Archive for September, 2016


final-restored-enterprise-on-display

You can usually expect that the Smithsonian Institution productions will deliver quality programming, and its latest is no exception.  The two-hour documentary Building Star Trek chronicles fifty years of Star Trek from its inception to the artifacts of the series that remain decades later, and from the idea of a 23rd century future and beyond to futuristic technologies being made reality today.

The Smithsonian used two museum exhibits to bookend its overview of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary, one on each coast.  At the Smithsonian’s own National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC, the museum recounts the recent restoration of the original filming model of the Enterprise, which has been on display there since 1974, but not as a featured display.  On the West Coast the EMP Museum in Seattle created a display of props and costumes as well.

Interspersed with snippets from the progress of each museum’s projects are interviews with insiders like reboot actor and writer Simon Pegg, actor Karl Urban, original series star Nichelle Nichols, original series writer DC Fontana, and Trek fans.  With each artifact featured in the exhibits, a short segment is given to an original creator, like the designer of the original shuttle Galileo, and a modern-day scientist working on the implementation of concepts introduced or emphasized in Star Trek, like phasers, tricorders, transporters, the universal translator, and warp drive.

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The Star Trek display running currently at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

The documentary doesn’t take itself too seriously, using campy graphics that reflect the humor of the original series–an acknowledged critical component of the show’s success.

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amell-time-loops

If there is one science fiction trope we love the most, it would have to be the time loop.  And if there is one young actor we want to see more of on the big and small screen it is Robbie Amell.  Both of them come together next week in the world premiere of the science fiction movie ARQ, only on Netflix.

We’re big fans of Robbie Amell.  He was the first actor to bring Firestorm to life in CW’s The Flash and Arrow.  We’ve also met him in person and think he’s one of the nicest actors around.  He’s got charisma that is reflected on the screen much like a young Tom Cruise, and his career is only going up.

And we can’t get enough of time loops.  We’ve discussed them before here at borg.com, that awesome story tool that allows characters to repeat a period of time and usually offer a chance to repair the past.  You’ve seen time loops used to great effect in films like Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, Donnie Darko, TimeCop, Looper, the Final Destination series, in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, on television series like Tru Calling, First Edition, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Eureka, Haven, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

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Here’s a preview of Robbie Amell, along with Rachael Taylor and Gray Powell, in ARQ, from director Tony Elliott (Orphan Black):

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uss-enterprise-from-the-cage

Creating a television series that makes it to a second season is a difficult thing to do.  It’s difficult today and was just as tough in 1966 when Gene Roddenberry created a full-color science fiction show in prime time about a “Wagon Train to the stars”–a Western in space–a Star Trek.  The unlikely series survived into not only its second season but also a third.  An untapped audience–a group of loyal fans kept the dream alive, and the stories would continue in an animated series in the early 1970s.  With the success of Star Wars, Star Trek made its way to the big screen by the end of the decade and the rest of the story, as they say, is history.

The future predicted in 1966 to “explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” isn’t here yet, despite the dates of yesterday’s future arriving and going by.  But that hasn’t stopped generations of fans from being inspired to pursue everything from medicine and law to astronomy and design.  To make this world better and build a greater tomorrow.  Star Trek may not have arrived yet, but the utopian future is something many of us look forward to and strive for.

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Or has it arrived?  Our iPads and smart phones, Bluetooths and medical scanners were all inspired by creative types behind Star Trek, like Wah Chang and Rick Sternbach.  If society as a whole hasn’t changed, the technology that drives it certainly is making headway every day.

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Here, September 8, 2016, fifty years after the airing of the first episode of Star Trek on NBC, the world is far different, yet it still continues the struggle for equality and fairness, the same desires Roddenberry’s original stories reflected as the world crept up to the cataclysmic summer of 1968.  The same elements are summed up in the Vulcan acronym IDIC–infinite diversity in infinite combinations–the core of Vulcan philosophy celebrating all the differences in life.  In short, that is what Star Trek is all about.

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van-helsing

A new vampire slayer is coming, and she looks familiar.

The series is Syfy’s Van Helsing, and the lead is True Blood and Legends’ Kelly Overton as Vanessa Helsing, descendant of vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Vanessa has been resurrected from the present and taken into the future, to a dystopian Earth where vampires rule.  She learns she is humanity’s last hope.

If this sounds familiar it may be because Syfy’s 2016 series Wynonna Earp features a similarly tough and determined “chosen one”–also a descendant of a famed character from the past with a supernatural, dark tale.  Maybe the formula is working for the network?

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Van Helsing co-stars Grimm, The Closer, and Smallville’s Jonathan Scarfe (son of recurring Romulan player Alan Scarfe from Star Trek: The Next Generation), character actor regulars Christopher Heyerdahl and Vincent Gale, and Medium’s David Cubitt.

Here are previews of the series from Syfy:

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Micronauts banner

I have been a fan of Edward Hopper since the first time I saw his artwork.  I view a print of his Automat every day at home.  In college a wall of every other dorm room had either Hopper’s Nighthawks or the Helnwein pop culture adaptation Boulevard of Broken Dreams with Hopper’s characters swapped for Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe.  A few years ago I made a special side trip to visit the original in Chicago, housed just across America’s most famous artwork, Grant Wood’s American Gothic.  Nighthawks means many things to many people.  For me it’s about nostalgia.

I always have an eye open for new adaptations of Nighthawks.  Some of the best adaptations have been created as variant covers for comic books.  It’s a rare find, but it happens, oftentimes in places you wouldn’t expect it.  The best comic book cover adaptation of Nighthawks is available this summer, and it’s our pick for the best comic book cover we’ve seen so far this year.

Nighthawks Hopper

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks

It’s J.K. Woodward’s variant cover to Micronauts, Issue #5.  Innovative, futuristic, inventive, thought-provoking, and evocative of adventure for fans of the 1980s toys.  I have been a fan of Woodward since his brilliant and beautiful watercolor work on his cover-to-cover Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who crossover series Assimilation².  At first glance you might not even realize this fantastic future world is something familiar to you.  Is it the alien behind the counter that cinches the Hopper homage?  Maybe the yellow hue color choices in the background?  The commercial coffee pot?  Or just the overall design?  Check out his artwork in full and decide for yourself:

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Stranger Things cast

Stranger Things is a rare thing among plenty of series bombarding viewers of streaming services.  It would never get accused of trying too hard.  It’s good but not great.  It features no major actors.  It has developed a cult following yet it is not produced by J.J. Abrams (think Lost, Fringe, Almost Human, Believe, Westworld).  And for all these things, it’s just what we want.  We’ve had enough of CGI and big budget explosions and special effects.  Low budget is just fine–for now.  It’s that movie you are looking for late on a Saturday night, but stretched to eight episodes long.

More series like this will make Netflix survive despite all the competition from other services.  Stranger Things is good enough–good at sci-fi and horror and coming of age retro fun–to get you to sign up with Netflix for your next binge watch session.  More important than its storytelling is how the story is told, and the efforts taken to make the series, the characters, the setting, the dialogue, all look like it was filmed in the early 1980s.  Several artists have even mocked up the series marketing material into VHS tape packaging.  Were it a movie-length feature it would probably fool many.  It’s in the same vein as Disney’s Watcher in the Woods.  Like Stephen King’s Firestarter, Stand By Me and Silver Bullet it features kids in a coming-of-age setting.  Its monster/alien horror and soundtrack (available here) reflects the look and vibe of John Carpenter movies.  The marketing screams Stephen King, especially that red-on-black title font.  And it will no doubt gin up nostalgia to spur cassette tapes of its soundtrack like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Stranger Things VHS

It’s Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, if the story had taken a darker turn, and very similar to Spielberg and Abrams’ Super 8 (Super 8 poster artist Kyle Lambert even created the poster for this series to further lock in the look).  Critics have picked apart odds and ends found in the background of scenes–this item didn’t exist then, etc.  But ultimately the overall feel is very right.  You’ll point to a pitcher on the table, a rug on the floor, a poster on the wall, all that you had back then.  And the season one wrap-up is as satisfying as you’re going to find in a TV series.

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Max Steel

Not to be confused with Steel starring Shaquille O’Neil or Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman, Max Steel is a new “coming of age, family, superhero” movie due in theaters next month.  In a world of big budget superhero movies based on 75-year-old characters like Superman and Batman, how can a relatively unknown superhero compete?

With a new trailer that plays a bit like *batteries not included or Explorers, there may yet be room for a Max Steel.  Is there a young audience being missed by the violence and language of movies like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Deadpool?  Maybe a film for kids with a plot less complicated than Captain America: Civil War?  Or a movie for audiences looking for the next Sky High?

Max Steel is the combination of angsty teenager Max (not Mark) McGrath and Steel–a smart-alecky alien tech robot drone.  Does “organic armor” make Max Steel a new cyborg?  A plus for the character is its source in Mattel’s large-sized action figure line based on the format and marketing of the original, classic 12-inch G.I. Joe action figures, as well as an animated series.  Will that draw in viewers?  Max Steel apparently has a large following in Latin America: While Mattel’s Big Jim 12-inch action figure series died out in the U.S. in before the 1980s, it was thriving there.  Original Max Steel figures wore Big Jim clothes and were packaged with the same accessories.  In the 1970s Big Jim was sold in Latin American countries as Kid Acero, or “Kid Steel”.

Max Steel figure

Will Max Steel usher in the eagerly awaited return of Hasbro’s Mike Power, the Atomic Man?  That would be a fun blast from the past.

Check out this trailer for Mattel’s theatrical release of Max Steel:

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Terminator 2 in 3D poster

If you’re not familiar with 3D movie releases and 3D Blu-rays, one thing to be aware of is that some films are produced originally with 3D technology and others are not, but still can be “upconverted” in various ways to a form of 3D viewing.  Some movie watchers dismiss the entire notion of 3D, others live for it.  When done right, a film can be produced and displayed brilliantly in 3D.  A film can also have a successful upconversion.  One of the best we’ve seen so far is the upconversion of Predator, reviewed previously here at borg.com Predator 3D was directed by John McTiernan, the brilliant director of films like Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, back in 1987, long before the new renaissance of 21st century 3D entertainment.

Lucky for us, McTiernan had an eye for texture and layering, and filmed most of Predator in a jungle setting, one of the best locales to demonstrate the most effective imagery of 3D technology.  So despite the original film not being shot in 3D, the Blu-ray release of the upconversion is like a different film.  The result is a stunningly layered experience that, when watched on quality 3D home entertainment equipment, is as completely immersive as technology allows.

Robert Patrick T2

This week we learned that Terminator 2 is finally being upconverted for a 2017 release in 3D.  Along with his movie Aliens, Terminator 2 is at the top of James Cameron’s best work, so it stands to reason that it is a superb candidate for the 3D treatment.  To cement the project, Paramount released a new poster (above) for the 3D release, via the T2 Facebook page.

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Westlake Forever and a Death Hard Case Crime

Whether you knew him as Tucker Coe, Curt Clark, Samuel Holt, Timothy J. Culver, J. Morgan Cunningham, Judson Jack Carmichael–or Richard Stark–you’ve probably read something by hard-boiled crime novelist and mystery writer Donald E. Westlake.  His most famous of these were probably his Parker novels, written under the pen name Richard Stark.  Westlake passed away eight years ago, but after more than 100 novels have hit the bookstores over the decades yet another as-yet unpublished Westlake novel will be released next year.

True to form as the latest groundbreaking imprint for true crime fans, Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime will be releasing Westlake’s Forever and a Death next year.  Aficionados of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and all the movie adaptations should take note.  Forever and a Death was actually the title of a “what if” of sorts.  Westlake submitted a story with this title (as well as alternate titles Dragonsteeth, Never Look Back, Nobody Dies, and On Borrowed Time) as a possible script for the movie that would have been the sequel to Goldeneye.

It turns out Eon Productions rejected the story so Westlake rewrote the story, swapping out the name James Bond.  That novel is carrying a cover similar to all the other exceptional Hard Case Crime retro-style poster artwork covers we’ve seen so far (J.K. Rowling has even called the Hard Case Crime series design “stunning”).  The cover for Forever and a Death was painted by artist Paul Mann.  And it looks like it would fit in with the exquisite Richie Fahey and Roseanne Serra cover art that graced the line of 14 paperback Bond novels for Fleming’s centenary celebration back in 2008, like these:

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Jyn Erso action figure Rogue One

As part of a new fan contest and chapter-by-chapter reveal of its line of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story action figures and other toys, Lucasfilm has released a stop-motion video full of new characters.  Star Wars items offered by The Disney Store, Funko, JAKKS Pacific, and Hasbro are peppered throughout this clever way to advertise–and get fans excited about–so many new toys.  At the same time, action figure packages are slowly beginning to appear across the Web.

Tomorrow, September 2, 2016, online retailers will begin to take pre-orders for the new toys.  New items are expected to be available in stores September 30, well in advance of the premiere of the film, as with previous Star Wars marketing for the prequels and last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Below we have several images you’ve probably not seen yet, the new video, a behind-the-scenes look at the video revealing even more action figures, and details from Hasbro’s latest press release.

Rogue One action figures

If contests are your thing, check out the details of Lucasfilm’s latest and an opportunity to attend a screening of the film and tour of Lucasfilm in San Francisco in December at this link.

First up, see how many new toys you can find in this video:

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