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Archive for May, 2017


Review by C.J. Bunce

After reading Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking science fiction novel Jurassic Park, I was hooked, and set out to read everything else he had written before and awaited each subsequent work with excitement.  I quickly learned that you can identify his work through his character choices and his storytelling, and not only were his ideas fresh and new (Crichton passed away in 2008), he knew how to spin a good yarn.  Yet, except for the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, each of his books is completely different from one another.  In common the books follow intelligent people who set about accomplishing something unprecedented.  Crichton’s latest (and perhaps final?) posthumous novel is Dragon Teeth, and in true form it is both a brilliant Crichton work, and also unlike anything he’d written before.  It arrives at bookstores later this week.

Shelf Dragon Teeth alongside Jurassic Park as the very best of Crichton.

Here at borg.com I’ve so far reviewed three of Crichton’s eight “lost” novels penned under pseudonyms.  In the early days of borg.com I reviewed Crichton’s Micro, a posthumously published novel Crichton hadn’t quite finished when he died, which included the technology that could shrink humans to half-an-inch tall beings.  With Dragon Teeth, there is no suspension of disbelief required as with many of his works.  This story is historical fiction, and a Western–easily one of the best Westerns I’ve read.  We meet a college student in 1876 named William Johnson.  He is an arrogant, self-absorbed son of a shipping magnate who takes on a dare and ends up accompanying a professor on a journey across the Old West in an early search for dinosaur bones–then newly-discovered proof that the planet is much older than previously thought.  The professor, one of the early paleontologists, is in a lifelong battle with another, competing paleontologist and their squabble becomes deadly as Johnson finds himself a pawn in repeated attempts at oneupsmanship.  Based on the feud of real-life 19th century professors, Dragon Teeth sucks the reader into every black and white Western movie where the heroes weren’t all that heroic, the dust was thick, the path was treacherous, and each new day could very well be your last.

Crichton stitched together all the Western spots you didn’t want to find yourself in as an outsider in 1876–Cheyenne, across the Badlands, into Montana and Wyoming territory, and the end of the line in murky Deadwood.  Dragon Teeth has all the atmosphere of Silverado, and reads with both the folklore of a Louis L’Amour novel and the peril and adventure of a Jon Krakauer true-life account.  You’ll find deceit and friendship as they existed beyond the frontier, Native American friends and enemies, and a look inside political and religious clashes that exist to this day.

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One thing missing from the latest round of Star Wars toys is the miniature catalogs that were included in playsets and vehicles back in the 1970s and 1980s.  These were not only features of Star Wars toys.  Other lines, such as LEGO brick sets, included similar booklets.  As a kid you either learned about the next round of Kenner toys from commercials tucked between Saturday morning cartoons or the big deal for all kids each year–the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs.

Along with the inserts and catalogs, kids would learn about new toys from other sources, like advertisements in comic books, magazines, and even local newspapers.  It’s these advertisements that Star Wars fan and chronicler Philip Reed has collected for his next book about toys.  Now fully funded is his latest Kickstarter campaign, A Galaxy of Action Figure Savings–a companion to last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories–a 96-page hardcover book loaded with more newspaper ads, toy photos, commercial screenshots, and images of related marketing materials.

We’ve read Reed’s eighth of now nine books on the history of toys, last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories, an unofficial overview interspersed with trivia and close-up photos of marketing materials and the actual trilogy tie-in toys spanning 1977 to 1986.  It’s easy to spend hours gawking at these artifacts of the past again, comparing prices, and studying those items that may or may not have made it to store shelves.  But fair warning, comparing the costs of action figures to today’s prices is a bit depressing.

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Excelsior!  Legendary comic book writer, editor, actor, producer and publisher Stan Lee will be making a special appearance at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines tonight and Saturday, May 20.  The most iconic and well-known of all comic book legends and the spark that lit up the current heyday of comic books and comic book movies, Mr. Lee has done it all–the man behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and hundreds of other characters, he is a member of both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.  This weekend he will greet fans, pose for photos, sign autographs, and conduct an interactive Q&A at the Iowa Events Center as Wizard World Comic Con celebrates its third year in Des Moines.

Mr. Lee will be joining fan-favorite genre actor John Cusack, another late addition to the headliners appearing at this year’s event.  Cusack’s impact on a generation of moviegoers can’t be overstated.  Most first saw him as a kid in Sixteen Candles and Stand By Me.  He became a household name in teen flicks like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead…, and One Crazy Summer, but it was Say Anything… that made him a star as the lovable Lloyd Dobler, the boyfriend with the boom box.  His adult drama work resulted in many cult classics, like Eight Men Out, The Grifters, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Pushing Tin.  Films like Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, and Robert Altman’s The Player proved he was the real deal, and later films High Fidelity and Hot Tub Time Machine proved he’s willing to return to his roots as the everyman good guy that audiences love.

John Cusack and Charlie Sheen in the baseball film classic Eight Men Out.

This weekend Cusack joins a big pantheon of celebrities including Eight Men Out co-star Charlie Sheen, plus Dean Cain (Lois & Clark, Supergirl), James Marsters and Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th), Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (Charmed), Barry Bostwick (Spin City), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), and more.

The convention will be held at the Iowa Events Center at 730 Third Street in Des Moines, beginning May 19, 2017, opening at 4 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m., Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A full list of Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines programming is available here (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).  For more on the event, visit the convention website here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

The big news this week for sci-fi genre fans–besides that surprisingly good trailer for The Orville previewed here earlier this week–is the release of the first full trailer for CBS All Access’s new series Star Trek: Discovery.  The new subscription service network released trailers for its new series Wednesday.  Along with Star Trek: Discovery are trailers for a S.W.A.T. reboot, a SEAL series, a crime drama, and three new comedies.

Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Bones will be happy to see David Boreanaz back as the star of another drama, SEAL Team.  SNL’s hilarious comedian Bobby Moynihan stars in his own comedy, Me, Myself, and I.

Emmy and Golden Globe winner Jeremy Piven, who we last saw as an early 20th century businessman in the brilliant PBS series Mr. Selfridge, will star as a modern-day successful businessman with Richard T. Jones in a new crime series about crowdsourcing called Wisdom of the Crowd.  And fans of The Big Bang Theory will get a prequel series called Young Sheldon.

Check out all the previews for the new TV series from CBS All Access below, along with the network’s PR descriptions:

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Hollywood captures hundreds of movies each year in its talk of the Summer Blockbuster, with as many films arriving at screens before summer actually begins as after.  With Guardians of the Galaxy 2 the 2017 “summer” blockbusters are already on their way.  This week 20th Century Fox revealed the first glimpse of Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, not only the star of the new reboot of The Mummy, but said to be the lynchpin behind all the new Universal Monster movies.  The new previews reveal a lot about this new monster flick.

The final movie trailers are now out for Alien: Covenant, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  No doubt we’ll be seeing more trailers soon for other big movies hitting the theater this year like Transformers: The Last Knight, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Spider-man: Homecoming. 

Which movies are on your much-watch list?  For now, check out these latest trailers, as Hollywood wraps the final marketing push for this year’s first summer blockbusters: Continue reading

It’s a parody, but the next science fiction series on your watch list looks just like the real deal.

While the next Star Trek series Star Trek Discovery remains somewhere in the shadows, a new, fully-realized sci-fi universe is heading our way this year on Fox with the new series The Orville.  From director Jon Favreau and creator/star Seth McFarlane comes an incredibly well-designed future world full of ships, aliens, cool costumes, and… humor?  In the vein of the Star Trek-spoof Galaxy Quest–but with a more finely-tuned science fiction look and feel–the next ship to hit television screens will be the USS Orville. 

Seth McFarlane returns to outer space, playing Captain Ed Mercer, newly tapped commander of The Orville, an exploratory vessel 400 years in our future.  Its crew, a mix of alien and human–and better yet, non-humanoid–races, encounters all those trials of space life found only in the lower decks of past sci-fi series.  Adrianne Palicki (G.I. Joe: Retribution, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is the X.O., Captain Mercer’s ex-wife Kelly Grayson, Scott Grimes (Family Guy, Band of Brothers, Star Trek: The Next Generation) is Ed’s best friend Gordon Molloy, Penny Johnson Jerald (Deep Space Nine, Castle) is Dr. Claire Finn, Peter Macon (Supernatural, The Shield) is Bortus, newcomer Mark Jackson is Isaac, J. Lee (Family Guy) is John Lamarr, Halston Sage (Goosebumps) is Alara Kitan, and Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live) is the voice of Yaphit.

Plus, the series has tapped the real deal for its music, composer Bruce Broughton, who worked on classic TV scores for years–everything from Barnaby Jones to Hawaii Five-O, to Gunsmoke, Amazing Stories, and Buck Rogers in the 24th Century, and memorable movie scores to Silverado, So I Married an Axe Murder, Tombstone, and the Lost in Space remake.  Get ready for a surprise–this looks a lot better than we would have guessed–the first trailer for The Orville:

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Shado–one of the best supporting DC Comics characters in the 75-year history of Green Arrow–is again front-and-center in this week’s re-release of the classic 1990s storyline, in trade paperback for the first time.  Green Arrow: The Hunt for the Red Dragon, reprints Green Arrow Issues #63-72, featuring long-time story writer Mike Grell with artwork by Rick Hoberg and inks by John Nyberg.

When a man appears with a gift for Oliver Queen, he leaves Dinah back in Seattle and takes off for Japan in search of a woman with a red dragon tattoo, his ex-lover and foe, Shado.  The gift?  The very same film prop bow used by Errol Flynn in the 1938 film classic, The Adventures of Robin Hood, a film with special meaning for Queen.  But what is behind the gift, and why this mission to give Shado a large sum of money?  After Queen finds Shado they both discover a darker plot, and a villain ripped from the pages of the national crime news in the early 1990s.

   

Shado was created by Mike Grell and first appeared in Grell’s landmark series Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.  A modified version of the character appeared in CW’s Arrow.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

More than 100 comic book artists came together over the past year to create what is one of the best joint art projects featuring superheroes that has come out of the industry.  And it’s all about the biggest superheroine of all.  Some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring Wonder Woman, penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a 75th Anniversary DC Comics Wonder Woman blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to, and in effect pays forward comic book creators that came before them.

It’s called the Wonder Woman 100 Project.  All proceeds of the auction of the original artwork will go to the Hero Initiative, an organization that helps out the comic book industry by contributing funds to individuals and their families in the event of medical and financial crises.  Most of the comic creators the fund helps were piecemeal workers in their careers over the past decades or those without any kind of retirement program.

    

And for those who can’t afford the original artwork, the Hero Initiative is creating a hardcover and softcover edition compiling all the covers that will be for sale in June 2017, with proceeds of those books also going to the Hero Initiative.

You’ll see some of the very best Wonder Woman images you’ll ever find.  Many are from well-known artists, but some of the finest works are showcased by more recent artists entering the industry.

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On the Big Wheel.  On the bedroom wall.  On the Trapper Keeper.  On the toy box.  On the dresser.  Everywhere your parents didn’t want you to put ’em.  If you were a kid in the 1970s and 1980s and you collected Topps Star Wars trading cards, your sticker collection might look like this today:

Because the stickers that came one per pack ended up going anywhere kids are going to think they should go.  Or you might have kept your stickers intact–maybe you even made a complete collection of the trading cards–but, because of the nature of random inserts, your sticker collection looked like this:

If this describes you, then this new throwback book is just for you.

As a supplement to the series of books chronicling the original Star Wars trilogy trading cards (reviewed previously at borg.com here), the stickers are now available in a single volume from Abrams, Topps, and Lucasfilm, Star Wars: Topps Classic Sticker Book.  Reprinting a selection of the original sticker images from these card sets as removable stickers, kids young and old can use them anywhere or place them on one of five double-sided pullout posters included.

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RoboCop Blu-ray

Thank you for your cooperation.

It is likely the best format you will have seen of director Paul Verhoeven’s classic vision of social commentary meeting science fiction since it appeared in theaters 30 years ago.  If you’ve only watched it on TV and in standard formats you’ll want to take another look at RoboCop, your favorite borg cop, on high-definition Blu-ray in its unrated director’s cut.  Known for its excess violence and campy cyborg superheroics, RoboCop avoids the dated look of many of its contemporary films, falling in an elite league of re-watchable, cult-favorite 1980s films with The Terminator and Tron.   Filmed in Dallas for its futuristic building locations instead of its actual story setting in Detroit, the police uniforms, corporate setting, and street scenes all feel as if they could be part of some future, with maybe only hair styles and faked media clips that shout 1980s.

RoboCop remastered

Relive the classic boardroom scene where Ronny Cox’s new alternative police replacement robot has a “glitch.”  Relive the first time you saw Ray Wise and Kurtwood Smith playing their earliest genre roles, plus the late Miguel Ferrer in one of his best roles.  And don’t forget that unforgettable Basil Poledouris (The Hunt for Red October, Starship Troopers, Conan the Barbarian, The Twilight Zone) soundtrack.

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