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Tag Archive: Saul Rubinek


Review by C.J. Bunce

Although the first chapter in the anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will have you thinking the new straight-to-Netflix movie is more of the same from the Coen Brothers, the subsequent chapters may have you think again.  It just may be the most thought-provoking, subdued, and effective film from the entire catalog of Coen Brothers films, and it may even eclipse Bone Tomahawk and the Coens’ own True Grit as this century’s best Westerns–at least in parts (and it’s a leap ahead of Quentin Tarentino’s past two efforts).  Netflix’s Mudbound was nominated this year in major categories (but didn’t win) and the studio brought in one documentary Oscar, but can this new Coens release bring Oscar home to Netflix for a major, large-scale production?

The common thread of the film is classic Americana: 19th century settlers possessed a kind of unique grit, and they paid a steep price, in unique and unglamorous ways, to build a nation.  The film chronicles six fictional fails and near fails that might have happened (mostly), presented as chapters of an anthology dime novel.  The first chapter follows the title character, a goofy but sure-shootin’ singing cowboy played by Tim Blake Nelson, in a story that will have many thinking this movie is another Western parody like 1985’s Rustler’s Rhapsody (it is not).  The next chapter follows a determined thief (James Franco) unsuccessfully robbing a bank in an era before the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment (in a mash-up inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”).  Another story finds a young woman (Zoe Kazan of the famed film dynasty in a masterful performance) on a frontier wagon train just trying to make it to the next town.  The least of the tales comes off more as a one-note Aesop’s Fable, as Liam Neeson‘s character carts a young limbless orator (played eloquently by well-known Harry Potter actor Harry Melling) from town to town carnival style for money.  To round off the anthology, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, and Tyne Daly star in a John Ford-inspired stagecoach bit that would be good source material for a stage play.

But the best of the chapters is an adaptation of a Jack London story about an old gold prospector, a character study starring Tom Waits.  His performance could be seamlessly spliced into any of the best classic Westerns.  And it’s the kind of acting achievement that should earn Waits a supporting Oscar nod, if the Academy gets in lock-step with Netflix as a legitimate moviemaking studio.  The other performance worth Oscar contention is Chelcie Ross‘s trapper in the stagecoach segment.  His rambling story and delivery is laugh-out-loud funny, and you can almost see in the eyes of Rubinek and Daly a real struggle to hold back laughs.

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We kicked off borg.com as a way to catch up on entertainment news, books and movies back on June 10, 2011.  We’ve posted what’s new each day to provide “your daily science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment fix” for two years now and continue to forge ahead as we tick past our 800,000th view by readers today.

We want to say thanks to you for reading.  It’s a lot of fun (and hard work) keeping up on all the great genre entertainment out there, be it on TV, in theaters, in books, or comics.  We also want to thank all the comic book publishers out there that provide us with preview review copies, as well as book publishers and TV and movie studios and collectible companies that allow us to give you first available previews and reviews.  We cover only what we’re interested in and excited about–we figure that if we like it, so might you.

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Some of the most fun we’ve had is meeting new people as we keep up on the coolest happenings in the genre realm, some at conventions, some are friends we are grateful to chat with each week of the year.  And lucky for us, borg.com has allowed us to meet some of our own favorite celebrities over the past two years, sci-fi stars like Mark Hamill, Joss Whedon, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Anthony Stewart Head, Scott Bakula, Adam Baldwin, Lindsay Wagner, Saul Rubinek, Zachary Levi, Eddie McClintock, Wil Wheaton, and Mark Sheppard.  Sci-fi and fantasy writers like Peter S. Beagle, Connie Willis, James Blaylock, and Sharon Shinn.  And comic book creators like Frank Cho, Jim Lee, Sergio Aragones, Neal Adams, and Howard Chaykin, and scores of other great comics creators like Mike Mayhew, Mike Norton, Michael Golden and Mikel Janin (and several not named Mike).

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Artie with dagger

When we last left Warehouse 13 at the end of Season 3, Saul Rubinek’s Artie had turned evil, resulting from a psychotic episode caused by an astrolabe.  He killed Leena (Genelle Williams) and was attempting to use a dagger to open a jar holding the deadly Chinese Orchid–the deadliest artifact in Warehouse 8–a poisonous flower that would unleash an epidemic that could wipe out half the population of Earth.  Claudia stabbed Artie, attempting to remove the spell that changed him.

James Marsters on Warehouse 13

At the beginning of Season 4 the “sweating sickness” is moving across Europe.  Pete’s mom Jane Lattimer (Kate Mulgrew) sets Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) and undead Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore) on a journey into Artie’s labyrinthine Warehouse-world brain, using an artifact owned by Sigmund Freud.  Lindsay Wagner’s Dr. Vanessa Calder appears to them and warns them to leave.  Elsewhere James Masters plays a professor named Sutton, an expert on the Count of St. Germaine–who is supposed to help Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) save the world after they first visit the elegant home of antique collector Charlotte (Polly Walker).

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Everyone here at borg.com is a loyal fan of Warehouse 13, and we eagerly waited for Season 3 with excitement and just a *leetle* bit of anxiety (Will She or Won’t She? regarding a return for Joanne Kelly, after Myka quits in a…well, to tell you the truth, we can’t really remember why she quit, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with H.G. Wells and a pitchfork). Thank goodness, all that uncertainty was put to rest by the season premiere (July 11, 2011, “The New Guy”) and a Comic-Con confession by Eddie McClintock (Agent Pete Lattimer) that the whole Myka quitting drama was just a ratings stunt (whew!).

Ahem.  But while that got our hackles up just a little, that maneuvering did make room for potentially interesting additions to the cast, notably “New Guy” Agent Steve Jinks, as well as priming audiences for larger-scale storylines.  As we mentioned in our review earlier this year of the Leverage premiere, raising stakes for your characters and creating bigger, more meaningful plotlines is usually a good thing. And bless their hearts, Warehouse 13 gave it their all this season.  From turning our beloved Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall, The Dead Zone) into a maniacal supervillain bent on exacting revenge from… Captain Janeway? (Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek Voyager) (Wait a minute–what?) to throwing Claudia at poor Agent Jinx in an over-the-top BFFE crush that only the writers really understood, to a literally explosive finale involving yet another reincarnation of series favorite H.G. Wells (this one presumably the last, as Jaime Murray is now a regular on Ringer… although with H.G. Wells and Warehouse 13, you never can tell).

By now you may be thinking that’s a lot of balls to juggle–even for the W13 gang–and you’re right.  It got a little hard to follow, and there were some missteps that took the series away from everything it had always done so, so right: the punchy camaraderie of the core cast, and the zany artifact hijinks that delight demented history buffs everywhere.  Something seems to have fizzled in the brilliant, squabbling-siblings chemistry between Myka and Pete, and even the artifacts got a little strained, having me occasionally roll my eyes instead of giggle maniacally.  I also found myself a little frustrated with some of the world building, as the addition of Kate Mulgrew as Regent-slash-Mom Jane Lattimer expanded the role and history of the Regents.  Case in point: There is already a thriving network of Warehouses, so what’s with this super-secret Regent Vault?  You need a better Warehouse for even worse artifacts?

Yeah, yeah, yeah… but because I do love this show and all its wackiness (that’s, by the way, meant to be praise here) I’m going to go on the record as saying I think all of that is just growing pains.  It’s Season 3–time to spread wings and see what happens when you leave the nest, and there are bound to be some bruised feathers.  And, to be sure, there were some standout moments this year. As Warehouse hacker-turned-techie-turned-trainee-turned-full-fledged-agent Claudia Donovan, Allison Scagliotti proved her mettle again and again this season, as her role was expanded in almost every episode (note to producers: Scagliotti is brilliant, but let’s remember this isn’t The Claudia Show), and although I personally didn’t feel we saw enough of Agent Jinks to share in the pathos of his death (or, um, potential undeath?  But we’ll have to wait for Season 4 for that!), Scagliotti managed to single-handedly carry the emotional weight of that entire plot thread, and she did so completely convincingly.  I almost thought I knew Jinksy enough to miss him, too.

The finale itself (the Sept. 26, 2011 two-parter “Emily Lake/Stand”), particularly the last act, was splendidly zany in the best W13 tradition–from a deadly chess game-slash-guillotine you have to cheat to beat, to a perversely-timed acting-up of random artifacts, to a startling and unexpected fate for mysterious Warehouse guardian Mrs. Frederick (which opens up marvelous possibilities for Claudia for next season), to the gutsy, glorious decision to destroy the whole warehouse, Search for Spock-style… I’m finding myself all geared up and ready for Season 4!  Only now I know all my gang is still right where they should be (well, minus Mrs. F and her iconic beehive–not, of course, to be confused with the other iconic beehive, the one from “Queen for a Day” that nearly destroyed Pete’s ex-wife Amanda Lattimer’s wedding  [Jeri Ryan/Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager, if you’re still keeping track of the crossovers!] wedding).  Wait.  Gotta catch my breath there.

Anyway, as mildly disappointed as I was with some of this season, it’s still Warehouse 13, which is still more fun than almost anything on TV, and my disappointment is merely a sign of how wonderful the show truly is–anything that can inspire fans to feel invested in the fates of the characters is doing pretty much everything right.  And I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Season 4 can annoy me, too!

P.S.  We loved chatting with Saul Rubinek at Comic-Con this year…

Day Two of the San Diego Comic-Con proved to be non-stop fun.  You can’t get the full comic convention experience without at least one day in costume so at borg.com that day was today.  Elizabeth C. Bunce and I took to the floor as Tenctonese visitors from Alien Nation who happen to work at the local Buy More, including Elizabeth as a member of the Nerd Herd from the TV series Chuck (with screen-used prosthetic heads from the series courtesy of Prop Store of London, also at the Con).  Our favorite costumes are the most obscure and we got about 1,000 fans and press stopping us for photos, several saying we had the most creative costumes of the day and interviews by four TV stations including G4.

You certainly get noticed in costume and that also means you sometimes get an extra chance at meeting your favorite celebrities and childhood idols.  Chuck himself, Zack Levi, said he loved our outfits and stopped to say “I really appreciate that you’re representing both Buy More and the Nerd Herd.”  Sweet!  Levi was hosting his own offsite mini con of sorts called the Nerd HQ, where you could skip lines and for a $20 donation to the national Smile charity you could meet Zachary Quinto (Star Trek’s Spock, Heroes),  the stars of TV’s Psych, or as we did, get to spend an hour with Quantum Leap, Men of a Certain Age and Star Trek Enterprise’s own Captain Archer–Scott Bakula in a small conversational setting of about 100 people (Scott also gave us a thumbs up and signed autographs).  Bakula was more down to Earth than you can imagine, talking about the ups and downs of acting and singing an improvised duet with Zack Levi onstage.

My own childhood hero, Mark Hamill, was signing autographs and we had our own alien to Jedi chat with Mark.  Every bit the classy Jedi!

We lucked into a conversation with Saul Rubinek, star of SyFy’s Warehouse 13, and we talked about all his past shows including Nero Wolfe, and how much we loved him as our all-time favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation villain, Kivas Fajo.  A super gentleman.  More on Saul in future posts.

We headed off to lunch and ended up at an Italian eatery with none other than Jim Lee and his lovely wife.  Jim is pretty much the monarch of this year’s Comic-Con and was taking a rare and much deserved break from from all his panels and signings.  He and his wife were having a great time and you can tell the pressure of the new DC Comics 52 re-launch is only providing him with extra excitement and energy to roll out a great new line of comic titles for fans this fall.  Here’s a photo of us at lunch in the Gaslight District.

We also got to meet the ubiquitous actor Mark Sheppard (Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica), his wife and four kids.  I will post separately about our chat with Mark later.  We had great conversations with the guys from Profiles in History, too, who currently star in the SyFy reality show Hollywood Treasures.  Very fun to see these guys are fans like the rest of us!  Profiles in History was selling photos in one of the Back to the Future DeLoreans for Michael J. Fox’s charity.  A great idea and a great cause!  This was a Comic-Con favorite of the day.

And here is Elizabeth with our friend Kevin Dilmore at the Hallmark booth.  Kevin (along with his writing partner Dayton Ward) is THE favorite Star Trek novelist of fans.

And we had a blast roaming with borg.com writer Jason McClain!  We’ll post more photos in the coming days, but please let us know if you see us on any other websites!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the hiatus between Season 2 and last night’s Season 3 opener of Warehouse 13, only one question was pecking at viewers’ minds.  Why would Agent Myka Bering, played by Joanne Kelly, co-star and female lead of the show, leave after only two seasons?  Luckily for fans we don’t have to wait all season to find out.

Warehouse 13–the SyFy Channel series that expands upon the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the thoughtless government lackeys carted off the Ark in the final scene.  Okay, not that exact warehouse, but something bigger and better–think the nation’s attic meets the X-Files or the short-lived series The Lost Room.  Except with the X-Files you had monsters of the week, and here, like Friday the 13th (the Canadian TV series) or Ray Bradbury Theater, you have an artifact of the week–some seemingly mundane throwaway item that we learn in fact carries some otherworldly power, often causing or created by the famous event or person the artifact is tied to. 

Last night’s episode “The New Guy” started with all the regulars back in their stride (minus the missing Myka), with Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) working a textbook case of the out-of-control, would-be artifact-of-the-week with Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti).  This time the artifact is one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars (hey, didn’t I see that in the NYC Hard Rock Cafe?), wreaking electric havok, only to be tamed by Claudia’s cool guitar skills, and a little extra playing after she gives it the purple glove treatment–despite being scolded by Warehouse leader Artie Nielsen, played by the top-notch character actor Saul Rubinek (who played my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation villain Kivas Fajo).  A team of Pete and Claudia!  Great idea!  Even better, Claudia is now the promoted Agent Claudia, long removed from her character’s weaker slacker introduction in Season 1, she now is confident, large-and-in-charge of all Warehouse tech.

But then a rescued hottie flirts with our hero Pete, and he–ignores it.  What?  From there we are spun into uncertainty–like Pete and company, we need Myka back.  Pete is not the same.  The guy who Myka referred to as “Artie, it’s Pete, it’s a win when he doesn’t lick anything” is just not his normal hilarious self.  And as a viewer you start to wonder how grim the show will be without our reliable straight arrow Myka. 

Enter Steve Jinks, played by Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Veronica Mars, In Plain Sight), an ATF agent who witnesses the strange Hendrix guitar antics, and Pete and Claudia’s resolution, but he can’t believe it.  Steve, who has a perceptive skill to know the difference between someone lying and telling the truth, is pushed away at the ATF and Artie taps him as Myka’s replacement.  Friendly enough, he still is no Myka, and worse yet, he doesn’t get Pete’s jokes.  And Pete drops some great one-liners in this episode.  Steve is now the new guy–a full team member and Pete begrudgingly brings him along to pursue the actual artifact of the week, a certain folio (“it’s not a book, it’s a folio”) of letters with popular lines of antiquity that are killing the people who read them–only these are not actual lines uttered by historical people, more like lines from a play.  Shakespeare?  Wait, Pete knows someone who can help, someone who knows all this “Walter” Shakespeare, the “Bird” of Avon gobbledygook.  Myka?

Everything finally comes together by the end, sort of, and we’re off to another season of sleuthing, with a surprise visit by H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray), who will soon be the star of her own ScyFy Channel spin-off, according to Warehouse actors.  Another interesting idea.  After two seasons Warehouse 13 is picking up steam–the cast is familiar now and play off each other well and with some new guest stars expected this season, including a Star Trek line-up of Rene Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan, and our favorite Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner as the Warehouse doctor, we have some good TV to look forward to.

   

Review By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Two of my favorite TV shows made their season premieres this week:  TNT’s Leverage began its fourth season, with USA’s Burn Notice moving easily into its fifth.  Anyone who’s seen at least a couple episodes of both series can’t fail to recognize that they’re pretty much the same show.  They’re both basically an update of The A-Team: a crew of lovable outcasts who use their unconventional skills to help desperate people fight back against the corrupt and powerful.  I remember The A-Team as being rather campy, so I hope that Leverage and Burn Notice are a little more sophisticated than the ’80s cult favorite I recall from my childhood, although Hardison’s van, Lucille, does look a little familiar.

   

That said, clearly it’s a formula that works as well in the 2010s as it did thirty years ago, or we would not have two such successful parallels airing simultaneously on competing cable networks.  Even in cable, it takes a lot to make it to a fourth and fifth season–not the least important being loyal viewers.  And speaking as one of those loyal viewers, I’m excited to have both shows back.

Burn NoticeCompany Man joins out-in-the-cold-of-Miami hero Michael Westen working with the CIA team trying to track down the mysterious people responsible for framing him for the dastardly crimes of madman Simon Escher.  It was nice to see Michael back inside for an episode, and nicer still to see the burn notice plotline take center stage for once (instead of being the ongoing series subplot to the “Desperate Client of the Week” main storylines).  Typically, when longterm plotlines are “resolved” in TV series, they’re done kind of ham-handedly, leaving viewers dissatisfied with the writers’ efforts to round off the throughlines that have built tension and momentum for the series. Not so with Company Man.  I was impressed by both the handling of Michael working for the CIA (not as an agent, but as a civilian asset, something I, at least, found totally convincing), as well as the way in which they left Michael’s storyline unresolved.  We feel we got what we wanted from last year’s setup, without sacrificing the core of the show we love so much.  Michael, Fiona, Sam, and Mrs. Westen will continue to look out for the exploited citizens of Miami, and Michael still has questions left to answer from his past.  Last season’s rookie member, Jesse Porter,  played by Coby Bell, returned for the briefest of brief appearances, and although he didn’t have a role in this episode’s story, the writers made it clear he’ll stay part of the team.  I wasn’t altogether thrilled by Sam and Fiona’s roles in the episode; the wounded friend routine felt juvenile and out of place.  These people are professional soldiers; pouting over being left out of a mission is something I’d expect from Buffy’s adolescent Scooby Gang, not an ex-Navy Seal and IRA gunrunner. Overall, it was an excellent conclusion to last year’s cliffhanger, and a smooth transition into Season Five.

As for Leverage, the criminal gang is back for more of the same.  In The Long Way Down Job, the crew “steals a mountain. Again…” foiling a crooked investor (and probable murderer) in a mountain climbing adventure that would do the old A-Team proud!   I’ve been a big Leverage fan since the beginning –can’t resist a great heist– but as much as I love the gang and the schtick, I confess I’m often left vaguely disappointed in the episodes and series as a whole.  Though there have been some terrific episodes (last season’s Rashomon Job was the show at its best), and it’s fun to see familiar faces in guest appearances (from Saul Rubinek of Warehouse 13, to Star Trek’s Q, John deLancie, and last night’s Eric Stoltz) I hardly ever feel that it lives up to its full potential, and I’m not entirely sure why that is.  The cast is great, with Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane, and Aldis Hodge being the clear standouts.  And maybe that’s my problem.  “Mastermind” Timothy Hutton should be the standout star; he has the talent and he has the chops and he’s clearly billed as the leader, and yet… sigh.  Maybe it’s unfair of me, but every time I watch an episode, I find myself wishing it was Nero Wolfe.  Hutton’s turn as Archie Goodwin…

…may be one of my alltime favorite TV performances (and from a life spent watching as much TV as I do, that’s saying something!).  He sparkled in that role and took a wonderful show to something sublime.  For whatever reason, Nathan Ford just doesn’t do it for me.  

All of that aside, I do respect the Leverage team’s efforts to raise the stakes with the series–Season Three’s ongoing series plotline about international criminal Damien Moreau was ambitious, and certainly led the crew to some interesting locales and episodes, and yet it, too, didn’t really work for me.  Typically, raising the stakes for your characters and your plot is one of the most important components of better, more compelling storytelling.  So it should work, but I felt like the Moreau storyline was forced and inauthentic–trying to make Leverage something it’s not.  I’m not entirely sure what it is, and it doesn’t always achieve whatever it’s trying to do… but I’m still a fan, and I’m still going to keep watching.  Because whatever silly, convoluted plot they have up their sleeves, I want to see Eliot and Hardison sparring.  I want to watch Parker fumble her way through being a normal person.  And, against my will, I even want to see Nate Ford grow as a character.

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