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Category: Blasts from the Past


Iconic scenes 2001 A Space Odyssey

If you love 2001: A Space Odyssey or Stanley Kubrick, just walk away now.  More than any other science fiction movie it stops me in my tracks.  Every five years or so I re-watch it, thinking, like tomatoes, I may finally bite right in and say “tasty!”  The movie is absolutely a treat for the eyes in much the same way as Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  These are great looking movies.  But when it comes to storytelling?  Ask fans of the film, those with a critical eye, and no two will describe what the film is about in the same way.  Yet 2001: A Space Odyssey is often on lists of the best movies of all time, lists made by clever people who know good movies.

Only after reading the Cliff’s Notes version of 2001 (the film, not the book) do I understand what Kubrick was going for.  I’m still left scratching my head.  The dialogue is flat like the lines in the Star Wars prequels.  Kubrick admitted he wanted the viewer to have his/her own understanding of the film.  That’s “the point”.  Hey–if you’re a fan of ambiguity it’s the film for you.  If you tried making a movie like it today you’d end up with something like Punch-Drunk Love or the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Slow, boring, long, dull.  Most of the film is just banal.  But the star baby!  The black monolith!  So he takes a film and overlays it with well-known classical music and juxtaposes some cryptic symbolic imagery.  Just because someone hasn’t done it doesn’t mean it’s groundbreaking.  If I want cool images and great music sans linear story, I’ll take Powaqqatsi.

2001 huh black monolith

Maybe it’s because I like excitement in my science fiction, not this documentary-style filmmaking.  For that give me a NASA IMAX movie and educate me along the way.  Give me Star Wars or Star Trek II.  Has anyone ever referred to 2001 as exciting?  Great looking films minus a big story to back it up may be why I shy away from mainstream science fiction movies, the kind that get nominated for film awards like Gravity or Interstellar. 

So why is it on the American Film Institute list of best science fiction films at #1 and on the Library of Congress National Film Registry?

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Green Arrow Volume 2 Here There be Dragons trade cover

At long last DC Comics has released a trade edition of the 1980s Green Arrow monthly comic book series.  The series that sprang out of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is some of the best storytelling work by Grell on the relationship between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance.  We previously reviewed the first trade edition re-released by DC, Green Arrow: Hunter’s Moon, last December here at borg.com.  When borg.com readers have requested recommendations for the best of Green Arrow, I’ve pointed them to back issues of this series along with the classic O’Neill/Adams “Hard-Travelling Heroes” books as a starting point.

Unlike the events of Volume 1, which piled on heavy issues ranging from sexual assault, to child abuse, to gay-bashing, prostitution, armed robbery, and biogenic weapons, Volume 2 is a more intimate look at Green Arrow and Black Canary behind the scenes, very similar to the approach taken by writer Matt Fraction in the successful modern Hawkeye series from Marvel Comics.

Green Arrow 9 cover

Green Arrow Volume 2: Here There Be Dragons, which reprints Green Arrow, Issues #7-12 from 1988, finds Dinah continuing to try to forge ahead on her own and move beyond her violent attack in The Longbow Hunters.  She and Oliver have issues to work out, Dinah with determining what she wants from life and Oliver being haunted by his past.  Together they make the perfect team, like any couple living in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying their town, Oliver perfecting his chili recipe, both commenting on the fact that PNW residents don’t use umbrellas despite the seemingly constant rain.  Dinah is focused on her business at the floral shop, Oliver uses his resources to ward off criminals in Seattle one thug at a time.

This period of the Green Arrow series hit its stride without your typical superheroism, and although Oliver dons his costume a few times, finely crafted storytelling without the over-the-top action is why Green Arrow’s stories are unique among the medium.  Oliver heads to Alaska to pursue a lead and inadvertently tracks a drug smuggling and car theft ring.  Dinah, much like Laurel Lance in the current Arrow TV series, is feeling the pull to help others in the city outside the law.

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Jimmy Stewart Lindbergh Spirit of St Louis

It’s the second time TCM and auction house Bonhams have teamed up to offer screen-used and production-made costumes, props, and other relics from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  A November auction, TCM Presents: There’s No Place Like Hollywood, will feature a large private collection of rare items from Casablanca, including the piano featured prominently in the film where Sam plays “As Time Goes By.”  A lesser seen piano from another scene in the film sold in 2012 for more than $600,000.

One lot features a mannequin display with costume components worn by Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, said to have been used in several scenes in the film.  Many of the costumes and props appear to be the same lots that have been featured in other auctions in the last few years, including various dresses from the Debbie Reynolds collection of items offered by auction house Profiles in History.

Casablanca piano

Costumes from several classic films are on the auction block, including a Clark Gable jacket from Gone With the Wind, Marilyn Monroe’s saloon gown from River of No Return, Jimmy Stewart’s Charles Lindbergh flight suit from The Spirit of St. Louis, Faye Dunaway’s dress from The Towering Inferno, a Jane Russell costume from The Outlaw, and a John Wayne Union Army coat from Rio Lobo and The Undefeated.  Sci-fi and fantasy fans aren’t forgotten in the TCM auction, as there will be costumes worn by Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell in Planet of the Apes, a background crewmember astronaut jumpsuit from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a test dress for Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and a Saruman staff and Aragorn sword from The Lord of the Rings films, both from Sir Christopher Lee’s personal collection.

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Jaws 3-D movie poster 1983

When I was a kid I remember paying $5 at the geek show part of a carnival to see a giant great white shark. We were taken into a long trailer and were able to walk around it, suspended in some kind of clear block. It was sad, horrifying, and shocking that someone would display an animal this way.  After watching Jaws 3-D for our review of Halloween films, I had some of the same feelings return.

You’re not supposed to cheer for the monster in a monster movie like Jaws 3-D.  And yet I found myself hoping the shark would consume all this early 1980s fashion and bad moviemaking.  Every actor earns his or her sea legs in a different way, and here was Dennis Quaid (Enemy Mine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Bess Armstrong (House of Lies), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), and Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) before they all would make names for themselves in much bigger and better films.  There’s even the son of All in the Family’s Jean Stapleton, John Putch, before he would have small roles in several series, including playing Mordock the Benzite in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Putch plays Sean Brody, brother to Quaid’s Mike Brody, and they are the sons of Chief Brody from the original Jaws.  The Brodys find themselves again pursued by a giant shark, the latest some 35 feet long.

Jaws 3-D scream

Where Friday the 13th III in 3D is an example of over-the-top 3D effects that–absurd or not–you can still appreciate at least for its humor, Jaws 3-D reflects all that is bad about 3D.  The fundamental requirement of any movie, with or without special effects, is a good story.  This story doesn’t know what it wants to be.  At times it could be a poignant look at compassionate marine biologists caring about their animals and their work, with Armstrong and Quaid going about their jobs in a nice summer setting.   In a different genre years later this would be the backdrop for a movie like Summer Rental.  But a movie called Jaws requires chilling suspense.  Jaws 3-D doesn’t earn the title.

Were it merely a vehicle for three-dimensional whiz-bang action, this might have resulted in something like Friday the 13th III.  But the directorial choices are bad.  The images shown in 3D are superfluous to the plot.  The film sulks along and the only action comes about after an hour of the film as passed by.  As to story the movie doesn’t make sense even on paper.  A shark accused of killing people is finally caught, put on display at an aquarium, and then its mother sneaks into the park and torments the staff and guests until it breaks through the aquarium walls to get revenge on the facility manager.  Remember last year’s Syfy B-movie hit Sharknado?  Jaws 3-D is the original Sharknado, but without the necessary tongue-in-cheek humor.

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Star Wars Posters Abrams cover art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Whether a piece of art is appealing is in the eye of the beholder.  Everyone who gives a considered view to a piece of artwork is entitled to their own interpretation and commentary on it.  This month sees the release of a book that will allow the reader to take his or her own personal journey through the artwork that became the marketing posters for the Star Wars franchise.  Star Wars Art: Posters is the fifth and final hardcover installment in Abrams Books’ successful series pulling the best imagery from Lucasfilm.  It follows Star Wars Art: Visions, Star Wars Art: Concept, Star Wars Art: Illustration, and, to be reviewed soon here at borg.comStar Wars Art: Comics.  With Star Wars Art: Posters, the best was saved for last.

Star Wars Art: Posters is a purely visual experience.  It includes only the slightest amount of text or interpretational information.  A one-page commentary is included, written by each of noted Star Wars poster artists Drew Struzan and Roger Kastel.  They each recount their own experience with creating Star Wars poster art, but do not give an overview of the rest of the galaxy of poster art.  Instead each piece of art is laid out roughly chronologically, stripped of the words and printed matter that would be needed for the completion of the final poster for distribution, but with a notation showing the artists’ name, date, significance, and medium.

Empire Strikes Back Kastel

Die hard fans of Star Wars will recognize many, if not most, of the included posters.  And you’ll find yourself embarking on your own nostalgic trip back nearly four decades.  Back to the first poster for the film from 1976: Howard Chaykin’s screaming imagery of Luke, Han, Leia and Ben, with lightsaber pointing downward, Tom Jung’s famous one-sheet–what most remember as the classic Star Wars poster, Tom Chantrell’s photo-real poster featuring Mark Hamill as Luke along with the rest of the main cast, and that famous circus-design poster by Charles White III and Drew Struzan.  My own trip back in time recalls the Del Nichols posters that were Coca-Cola giveaways, three of which are included in the book (and which covered the walls of my bedroom many years ago).

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Legenderry Red Sonja Davila cover   Legenderry Vampirella Davila cover

Bill Willingham’s Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure was one of this year’s best ideas, a combination of steampunk, superhero mash-up, and just plain great retro fun.  Legenderry saw a parallel universe including the creation of Steve Austin–the Six Thousand Dollar Man, and alternate versions of Flash Gordon, the Green Hornet and Kato, Vampirella, the Phantom, and Red Sonja, among others.  It was the ultimate new look at familiar characters that Dynamite holds the licensing rights to today.

We’re hoping for a future addition of Miss Fury to this steam-powered world, and to hear about a Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure trade edition to collect the seven-issue limited series.  Until then Dynamite is branching out beyond Willingham’s story, focusing on three of the characters: Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Green Hornet, each to have their own new series.

Legenderry Red Sonja Poulat cover   Legenderry Vampirella Poulat cover

David Avallone will write the Legenderry: Vampirella series, featuring Madam Pendragon and her path to become Vampirella.  Daryl Gregory (Planet of the Apes) will write the Legenderry: Green Hornet story featuring Hornet and Kato in a Gangs of New York type setting.

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Jurassic Park 3D dimension

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s difficult to ascertain what Steve Spielberg could have done differently had he actually planned a Jurassic Park 3D movie or filmed it originally with 3D technologies.  Jurassic Park 3D is so well done, devoid of gimmicky 3D imagery, but filled with crystal clear depth and eye-popping dimension scene after scene that you’ll think it isn’t merely a post-production conversion.

Unlike the few months technicians had to create the transfer used for a movie like the admittedly superb Predator 3D release, reviewed earlier at borg.com hereJurassic Park 3D underwent a full year of a painstaking, detailed transfer process, thanks to the post-production conversion studio Stereo D.  It’s also a testament to having those creators who made the original production oversee the conversion from original 2D film to 3D.  In this case, the oversight was by director Steven Spielberg himself.

Jurassic Park 3D cover

When considering what makes good or bad 3D movie subjects, we learned from Predator 3D, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Friday the 13th III in 3D that nothing beats Mother Nature when you’re watching 3D.  The context of setting a film in the natural world, highlighting the detail of trees and grass and, in the case of Jurassic Park a forest nestled among waterfalls in real-life Hawaii, is the best environment to judge 3D on your home 3D system.

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E.t. the extra-terrrestrial

No other director has produced more hits and more variety than Steven Spielberg.  You’d have to travel pretty far to find someone who didn’t love at least one of Spielberg’s films.  Whether it’s Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Minority Report, or War of the Worlds, each of Spielberg’s genre blockbusters rival the best of other major directors’ films.  That doesn’t even include his more critically acclaimed dramatic works, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, and Lincoln. 

The films Spielberg directed at Universal Studios are being released tomorrow in a new boxed set in both a DVD and Blu-ray edition.  Whether you’ll go for this set isn’t a matter of whether this is a great collection of great movies.  It’s more about math.  Today only you can get the set for less than half the published retail price at Amazon.com here.  First of all you get eight films on eight discs, and unlike other directors’ releases, like the superb Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros., this edition includes a bundle of great extras on several of the discs.  These films have been released singly and you may already have the best available editions of films like Jaws.   But if you don’t this may be the time to catch up your video library.

Steven Spielberg Director's Collection

You get Spielberg’s first film, actually a TV movie, the suspenseful Duel (1971), featuring Dennis Weaver (Dragnet, Gunsmoke) being pursued by a psychotic truck driver.  It’s the ultimate road rage movie well before the term was even coined.  It includes “A Conversation with Director Steven Spielberg,” “Steven Spielberg and the Small Screen,” “Richard Matheson: The Writing of Duel,” a photograph and poster gallery and the original trailer.

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Ghost and Mrs Muir A

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret that here at borg.com, we’re big fans of Halloween.  And there’s nothing I like better than a great ghost story.  But if creepy and gory aren’t really your thing, TCM is offering up some of the best in lighter-hearted classic haunts tonight as part of its Ghost Story Thursdays month-long series.

Included in our epic round-up of this year’s Halloween movies on TV, tonight’s two classics feature some of our favorite performers in roles you might have missed–but should be sure to catch as they air back-to-back.  And if tonight happens to be Date Night at your house, you might choose to stay in and snuggle up on the couch, because these two films also feature some of our favorite on-screen romances.

Portrait of Jennie original movie poster   Ghost and Mrs Muir original movie poster

First up at 7:00 p.m. Central is 1948’s Portrait of Jennie, starring Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, Shadow of a Doubt) and Jennifer Jones (Song of Bernadette, Duel in the Sun), with a masterful performance by Ethel Barrymore.  Cotten and Jones play star-crossed lovers whose sweet romance bridges time, death, and logic.  Cotten plays Eben Adams, a down-on-his-luck artist in the Depression, whose life is changed forever when he meets a young girl in Central Park.  The mysterious and beguiling Jennie becomes his muse, infusing his artwork with passion and talent.  But who is she?  Jennie has a secret, and her haunting story will consume Eben, until both lovers are driven to extremes in their quest to be together.

If you’re already a fan of the film, you’ll enjoy TCM’s write-up about it here–but it’s full of spoilers, so wait until you’ve seen it.  Based on the novel by Robert Nathan, Portrait of Jennie, with its haunting heroine and epic romance, could easily have been dark and gothic, but it’s actually anything but.  There’s just enough ghostly mystery to keep the Halloween thrill alive, but the overall tone is more sweet than scary.  In fact, this supernatural romance even made our Best Fantasy list.  It’s a must-see.

Portrait of Jennie B

Here is the original trailer for Portrait of Jennie:

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Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

Showtime announced today that the Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning TV series Twin Peaks will return as a new limited series on Showtime in 2016.  Series creators and executive producers David Lynch and Mark Frost will write and produce all nine episodes of the new third season, and Lynch will direct.  Set in the present day, Showtime said the new Twin Peaks will continue the lore of the original, promising “long-awaited answers” and “a satisfying conclusion” for the series’ fan base.  “The mysterious and special world of Twin Peaks is pulling us back.  We’re very excited.  May the forest be with you,” Lynch and Frost said in a joint statement.

Check out the brief YouTube teaser below, after the break.

For the few who missed the original on TV or in reruns or binge DVD marathons, Twin Peaks followed FBI agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, as he investigated the bizarre background behind the death of high school girl Laura Palmer.  It’s the “bizarre” that became the signature for the series, and its first season was as good as TV gets.  However, the slow resolution of multiple twists lost many viewers and ABC cancelled the series after two seasons.  Like The X-Files and Firefly, a loyal fan base pulled Hollywood into making a follow-up big screen feature, but it was even more indecipherable than the end of the TV series.

Dale Cooper and Audrey on Twin Peaks

Yet many fans couldn’t get enough.  That first season pulled in lifetime fans.  Remember college watching parties with Cooper’s trademark donuts and coffee?  And some of us made our own pilgrimage to Snoqualmie Falls, and the nearby Salish Lodge and town of Fall City, Washington, featured in the opening credits of the series (even making the treacherous hike down to the bottom of the falls)… and we had to buy the creepy tie-in book The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer… and the soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti… and were serenaded to sleep for years by Julee Cruise’s Floating Into The Night CD.  To top it off, 25 years later we’re still hooked on Snoqualmie Falls Lodge pancake mix that we first picked up at the lodge (yep, damn good pancakes).

So what actors are coming back?

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