Tag Archive: Harry Potter


dnd-fizbans-treasury-of-dragons

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, the latest Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook heading your way from Wizards of the Coast, is the closest of any 5th Edition volume to the original books from when I was a teenager in the 1980s.  If you know even a little kid who is fascinated with dragons, this is the book to drop into their hands.  They may not understand it all, but it’s stuffed full of wonderful dragon artwork and enough worldbuilding lore to open the eyes of any kid interested in fantasy.  For D&D gamers already playing, it contains character-building tools to make your hero steeped in dragonkind, and for dungeon masters, it provides some fun options to incorporate more Dragons or dragons (they’re different) into your next adventure, whether you’re wandering into the Forgotten Realms, Oerth of the World of Greyhawk, Krynn of Dragonlance, Eberron, or pretty much anyplace else.  You can pre-order Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons with the standard cover by Chris Rahn here at Amazon now, or order the alternate “soft-touch” edition by Anato Finnstark from your local game shop.

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If you love Smaug, Puff, Norberta, Alduin, Elliott, Balthromaw, Spike, Falkor, Stanley Steamer, Stegoman, Gleep, Saphira, Porunga, H.R. Pufnstuf, or Lockheed, or you came to love dragons from Dragon’s Lair, Dragonslayer, or Dragonheart, How to Train Your Dragon or Game of Thrones, whether your favorite is Haku from Spirited Away, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, or the kaiju King Ghidorah, or you were reeled into the dragon realm from watching Mulan’s Mushu or Sisu from Raya and the Last Dragon, or you had your first encounter in Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Pokémon, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons provides all the lore and stunningly expansive details on everything you want to know about dragons.

So what’s inside?

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Wizard of Oz MinaLima cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It is easily the greatest and most influential American fantasy novel of all time, certainly the best of the 19th century creations, and after reading the original story, you may find it unlikely not to have influenced later British authors’ works like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  It is L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900 and now given the ultimate dose of classical style and color by the renowned designers behind the Harry Potter movies, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the artists known as MinaLima.  Especially considering the extra care taken in the margin artwork and the incorporation of the color in Baum’s story with every page, this may be the best volume in the now eight-volumes of children’s books in the MinaLima library from HarperDesign books.  Take a look at a preview of twenty of those wonderful pages below.  Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, lavishly illustrated with interactive elements by MinaLima, was published this month, and is available now here at Amazon.

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Little Mermaid cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred and eighty-five years after Hans Christian Andersen first penned his fairy tale The Little Mermaid, the most famous fish out of water story continues to charm readers of all ages.  Countless editions of Andersen’s famous story, along with his other famous works, have been printed and reprinted, and adapted for the small screen and big screen with the latest–a live-action version–coming from Disney by the end of the year, incorporating songs from the studio’s 1989 version.  But if you haven’t read the original fairy tale lately–or at all–you may be surprised to learn how much closer the 1984 live-action movie Splash was to the original.  With the new film on its way, what better time to revisit the original, and we’ve found an incredible new, lavishly illustrated edition from designers MinaLima that makes a great storybook to read to kids, full of interactive elements.  Check out a preview of The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales for borg readers below, along with some details of what you’ll find inside, including some important fairy tales everyone, of every age, should know.

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Raya a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first animated movie created during the pandemic, with 900 creators working together to make a full-scale feature film from home.  The result is the best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.  The entirely computer animated film also sports three strong female lead characters and is backed by an all female technical leadership team.  The result is a movie blending elements of Asian culture on par with Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fantastical elements of The Lord of the Rings.  Count Raya and the Last Dragon among the creative works that shine brightly despite the adverse conditions of 2020. 

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From Diagon Alley to the Hogwarts Express, to the Ministry, Horcruxes, and the Order of the Phoenix, to Hogwarts Castle, Quidditch, the Triwizard Tournament, and the Deathly Hallows–the Harry Potter franchise shows no signs of stopping, providing ongoing books, toys, and collectables to bring readers and movie audiences back to when they first heard of this kid with a wand more than 23 years ago.  A new book is offering more than 25 craft activities for various levels, inspired by the Harry Potter books, films, and their props, all to help keep kids busy during their sheltering at home this year.  Check out a preview of the how-to book Harry Potter: Crafting Wizardry below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It had a promising first and third season, twists and turns, clever story arcs, and a contender for the most faithful adaptation of a comic book series from the past decade.  The creators of the fourth and final season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gave 2020 a much-needed batch of two complete seasons, and we already gave the third season kudos in the 2020 Best of TV review here at borg.  Kiernan Shipka proved to be one of TV’s best young actors, embodying a character that is next in line after Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, and Liv Moore as young genre heroines who led series you can count on the first time and after re-watches.  Already a contender for one of the best TV series of this century, and one of Netflix’s most creative efforts, how did the final season fare for our heroine Sabrina Spellman?

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The Ninth Doctor, Darth Vader, Superman, James Bond’s Q, Lt. Cmdr. Data, Ahsoka Tano, Ariel-The Little Mermaid, a Mythbuster, a slate of characters from the CW Arrowverse, Stranger Things, and The Karate Kid, and more are heading to Kansas City

For twenty-one years Planet Comicon Kansas City has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  And it’s only gotten bigger.  Last year’s show featured guests including Henry Winkler, William Shatner, John Wesley Shipp, Cary Elwes, and Joonas Suotamo, and this year more of the most memorable names from TV and movies from the past and present are slated to attend.  Leading things off, The Doctor is In–The Ninth Doctor to be exact–Christopher Eccleston, star of Doctor Who who also played villains in Thor: The Dark World and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, will make his first appearance at the annual event, which takes place at Kansas City’s convention center at Bartle Hall, March 20-22, 2020.

Fan-favorite nerd, cosplayer, builder, and either your first or second favorite Mythbuster, Adam Savage will be making his first appearance at the show.  Making their second appearances at the event are star of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (and Guardians of the Galaxy and Harry Potter universe actor) Darth Vader actor Spencer Wilding and Star Trek legend–Data himself (and Dr. Soong, Lore, and B9)–beloved actor Brent Spiner.  After several appearances of past Superman actors, Midwest native Brandon Routh is finally coming to PCKC.  He’ll be joined by other CW Arrowverse actors, Rachel Skarsten (in her second Kansas City convention appearance), plus Katie Cassidy, Kevin Conroy, Jes Macallen, Courtney Ford, and Caity Lotz.

Two Yutes?  My Cousin Vinny, The Outsiders, and Crossroads star Ralph Macchio is making his first appearance at PCKC.  Joining him are his co-stars from The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, Martin Kove and William ZabkaStranger Things fans can meet stars Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gabriella Pizzolo.  To top it all off, formerly James Bond’s Q and Monty Python comedy legend, John Cleese is making his first convention appearance in Kansas City.  And perennial Planet Comicon Kansas City guest, the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno will be back in town for the event.

–there’s something for every TV and movie fanboy and fangirl at this year’s show.

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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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For Harry Potter fans and especially those who want to see every view of the film behind the scenes, your next find is probably going to require clearing off an entire shelf.  Beginning this month is a new series of books about the Harry Potter films, and it’s sporting the “film vault” legend.  We’ve seen “vaults” published for Star Wars, Terminator, Batman, Spider-Man, and all things DC and Marvel, but for Harry Potter the franchise needed 12 volumes to tell its story.  It’s Titan Books and Insight Editions’ Harry Potter: Film Vault and we have an extensive preview for borg readers below.  If you decide to collect the entire series, the spines will line your shelf to reveal the Hogwarts coat-of-arms, reminiscent of the Time-Life encyclopedic book series from the 1970s and 1980s.

With a franchise spanning eight films, you’d expect them to have collected tens of thousands of images of concept artwork and photographs of every scene, set, costume, and prop, and that becomes even clearer inside the pages of this series.  Beginning with Forest, Lake, and Sky Creatures, readers can dive into several areas of the story mythos, on to Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express, and the Ministry, to Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows, and Hogwarts Students.  Later volumes feature Creature Companions, Plants, and Shapeshifters, Hogwarts Castle, Quidditch and the Triwizard Tournament, the Order of the Phoenix and Dark Forces, and more.

 

Each volume has illustrations, design sketches, and behind-the-scenes photography, plus a look at the creative process that brought to the screen Harry and his friends with the help of costumes, makeup, and props.

Take a look at 26 pages from the first four volumes below, and a peak at the first eight covers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Thanks to Fathom Events and other film retrospectives over the years, movie audiences can revisit their first viewings of some of the best films ever made.  In that league comes The Muppet Movie, which just wrapped its 40th anniversary with two days of screenings.  Like the one-of-a-kind The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees, and the symbols of goodness everywhere: Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, and Steve Irwin, The Muppets are a truly unique team, and Jim Henson and his $65 million box office hit The Muppet Movie reflects why they created the word “iconic” in the first place.  It says something when a retrospective anniversary screening can make the week’s Top 10 box office after 40 years.  The Muppets are as accessible and necessary as they’ve ever been.

Paul Williams’ musical score and powerful songs might be the high point of the movie, from “The Rainbow Connection,” to “Movin’ Right Along,” to Gonzo’s emotional “I’m Going to Go Back There Again.”  Or maybe it’s the magic, the forgetting we’re absorbed in characters played by actors that are a frog and a pig and a bear and a dog and whatever Gonzo is.  Or maybe it’s the behind the scenes magic.  Filming in the lagoon once used for Gilligan’s Island, Henson spent an entire day perfecting the scene with Kermit singing in a wetsuit under water, perched inside a metal tank, reaching upward to give Kermit his character.  You wouldn’t know any of it happened that way from the perfectly still water and multiple angles the song is filmed from.  Or that Kermit was operated my remote control for the Schwinn scene (but Kermit the Muppet really was riding that bicycle, no strings attached!).  Jim Henson can’t be overstated as sitting among the kings of creating the fantastical.

But even all of those great components can’t beat the storytelling.  Full of honesty and heart, Kermit’s path is a classic reluctant hero’s journey, equal to that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Luke in Star Wars, Frodo and Bilbo in Tolkien’s stories (Fozzie is a great Samwise), Harry in J.K. Rowling’s series.  Here our green felted friend assembles a group of new friends to help him succeed by story’s end.  The Muppets had already been known to us through The Muppet Show, yet this movie succeeded in getting audiences to meet them all over again.  The story is playful, too, allowing its own script to become a plot device with the characters.

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