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Too many commercials.

Everywhere you go advertising is thrown at you.  From the margin on every web page showing you an ad for something you looked at yesterday at Amazon.com or on eBay, to the signs behind left field at the baseball game, to billboards on your way to work and quick-talking radio ads on your way home.

But once in a while you don’t mind so much.  Take the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials.  We’ve given our thumbs up to several past ads here at borg.com, like Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in his Volvo commercial, Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” and his sci-fi milk ad, the Volkswagen Star Wars Cantina re-creation commercial went above and beyond, too.

So what are the best commercials you’ve seen this year?

GE has a new commercial featuring a giant muppet-like fellow that should get some consideration for all the emotion it packs into a fantasy-themed promotion.  Check it out here:

Earlier this year genre favorites Mark Strong (Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes), Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Sneakers, Gandhi), and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Thor 2) created a fun commercial for Jaguar with a British villain theme.  If you missed it earlier, here it is an extended version:

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George Takei Sulu in The Naked Time

If holographic television were available today, would you go right out and buy it?

We’re more than four years into the widespread availability of affordable consumer 3D television and the viewing public hasn’t embraced it yet.  My best guess is simply because they haven’t seen it yet, or they are basing their lack of interest on a poor viewing experience with 3D in a public theater.  At borg.com, we’ve got no skin in the game–we don’t work for or with the studios–we’re just after the best viewing experience possible.  And we’re completely sold on both 3D Blu-ray and the lesser discussed 2D/3D “upconversion” technology.

Distributors have been relatively slow at releasing 3D Blu-rays, the current standard for 3D home viewing.  Many films actually produced in 3D, like Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series, are very quickly released now in a 3D Blu-ray.  Other films are converted to 3D in post-production, like Star Trek Into Darkness, and they are also released on 3D Blu-ray.  Both films look far superior to standard films–you can’t even compare the quality.  The distinctions between a true 3D film and a conversion are probably not all that noticeable to the average moviegoer with normal vision.  But what we’re focusing on today is something different.

Dathon and Picard in Darmok

A different category of conversion, called 2D/3D conversion, is available on certain affordable 3D televisions today.  This is a technology available to anyone with a 3D television that includes the upconvert technology and compatible 3D glasses.  For films, TV series, or even real-time live or pre-recorded television, this technology manipulates the images to create a real 3D experience for the viewer.  Sounds like a gimmick?  It’s not.  To test it, we tried 2D/3D upconverting on an episode of each of Star Trek, the original series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The result?  We were blown away.  We think if you try it, you too will ask:  Why don’t we watch everything now in 3D, and why isn’t everyone talking about it?

If you’re waiting around for holographic TV, that’s pretty much what you’re getting here, too.  You can even get up and walk around without the 3D image going away.  The only thing you can’t do is walk completely around a floating object, which is what a true holographic TV experience should be.  But this is the next best thing.  We watched two acclaimed, classic Star Trek episodes, the original series episode “The Naked Time” and the NextGen series episode “Darmok” using a 3D television, a Blu-ray/DVD player and, for “The Naked Time” a remastered DVD version, and for “Darmok,” a remastered Blu-ray version.  We then applied the 3D television’s upconvert and easily adjusted the various 3D settings, such as “Standard” or “Cinema” or “Extreme,” tint, and brightness/backlighting, to create the best picture possible for the room lighting.

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Agents of SHIELD season two clip

Late Friday night Marvel Entertainment released a clip featuring a full scene from episode 1 of Season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  If you bailed on the series after the initial glitter of the Marvel Comics universe drama started to fizzle mid-season, you may have at least one good reason to give the series another try.  Agent Coulson’s team returns, this time joined by genre fave Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files, Veronica Mars, Burn Notice).

Although Marvel owns the cinematic superhero universe, it takes a backseat in TV land.   The DC Comics universe counterpart Arrow on the CW Network firmly established audiences would happily accept a series full of superheroes and supervillains.  With Arrow competing for viewers again this season, Warner Bros. is also adding The Flash, which looks to be great.  Will S.H.I.E.L.D. finally embrace the key element of the genre it represents?

Agents of SHIELD season two cast

Check out this first look of a scene from Season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:

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Wheaton Binderup McDaniels at Planet Comicon 2014

Why are you here?

To read?  To learn something?  To kill time?

OK, not why are you “here” at this website.  Think Big Picture:  Why are you here?  To narrow the gap between the rich and the poor?  To help people?  To have fun?  To create?

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run-DMC, who we met at Planet Comicon last year, asked himself that question after returning to a hotel after a night on a European tour.  He’s pictured above with Wil Wheaton and my pal William Binderup.  McDaniels asked himself that simple question and wrestling with that question set him on a path that he recounted to a crowd of college students years later.  National Public Radio located an audio recording of that talk that they re-broadcast this past Wednesday night.

The result is a great story, and may serve as inspiration for anyone suffering from depression, anyone who was adopted, and it surprisingly serves as a great message about the power of fandom.  It also should cause you to consider the possibility that you can do anything you want to do with your life, and sometimes you may even surprise yourself if you aim high.  Maybe there’s more to who you are, who you like, and what you know–and don’t know–about yourself.

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Scotty in kilt

That is, if you’re in Scotland.

Census records estimate that more than twice as many people of Scottish ancestry live in the United States than in Scotland.  Is it the destiny of Scotland to declare its independence from Great Britain?  If not now, then when?  At the beginning of the day everyone has been waiting for, polls show the likely outcome as a dead heat.  We’ll soon learn the answer we’ve all been asking:  Will they or won’t they?

Of course there are all sorts of implications to a yes vote, not the least of which is what kind of economic impact it will have on England, on the United States, and the world.  If Scotland wants to make a statement to the world this could very well be Scotland’s day.  So if you’re one of those Scots that are 16 years old or older and done voting or you’re in the States and can’t vote today, then what better than a brief celebration of all things Scottish?  As Mike Myers’ character Stuart Rankin, proprietor of the store “All Things Scottish,” said on Saturday Night Live, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”

Sean Connery

Scotland is well known for its inventors and their inventions.  You wouldn’t be reading this website or surfing the Internet at all without the communications technologies that sprouted from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  John Logie Baird would invent the first television.  Scots invented the refrigerator and the flush toilet, the kaleidoscope and the lawnmower.  And–shazam–James Goodfellow invented ATMs so we can get money to buy stuff on nearly any street corner.

Our future is defined in part by the adventures of a Scot in space–James Doohan’s Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from Star Trek, an engineering miracle worker who exemplifies Scottish ingenuity.  And of course, there’s James Bond, the character, whose parents were Scottish, and Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor, the most famous Bond, and a supporter of today’s “yes” vote.

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Ian McShane Teach Pirates Blackbeard

Review by C.J. Bunce

When Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hits theaters in 2017, the tenth largest money making movie franchise will give fans its fourth sequel.  Usually the fifth film in a franchise is so far from the spirit of the original that it fails miserably.  But the last Pirates entry, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, was such a visually stunning production with–more importantly–an interesting story that it could be the Johnny Depp-led franchise may just be hitting its stride.  The first of the films released on Blu-ray 3D is a showcase for the home viewing technology, and is worth another look, especially if you only saw it in the theater on 3D or just the DVD version.

Still derived on the amusement park ride and the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, the role that earned Johnny Depp one of his best actor Academy Award nominations, On Stranger Tides kicks up the film’s action compared to the prior two films, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End.  In part because director Jerry Bruckheimer branched out and borrowed the film’s story from an award-winning novel by Tim Powers (1987’s On Stranger Tides), this new film is simply better all around.  Except for some scenes that could stand to be edited down, On Stranger Tides is nearly as good as the original Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl. 

pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides

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Wilds End David Petersen cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Wild’s End, a new comic book series from BOOM! Studios, is quite strange and enchanting—it reads like a Masterpiece Theater version of Winnie the Pooh.  Complete with talking animals, it’s also very British and old worldy.  At the same time this is no ordinary town at its core, more like the town of Haven of the Syfy Channel TV series based on the Steven King story “The Colorado Kid.”  And its inhabitants are as idiosyncratic as those troubled people of Haven.

But Wild’s End is more than that.  Think Alice’s Wonderland of odd fellows versus an attack like you’d find in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, as a downed ship is about to wreak havoc on a peaceful Hobbiton-like community.

Mr. Clive Slipaway, a stout two-legged, walking-talking Great Dane, is new to the town of Lower Crowchurch.  He’s clearly trying to find a quiet place to retire after years of military service or some kind of similar tough life experiences.  He’s a bit like John Wayne’s Quirt Evans from Angel and the Badman—a tough customer who wants to mind his own business until circumstances require him to take action to protect the lives of local innocents.

Wilds End issue 1

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Copperhead #1 Peeples Hastings cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of Firefly and Common Grounds have a great new comic book series to look forward to each month.  Image Comics released Issue #1 of Copperhead this past week, a new Western that takes place on what appears to be a future planet Earth.  We’d call it a police procedural, but it feels more like a classic Western.

Written by Jay Faerber, with art by Scott Godlewski, and colors by Ron Riley, Copperhead is the new hometown of Sheriff Bronson, a tough lawkeeper looking for a fresh start with her son Zeke.  Copperhead is not a friendly town, it’s a dusty place just near the Badlands—we’re not sure yet whether these are the American Badlands or a location on a different world.  But it’s inhabited by the same rough types of Earth’s Old West, only these folks all appear to be of various alien origins.

Copperhead Image Comics Issue 1 cover    Copperhead Godlewski cover

Heading up the cast of characters is a slightly ruffled deputy named Budroxifinicus, a giant hamster built like The Rock.  He’s been passed over for promotion so he’s not too welcoming of Bronson.  He seems harmless enough but we’re thinking he’d being set up to be an interesting partner for Bronson.  Just don’t call him “Boo.”

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Aliens vs Predator Fire and Stone issue 1 cover

As the mercenary crew of the Perses leave the horror of LV-223 behind them, one passenger reveals a terrible new danger, and the crew soon find themselves in a deadly struggle between predator and prey…

Dark Horse Comics expands its Fire and Stone line with the new Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone series, coming to comic book stores in October.  After the break, courtesy of Dark Horse we have a first look at the series Issue #1 as well as the book trailer for the series.

Christopher Sebela will write the series with artwork by Ariel Olivetti.

Aliens v Predator Fire and Stone 1 Mignola

Here’s the preview of Issue #1:

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Edward Hopper original sketch night scene

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

We’ve talked about horror movies before on borg.com, and in my discussion, a common theme of creepy girls and the supernatural emerged.  The thing is, these things aren’t scary on their own.  “Thor” isn’t scary. “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” isn’t scary.  What gives them the ability to scare me comes not as much from their intrinsic natures, but from the images that come from the masters of horror combined with my imagination.

My imagination is the key.  The supernatural have no rules and no limits.  They can do whatever you dream them to do.  Once you start down that road, then anything can trigger those pieces of the mind that start the skin crawling and the sweat to run cold.  The rustling of leaves outside my tent?  Probably the wind.  But, then maybe it’s a mouse.  Maybe it’s a snake.  Maybe it’s a softly moving wolf.  Maybe someone is in my camp.  Before I know it, an army of undead, animals, and adderall-crazed ankle biters have amassed on the other side of the thin sheets of nylon.

Those are two other keys to fear: removing senses and being alone.  If my tent was clear material and I could see the leaves drifting along the ground, my fear would be gone.  If I can hear the voices of friends still up around the campfire, I can feel safe.  If I have a friend telling me to go back to sleep after a late night trip behind a tree, I can rejoin his or her slumber.

Original sketch Edward Hopper Nighthawks

Arthur C. Clarke hits me perfectly again with the short story, “A Walk in the Dark” from the same collection as “The Wall of Darkness.”  The opening is innocuous.  The first paragraph introduces Robert Armstrong as a man who has walked two miles and his flashlight just went bad.  It give you those two pieces of information and depending on your imagination, it might be perfectly safe as you think of a two-mile round-trip hike.  Maybe you just finished trick-or-treating and you can use the streetlights on the rest of the way home.  Maybe your friend has a flashlight.

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