Tag Archive: Mad Max


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rival the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel: Altered Carbon is based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name, a story about Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies.  That conceit allows Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors, which could allow the series to run forever much as Doctor Who’s regeneration mechanism allows replacement Doctors.  Originally launched on Netflix in 2018, Altered Carbon has been extended for a second season, with filming underway last year, and viewers should expected a second season trailer and 2020 air date any day.  Which means fans of the Syd Mead, Ridley Scott, and Philip K. Dick brand of futurism, and all things borg, should catch up on the first season now.  What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Altered Carbon tackles the philosophical questions The Matrix film series tried to answer.

Kovacs, played by several actors (more on that below), is a 300-year-old soldier.  As a seasoned fighter 250 years ago he was the last of a mercenary group called the Envoys, leading a rebellion against the new world order.  Kovacs’s stack is shelved for the intervening 250 years until one of the wealthiest men alive, Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (an actor who has been runner up for the James Bond film roles and appeared in A Knight’s Tale and The Following), buys his stack and puts it in a new body or “sleeve,” giving Kovacs the opportunity to live anew if he agrees to find Bancroft’s killer.  This is a bleak world, filled with virtual reality and virtual sex, body swapping and trafficking, and the kind of tech noir, bleak, dystopian realm seen in Strange Days, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Ready Player One, The Running Man, Brazil, Total Recall, with the violence of A Clockwork Orange, but maybe not so hopeless as in Elysium, Mad Max, Gattaca, Terminator, and Dredd.  

The series, which has a slow start and doesn’t kick into high gear until the second episode, also has the John Carpenter Escape from New York vibe but with Blade Runner visuals and effects, plus the creative elements of Total Recall that made for some unexpected surprises.  Altered Carbon is a close match to RoboCop as future science and technology goes, so it’s easy to see why the casting agents brought along RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs’ primary sleeve in the first season.  This sleeve was last owned by a cop killed in duty named Ryker.  Ryker’s partner, Kristin Ortega, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda (McFarland USA, Royal Pains), takes on the role of the season’s co-lead, struggling as she sees her old partner’s body and acting to protect his sleeve, trying to solve the murder of Bancroft, and uncovering the bad cops in the bureau.  Ortega is a badass character in a small package who gets in and out of several fights that would take down anyone else in any other story, and she is the high point of the series–at one point an incident results in a loss of an arm, soon replaced by a powerful cybernetic arm.  An interesting twist is that her family are Catholics, and in this future Catholics don’t believe in the stacks, which means once they die they are dead forever.  This sets up one of the more interesting plot threads.  If it seems like the series has a lot going on, that’s because it does. But it all comes together in a satisfying way in the final episodes.

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It’s a big week for Dungeons & Dragons players.  This Tuesday is the release date for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, the eagerly-awaited next adventure in the Fifth Edition of Wizards of the Coast’s original roleplaying game.  One city has fallen into hell, and it’s up to players to see that Baldur’s Gate does not meet the same fate.  The game takes players from levels 1 to 13 as they journey through Baldur’s Gate and into Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells.

And the biggest feature that fans have been waiting for is here: Infernal Machines, making this new journey a mash-up of dark fantasy and Mad Max.  The machines are battle-ready vehicles, which you can build and customize as your characters enter the Blood War.

Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus is a thick 256 pages, with an exhaustive, detailed history of Baldur’s Gate (popularized in the video game of the same name) taking up the first quarter of the book.  Look for lots of new creatures, several interesting NPCs, a pronunciation guide, and even a new lettering script to adapt for your own designed supplemental materials.

 

This new D&D volume features extensive artwork, and attractive maps by Dyson Logos, Mike Schley, and Jared Blando, including a giant double-sided foldout map.  You’ll also find a unique appendix featuring concept art sketches, designs, and characters, providing a peek behind the scenes at Wizards of the Coast.  Note: There’s even a disclaimer for anyone wary of the darker nature of this adventure.  The short version?  It’s all for fun (but you already know that).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Alita: Battle Angela could be just another space-age story.  It’s full of cyborgs (we love’ em), but it’s not standard fare for frequent sci-fi movie buffs and sci-fi readers.  Without the “distraction” of Robert Rodriguez’s special effects, you can really get to the heart of the movie’s story by going to the underlying source work it adapts, or in this case, its novelization, Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization, by author Pat Cadigan, who also wrote last year’s Harley Quinn–Mad Love, reviewed here at borg.  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 what looks like a teen girl.  The film changes enough from the manga, incorporating several new characters and conflicts, that the novelization and film stand apart from Kishiro’s manga.  So how does the new story fare?

Above all, the biggest surprise is that Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization is in every way a young adult novel, based on its protagonist, story structure, and the author’s writing style.  In fact the film may have missed a niche audience–as the studio targeted adult sci-fi buffs instead of fans of stories like the Divergent series, Twilight, The Maze Runner series, City of Ember, and Ender‘s GameEven more on-point, Alita: Battle Angel follows the same emotional highs and lows of The Hunger Games.  Both The Hunger Games and Alita: Battle Angel are teen heroine updates to both Rollerball (1975) and The Running Man (1987), but like some of the best science fiction they are also remakes of the oldest of them all, Frankenstein, and its descendant PinocchioBlend these four popular stories together and you can understand why James Cameron prepared 600 pages of development material for the Alita project he would ultimately produce into the film.

Pat Cadigan′s storytelling is a mirror of the writing style and pacing of The Hunger Games’ novel writer, Suzanne Collins.  In a significant way, Alita: Battle Angel is a teen romance, a romance between Alita–an amnesiac cyborg who is primarily robotic but has a human brain–and her newfound human boyfriend Hugo.  Hugo is a street kid who helps her learn who she wants to be and how to survive on the streets of a futuristic Earth where everyone who isn’t a cyborg is mugging cyborgs to steal their parts and swap them for cash.  As with Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, Alita and Hugo fall in love as they help each other and work together when faced with an onslaught of ever-increasing impediments to their survival.  And yes, this is another superheroine with a problem like the heroine in the new Captain Marvel movie.

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Mad Max Fury Road

How do you like your post-apocalyptic nightmare?  Hot or cold?

This month brings the release of Max: Max Fury Road on 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, digital HD Ultraviolet, and DVD.  We reviewed the 3D Blu-ray and found it to be one of the best of the converted 3D Blu-rays to come to Blu-ray from a pure quality of film standpoint.  Story aside, 3D fans will have plenty of in-your-face explosions and old school 3D gags, like a steering wheel flashing out of the screen and into your lap, as well as other unexpected oddities–and a whole lot of bleak, ugly, and sand, in perfect clarity.

Nine behind-the-scenes featurettes accompany the home release, including Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road, Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels, The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa, The Tools of the Wasteland, The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome, Fury Road: Crash & Smash, I Am A Milker, Turn Every Grain Of Sand!, and Let’s Do This.

If you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, trust your instincts and skip this one.  If Fury Road is for you, you would have seen it in the theater already.  As post-apocalyptic storytelling is concerned, Fury Road is thin and uninspired.  As world-building goes, Fury Road adds nothing to the mythos in the original Mad Max and Road Warrior.  It is less silly than Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but Fury Road cries out for humor, or any other pleasantness of the third film in the series.  When humor arrives it is absurd (the lead bad guy takes along a turbo-charged guitarist and over-sized timpani band) and reminds us we’re well outside the realm of any possible future reality. How did these repulsive creatures become leaders so soon after the downfall of today’s reality?  How was a religion based on cars so quick to arrive in the same lifetime let alone the few years since the young star was a police officer in today’s world?  The number of unanswered questions are endless.  Writer/director George Miller, who directed each entry in the series, would have done better directing someone else’s story.  This is definitely a “story” in need of a backstory, which is available in prequel comic books for those wanting to delve further into the “revisited” Mad Max universe.

Theron Mad Max John Seale

Miller’s success is his ability to nicely copy the cinematography from epic scenery-laden films like those of the great John Ford–the technical production is top-notch (Oscar winner John Seale will likely net another Oscar nod for his efforts here).  But Fury Road is nothing but a Western updated for an ugly future, one long “cowboy and Indians” race to escape the Indians, and one shorter race back to the fort again, and a B-Western at that.  Sure, spiked and retooled 1960s and 1970s cars are inexplicably swapped for horses, but plenty of stuntwork is piled on as with the old Westerns.  We see some similarities: instead of wise old men mentoring John Wayne how to avoid the noose, here it’s wise old women helping to save the day at film’s end.  Miller’s other success is his selection of Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL to compose the film score–this is a rousing, pulse-pounding score worthy of a much better film.

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Tom Hardy not as Bane

First there was Mad Max in 1979.  Then Road Warrior in 1981, the film that put Mel Gibson on the international stage.  And the trilogy was complete with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985.  Or so we thought.  Is another Mad Max movie the sign of the Apocalypse?  How about a Mad Max movie minus Mel Gibson, but with Tom Hardy in an origin story for the villain Bane from The Dark Knight Rises?  No, that’s not right.  Hardy just gets to wear another mask like Bane’s.  His agent must really like Tom Hardy in that mask.  Check out the first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road after the break and you’ll see what we mean.

And is it the Apocalypse or post-Apocalypse?  Will we get to see just what turns our world into the Australian desert wasteland where only those with 40-year-old muscle cars survive?  Mad Max Rockatansky (yep, that’s really the character’s last name) is an Australian ex-cop facing a future world that is as bleak as any post-apocalyptic franchise has envisioned.  This time he is joined by a rough and tough Charlize Theron.

Mad Max Fury Road Max character poster

At its release it will have been 30 years since we last saw Mad Max meet Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity at Bartertown’s Thunderdome.  But George Miller is still making movies and after decades of stops and starts the movie is just around the corner.

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