifth Estate.

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River Phoenix in Sneakers

Born in a log cabin in Oregon 43 years ago this month, River Phoenix was raised much like the character he played in the acclaimed film The Mosquito Coast.  He was born into a flower child family and grew into a vegetarian, member of PETA, and supporter of saving the rain forests.  He was an activist, a creator, a musician and actor who no doubt would have been a key figure in the mid-1990s American culture had he not died from an overdose of narcotics outside of Johnny Depp’s club in L.A.  He was 23 years old and has been gone 20 years this October.

Like other famous people who died before 40, like James Dean, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Brandon Lee, JFK, Jr, Chris Farley, Karen Carpenter, Andy Gibb, Princess Diana, John Belushi, and–as we revisit the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years after his “I Have a Dream” speech this week–you can’t help wonder what someone like Phoenix would be doing had he not made a wrong life turn back in 1993.

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