Tag Archive: pandemic delays


Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as any movie has been able to keep its secrets in the past few years, it’s hard to beat the surprises in the epic fantasy film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first film of Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without an Avengers headliner.  And when I say fantasy, I mean it–it’s got it all, a combination of the magical realm of Doctor Strange, the ancient, secret country hidden from the rest of the world like Black Panther, a mix of Asian lore, Shakespearean family squabbles (including a famous, Oscar-winning Shakespearean actor), and a plot–and dragons–right out of The Lord of the Rings (after all, Ten Rings are better than One Ring, right?).  It has action, it has ties to the old and new, and, thanks to co-star Awkwafina, it’s the laugh-out-loud funniest of all the Marvel movies.  And it’s finally arrived on Disney+ so mass audiences still staying away from movie theaters finally have a chance to see what they missed.

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At last!  Season 5 of the detective/police procedural Shetland arrives in the U.S. today, via streaming service BritBox.  This is speedy for the U.S. airing of Brit TV–Season 6 arrived on BBC One and iPlayer only days ago on October 20, more than two years since we last caught up with Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall)–thanks to the world’s nemesis, Covid-19 and surrounding delays.  Call it Scotland Noir or Nordic Noir, in its fifth season viewers were treated to a satisfying wrap-up to the year’s six-part mystery of human trafficking, murders, blackmail, dead bodies in the ocean, and cheating hearts.  Shetland may have pulled off its best scene of all in the final minutes of the season finale.  How can they keep coming up with such good police drama in such a small and desolate setting?  In the season opener, Perez and trusty right arm Alison “Tosh” MacIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) take on their next crime: the murder of one of Shetland’s most prominent individuals… on his doorstep.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I’m just going to say it.  This may be the greatest pop culture celebration book ever.  It couldn’t be more keyed-in on its source material and fan base.  Ugh.  Gah.  Zhuuh.  You’ll make those sounds and more going through the recipes in Alien: The Official Cookbook, the latest Alien franchise tie-in book and a food prep guide for anyone planning the ultimate Halloween party.  “Gross!”  You can just hear those kids who are fans of gross-out movies as they try to pick what course to make first.  It’s disturbing and a masterpiece at the same time.  Normally I wouldn’t review a cookbook without preparing some of the meals, so I can present a read on the design and content as well as the desirability of the food.  This is an exception, first: to get it out to you before Halloween weekend, and second: because if you’re like me then making these selections for a party will be more for the visual surprise than the eating (I may double back later for a review of the meals, too).

Eggs, chestbursters, and xenomorphs.  Oh, my!  The dishes are all presented in a way Alien designer H.R. Giger would have loved.  Alien is known for its dinner scene, cut short by… intervening events of a horrific nature.  (Insert a screaming Veronica Cartwright as Lambert here).  Thanks to cookbook writer Chris-Rachel Oseland, you, too, can experience something similar.

Alien: The Official Cookbook is available now here at Amazon (you still have time to get it before Halloween!).  Take a look at a preview of some of the recipes below, courtesy of Titan Books.

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ghosts-cbs-

Review by C.J. Bunce

The top genre TV actress Rose McIver is back and as irresistible as ever.  The star of the wildly popular series iZombie is right back in her wheelhouse in CBS’s new series Ghosts: rapid-fire dialogue, outlandish situations where she must lead a crew of characters to decipher and inhabit myriad character types in the craziest of concocted schemes.  But unlike iZombie, which had its lighthearted moments, Ghosts is 100% pure comedy.  Sure, there are ghosts, but this is a full-on ensemble cast comedy where a brilliantly conceived haunted mansion is only the setting, the framework on which to build a comedy that will hopefully stand up to the even more dreaded ratings wonks.

For fans of Resident Alien, the show smacks of the exact same tone and humor, the latest in the trope mastered by The Munsters and The Addams Family.  It’s Beetlejuice, The Sixth Sense, and Tru Calling meets The Money Pit with a splash of Clue, with not a speck of heavy drama (or frights) but heaps of fun and pop culture references (like Sneakers, and if you pay attention you’ll find more than one iZombie reference) stuffed into each half-hour episode.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Courier is the movie that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy promised to be (and failed miserably at).  The excellent spy film starring Benedict Cumberbatch in yet another unique performance that only he could deliver was an unfortunate bit of pandemic collateral damage.  It premiered in January 2020 at Sundance Film Festival under the title Ironbark, and was slated to arrive in theaters to a wider audience last year.  That means it also missed Oscar contention for the 2020 contest, where The Courier easily would have been the best film.  Because of a brief March 2021 theater push, it is apparently still in the running for 2022 ceremony, which makes it the only major contender for not only the best film, but also Cumberbatch’s performance.  As the masses now finally get to see it, streaming to homes thanks to Amazon Prime (finally with an August release in both the U.S. and UK), we’ll just call it the best drama so far for 2021. 

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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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