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Category: Movies


Automata poster A Automata poster B

Antonio Banderas is not someone you might think of as star of sci-fi or futuristic tales, but evidently this is one he’s had in play for a while.  He’s producing and starring in his next feature film–taking inspiration from Isaac Asimov short stories his new Automata looks a bit like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence meets Elysium or District 9.

Something about the variety of low-end tech robots and independent film vibe might show some promise, but it also may reflect a low production quality film, too.  It’s hard to say whether this is a poorly conceived trailer or reflective of what we’re going to see in the theaters. We’ll be waiting for early reviews before jumping in to see this one.

Automata also stars Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith, and the great Robert Forster.  Gabe Ibáñez directs.

Here’s the trailer for Automata:

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creature from black lagoon poster

Who is my favorite Universal Studios classic movie monster?  I have always answered The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I first watched the web-footed and web-handed fellow with gills in 3D on local network television on one Friday night many years ago.  I am not sure cable TV was yet making its headway across the country, but the “creature feature” was something marketed for a few weeks over the summer.  The local CBS affiliate, if I recall correctly, teamed up with the local Hy-Vee grocery store to hand out those cardboard and vellum 3D glasses.  I knew early on that The Creature was the first and only one of the classic monsters filmed and shown in theaters in 3D back in 1954.  My trusty World Almanac told me it wasn’t the first 3D film released–that went to the African lion film Bwana Devil in 1952.

As part of my current quest to sample the best of 3D movies on Blu-ray, finding The Creature from the Black Lagoon on the very short list of released 3D films was a big win.  Back in 1997 in Seattle where basic DVDs were first released in a major U.S. market, I remember digging through a short box at the big Suncoast store but feeling similarly dismayed, until I noticed A Boy and His Dog among the early conversions to digital video.  The Creature is a great starting point for modern 3D, giving the current technology some historical context.

Creature in 3D

Thanks in large part to make-up guru Bud Westport’s incredible creature suit and mask, the film holds up as well as any modern classic.  In fact, viewing The Creature back to back with Predator 3D (reviewed here earlier this month), it’s surprising how similar the films are.  Take away the sci-fi intro to Predator and you have a jungle adventure with another otherworldly creature.  As with Predator 3D, the multi-layered jungle comes alive in The Creature, and the careful placement of actors onscreen gives a crystal clear dimensional image that doesn’t waver.  Better yet, you have to look hard to see The Creature’s air bubbles–mostly he swims for seemingly long stints underwater with no apparent breathing going on.  And let’s not forget both of these films are part of the horror genre–each character gets picked off one by one by the monster until only a few are left for a final life-or-death showdown.

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Space Station 76 poster

It all looks good on paper: Patrick Wilson, star of Watchmen and Phantom of the Opera, Liv Tyler, star of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Armaggedon, and The Incredible Hulk, and Matt Bomer, star of White Collar, all in a new sci-fi flick called Space Station 76.  The poster looks great.  Something is not quite selling it for me with the promotional blurb: A character-driven, domestic dramedy, which takes place in a 1970s version of the future, where personalities and asteroids collide.  With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, which pulls a lot of its humor from 1970s music and references, you’d think this could be the right time for a national release.

Despite some pretty impressive early release images of 1970s-influenced sets, wardrobe, and space props, Space Station 76 is starting to look less like a campy Spaceballs or Galaxy Quest and more like the 2012 re-look at the past’s future Dark Shadows.

Space Station 76 clip

I’ve learned from enough reviews of films I didn’t like that buzzwords “black comedy” and “full frontal nudity” tend to refer to movies I wish I would have passed over.  Then I see a word like “dramedy” tacked on and it makes me question whether this is all supposed to be funny or serious.  I love a good mash-up, but a combination of too many disparate components can be like too many cooks in the kitchen.  I’m happy to fork over cash to see solid actors like Wilson, or Tyler, or Bomer in the theater–especially for a science fiction film, but I need to know more.

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Snowpiercer train

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I did not expect an eternal train ride, yet that’s exactly what Snowpiercer gave me.  Then it took a look at the plight of the less fortunate and the caste system that keeps those undesirables in the back of the train.  I didn’t expect action sequences that amazed me in their freshness and scope.  I saw a fantastic apocalyptic future look that had me guessing what would happen as it had me laughing and had me enthralled.

(If I wasn’t so spoiler adverse and had read CJ Bunce’s review of the graphic novel Snowpiercer then I might have expected the train ride to last forever.  However, reading his review now and checking out the graphic novel at Skylight Books after the movie tells me the two versions of the material explored separate stories.  Even with differences, I didn’t even check out the preview and looking back at the controversy on whether or not it would get a U.S. release, I have no clue how 20 minutes could have been removed from anywhere in the film.)

As good as the movie is, the setup keeps me thinking about the movie.  I love the beginning explanation for the apocalypse. Global warming threatens to destroy the earth.  Scientists desperate for a solution try to cool down the planet.  They succeed too well.  The planet is now a land of ice and snow and the only people left alive are aboard the aforementioned train.

Snowpiercer class car

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Green Blooded cloaked Predator SDCC 2014 Entertainment Earth variant SDCC 2014 Rocketeer black and white variant

Did you miss out on San Diego Comic-Con this year?  Taking the sting out of missing the big annual show, both Gentle Giant and Entertainment Earth are making their SDCC 2014 exclusives available to everyone.  Although a few items have already sold out, there are plenty of great busts and action figures that will provide something of interest for every sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy fan.  Click on any image above or below to go to the store listing for prices and availability.

Number One on our list of the coolest action figures of the year is the above variant Predator figure from Funko’s ReAction retro-action figure line.  We’ve seen one of these up close and not only is this a nicely constructed figure with great packaging, it looks like the character cloaked in the film and it comes with green blood splatter applied to the figure and even the box–splatter that was part of the plot of the movie and not just a sales gimmick.  This figure sold out fast, but don’t worry, you can pre-order now for its re-release.  After the break check out several variant retro-Kenner figures only available for a limited time, including Firefly’s Jayne Cobb and his famous hat, a Malcolm Reynolds with Browncoat.  Even new figures from The Twilight Zone of William Shatner and Burgess Meredith!

Rocket Raccoon SDCC 2013 Gentle Giant

The high point of the Gentle Giant exclusives is this great Rocket Raccoon bust that we previewed earlier at borg.com.  You can just hear Rocket ranting about something, gritting his teeth as he rescues the Guardians of the Galaxy team.

For retro fans, Gentle Giant has three other SDCC exclusives for sale.  Check out this two-foot tall Alien figure–inspired by the unreleased Kenner figure from the 1980s:

Alien classic Kenner figure SDCC 2013 Gentle Giant

And how about the latest in Gentle Giant’s line of jumbo-sized classic Kenner Star Wars action figures, one of Kenner’s best, the AT-AT Driver from The Empire Strikes Back:

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Terminator Genisys

Arnold Schwarzenegger just announced completion of filming of the fifth entry in the Terminator franchise: Terminator: Genisys.

All we for know for certain is filming wrapped, Arnold is in it, and it’s to be the beginning of a new trilogy of Terminator films.  Emilia Clark (Game of Thrones) will play  Sarah Connor, Jai Courtenay (Jack Reacher) is Kyle Reese, and Jason Clarke (Farscape) is John Connor.  Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Byung-hun Lee (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, RED 2), and J.K. Simmons (The Closer) are also expected to be in the film.

Arnold has the distinction of playing a character that made both the American Film Institute’s top 100 heroes list (Terminator 2) and top 100 villains list (Terminator). 

Per Arnold’s Twitter:

Hasta la vista, baby. I want to thank the cast and crew of @TerminatorGenisys for a fantastic shoot. It was challenging, it was fun, and it was rewarding. From our director to the producers, from the camera team to catering, from visual effects to hair and makeup – we couldn’t have done it without you. I can’t wait to see our finished project and I know we’ll remind the fans why they fell in love with the Terminator. On July 1, 2015, I’ll be back.

July 1, 2015–That’s not too long of a wait.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Predator in 3d

Review by C.J. Bunce

As one of the top 10 science fiction movies of all time, Predator is one of those movies you’ve likely watched over and over.  Directed by John McTiernan, who would go on to perfect the action movie genre with Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, Predator is equal parts action and horror highlighted by an incredible science fiction villain as realized by the great Stan Winston.  But if you haven’t seen Predator since its theatrical release in 1987 or watched it only on video or DVD, then it’s time to watch it again.

Although it wasn’t originally filmed or released in 3D, Predator is now available in 3D as Predator 3D.  Remastered and converted to 3D using the same methods to up-convert movies like those used for I, Robot 3D and Top Gun 3D, McTiernan’s direction and Donald McAlpine’s cinematography just happened to be perfect for a Predator upgrade.  Who could have thought the 75% of Predator that is primarily jungle chases and little alien presence could still be so incredibly suspenseful?

Predator 3d limited edition

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El Rey network logo

If you haven’t yet caught sight of the El Rey network on your cable line-up, make sure you stop and check it out.  From the mind of pulp film director Robert Rodriquez, known best for his Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids, the Sin City movies, Grindhouse’s Planet Terror, and Machete, the El Rey network is a recently developed partnership between Rodriquez and Univision being picked up across the U.S. by Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and DirecTV, certain to have something entertaining for any fan of all-things-retro.  It’s tagline provides the short version of what you’ll find:  Where fans, aficionados and rebels come for their fix of bullets, blood and curated classics.  Its target is English-speaking Latino audiences, but it has a much broader appeal.

El Rey is the newest home for grindhouse movies, kung fu and other tough guy flicks, cult horror, and retro/classics.  Shows include tailored commercials and intentionally worn and grainy “bumpers” to give a dated feel, with familiar-sounding voiceover actors that highlight the series’ gritty and retro themes.  You’ll find classic series like The X-Files, Miami Vice, and Starsky and Hutch, and movies like John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, and kung-fu features like The Kid With the Golden Arm.

Rodriquez and Carpenter

The best from the network so far is original programming like The Director’s Chair, where director Robert Rodriquez interviews some of our favorite genre moviemakers.  The first guest in the series was John Carpenter, one of borg.com‘s all-time favorite directors, known best for Halloween, but also for Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and They Live.   Rodriquez’s interview is a treat for Carpenter fans, providing insight and anecdotes from Carpenter chatting about his films.  And Rodriquez, who seems a young director at 46, goes all fanboy throughout his interview, which you rarely see in shows like this.  It works here, because if you’re watching this type of show you’re likely a fanboy or fangirl, too.

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The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers

Review by C.J. Bunce

How often have you wished you had access to detailed photographs of the costumes and props of your favorite sci-fi or fantasy franchise?  Maybe for making your own costume, or maybe just to see up close what it might be like to be the actor wearing that cloak or holding that sword?  Covering both The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Weta Workshop has managed to top its previous accounts of the making of The Hobbit series with its fourth deluxe hardcover work, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers.

Daniel Falconer, Weta Workshop senior concept designer and creator of this latest behind the scenes account of Peter Jackson’s version of Middle-earth, first brought us The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art & Design, then The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Creatures & Characters, and earlier this year, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design.  But this fourth book in the series is even better–packed full of photos and commentary by the art designers, costume designers, prop makers, costumers, actors and other crew members that created each new set, room,  world, civilian clothing, soldier armor, and each prop, be it elaborate or necessarily mundane.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page e The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page f

Costume designer Ann Maskrey recounts acquiring and modifying hundreds of fabrics for use when writer J.R.R. Tolkien may have given only little indication as to what an individual character or entire race of creatures should be wearing.

Bilbo and the Hobbits of the Shire, the Wizards Gandalf and Radagast, Thorin and his band of dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Humans, and key locations from the story–Mirkwood, Lake-Town and Dale–each gets several pages to highlight the detail required to visually build a world to make the fantastical believable.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page c The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page d

Hand-written letters, books, maps, and signage of various fonts, food, tables, rugs and chairs, purses, swords, hats, buttons and clasps, cloaks and boots, staves, belts and buckles, vambraces, lanterns, instruments of all kinds, knits and macramé, pipes and axes, armor and maille, helmets, wigs, and beards, metalwork, glassware, silks, and saddles, rings and The One Ring–every element is covered by subject, and yet even this exhaustive volume only scratches the surface of what was required for the films, according to the book’s contributors.  And endless close-ups of fabric swatches and the actual costumes, giving readers an almost hands-on experience with the design, construction, and fabric selection process.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page a The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page b

Because of the nature of The Hobbit tale and its many named Dwarves, the Dwarves get the most elaborate costumes of any race of the five Middle Earth movies created thus far.  The designs on each piece of armor, each metal fitting, scale maille, and leather work is simply stunning.  And if you’re a fan as much as we are of Sylvester McCoy’s wizard Radagast, you’ll be amazed to learn how his seemingly ripped, worn, and ratty apparel actually includes multiple layers of the finest fabrics, embroidery, and exquisite trim.

Originally released just weeks ago in a limited signed edition, the same exact edition minus the autographs can be purchase through Weta in New Zealand directly here and through Amazon.com here.  The last entry in the Peter Jackson six-film Middle-earth saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, will be released in theaters December 17, 2014.

Guardians poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

After so many dark and dreary superhero movies, did Hollywood forget what drew everyone to comic books in the first place?  Somewhere along the way drama began to bog down the genre resulting in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, and it looks like it’s not going to let up with the first images for the 2016 release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  “Why so serious?”  And it hasn’t just been movies based on DC Comics.  Marvel’s X-Men franchise gave us all those Academy Award winning actors all so grim and in such dire circumstances.  Sure, they’re good films, but Guardians of the Galaxy proves superhero movies don’t have to be so grim to be good.

If you don’t find yourself laughing out loud with this flick then the superhero genre is not for you.

The same kind of excitement you remember from your first viewing of Star Wars and Superman is waiting for you.  For certain Guardians of the Galaxy is neither movie, but it isn’t trying to be.  Good escapist fun underscores every scene, and its greatest achievement is not taking itself too seriously.  Its characters have a familiar and likeable chemistry like our favorite crews of Serenity or the Millennium Falcon.  Writer/director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman pull together familiar elements from The Fifth Element, Flash Gordon and even “The Tholian Web” to make a fully-realized new sci-fi/superhero universe.  And it’s as good an adaptation of a comic book series as you’ll ever find.  Even better, its second tier cast of characters–unfamiliar to most movie watchers–means expectations and preconceptions filmmakers may be more concerned with in a Batman, Superman, or Spider-man story are just not an issue here.

The Guardians

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