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With all the celebration activities earlier this year for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind hasn’t received all the love it deserves as it also celebrates the big 4-0.  But Star Wars and Close Encounters were each iconic, appealing to different facets of similar fandoms, with Star Wars as the space fantasy and Close Encounters as brilliant science fiction (and then Spielberg would make E.T.!).   Later this year fans of Close Encounters finally will get an eagerly-awaited, behind the scenes look at the quintessential UFO film as Harper Design releases its hardcover chronicle, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History.

Known for his work as a publicist on more than fifty films, author Michael Klastorin explores the production and legacy of the fan-favorite flick, coinciding with the anniversary of the movie and a return to the theaters in a restored 4K version coming your way the first week of September.  Klastorin worked with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment to unearth rare and never-before-seen imagery from their archives.  The book promises a stunning collection of on-set photography, concept art, storyboards, and more to create a visual narrative of the film’s journey to the big screen.  It will also feature commentary from every key player involved in the film, from Spielberg to the film’s stars and the key department heads, including model maker Greg Jein and composer John Williams, who brought Spielberg’s vision to life.

Look for special inserts and interactive elements including script pages, call lists, and concept sketches.  Check out the below 11-page spread, providing a great preview of what will be included in the book’s nearly 200 pages:

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Captain Jellico and an over-the-top Wesley Crusher join the crew of the Enterprise-D and get to play in the world of daggers, sashes, and deception with today’s release of the third issue of IDW Publishing’s limited comic book series Star Trek: The Next Generation–Mirror Broken.  Plus, for the second consecutive month of a series usually only issued sporadically, Archie Comics’ Archie Horror imprint is releasing the eighth issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  We have previews of both issues below for borg.com readers, courtesy of their publishers.

The creative brother team of David Tipton and Scott Tipton continue the Mirror Universe adventures of the Star Trek: The Next Generation era with another round of beautiful pages by J.K. Woodward in Mirror Broken’s next installment.  Look for the standard cover by Woodward and great variant covers by Tony Shasteen and George Caltsoudas.  This time Woodward has created a look for Wesley Crusher that will appeal to both lovers and haters of the classic sci-fi series’ obligatory child character.  Get prepared to see who wins and who loses in the ultimate strategy battle between Picard and Jellico.  And Trek fans should always check every corner of each panel for hidden throwback gems from the TV series.

   

In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, comic book writer and show runner of the CW’s Riverdale,  and artist Robert Hack continue to take Sabrina down a darker path than the character has ever experienced.  Sabrina has returned Harvey from the dead, but at what price, and will anyone be able to stop what has been unleashed before it’s too late?  The creative team continues to flesh out the personality of Riverdale’s timeless teenage witch, blending a young heroine’s tale with equal parts Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed.  Plus Hack’s classic pulp horror comic imagery gets better with each new issue.

Check out these previews for Star Trek: The Next Generation–Mirror Broken, Issue #3, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Issue #8: View full article »

At the beginning of Daniel Craig’s first foray as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig redefined Bond as viewers were taken back to his first kill, the event that earned Bond his 00 status.  The scene instantly set the standard for the modern fight-or-die scene.  This is the exact level of hand-to-hand combat viewers will be treated to in the new summer release, Atomic Blonde.  Charlize Theron terrifically portrays what everyone always wanted to see: a woman in the role of James Bond.  Sure, she has a different name, but Theron is believable just the same as a spy being interrogated by heads of MI6 at the end of a mission.  As she tells her story, in every way she convinces us that she could go head-to-head with, and maybe even knock out Craig’s tough and bloody version of the Brit master spy.  Only don’t think this is a typical Bond movie.  It isn’t.  It’s layered, more like The Usual Suspects or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, only better–less cerebral and more fun.  And Theron chalks up another badass cinematic heroine, resulting in a film that is easily worth the admission price.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City from Oni Press, Atomic Blonde follows the original, focusing on several nation’s spies trying to recover a secret list of agents being smuggled out of East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a no-nonsense top-level spy with attitude and style, battered and bruised from some recent epic encounter when we meet her at the beginning of the movie.  She’s being interrogated and debriefed by both British and American agency heads, with John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Big Lebowski, Monsters, Inc.) as the American and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Doctor Who) as the Brit.  What unfolds is a smartly constructed Cold War thriller, more complicated than Ian Fleming but not as complicated as John le Carré, but enough so that it may lose viewers a few times along the way.  Ultimately Broughton finds herself trying to smuggle out of the country a German officer who memorized the secret spy list, played by Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, The World’s End).  The rewards and payoffs come not only at the resolution but in several scenes along the way, as Theron punches, kicks, hammers, fires, splatters, mows down, stabs, punctures… everything but bites her way through dozens of bad guys trying to kill her.  The violence is extreme, but it all works–it’s great fun much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Chuck Norris’s blockbuster rampages in the 1980s–and it’s not gratuitous like a Quentin Tarentino bloodbath (blown-off heads aside).

The Atomic Blonde of the title comes from Broughton’s short, 1980s style hair, and that length allows us to see that much of the time Theron is actually doing her own punching, and taking plenty of punches, from all these men.  She’s quicker, and she prepares herself for many of her battle damage by soaking in water filled with ice cubes–a concept that helps her more than once throughout the film.  The story and action really kicks in as Broughton begins to smuggle Marsan’s character out of the country and as the steps are laid out in a subplot involving her mission to assassinate Satchel, a double agent known for selling secrets to the Soviets.  It’s exciting like the real-life story told in Ben Affleck’s hit film Argo, where a spy smuggled a group of would-be hostages out of Iran in 1980.  Atomic Blonde has less subtlety and nuance than Argo, but Atomic Blonde similarly displays an early, retro style of storytelling compelling enough to keep viewers interested.  Does it feel like a comic book adaptation?  Sure.  Like History of Violence and Road to Perdition.  In fact Broughton could be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass all grown up.

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That week is here–All the lead-in built up by Marvel’s host of television series created for Netflix finally comes together this weekend.  Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist become The Defenders.  Netflix has released a final trailer leading up to the series premiere.

We’ve learned in the past few years that combining your A-league superheroes doesn’t guarantee a successful cinematic experience.  How much better than the theatrical Avengers and Justice Leaguers was the B-league team that comprised the Guardians of the Galaxy?  How about the strange success in Deadpool of partnering Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Deadpool?

So far we’ve loved most of what we’ve seen Marvel put together for Netflix.  Luke Cage earned several of our “Best of Television” categories last year here at borg.com.  The core of its new team-up of all the Netflix Marvel superhero stories is a classic Marvel comic book team-up:  Power Man and Iron Fist.  It’s amazing that this team-up has the potential to gain some real traction 40 years later.  And you can’t get much more nostalgic for 1970s comic books than the late, great Steve Gerber run on The Defenders.  So put together Luke “Power Man” Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and add in Elodie Yung as Elektra, and give us a villain played by sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver, and a supporting cast including the incomparable Scott Glenn, and a triple threat of actresses known for their badass roles: Rosario Dawson, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Simone Missick?  What’s not to like?  We asked it earlier with the first previews for the series: Can The Defenders be the best team-up on-screen yet?

Check out this final trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Virginian, Ironside, Amy Prentiss, Kolchak: The Nightstalker, and CHiPs.  For modern TV watchers and students of film and production, these series from the 1960s to 1980s won’t come to mind as the most memorable TV series to use to teach a TV production course.  But they are enough for Cy Chermak–TV executive producer, producer, story editor, and writer of those series and more–to incorporate into a step-by-step narrative providing an insider’s view of show process and studio politics in his new book The Show Runner: An Insider’s Guide to Successful TV Production. 

Nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, Chermak successfully–and sometimes not so successfully–negotiated the tiers of studio department hierarchy to create a lucrative career for himself.  In this autobiographical account he provides dozens of golden nuggets that any prospective TV writer will find insightful in understanding how an episode of television is created, from idea to final edit.  In addition to Chermak’s anecdotal lessons, he simplifies the duties and relationships of the production department from a show runner’s standpoint–a biased view, but a unique and interesting look from the top.  He uses an episode of his short-lived series Amy Prentiss–a 1974 series with Jessica Walter (Archer, PCU, Ghost in the Machine, Play Misty for Me) as the first woman chief of police in San Francisco–to take the reader on a walk-through as assistant to mentor Chermak as executive producer.

Along the way Chermak introduces us to the difficulties of ego and personality that seem to go with the territory of both studios execs and actors.  His examples include his personal interactions with Raymond Burr and Darren McGavin, who Chermak presents as particularly difficult to work with.  Chermak remains completely personable along the way, as if he’s putting his arm around the reader’s shoulder and giving the full studio tour, complete with interesting name dropping.  Chermak is quick to point out his own shortcomings and missed opportunities, like letting go by a young, yet-to-be-discovered Steven Spielberg making his way onto the studio lot as if he worked there to bump elbows with anyone who might screen his student film, Amblin.  Chermak’s first screenplay for the big screen was a movie called 4D Man, literally the first 4D movie (in addition to the 3D visuals it included physical effects, a concept taking off again at select theater chains today), featuring well-known actors Robert Lansing (Star Trek, Simon & Simon, The Equalizer), Lee Meriwether (Batman, Star Trek, Barnaby Jones), and Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker, The Streets of San Francisco).  

One of many rounds of re-write discussions for the short-lived series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

For kids of 1970s and 1980s television, look for Chermak’s discussion of the problem of dual lead actors, as he recollects a battle of ego between CHiPs stars Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, which ultimately spelled doom for Wilcox and Chermak, and cancellation of the entire series a year later.  “A year later” becomes a theme for Chermak.  He notes several instances of a series folding a year after he was removed as show runner of the series.

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End of an era

We’re flying our borg.com flag at half mast today for our support team member Jasmine, who passed away last evening,  who celebrated her 16th birthday two months ago, and was the last of nine sibling hound kids we’ve raised.  We’d rescued her mama from the middle of the interstate 16 years and 3 months ago on my birthday, and were immersed in a big family ever since.  (Fred Flintstone had nothing on my greeting when I arrived home each day).  If you ever are lucky enough to live among a family of dogs, you’ll know how each has as defined and as individual a personality as any two-legged family member, and Jasmine was the self-designated communicator of the group.  Something’s happening?  Jasmine reported on it.  She was also a night owl like me, and was often my reason for being up and around, writing or not, into the wee hours of the morning.  Sometimes that’s just when she thought play time should be.  And that was just fine.

She was a sweetheart to everyone she met, loved crowds of people as much as crowds of dogs, and was fascinated with other animals, dog variety or not.  One of the best experiences I personally have ever witnessed was when I took her out after midnight in the backyard one night as she calmly and cordially encountered an opossum, nose to nose, approaching each other from opposite parts of the yard.  Each were taken aback only briefly, as if to say, “oh, excuse me, good evening to ya” and then they both continued along as if they met someone on the street, as friendly as can be.

Jasmine was also a snow bird, but she didn’t like snow fences, and whether she could make it or not, you couldn’t hold her back from hurdling one if she saw something on the other side.  We always knew Jasmine was a coonhound, but her border collie genetics were always out front, too–she was always ready for the next activity and always sporting her smile.  And, of course, she was a big cosplayer, spending Renaissance Faire weekends for the better part of the past decade in fairy, or Viking, or other garb.

At a week shy of 114 dog years, the girl who thought her name was “Hi, Sweetheart!” passed away simply from old age.  She wore out (and didn’t rust out) every system one by one (the way all of us should if we’re lucky), but was riding her bike just the day before she passed and was out looking at the garden flowers only five minutes before she left us.  We were lucky to be able to help our old girl squeeze the pulp out of every day.  We’ll miss her.

As always, thanks for reading, and for your support.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Holy Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors, Batman!  Those fans of the late Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin and their classic camp TV version of the DC Comics superheroes can get a nostalgic fix of the good ol’ days in Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show, designed by Rian Hughes with text by Y.Y. Flurch (actually Joe Desris–Y.Y. Flurch is an in-joke to the name of an author on a book in the series).  Celebrating the five decades since the Batman series premiered in 1966, Batman: Facts and Stats is a technicolor treat for your favorite Bat-fan.

Batman: Facts and Stats is not an in-depth look at the series–it’s more of a “gift book” formatted hardcover–8 inches by inches, it’s a nicely designed scrapbook full of images from the show and selected trivia.  Did you know Robin delivered more than 400 “Holy…” lines throughout the series?  From Holy Barracuda! to Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods!  The book is populated with real-world references and in-world curiosities.  You’ll learn behind the scenes information about the Batmobile, Batcopter, and the Batcycles, and photos of many of Batman’s wonderful toys, like the years ahead of its time mobile crime computer, the inflatable duplicate Batmobile, and the Bat-phone.

Only one actor donned the suits of villainy for each of the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Joker (Cesar Romero), and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), but you’ll see plenty of different Catwomen (Star Trek and The Bionic Woman’s Julie Newmar, Barnaby Jones and Mission: Impossible’s Lee Meriwether, and St. Louis Blues’ Eartha Kitt) and Mr. Freezes (Oscar winner George Sanders, director Otto Preminger, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven’s Eli Wallach).  Like many 1960s television shows (think Lost in Space and Star Trek for starters), Batman featured a host of guest stars, with everyone from Vincent Price to Cliff Robertson, Shelly Winters to Liberace, Roddy McDowell to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and so many others.  But what five characters appeared in all 120 episodes of the series?  Batman: Facts and Stats will get you up to speed on plenty of Bat-trivia.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Darryl McDaniels–he’s the DMC of the trio Run DMC, known for its team-up with Aerosmith on the band’s cover of “Walk this Way,” plus hits like “Tricky” and more.  He’s the King of Rock, sold 30 million albums, made rap and hip-hop the popular music genre it is today, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  But he doesn’t count any of those things as his most important personal accomplishment.  In his memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide–A Memoir, McDaniels reveals in a personal and down-to-earth way the trials he has faced despite his money and career success, leading to alcoholism and debilitating depression.  Despite its “Ten Ways…” title, it’s not his version of a twelve-step program as much as an insightful self-help book that doubles as an autobiography.

McDaniels’ story is deep and dark and yet he uses his story to motivate those around him and his writing reflects this generous sharing of failures for others to learn from.  McDaniels was a middle class, self-styled geek, raised in a good family, successfully avoiding the gangs and violence of New York City as a kid, and by the time he was out of his teens he was a superstar.  As a kid he loved comic books and he loved to draw.  “Growing up, I’d always been a comic book geek.  I loved to draw superheroes almost as much as I liked to read about them.  Comics were an escape, a way to make myself feel strong and invincible rather than like the quiet little four-eyed nerd I essentially was.”  But his venture into comics wouldn’t happen until much later.  He jumped on board with two neighborhood kids from Queens as they used turntables and rhyme to create a new music niche in the mid-1980s.  All those kids wearing high-top sneakers with no shoestrings?  Run-DMC also set a new fashion style for a generation.  And McDaniels infused comic book concepts into his songs along the way.

McDaniels in 2014 talking to fans at Planet Comicon, one of his many comic convention visits.

But McDaniels says he always felt something missing, and he often turned to alcohol to escape.  Ups and downs and assistance from family and friends allowed him to break through it all and come out on top, but not easily.  In one of his best stories he recounts the backlash early on that he received because of his band’s instant fame–even beyond other established rap heroes.  Members of his favorite band–Cold Crush–dissed him and Joey “Run” Simmons backstage at a show, but rather than be brought down by it, he saw it as an indication of success.  But by McDaniels’ account, Run’s dominance in the band left him without a role after a few albums, and alcoholism would literally take away McDaniel’s voice.  After he thought he was past the alcoholism, he would find himself returning to drinking whenever a life crisis presented itself.  A key event was discovering he was adopted, learned after a conversation with his mother while working on documenting his life story.  He would go on a reality show and track down and ultimately find his biological family, which introduced even more confusion for his mental state, but it was also his pathway for getting help from a therapist and rehab.  Inspiration to get help and move forward surprisingly also came from the soothing music of Sarah McLachlan, and his story of her role in his upward climb is now well-known.  They eventually recorded an album together (I discussed it here at borg.com after meeting McDaniels at Planet Comicon back in 2014).  It’s a great story and he recounts all the details in his book.

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Joey Spiotto is an artist whose works are immediately recognizable.  He has his own whimsical take on characters fans know and love–unique, but much like comic book cover artist Skottie Young he makes popular characters his own.  Spiotto is well known for his parody covers for Little Golden Books–his Storytime series takes sci-fi, fantasy, and other pop culture favorites and uses a Muppet Babies-type change-up to show us characters as wee ones on the cover of their own little kids’ book.  He’s taken on every franchise from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2, Robocop, and Lost, to the Hamilton musical, from Mad Max: Fury Road, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, They Live, and Tron, to Donnie Darko.  How often do you see one series of anything include homages to both Mr. Rogers and Donnie Darko?  Individual prints of his Storytime series can be bought here and many have been compiled in his book available here at the artist’s Etsy store.

Now in stores is Spiotto’s latest book, Firefly–Back From the Black, a look at the characters of the fan favorite sci-fi series in the artist’s style and brand of humor.  A latecomer to the Firefly series, Spiotto counts himself a fan, and he shows it through his many obscure references in page after page of single panel drawings.  This is one where those who aren’t Firefly fans probably won’t understand what’s going on, but for those who are fans all the key characters are covered–spoofed, parodied, and maybe poked fun at more than a little bit.  You’ll find plenty of images of Jayne sporting his cunning hat, including one of his Mom sewing his hat for him–an off-screen scene every Firefly fan has imagined.  Fans of Spiotto’s first movie tie-in, 2015’s lovable look at Ridley Scott’s Aliens, Alien Next Door, will also like what the artist does here with the Firefly crew.  The kind of book you’d see getting as a Christmas stocking stuffer for those dreaming of a return of Firefly, or a nice add-in to a future Firefly Cargo Crate, Firefly–Back From the Black is now available here from Amazon.

   

Spiotto fans also have just under a day left to take advantage of the artist’s Kickstarter campaign to launch a compilation book of his High Fidelity series of prints–it’s fully funded, but some great deals and incentives are still available.  In this series he takes a similar twist on popular films and series as with his Storytime prints, but with High Fidelity the format is vintage 33 1/3 vinyl LP record album covers, and the characters become bands.

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The 3D movie is here to stay and it’s as big as it’s ever been.  Not only new movies continue to hit the big screen and impress us with newer ways to turn a movie visit into an amusement park ride, whether in 3D or IMAX 3D.  Old films continue to get the 3D treatment, too.  An entire branch of films and home video releases are devoted to this category, with films that weren’t originally filmed in 3D like Titanic, Jurassic Park, Top Gun, I, Robot, and Beauty and the Beast among the films getting the upgrade–the best results coming from the incredible 3D work done to The Wizard of Oz (reviewed here) and Predator (reviewed here).  But a music video getting a 3D upgrade?  That’s new.

This year the 1980s are coming back in a big way.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller knocked our socks off as part of the latest trailer for Stranger Things season 2 last month.  The powerhouse music video (which even made the National Film Registry) has been given a complete 3D and sound upgrade for a premiere at the Venice Film Festival this summer followed by a return to the theaters for the first time since a limited run in Los Angeles when it debuted back in 1983.  Thriller is truly a one-of-a-kind film, directed by John Landis (The Twilight Zone, The Blue Brothers, Animal House, Trading Places) and co-written by Landis and Michael Jackson, the film was a dream project for Jackson, who was a fan of Landis’s fang-filled An American Werewolf in London.  Jackson spared no expense, pulling in monster maker Rick Baker for prosthetics and Michael Peters for choreography input.  It’s a little bit meta–Vincent Price’s Thriller was the (fake) monster movie Michael and his girlfriend watched in the theater in the video, with a great shot of the marquee as they emerge from the theater.  Fans of a new generation will be able to see Thriller in real life on their local theater marquee.

A fan of 3D, Michael Jackson pioneered the re-launch of 3D films in 1986, starring in his sci-fi film Captain EO, a 3D musical with executive producer George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, scored by James Horner and co-starring Dick Shawn (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Producers, The Year Without a Santa Claus) and Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor, The Addams Family, The Grifters, The Watcher in the Woods) as an incredibly designed borg villain (an inspiration for Star Trek First Contact’s Borg Queen).  John Napier (Broadway’s Cats) created the costumes, Rick Baker returned for makeup and monster creations, and Tom Burman (Planet of the Apes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Goonies, Dead Again) created Huston’s makeup.  A Disney theme park exclusive, Captain EO was shown up until 2015 in the parks’ 3D theaters, but has not been released in a home version.  The Captain EO 3D comic book is regularly still available here at Amazon.

Michael Jackson’s first (and then, presumably only) 3D film featured Anjelica Huston as this spectacular borg creation, the Supreme Leader.

Michael Landis returned to lead the 3D, music, and sound effects upgrades for the new 3D release of Jackson’s film/video Thriller, saying, “I am so happy to have had the chance not only to restore but enhance Michael Jackson’s Thriller!  We took full advantage of the remarkable advances in technology to add new dimensions to both the visual and the audio bringing it to a whole new level.  Even though Thriller was shot traditionally, I was able to use the 3D creatively.  Let me just warn you, there is a rather shocking surprise in there!”

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