Archive for November, 2016


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He may be the world’s greatest living director.  Hayao Miyazaki, master storyteller and moviemaker, retired but rumored to be coming back for another film, and animator extraordinaire.  He is one of Japan’s national treasures and international film icon.  His catalog of works have garnered literally hundreds of awards and nominations.  Miyazaki’s only film to receive an Oscar, 2001’s Spirited Away, is returning to theaters next month to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its release.

Spirited Away is on many critics’ lists as one of the top five films of the century thus far, and it is Japan’s highest grossing film.  It’s the story of a brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing bits and pieces from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

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We have yet to be disappointed with any anime production from Miyazaki and the house of Studio Ghibli.  Whether it’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Princess Mononoke (1997), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), or The Wind Rises (2013), you know you’re getting sumptuous visuals and a compelling story.

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The more that is revealed, the more Rogue One: A Star Wars Story appears that it may be good enough to take on the first two Star Wars films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, if not at least edging Return of the Jedi or the The Force Awakens out of the third spot.  This week we learned that, unlike for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, George Lucas actually voiced his approval of components in Rogue One.  He wasn’t included in the story or dialogue, but gave his thumbs up on several art design concepts.  That’s thanks to director Gareth Edwards, who appears to be as big a Star Wars fan as the rest of us.

The only concern so far is the trend of releasing images reflecting something like 25% to 40% of the scenes from the film in a year’s worth of trailers leading up to the release.  It seems we know the entire story now, except for who lives and who dies by film’s end.  Of course, the only way to dodge this is to avoid all the trailers.

Even more footage was released this week not in another trailer, but via a behind the scenes featurette.  Plus, more TV spots have surfaced.  And if you haven’t figured out what the story is about already, director Edwards lays it out as clearly as can be at the beginning of the behind the scenes video.  Check it all out below, plus new international posters.

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You probably won’t find any spoilers by way of new concepts if you have viewed the trailers released this year, but if you can’t get enough of footage from Rogue One (like us), them jump right in and see for yourself:

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Countless Hasbro, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley games have been re-released incorporating every genre favorite from The Lord of the Rings to the Harry Potter series, and from Firefly to The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones You can pull off your classic game shelf the original Monopoly, Risk, Clue, or Trivial Pursuit, or mix up the game night a bit with the tie-in version of your favorite movie or TV series.  Although a The Walking Dead seems like it would be a better mash-up with Sorry! than The Game of Life or The Walking Dead Jenga, some of the tie-ins seem well-matched (like Sherlock Clue, Downton Abbey Clue, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens BB-8 Operation!).

Ready for this holiday season, Hasbro is releasing a new Star Wars Clue game this month.  And the plot of the game is nicely timed to tie with the plot of December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  The goal is to locate the plans to the Death Star, figure out who stashed them, and determine the best route to escape.

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This beautiful new game is Star Wars gold for two reasons.  First, it’s a twist on Clue (Cluedo in the UK) and Clue is always fun if you get enough people to play.  “But I already have seven versions of Clue plus Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly!” you say.  This one adds some three-dimensional color for good family night play.  And that new 3D take is the second reason this is sure to be a fun, new game: It evokes the great cardboard-backed action figure playsets from the 1970s, like the Creature Cantina, the Hoth AT-AT Playset, the Cloud City Playset, and even the wall inserts on the full-sized Death Star playset.  It also looks a bit like the classic Sub Search from Milton Bradley.

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Originally a Hanna Barbera character that became the impetus for the animated superhero TV genre that took off in the 1960s, Space Ghost got his own reboot in the 1990s as a has-been superhero hosting his own late night talk show Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.  Originally airing on Cartoon Network and later Adult Swim, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast was a series with its very own style of humor, featuring the animated superhero interviewing real-world guests via a television monitor to the right of his desk.

Oddly surreal, Space Ghost often spent more time talking about himself than showing any interest in his guests.  His guests often seriously looked as if they had no idea what the series was about, and seemed genuinely irritated–as if they expected to be interviewed on a real entertainment show.  Cringeworthy moment after moment became the hallmark of the series, yet it all worked for fans of oddball animated TV.  If you want to look at human nature in a different way, and see what celebrities have a sense of humor and who can think on their toes, this may be the series for you.

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Now you can stream all the episodes here at the Adult Swim website for free.  The Bee Gees, Weird Al Yankovic, Jim Carrey, Alice Cooper, Billy Mumy, Mark Hamill, Lassie, Catherine Bach, Jimmie Walker, Bill Nye, Goldie Hawn, Charlton Heston, Steve Allen, Michael McKean, Tom Arnold, Bob Costas, Conan O’Brien, Tenacious D, Willie Nelson, and William Shatner all appeared in Space Ghost’s interview seat, plus many others.

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Mark Hamill.  Jedi, Joker, and Trickster.  He’s my favorite genre celebrity, and in his first episode of his new pop culture collectibles series, Pop Culture Quest, Hamill hosts popular DC Comics artist and exec Jim Lee.  Pop Culture Quest is a new series on the pay network Comic-Con HQ, but you can watch the entire first episode below.

Pop Culture Quest is a load of fun, and is similar to past pop culture collecting shows reviewed here at borg.com like Travel Channel’s Toy Hunter, and Syfy Channel’s Hollywood Treasure.  This new series may top those series simply because of the access to Mark Hamill.  Hamill–who we all know as Luke Skywalker, the voice of the animated Batman series’ Joker, and both the classic and current The Flash TV series’ villain The Trickster–hosts the show with a sidekick Muppet fellow named Pop.  Hamill has a good sense of humor and proves to be not only every nerd’s idol, but a card-carrying nerd himself.  Hamill knows his pop culture, as highlighted by his detailed knowledge of the history of DC Comics as he browses the West Coast DC headquarters.  He’s also a solid interviewer, and reminded me of the poise in interviewing guests that William Shatner exhibited on his short-lived interview series Shatner’s Raw Nerve.

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Photo of your humble borg.com Editor.  What does it mean when you start to look like your idol?

Episode 1 follows Hamill as he tours the DC offices and talks shop with Jim Lee.  Lee and Hamill agree to swap Hamill a sketch of The Joker in exchange for a voice message by Hamill that we get to watch performed during the coda for the episode.  It’s good stuff all around.

Check out this first episode of Pop Culture Quest:

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An Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast is arguably the finest Disney production to come from the studio in its more than ninety year history.  Coming next year to the big screen is a new, live-action version of Beauty and the Beast (teased earlier this year here at borg.com), starring the Harry Potter series’ Emma Watson as Belle.  Academy Award-winning screenplay writer Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Chicago, the Twilight series) is directing the picture.

Despite press accounts to the contrary, don’t look for an adaptation of the classic fairy tale, but a close adaptation of the animated Disney film (as the original did not have the talking furniture or most of the other characters created for the 1991 film).  Just like the first teaser was quite pretty as set design goes, so is this fuller trailer.  More than 20 million viewers watched the first teaser, so make no mistake:  Emma Watson’s first major genre role since Harry Potter will make this a big box office winner for Disney.

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The previews remind us of the grand production of Phantom of the Opera back in 2004, a sleeper, but a visual spectacle, too.  Jacqueline Durran (Pride and Prejudice) adapted the animated costumes for the film, which look close but not quite as amazing as the 1991 animated versions.  Everything else looks like this could be a near scene-for-scene copy of the 1991 version except in the animated movie Belle had dark brown hair and a distinct, different hair style from other “Disney princess” characters that set her apart from the rest of the blonde fairy tale leads, something you’d think Disney would have kept the same at least for cross-marketing its toy tie-ins.

Who doesn’t love each new appearance of Kevin Kline?  He’s featured prominently in this new trailer.  Check it out:

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Based on the Japanese manga novel that sprouted several animated movies and television shows, Ghost in the Shell is finally coming to theaters in a live-action version next spring, from director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman).  Ghost in the Shell, inspired in part by the influential Arthur Koestler philosophical study Ghost in the Machine (resulting in the manga’s title), is a popular cyberpunk story of the dangers of cybernetics.

As with the original manga, the story follows a tough woman hero called The Major, who had an accident as a youth necessitating significant borg prosthetics.

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In fact cyborg brains are commonplace in the future Earth of Ghost in the Shell.  Scarlett Johansson stars in the film, along with Juliette Binoche and Takeshi Kitano.  Check out this first trailer, which evokes some Blade Runner scenes and cityscapes:

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In the 1960s it was not unheard of that television stations like the BBC in the United Kingdom did not retain footage of television series.  Film reels were thrown out instead of storing shows for archival purposes as we do today.  The greatest volume from one series is probably from Doctor Who, where nearly 100 episodes were lost.  But thanks to fans recording the audio of the shows at home, plus film stills and the odd found footage, the stories themselves remain.  In the case of one legendary tale, The Power of the Daleks, the BBC decided to animate the tale and distribute it for a new generation of Doctor Who fans.  Premiering in full this Saturday, November 19, and beginning November 20, on BBC America, viewers can stream the entire six-part series, and tomorrow night you have one chance to view the new animated version in theaters.

Thought to have been lost forever, The Power of the Daleks is the missing third serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who.  No complete film recordings or master negatives of The Power of the Daleks are known to have survived an archive purge in 1974.  This brand new animation is recreated from original audio, photographs, and surviving film clips.  The Power of the Daleks has never been shown in North America in any form.

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An original clip of the lost Doctor Who serial “Power of the Daleks.”

Fans of any iteration of Doctor Who will want to see this series for two key reasons.  First, it is the first rejuvenation of a Doctor, here showing Patrick Troughton transform into the Second Doctor.  Second, fans first realized the true darkness behind the Daleks, who would remain the greatest foes of the Doctor and his companions to this day.  Also featured are companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze).

Check out this quick preview:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Doctor Strange.  Need a great escape this week?  On the one hand Marvel Studios’ fourteenth big screen Marvel entry is very much a product of the Marvel Comics of Stan Lee.  Audiences just saw a similar origin story early this year in Deadpool, and we’ve seen similar stories from Daredevil, Spider-man, and Hulk, as well as in the DC Universe in Batman Begins and Green Lantern.  Yet in its first act you realize Doctor Strange is a movie a tier above The Avengers and Justice League member films.  It also competes meaningfully in the mashed-up sci-fi and fantasy realm alongside Guardians of the Galaxy.  As to sci-fi in its opening act Doctor Strange makes any visual amazement found in the twisty cityscapes of The Matrix trilogy or Inception pretty much irrelevant by comparison.  And when you take the best actors around and put them together you’ve upped the ante for not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but suddenly every forthcoming superhero genre effort has a new benchmark to aspire to.

Everything Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Hobbit, The Imitation Game, Star Trek Into Darkness) touches turns to gold.  His Doctor Stephen Strange is all of Dr. House, M.D., and Sherlock Holmes.  And he transforms into an Eastern mystic with a vibe and look that assures us future roles that years ago would have gone to Max Von Sydow or Vincent Price will continue to have a ready actor to fill their shoes.

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This may be the best recent use of 3D in the theater since the last Transformers entry.  Viewing it in 3D is a must, from Doctor Strange’s spell weapons to a world colliding with an amped up Spirograph meets Kaleidoscope-infused reality, conflicts on Salvador Dali paintings come to life and M.C. Escher and Labyrinth-inspired battlefields, and on to journeys through distant outer space and beyond time, crisp clarity and beautiful cinematography reveals modern effects at their best thanks to the production of Kevin Feige, who has coordinated everything Marvel for both Disney and Twentieth Century Fox, and director of photography Ben Davis (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake).

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Now in post-production, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on Valerian and Laureline, the French science fiction comic book series from the 1960s, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.  Get an advance look at the original source material before the movie comes out here.

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The 1967 comics and the 2017 movie.

In October 2015 we reported here at borg.com that director Luc Besson, best known for his outlandish style in the 1997 Bruce Willis/Milla Jovovich sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, was looking for a few good outfits to feature in a dinner party scene to take place in a city of millions and a myriad of humanoid alien races.  So he hosted a costume design contest.  The diverse and futuristic winning designs from the contest can be found here.  Besson, who also directed La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and Lucy, made a long-lasting statement in sci-fi fashion with his characters from The Fifth Element.  From Milla Jovovich’s body-taped Leeloo, to Bruce Willis’s orange-clad, understated everyman Korben Dallas, to the over-the-top Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod, from the striking opera singer Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn), to Gary Oldman’s creepy and villainous Zorg–the movie is a visual spectacle.

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Besson may be the only director to give Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner a challenge for the best-visualized future cities.

We now have the first trailer for Valerian, and it is everything we hoped it would be:

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