Tag Archive: Guillermo del Toro


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Review by C.J. Bunce

Stanley Kubrick’s The Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles.  Peter Jackson’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.  George Miller’s Justice League.  Robert Rodriguez’s Barbarella.  Shane Black’s The Monster Squad.  Two John Carpenter movies you’ve never seen.  If you’re wondering what the best movie was in any given year, you have plenty of options.  You can look for the movie that had the biggest take at the box office.  You can look to critic reviews.  You can scroll through the Internet Movie Database.  You can review awards lists or Alternate Oscars.  Or you can just watch the movies and choose for yourself.  Underexposed! The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, a new book arriving this month from Abrams, could have been called False Starts–it’s a book about movies that almost made it to the big screen.

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Peppered with movie poster mock-ups from art group PosterSpy, filmmaker and film enthusiast Joshua Hull tracked down interesting histories of some of the best and most quirky movies that almost got made, but were either abandoned, had legal rights issues, lack of funding, lack of interest, or simply were not made to save audiences from a bad idea.  They aren’t from obscure creators, either.  The list includes projects from Alfred Hitchcock to Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg–and some are ideas that sound like they could have been pretty great.  What were they thinking?  Find out in this book.  

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Happy holidays!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2021!  But wait!  Next year’s list sure looks a lot like the the films we previewed last December.  The covid pandemic has delayed hundreds of film projects, but some made it through.  When you walk back through last year’s list and compare it to movies released after theater lockdowns, you get some insight into how Hollywood thinks.  Big movies and movies predicted to be successes were universally held back, while less popular films were released to low box office returns from theaters that remained open, and yet other films went directly to home streaming or related media platforms.

Last year we pulled 85 of the hundreds of films then slated for the 2020 movie calendar.  The first two dozen made it to theaters (films like Underwater, Dolittle, and Birds of Prey) before the national shift began on March 11 with news of the NBA reacting to the pandemic by suspending pro basketball–the first national awareness of the scope of the problem.  Suddenly we saw Vudu and other home platforms coming to the rescue for our entertainment fix, adding a new Theater at Home option, which captured movies like Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emma, Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, and the animated Scoob!  Disney began an interesting tiered release of Mulan, which for half the year showed a studio doing its best to maximize returns on what would have been a key release in any other year.  After another delay The New Mutants made it briefly to theaters followed by home release after three years of getting kicked aside as the last vestiges of the Disney-Fox merger were shaken out.  Other films, like Vast of Night, Extraction, The Old Guard, Rebecca, Radioactive, and Fantasy Island safely premiered on Netflix and Amazon Prime, with Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction standing out as the clear popular winner–the entire world needed some new entertainment and after what would only be the first of several months of shelter-at-home, it tentatively filled the void.

So our predictions for the year’s big genre films were flat wrong, every single one except Mulan was delayed to 2021, including Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Black Widow, No Time to Die, a new Fast & Furious, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, and superhero flicks Venom 2, Eternals, and MorbiusWonder Woman 1984 is expected to have a theatrical release by year end.  Altogether 35 of last year’s 85 movies previewed on our annual list are back again below, plus we found more than 35 new genre films we think will appeal to borg readers.

So what’s left and what’s new?

Grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2021.  Then compare the below list to our 2020 list, and look back to the 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list.  Last year we noticed studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services, and the pandemic only stepped up that migration.  Note:  Warner Bros. has reported it will issue its 2021 releases simultaneously on HBO Max.  Netflix has mostly dramas slated for 2021, but a few genre films are in pre-production, so expect a few surprises throughout the year.  Amazon Studios has fewer, most partnerships with Blumhouse Productions.

As we learned well this year, many of these films will have revised release dates, and even get pushed to 2022.

January

Mortal Kombat Based on the video game.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.  HBO Max.

Wrath of Man Next Jason Statham action flick.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.

The French Dispatch.  Wes Anderson and his familiar actors in new quirky film about journalists.  New!  January 28, 2021.

The DigA film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan.  January 29, 2021.  Netflix.

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Although it wasn’t renewed for a second season, streaming service DC Universe’s Swamp Thing was the 2019 adaptation of a comic book series that stood apart in a year where every other series seemed to be based on a comic book.  On the small screen, from The Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Watchmen, to the last seasons of Netflix’s The Punisher and Jessica Jones, plus new seasons of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and Legion, and new Batwoman and Doom Patrol series, 2019 meant a lot of comic book adaptations that either looked the same or they fought hard to try to be grittier and different.  And that’s great–that means there’s something for everyone.  But none compared to Swamp Thing.  For our money, if you’re looking for fun, creepy timed for Halloween and not cartoony, soap opera-ish, or comic booky, and a series that earned its way to be one of the top 10 comic book adaptations of all, give Swamp Thing a try.  Moving from DC Universe to the CW network where anyone can watch it, the first episode of Swamp Thing begins again tonight at 7 p.m. Central.

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In-person cancellations have not kept every event this summer from canceling entirely.  One of those is typically one of the summer’s biggest events, San Diego Comic-Con.  Events for SDCC 2020 are proceeding ahead beginning Wednesday, but this time providing an opportunity for fans of all things pop culture a chance to sit through the kinds of panels you might see were you to attend in person in any regular year–without standing overnight in lines.  You can even grab a lanyard off the rack, print your own badge (for you and your pets), cosplay with your family, and load the panels up on as big of a screen as you have.  It’s 350 panels over five days, beginning Wednesday, July 22, and wrapping up Sunday, July 26.  Check out all our suggestions for building your own fun convention week experience below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Although it wasn’t renewed for a second season, streaming service DC Universe’s Swamp Thing is the adaptation of a comic book series from 2019 that stood apart in a year where every other series seemed to be based on a comic book.  On the small screen, from The Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Watchmen, to the last seasons of Netflix’s The Punisher and Jessica Jones, plus new seasons of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and Legion, and new Batwoman and Doom Patrol series, 2019 meant a lot of comic book adaptations that either looked the same or they fought hard to try to be grittier and different.  And that’s great–that means there’s something for everyone.  But if you’re looking for fun, and nicely creepy but not too dark, and not cartoony, soap opera-ish, or comic booky, and you were willing to give DC universe a try, then you’d be lucky enough to have discovered Swamp Thing If you missed it, you can still catch up with the full season now with a DC Universe subscription or via Amazon Prime here, and it’s coming your way (and available for pre-order) on Blu-ray, digital, and DVD next month.

Swamp Thing strikes the right balance, taking a second-tier property and recreating the level of creepy found in 1960s-1980s comics–a show that actually looks and feels like what the original visionary artists Bernie Wrightson and writer Len Wein put on the page.  Finally a great Justice League Dark show, something like we loved in print from Mikel Janin and Peter Milligan that so far also has provided the best character cameos of CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event.  Complete with Madame Xanadu, Blue Devil, and Phantom Stranger, we meet two very Marvel Comics types inside the DC realm.  More importantly it’s great fun, like a John Carpenter movie with its visual effects, a top cast of household name actors and great guest stars, and faithful storytelling to the comics, headed up by Crystal Reed as a smart CDC doctor named Abby.  If you’re of the camp (like us) that agrees Bill Bixby on The Incredible Hulk is still the best comics on TV has ever been, then you’ll love seeing the similar origin tale and subsequent episodes between Abby and Andy Bean′s Alec Holland, a researcher and investigator whose lives are turned upside down when a swamp is contaminated by a local mill, which causes devastating changes to Holland.  The chemistry and tragic tale played by Bixby and Mariette Hartley in the 1970s Hulk series is echoed by the chemistry of Reed and Bean as the leads in Swamp Thing.

Holland transforms into a beast who walks and speaks like a man, but the plants of the swamp have merged with him.  Is there still a man in there that can be removed and repaired, or is he forever transformed into something entirely new?

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If you want to see a good argument for enforcing antitrust policy against mega-sized media corporations, here’s one.  Along with so many other change-ups, delays and cancelations, add Fox’s big-(estimated $170 million) budget Mouse Guard movie to the list.  The writer, artist, and visionary creator of the Mouse Guard universe, David Petersen announced the news back in April, two weeks before the scheduled filming date.  Reportedly Disney directed new subsidiary Fox to cancel the film.  No reasons were announced, but it’s difficult to surmise any reason other than a coordinated effort to own the theater box office with its own projects.  Just how much work had already been done?  How big was this film going to be?  Director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner) and Petersen released two videos over social media this week (and more participants have since released even more great pre-production content) that paint a picture that will leave you feeling like audiences have been out-right robbed.

The first video includes a pan of the offices where the pre-production previz work was already completed, including miniatures, maquettes, dioramas, costumes, performance capture and CG-mock-ups, and thousands of pieces of compelling concept art lining the work area walls.  You really get a sense for what audiences will be missing with the second video, another development piece for sure, yet even as a demo or “sizzle reel,” anyone who is a fan of fantasy movies can see this was going to be something entirely new.  Matt Reeves (The Batman, Planet of the Apes reboots) was producing.  Artist Darek Zabrocki was one of many artists who created thousands of pieces of concept art (see above and below) to push the film forward (see Zabrocki’s Instagram account here for several images).  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenplay writer Gary Whitta′s script was in-hand (he’s now released it via his Twitter account for everyone to read here).  Composer John Paesano had his first theme in play with a warrior’s quest-evoking theme in a James Horner/Randy Edelman vibe (listen to it here).  It was all just ready for Weta to step in and take over with production, and wham, that House with the Mouse slammed the door.  But it looks like no other mice will suffice for Disney.  So Fox will either sit on the rights, sell them, or the rights will revert in a few years.  All these pre-production pieces will likely get warehoused until they get auctioned off for space reasons down the road as happens with studios (studio storage is expensive!), unless another studio or filmmaker steps in with some money (Peter Jackson?  Guillermo Del Toro?  The Jim Henson Company?).  But we seem to already be past the eleventh hour for that to have happened.  On the one hand, outsiders will never know why the decision was made, corporations make these calls for all sorts of business reasons.  But what is clear is that without the approval of that mega-merger of behemoth media empires, this expression, this idea, this story, this vision, would be coming to your local theaters soon.

Voice actors enlisted for the film included Idris Elba, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jack Whitehall, Samson Kayo, and Andy Serkis.  In the meantime, Petersen keeps creating, new Mouse Guard and other worlds.  Petersen’s comics and compilation hardcover editions, along with his version of The Wind and the Willows, are the picture books I have purchased more than any other for gifts–ever.  His artwork is fantastic, fantastical, and magical, and it came as no surprise when he announced a film in the works back in 2016.  Petersen’s Dark Crystal and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic cover art also has him as a contender for the year’s best cover artist.  Mouse Guard is one of those rare worlds in my lifetime that evokes the wonder of Jim Henson, the creativity of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the gravity and import of Mr. Rogers.

Enjoy the little of the film we get to see, these great videos released by Ball and Petersen:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the 40th anniversary of Alien, OVID.tv is streaming a stunning, eye-opening documentary about the life and visual creations of H.R. Giger, who won an Academy Award for his design work on the science fiction/horror classic.  Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World features interviews with Hansruedi “H.R.” Giger (pronounced geeger) at his home and during his travels in the weeks before his death in 2014.  Interspersing archival footage and interviews with those who knew Giger best, his wife Carmen, his ex-wife, a psychiatrist, his former partner, his agent, the archivist of his personal collection, and others (even his Siamese cat Müggi makes several appearances), writer/director Belinda Sallin assembles a picture of the complex man, his unique creations, and his influences.

If you’ve viewed footage of Guillermo Del Toro’s vast collection of horror memorabilia (via interviews or in books like his At Home with Monsters), all housed in a lavish setting, imagine a home as fabulously creepy but built like an old abandoned grotto, centered around Giger’s horror paintings and statues, complete with dark corridors, and those eerie squeaky doors and stairs of a recluse’s hovel in a vine-covered corner.  His “biomechanik” artwork, sculptures, and storage drawers are wall-to-wall, his book collection haphazardly stacked on shelves and in the bathtub, (real) skulls are tucked into nooks and crannies, a set of doors inside the modest front door is covered with paintings of his trademark human-alien hybrid characters, and an Academy Award is filed between dusty objects on another shelf.  A mini-train ride through the vines outside the house take visitors on a haunted house ride through birth, life, and death.  This is a haunted house, but devoid of spirits.  Ray Bradbury’s attic in every way, only it isn’t.  It’s Hansruedi Giger’s house.

Artists of any genre and fans of the Alien franchise can get an unprecedented, detailed, personal look at a man known for his disturbing imagery.  Dismissed for decades by the mainstream art scene for Giger’s popular status in Hollywood, Alien indeed made Giger famous just as Giger made Alien famous.  The influences behind his often dark and grotesque images will not be surprising: his father bought him his first human skull at the age of six, and his sister took him to a museum to scare him by showing him an actual mummy.  Both of these things frightened the little boy, but he forced himself to look at these things repeatedly until, as he says in the documentary, he overcame his fears.  But the nightmares never seemed to dwindle.  He speaks of his dreams as a key influence, but he told a psychiatrist that the frightening images he saw lost their power when he committed them to canvas.  He also acknowledges LSD use as the prompt behind some of his work.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We have a review of the first of three tie-in books to the new Robert Rodriguez film Alita: Battle Angel coming your way.  Alita: Battle Angel should appeal to any fan of cyborgs–the story as envisioned by James Cameron was a pet project of the director for several years, one he’d picked up from Guillermo del Toro.  When Cameron decided to pursue management of his several Avatar sequels directly and finally handed over the project to Rodriguez he did so with more than 600 pages of notes he’d prepared.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of a young girl.  A part-time doctor, part-time bounty hunter, Doctor Ido, played in the film by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, takes center stage in Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal, the new release by writer Nick Aires for Titan Books.

After losing his human daughter’s struggle to live, the Dr. Frankenstein-inspired Dr. Ido finds the “core” of a cyborg in a scrapyard with a surviving, living human brain.  He uses the prosthetics and futuristic body parts he’d designed for his daughter to rebuild a new girl, quasi-Pinocchio style, naming her Alita after his daughter.  The sci-fi story follows Alita as she tries to learn about her past and survive in a dystopian world that mixes inspirations from John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Neill Blomkamp, and George Miller.  The visions of each of these directors’ best futuristic films comes through in Doctor Ido’s Journal, an in-universe document which reprints concept art, sketches, and photographs from the film, combining them with a diary entry narrative written by Aires in the place of Dr. Ido.  Doctor Ido’s Journal will be familiar to fans of Aires’ past in-universe books, including Oliver Queen’s Dossier, S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon’s Journal, and Arrow: Heroes and Villains and works by others reviewed here, including Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, and the Batman v Superman Tech ManualFans will first find a cleverly designed flex-cover that mimics metal (a great design effect that would make for an attractive blank journal), followed by pages of dense notebook entries that track the action of the film, all from Dr. Ido’s perspective.

The artwork is exceptional, vivid engineering-level drawings like those found in Mark Salisbury’s Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here at borg, and the combination of horror and beauty found in production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton’s elaborate designs in Alien: Covenant: David’s Drawings, reviewed here (it’s worth noting the Weta Digital created much of the designs for both Alita: Battle Angel and Elysium, and the similarly realized scrap-metal worlds of Blomkamp’s District 9 and CHAPPIE).  At times the gear-heavy animatronics inside the cyborgs echo the real-world 19th century automaton past of these creations, making these modern borgs into something that feels almost steampunk.

Here are some preview pages from Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal courtesy of the publisher:

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Every year the Super Bowl means new movie trailers.  Surprisingly this year netted no surprises–the most exciting of all the movie trailers that aired during Sunday’s 53rd Super Bowl game may be the deja vu from Super Bowl 51, the preview for another film in the Fast & Furious series that was released in advance of the game (we previewed it here).  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham are hard to beat, and their trailer for Hobbs & Shaw looks like it could be the surprise moneymaker of the year, in a year of sequels and more sequels.  The franchise is already the sixth biggest moneymaker of all time.

But we got plenty of new previews for projects previously announced.  We have new, short, “spot” trailers for Marvel movies Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel.  Four movies of the bunch are not big franchise sequels, including a look at Us–the latest from Get Out director Jordan Poole, the animated adventure Wonder Park, a brief look at Alita: Battle Angel, and Guillermo del Toro’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  Last but not least, the game ran a brief spot for Toy Story 4.

Check out all these new movie trailers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

James Cameron has plenty to say about science fiction and he pulls in some sci-fi directors and dozens of sci-fi actors and creators to lay it all out in his new AMC series James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction.  Many series have wrestled with the subject of defining science fiction, most recently Ridley Scott’s Prophets of Science Fiction, where the Alien and Blade Runner director honored George Lucas, Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. Not known for his interviewing, Cameron opted to record more informal chats with a small circle of his contemporaries, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (plus an interview by friend/science fiction writer Randall Frakes of Cameron himself), attempting to guide them down his framework of analysis, sometimes gaining agreement and other times sparking interesting tangent questions.  The interviews are divided up and sprinkled across six episodes of the AMC television series, and the blanks are filled in with sound bites from creators, professors, writers, and popular names from modern science fiction.  But the companion book, also titled James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, is far more insightful, showing the broader unedited interview text for each of Cameron’s six key contributors, plus great color artwork to illustrate his history of the genre.  Ultimately the book is a more useful, informative, and interesting overview of science fiction than what the series provides, and recommended for fans wanting to dig deeper into the history of the genre.

For those that haven’t encountered a review of the genre, Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, available now from Insight Editions, will provide the appropriate highlights.  The combined narrative is at its best when attempting to find the reasons for the importance of science fiction as literature and art, as influence to society, and as a reflection on mankind’s discovery of self, but it’s also fun for any diehard genre fan to follow along, agree or disagree, and ponder the myriad alternatives to the examples given to illustrate the topics covered.  The book is better than the TV series at analyzing and presenting the coverage, tying each key contributor to a sub-genre or major sci-fi concept: alien life, outer space, time travel, monsters, dark futures, and intelligent machines.  Cameron has done his homework and claims to have read nearly anything and everything since he was a kid on the subject.  His own significant science fiction contributions, namely Terminator, Terminator 2, and Aliens, and developing the two biggest women film roles of the genre–Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 and Ellen Ripley in Aliens–are only slightly overshadowed by more than required attention to his film Avatar  as frequent centerpiece topic. He also spends more time on modern science fiction films, sometimes leaving behind classic films that had done it all before.  So surprisingly great influences like Star Trek, Rod Serling, and John Carpenter get far less attention proportionately than you’d find in another science fiction overview, and the vast body of science fiction television series is barely tapped at all.

The most insight comes from George Lucas and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Lucas provides rare reactions to fan criticism of Jar Jar Binks, his Star Wars prequels generally, and his concept of midichlorians manipulating the Force, which he states would have been key to the third trilogy had he kept control of the franchise.  Immersed in an interview about science fiction his responses seem to reflect regret in selling Star Wars to Disney, as if he had far more Star Wars stories to tell.  The rest of the book’s seriousness is counterbalanced nicely by Schwarzenegger, who Cameron repeatedly attempts to get introspective about playing science fiction’s greatest villain and hero cyborg as the Terminator.  Not a method actor, Schwarzenegger reveals himself as fanboy and entertainer when it comes to science fiction, drawn more to the spectacle and excitement of science fiction roles and how the characters appear on the screen more than any life-changing meaning from the stories that Cameron is searching for.

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