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Category: Blasts from the Past


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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BWSF01-Cov-Chen

Review by C.J. Bunce

Starting next Wednesday, September 17, 2014, the Bionic Woman is back.  This time, in her third comic book series in the past two years, following Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and The Six Million Dollar Man, it’s a continuation of the original television series, right where the series last left our bionic heroine.

Dynamite Comics is publishing the new series written by Brandon Jerwa, with interior art by David T. Cabrera.  Issue #1 features cover art by Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes and a photo incentive cover featuring Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers.

So how does Issue #1 fare?

Bionic Woman legs

They have the introduction right, presumably to begin each issue like an episodes of the series.  As to moving the series forward in continuity of the era, the tech gets a slight–but only slight–upgrade, with walkie-talkies replaced with wireless comm-links in Jaime’s ears.  Dr. Rudy Wells and Oscar Goldman are back, too.  So the setting checks out.

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Blade Runner one-sheet John Alvin   Young Frankenstein one-sheet John Alvin

Back in early 2012 we reviewed one of several books released on movie poster artist Drew Struzan, a useful and interesting resource called The Art of Drew Struzan, reviewed here.  It chronicles the best of painted motion picture advertising one-sheets that Struzan created, and even more enlightening, includes commentary by Struzan about his process and the politics and business of his years of leading the craft.  The picture he painted wasn’t pretty, but despite his own roadblocks he is generally thought of as the best motion picture poster artist of the last 50 years.

Along with Struzan, another poster artist created posters that often could be confused for Struzan’s.  That was the late poster artist John Alvin.  Unfortunately Alvin did not document his own personal account of his creative and professional experiences, but his wife Andrea has put together a book that at least documents his most popular work, released this month by Titan Books as The Art of John Alvin What we don’t know from any of the books we’ve reviewed on poster artists is how they might have competed for work over the years.  Andrea Alvin makes no mention of Struzan, but seems to indicate Alvin was able to keep a nice niche of clients over the years, ranging from the decision-makers behind the movies of Mel Brooks, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, and the renaissance of animated Disney blockbusters.

ET one-sheet John Alvin   Empire of the Sun one-sheet John Alvin

Alvin’s work seems far more commercial compared to the paintings of Struzan, as can be seen in Alvin’s posters for Empire of the Sun (1987), Cape Fear (1991), Batman Returns (1992), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and Batman Forever (1995).  But that doesn’t mean they were any less effective at drawing moviegoers to the theater, the entire point of the poster.  The one-sheet for Empire of the Sun is often seen as one of the most memorable images in the history of movie posters.

The power of much of Alvin’s posters is the simplicity.  In 1982 when the public first learned of a movie called E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, the only thing we knew was a newspaper ad showing a wrinkled alien hand touching the hand of a kid, inspired by Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.  His teaser poster was equally as effective—never did these pictures show E.T. himself.  Those same images were reproduced on movie posters, cardboard standees, and eventually all over picture books sold via school book orders.  Simple images, but lasting images, and what they didn’t show was part of the enticement to reel in an audience.

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barriers - Great wall of China

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I love when a story starts me guessing like “The Wall of Darkness” by Arthur C. Clarke.  I have so many notions of walls and barriers that once Clarke reveals there’s a mysterious black wall in the dark lands where the planet’s sun doesn’t reach, my mind immediately guesses likely conclusions.

Due to the surge in popularity of all things Game of Thrones, the Wall of Westeros first came to mind.  A structure built of ice and stone to separate the civil from the uncouth and things unimagined.  The dangers were so serious that an elevator is needed to get you to the top of the wall for it is so high. Would the wall of darkness be the same?  What monsters must inhabit the lands devoid of starlight where the wall only becomes accessible at the highest days of summer?  Would they be blind?  Would they be legion, held back by the material of the wall, waiting for a foreign object to infest so as to spread throughout the light?

Wall of Westeros

Then again, the other side of the wall could be something more akin to George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for the Wall – Hadrian’s Wall.  On the other side might be a separate version of the planet’s inhabitants, people that have learned to live without the warmth and light of a star.  They may have fashioned great cities lit by artificial light and have evolved in different ways while exploring cuisines that flourish in the night.  (Think lots and lots of catfish sautéed in mushrooms.)  Maybe this time it’s the Morlocks that are kind and just and they built the wall to keep out the Eloi.  It’s much more romantic than thinking of the Romans and Scotsmen of the very earliest part of the AD centuries separating with a wall due to differences in distance over now adjacent time zones on the same continent.  It’s more romantic to think of Starks and white walkers.  As an earthbound human, our walls are just another case of separating ourselves from those that are “different.”

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Spock with tricorder

It’s a question die-hard Star Trek fans ask themselves:  If you could own one favorite Star Trek prop, what would it be?  This weekend a Star Trek Facebook page asked thousands of followers to comment on one question:  If you could have any autographed Trek prop, what would it be and who would you have sign it?  With nearly 2,000 respondents we thought it was a good opportunity to use these responses from across Star Trek fandom to see if we can glean what Star Trek fans think are the most iconic props of the franchise.  It’s not all that scientific, since the page posting the question was a general Star Trek page, and many fans may only follow the individual pages from any of the Star Trek series.  The image shown in the post was of an original series phaser–did that skew fans to select that prop?  Are there more original series fans in the mix who follow this page?  We don’t know.  But the results are still interesting and who better than a random group of Trek fans to share what they see as the top Holy Grail of Trek props?

The question is ongoing, with hundreds more responses entered after we stopped tracking answers–around 1,860.  Many responses were attempts at humor–many claiming Shatner’s toupee as their response (how do you autograph a toupee anyway?).  Others were rude or sexist or otherwise the typical worthless responses you find across social media on any given day.

Worf bat'leth from Firstborn

Also, nobody addressed a key topic–why do people think it’s a good thing to autograph a screen-used prop?  The truth is that collectors of screen-used props will refuse to purchase a prop if it has been defaced in any way, especially by an autograph (screen wear and tear excepted).  Recent auctions of an original series gold tunic worn by William Shatner sold for a fraction of what a similar one sold for that was not so marked.  The autograph literally cost the consigner thousands of dollars.  One rare command Starfleet uniform worn by Robert Picardo on Star Trek Voyager was once highly sought after by collectors, and has remained unsellable for years because of a scrawling signature across the front.  The bottom line: Collectors prefer a prop or costume to look just as it did the last time it was shown on the screen.  Actors would be well-advised to refuse to autograph screen-used props at least without first telling fans they may be ruining their chances to re-sell the prop down the road.  Whether or not you think you might keep a prop forever, do yourself a favor and don’t limit your future options.

Putting the “should they/shouldn’t they” question aside, the great response showed fans love their favorite Trek and thousands would want a piece of TV or film history signed by their favorite actor.  So what did we learn?

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The Fall of GI Joe 1 cover   The Fall of GI Joe 1 cover b

Is there something not quite right about a new G.I. Joe series that features a Joe team finally headed up by Scarlett, that is also titled “The Fall of G.I. Joe”?  We’re guessing the juxtaposition of these two elements wasn’t intended to be some kind of causal thing.  Instead we’re focused on plenty of cool covers released by IDW Publishing for the series, which is expected to ship its first issue in September.

G.I. Joe: The Fall of G.I. Joe will be written by Karen Traviss with interior art by Steve Kurth.  Several covers will be available, from artists including Cliff Chiang and Jeffery Veregge.

Check out these covers from the new monthly.  The cover style from Veregge makes us wish Phil Noto or Kevin Dart was also working on this series, and maybe provide some variant covers.  Still, they do look like something we might have seen back in 1972 on the box covers for large-sized G.I. Joe action figures.

IDW Fall of GI Joe alt cover   New GI Joe

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Attenborough in Jurassic Park

The motion picture industry lost a great director and character actor this weekend with the passing of Richard Attenborough at age 90.  Attenborough likely will be best remembered because of his starring role as the jolly John Hammond, the “spared no expense” creator of the dinosaur theme park in Jurassic Park (1993).  Rightly so.  The adventure film will go down as one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, and his performance is a big reason for it.  Michael Crichton’s Hammond had been killed off in the original novel, but there was too much of the amiable Attenborough in the film version of Hammond and Steven Spielberg knew audiences wouldn’t stand for a similar fate for the film version.  Attenborough would return to the role again in The Lost World (1997).

But Attenborough’s greatest feat was not being an actor, as he would take up making movies behind the camera with a second successful career as a major studio director.  That work earned him an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Gandhi in 1982.  He went on to a decade of critically acclaimed directing gigs, helming A Chorus Line (1985) with Michael Douglas, Cry Freedom (1987) with Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline, Robert Downey’ Jr.’s acting comeback in Chaplin (1992), and Shadowlands (1993) with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Attenborough McQueen The Sand Pebbles

Never the guy for leading man roles, the character actor proved his skill with three other great films, two of which earned him Golden Globe Awards for Supporting Actor:  For Albert Blossom in Doctor Doolittle (1967) and Frenchy Burgoyne in the 1920s naval drama starring Steve McQueen, The Sand Pebbles (1966).  He’ll also be known for his performance as squadron leader Big X in The Great Escape (1963).  And he even played opposite John Wayne in his brief detour from Westerns in the cool 1975 cop film Brannigan.  But his best role in film?  It’s one not to be missed.

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TMNT elevator

Review by C.J. Bunce

Somewhere around the halfway mark of the new movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a fun action flick comes together.  If you can get to that point without falling asleep.  With the modern special effects this movie should not have needed to have been compared to the original 1990 film version.  Unfortunately the slow start and less-than-appealing villains keep this one from the top tier of this summer’s would-be franchise blockbusters.

So what’s worth the admission price?  First off, Megan Fox.  Not for a second does she flinch from a strong portrayal of April, the well-known friend of the Turtles.  She delivers even the silliest lines as if she’s playing serious drama.  And the film is better for it.  Although the perpetually young looking actress may be typecasting herself with films like the original Transformers and this similar action genre entry, she may also be simply carving out a niche she’s darned good at.

The biggest failing of Iron Man 2 was the “annoying guy” played over and over in movies by Sam Rockwell.  That same caricature is in TMNT, but played by Will Arnett, who I have not seen before simply because I don’t watch his admittedly popular series including 30 Rock and Arrested Development.  Here he offers what seems like an impersonation of the Night Shift and Batman era Michael Keaton, and it’s some funny stuff.

tmnt-2014-michelangelo-mind-blown

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BSG1880-01-Cov-Syaf  SMDMSeasonSix05-Cov-Ross

Battlestar Galactica in 1880?  As a graphic steampunk story?  Steampunk Cylons?  You bet.  Today, Dynamite Comics launches its new series Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880, taking an alternate universe look at the popular 1978 and 2004 sci-fi television series characters.  And for even more sci-fi fun, our favorite borg is back this month in a new issue of The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six–with some familiar “faces”.

If classic pulp noir reads are your thing, you’ll want to check out our preview of the new Dynamite Comics series Justice, Inc.  The Shadow is back, this time with The Avenger and Doc Savage.

JusticeInc01-Cov-Francavilla   JusticeInc01-Cov-Ross

After the break, take a look at previews for each of these new books, courtesy of Dynamite Comics, available at comic book shops everywhere today.

Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880, Issue #1, features a story by Tony Lee with art by Aneke.  The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, Issue #5, is written by James Kuhoric and art by Juan Antonio Ramirez.  Justice, Inc., Issue #1, has a story by Michael Uslan and artwork by Giovanni Timpano.

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Eliza Dushku Tru Calling

Between 2003 and 2005, Fox aired one of the best supernatural thrillers to date. Fans of Eliza Dushku, missing her superb performance as vampire slayer Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, could get their fix with Tru Calling.  After years of sitting on the shelf Tru Calling is finally being re-broadcast Wednesday nights on the Chiller cable network.

Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, Medium meets Groundhog Day.  Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders.

Tru Calling is one of those forgotten series that made our borg.com10 TV series that didn’t make it (but should have)” list back in 2011.   Lots better than Dushku’s role on Dollhouse, Tru Calling also was the first time we noticed many current genre favorites.  Tru’s co-worker mentor in the morgue was played by The Hangover‘s Zach GalifianakisMatt Bomer (White Collar, Chuck, Space Station 76) played Tru’s boyfriend.  But several more actors were barely known then, and featured in guest spots on the show.

Tru Calling

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