Advertisements

Tag Archive: The Man in the High Castle


Review by C.J. Bunce

The Man in the High Castle was Philip K. Dick‘s most critically acclaimed novel, which says a lot for his parallel history World War II tale when stacked up against his other brilliant short stories and novels (that’s 121 stories and 44 novels in all).  It’s also the first of his stories to become a big-budget television series, premiering in 2015 with the well-received pilot for The Man in the High Castle.  Amazon Studios proved it can make a drama on par with any other network or studio in its first two seasons, and at San Diego Comic-Con the studio announced the series renewal for a fourth season.  This past week Amazon released a great preview for the next season (see it below).  So you now have a full month to get caught up on the first 20 episodes before Season 3 arrives on Amazon Prime in October.

The series is well worth your time.  The first season was a bit of a slowly building story, providing all the twisty elements to take viewers in a believable way into a parallel version of Earth’s past where the Nazis and Japan were victorious in WWII and America was divided up between them.  As gritty a dystopian show as anyone could muster, the back half of each season is reward enough to stick with the series, even for viewers not especially in the mood for the bleak subject matter.  The winner of two of eight Emmy Award nominations, the series begins in 1962, long after the end of the war–long enough for a new culture to have been solidified across the regions of North America.  The series leads created the best performances you’ll find on television: Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Mist, Defiance), as Juliana Crane, an American whose actions are pivotal for the future, Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Zen), a former American soldier who becomes one of the Nazi leaders in the former States, Joel de la Fuente (The Adjustment Bureau, The Happening) is stunning as the most ruthless of characters, the Japanese leader of the Pacific region of America, and an incredibly nuanced performance of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Lost in Space, Star Wars Rebels, Grimm, Heroes, Alien Nation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) as trade minister for Japan based in San Francisco–a brilliantly layered character like nothing you’ve seen.

Building on Dick’s original ideas and expanding on them is what the series does best, blending the best of the old (like keeping Tagawa’s character having a special power to see an alternate version of the world from the novel) and the new (like using film footage vs. books to inspire actions).  The writers nicely integrate updates and new characters into the series.  Who is the Man in the High Castle?  You’ll just have to watch to find out.  Look for a stellar supporting cast, two fantastic season finales, and a great set-up for the show’s third season.  Fan-favorite genre actors in the show include Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Lexx, Fingersmith, Charmed), Luke Kleintank (Bones), DJ Qualls (Supernatural), Rick Worthy (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica, 12 Monkeys, Supernatural, Haven, Warehouse 13), Callum Keith Rennie (The X-Files, The Dead Zone, Tru Calling, Battlestar Galactica), Daniel Roebuck (Lost, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Grimm, Quantum Leap), Tate Donovan (Memphis Belle, Argo, Shooter), and many more.

Here is the latest trailer for the third season of The Man in the High Castle:

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

In After the End of the World, author Jonathan L. Howard pens the second book in a series featuring his two heroes, bookstore owner Emily Lovecraft, fictional descendant of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and ex-cop Daniel Carter, descendant of Randolph Carter, a recurring character in H.P. Lovecraft’s novels that was said to be written into Lovecraft’s works as his alter ego.  The novel continues in a different vein from where Howard’s Carter & Lovecraft left off, taking readers into the realm of alternate histories and speculative fiction.

After the End of the World will be familiar to readers of Harry Turtledove’s dark parallel histories.  Probably no other storyteller has covered a world where Nazi Germany came out on top as frequently as Turtledove in his novels.  Carter and Lovecraft leave the more Lovecraftian monster horror realm when a cataclysmic event splits reality between the Folded World–the real world–and the Unfolded World, a scary surreal parallel world where a change in historical events threw off the course of history, leaving the duo to begin a journey to try to make things right.

The novel takes much by way of concept from Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle and the recent popularity of its television adaptation, and the political aura of the recent trend of life reflecting fiction echoing in entertainment like The Handmaid’s Tale.  After the End of the World reads like a variant of Dick’s novel, but in Howard’s story Germany destroyed Moscow early in the war, conquered Russia, and sued for peace with the rest of the world, resulting in its lasting success over the past 70 years as a superpower and technological leader.  So this material has been covered in parallel histories, and the value for the reader will be honing in on Emily Lovecraft and Daniel Carter as a pair.

Continue reading

ash-vs-evil-dead-lee-majors

Our borg.com Best of 2016 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Top Picks and Best Movies of 2016 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2016 yesterday here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV Borg — Ash vs Evil Dead (Starz), Bruce Campbell.  We searched high and low for the year’s best TV series featuring one or more borg characters, but didn’t really need to go that far.  The brilliantly funny pop culture ace actor Bruce Campbell’s reboot of the borg.com Hall of Famer Ash could have gotten overlooked had it been just another horror series.  Yet underneath this over-the-top, blood and gore-filled demon hunt is a whole lot of silly fun.  And the actors could have been better, with the likes of Lee Majors (pictured above), Lucy Lawless, and Ted Raimi all making appearances.  We couldn’t ask for a better actor than Campbell to take our borg.com TV title this year.

grimm-1

Best TV Series, Best TV Horror Series – Grimm (NBC).  The fifth season of Grimm was simply fantastic, full of gripping writing and a change-up of character roles in a way we’ve never seen before.  This season we saw the best action, twists and turns, and flat-out excitement, above every other series on television.  Pulling bits and pieces of folklore from Western and Eastern mythologies and everything in between, the writers delivered all season long.  The writing team’s best work was what they have done all along, taking the story in a direction no one could have predicted.

Stranger Things cast

Best TV Retro Series – Stranger Things (Netflix).  It’s nearly impossible to list all the influences that came together to form our pick for this year’s Best Retro Fix.  Stand By Me, Firestarter, Silver BulletStranger Things could be another coming of age Stephen King tale, but with nicely creepy John Carpenter undertones and the wonder and sci-fi of a Steven Spielberg movie.  Think Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, and Super 8.  Whatever it is, great performances by a lead group of kid actors, teen actors, and a few adults from filmdom’s past made for a fun season one.

wynonna-earp-series

Best New TV Series, Best Re-Imagining on TV  – Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  We knew Syfy had a winner in the first episode of this year’s best new TV series, Wynonna Earp.  A great mash-up of Western, paranormal, and horror, Wynonna Earp took an American legend and made it interesting for today’s viewers.  Melanie Scrofano’s Wynonna is a classic heroine in a supernatural setting.  And her interactions with Tim Rozon’s Doc Holliday include some of the best humor on TV.  Did we mention the villains are basically zombies?  Wynonna’s got a gun–a Peacemaker–and she knows how to use it, giving us a fun, over-the-top shoot ’em up each week to look forward to.

Man High castle cast x

Best Sci-Fi SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  With the slow start of the first season of the series we had doubts where the show would take us for the second season this year.  But the last half of the season cinched it.  A rare look at science fiction on television that showed what could all be attained with an alternate history story, and a great adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel to boot.

rebels-a

Best Animated TV Series – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  For the second year in a row, Star Wars Rebels proves that animated shows are just as compelling as big budget theatrical blockbusters.  This season we met the great villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, finally introduced to Star Wars canon.  Every episode gave fans something to be excited about, as in the episode “The Antilles Extraction,” where Sabine goes undercover as a cadet in the Empire’s elite flight academy to bring Imperial pilots over to fight for the Rebellion.  Darth Maul and Captain Rex are also standout characters.  Original trilogy voice actors, compelling visuals, and rousing music, make this one of the best series on TV.

luke-cage-series-cast

Best TV Superhero SeriesLuke Cage (Netflix).  Although Marvel Studios adaptations have done well at the movies, its television shows haven’t measured up so well.  Until now.  The Netflix series Marvel’s Luke Cage is full of so many elements that make it a quality series you can expect it to be a contender at next year’s Emmy Awards.  Luke Cage is completely loyal to its 1970s origin.  Carl Lucas, played by Mike Colter (reprising the role he began in Marvel’s Jessica Jones), is a man from Harlem, imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.  The writers successfully updated the story to today, for today’s viewers, and to make the story timely.  Set in a New York City neighborhood with a gritty tale like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (with Harlem swapped for Bedford Stuyvesant), the rough-and-tumble Harlem of the series encounters the same class warfare, the same friction between police and minorities, and the same political corruption that is, as once professed by the original Law and Order series, “ripped from the headlines.”  It is at once a mix of the M. Night Shyamalan hooded superhero played by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, and an updated mobster town story.

librarians-a

Best TV Fantasy SeriesThe Librarians (TNT).  The Librarians continued its great mix of fantasy and comedy this year with its excellent ensemble cast.  The chemistry of the show’s characters continue to gel, resulting in a fully realized series in the vein of past hits Warehouse 13 and Leverage.  We were excited to see great guest appearances with Sean Astin, Noah Wyle and Jane Curtin.  And we can’t get enough of Rebecca Romijn, John Larroquette, and the rest of the crew.

Angie Tribeca clip

Best TV Comedy – Angie Tribeca(TBS).  Angie Tribeca has the perfect setting and ensemble cast for a gritty police procedural.  But it was actually the comedy we all need.  Nothing was written for the screen in any genre this year that made us laugh like this new series.  Every now and then we need someone to try to remake Police Squad! and the sight gags here rivaled that classic.  We just hope the writers can keep the great comedic scripts coming.

clown baskets

Best TV Writing Baskets (FX).  At first you might not know what to make of Zach Galifianakis, Louis C.K., and Jonathan Krisel’s surreal, black comedy drama Baskets.  How down in the dumps can a rodeo clown possibly get?  And was that really comedian Louie Anderson playing his mother?  Galifianakis was able to play two competing roles as the twin brothers, and Martha Kelly added yet another odd wanderer into the mix to somehow result in a crazy, funny, and strangely poignant series we couldn’t help getting addicted to.

Grimm crew

Best TV Episode – Grimm Season 5 finale “Beginning of the End” (NBC).  Season 5’s finale of Grimm barreled ahead as if the producers believed the show wasn’t going to get renewed, prompting many story threads to be tied-up and a satisfying wrap-up that leaves viewers excited for Season 6.  It’s Black Claw, who caused Sean Renard to rise to become mayor of the city, against Nick and his friends as they work with Eve, Trubel, and Hadrian’s Wall to try to prevent the coming evil that risks the destruction of the barrier between the supernatural and the rest of the world.  Incredibly after all the back and forth over five seasons the original villains are villains again and the good guys back together again.  The season finale left us wondering how this will all play out as the series ends next season.

stranger-things-logo_1050_591_81_s_c1

Best TV Soundtrack Stranger Things, Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon.  Using 1980s analog synthesizers, the musicians created the perfect sound for a B-movie horror flick that would have fit right in back in the 1980s.  Half the credit for the series success with retro aficionados probably should go to the duo, who helped to fully immerse viewers in this familiar, but strange, look into our own childhoods.

orphan-black-tatiana-maslany

Best TV Actress – Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles, Orphan Black (BBC America).  In any other year Rose McIver’s weekly new character update on iZombie would have given her the win, but Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany came back this year after last season’s so-so stories to prove she has the best dramatic role on television and is well up to the task, further separating and redefining the differences between the ever-increasing number of clone sisters she portrays.  Runner-up Rose McIver as Liv Moore, iZombie (CW).

missick

Best TV Supporting Actress – Simone Missick as Misty Knight in Luke Cage (Netflix).  With big name actresses like Alfre Woodard and Rosario Dawson co-starring in this year’s new superhero series Luke Cage, it was Simone Missick who broke through to create one of the more interesting characters this year with police officer Misty Knight.  She believes in the justice system and is assigned to go after Luke Cage–too bad she has a past with him.  Missick plays Misty as a modern version of a Pam Grier character–she’s flawed but she’s tough and smart and we know she’ll cut through all the mess and come up on top.  Runner-up: Leanna Lapp as Gilda (iZombie).

Marvel's Luke Cage

Best TV Actor (TIE) – Mike Colter as Carl Lucas/Luke Cage in Luke Cage (Netflix).  Luke Cage is as mild-mannered as they come.  We first met him in season one of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, but in his own series Mike Colter showed how great this comic book character from the 1970s could be, and how relevant he is today.  The problem with networks dropping an entire series on us at once is that with a day long binge session we don’t get the sense of the work that goes into building a character like Cage over a full season like we’re accustomed to.  Hopefully the studio will realize how great the series is and how its lead actor can provide us with a real, gritty hero that the world needs.  We just can’t wait to see more of what Colter has in store for us next season.

0_1216_FEA_LDN-L-MANINHIGHCASTLE-2

Best TV Actor (TIE) – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Ambassador Tagomi in The Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  Tagawa has played in countless TV series and films but his role as a trade ambassador of an alternate world where Japan controls the western United States may be the most stunning work of his career.  His expressions are understated and yet the audience can read so much in his simple looks.  His character’s surprise as he maneuvered a parallel world to his own–our real world–was some of the best acting of the genre and among the best performances of the year.

louie-anderson-baskets

Best TV Supporting Actor (TIE) – Louie Anderson as Mrs. Baskets in Baskets(FX).  Louie Anderson has been priming us for this role for decades now.  His impersonations of relatives helped make him one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time.  Bringing him in to play to mom to Zack Galifianakis’s Chip Baskets was one of those inspired moves that doesn’t happen very often.  And the result was TV gold.

Doc Holliday Wynonna Earp

Best TV Supporting Actor (TIE) – Tim Rozon as Doc Holliday in Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  Rozon brilliantly played the ghost of Doc Holliday this year in the new series Wynonna Earp, sporting a lazy drawl and unclear motives that make him absolutely captivating.  He was mysterious as Wynonna’s questionable love interest, an intermediary between Wynonna and the vile Revenants.  He’s a man out of his time, an anti-hero we hope to see more of next season.

weber

Best TV Villain – Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber, iZombie (CW)).  What kind of sick bastard throws his daughter to the wolves to become a zombie, and then laughs about it?  That’s Vaughn Du Clark, whose barbs with daughter Gilda (Leanne Lapp) provided some of the best quick-witted writing we’ve seen since Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Du Clark was the ultimate corporate villain, and we watched his rise with great interest all season long.  Runners-up: Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard, Luke Cage), The Demogorgon (Stranger Things), Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen, Star Wars Rebels). 

Best YouTube Video – “Seagulls (Stop it Now),” A Bad Lip Reading of The Empire Strikes Back.  You know you haven’t seen this Fall’s funniest Star Wars fan video enough, with that catchy, goofy tune.  Go ahead, watch it one more time.

Come back tomorrow as we reveal more of the borg.com Best of 2016!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

 

timeless-hindenburg

Time travel.  It’s a fun sub-genre of science fiction when it’s done right.  NBC and the CW have dueling sci-fi series entering the Primetime line-up beginning this month.  On Mondays, NBC airs Timeless, a story about a historian, a computer expert and a soldier acting as timecops as they try to correct changes in history via a time machine in pursuit of another–stolen–time machine.  On Wednesdays the CW airs Frequency, based on the 2000 sci-fi sleeper and cult movie starring Dennis Quaid.  Both are from the creative minds of Supernatural showrunners, and both series began this week with powerful openers.  We think both are worth adding to your weekly watch list.  The challenge will be maintaining their respective concepts for a full season.

Timeless hails from Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. Abigail Spencer leads the cast as a historian much like you’d find in a Connie Willis novel, pulled into a secret time travel project.  Someone (Goran Visnjic) kidnapped a scientist played by genre favorite Matt Frewer, and Homeland Security, including a smartly cast agent played by Sakina Jaffrey (Sleepy Hollow, Mr. Robot), enlists Spencer’s character, an insider IT guy (Malcolm Barrett) and soldier/protector (Matt Lanter) to find them–in the past.  Compared to Star Trek and Doctor Who this show is Time Travel Lite–no complex knowledge or thought required.  The time travel prime directive seems to be that the timecops cannot travel into a time in which they previously existed.  So no do-overs.

timeless-cast

You can’t beat a nicely done re-creation of the Hindenburg disaster.  Even better, a re-imagining revealing the disaster never occurred.  Timeless didn’t waste any time, starting off with a single episode story focused on a historic event and it appears that will be the draw of each episode.  We saw elements of TimeCop, Timeline, Continuum, Quantum Leap, Doctor Who, Terminator, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow in the first episode alone.  It works and it’s fun.  There’s something adventuresome about Timeless in a Young Indiana Jones vein. Timeless did miss one opportunity here:  Why not begin with the Hindenburg crashing on a false historic date and then land on the real date of the disaster for the ending?  That would have been a heck of a trick, but it shows much more can be threaded into this series.  We know from Star Trek and Doctor Who that time travel is twisty and full of possibilities. Timeless needs to embrace what its savvy audience already knows–and keep the focus on the fun.

Continue reading

Man in High Castle Rushmore drop

Good news for you fans of Philip K. Dick novel film adaptations, or those who, like me, thought the pilot was not too shabby, as reviewed previously here at borg.com.  Amazon Studio’s The Man in the High Castle got picked up for a season–at least ten episodes–and it’s coming your way next month.

The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history story where Nazi Germany and Japan defeat the Allies in the second World War.  The acting really carried the pilot.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (The Librarians, Heroes, Alien Nation, License to Kill, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) plays Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese official who must warn Japan that Hitler is dying and will soon be replaced with one of his even less amiable lieutenants (Goebbels, etc.) who is likely to drop an Atomic bomb or two on Japan.

highcastle

Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, Defiance) plays Juliana Crain, a judo/Aikido instructor who receives a strange movie reel (in the novel, a book) titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy from her activist sister before she is gunned down by Japanese officials.  Her boyfriend in the TV series (and ex-husband in the novel) is played by Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Fingersmith).  He is taken prisoner at the end of the pilot, for his association with Juliana and her sister’s apparent treasonous acts.  Rufus Sewell (Zen, A Knight’s Tale, Eleventh Hour) makes an appearance as the ultimate villain–like many of his past roles–this time an unsympathetic Nazi military officer who tortures a rebel civilian without a glimmer of emotion.

Check out this preview then take a look at the first episode:

Continue reading

The Man in the High Castle Times Square

Review by C.J. Bunce

The more I read Philip K. Dick’s novels, and I’ve read roughly half, the more I want to take a highlighter to paragraphs throughout his works that keep me coming back for more.  Oddly enough, those tidbits I liked best from his Hugo Award-winning, 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle, didn’t make it into the Amazon Studios pilot released this month on their streaming service.  Enough of his framework is there, however, to make science fiction fans, especially alternate history fans, want the new studio to pick up the series and show us what more they can do with this unique work.

The Man in the High Castle generally is considered Dick’s best work.  The TV pilot and novel follow a small cast of characters living their average lives in a world where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II.  The superpowers have divided America, leaving a neutral zone of sorts in between, and this arrangement is the key political focus of the story.  In the novel, life is more mundane and the vile realities more subtle.  In the TV series the theme is more like Red Dawn–the studio must think modern audiences need that over-arching theme of American rebellion for the show to take hold.  A key element missing from the pilot is the Japanese desire for American nostalgia.  A key character in the novel, an antique salesman named Robert Childan, is absent from the TV version.  It’s this character I was most fascinated with in the novel, so it was a strange watching the story progress without his contribution.

Davalos The Man in the High Castle

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: