Archive for June, 2017


Review by C.J. Bunce

The American mid-century modern design movement began in the 1930s and grew into the 1960s as a unique style of art, architecture, and graphic design.  Mid-century advertising is its own nostalgic niche, and a new book released this week provides a refreshing reboot to the artistic stylings as represented in pop culture, toys, and toy promotions.  Toybox Time Machine: A Catalog of the Coolest Toys Never Made could be a catalog of the actual toys of the past.  But it’s not.  It could be a chronicle of box art and packaging of your favorite action figures and trading cards.  But it isn’t.

Instead, commercial illustrator Marty Baumann, a creator behind the visuals in Toy Story 3, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, and Disney/Pixar’s Cars and Planes franchises took inspiration from the Christmas catalogs, store displays, television ads, and comic books of his youth to create ideas for new toys and new toy companies–toys that might have been.  And he’s put them together into an encyclopedia full of fun that will tug at your memory.  We’ve no doubt you could show this book to someone who will tell you specifically that they remember one or more of the toys in this catalog.  That’s the power of nostalgia and Baumann’s sense of mid-century design.

  

You’ll see ads that might have been created for View Master or Ben Cooper Halloween costumes, designs for toys that could have been Marx Toys action figures, G.I. Joes, Barbie dolls, Guillows balsa model kits, and those cheap plastic toys you could only order from the tiny ads in comic books.  The commonality is the bright, loud, color palette of the era, plus trading cards, battery-operated gadgets, and anything you can display in 3D.  And much of the reflection in design is not secretive but obvious, like an ad for a codebook for The Man Called… C.O.U.S.I.N.  You remember that classic series, right?  Of course you do.

Check out this preview of Toybox Time Machine: A Catalog of the Coolest Toys Never Made, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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If you could only study one filmmaker for the rest of your life you could hardly select anyone with a better catalog of films than Sir Alfred Hitchcock.  Known as the master of suspense, his broad range of films encompass much more.  Next month Turner Classic Movies is delving deep into the works of Hitchcock as it presents TCM Spotlight: 50 years of Hitchcock, exploring 44 of the films he directed.

You already know his most popular films: Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Rope, Dial “M” for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Rebecca, The Birds, The Paradine Case, Lifeboat, The Wrong Man, The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Jamaica Inn, and Shadow of a Doubt.  But have you seen The Ring, Foreign Correspondent, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Blackmail, Murder! (aka Mary), The Skin Game, Saboteur, Suspicion, Stage Fright, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy, and Family Plot?  TCM is airing all of these, and more.

   

TCM isn’t leaving much out.  But you’ll need to track down eight of the earliest of Hitchcock’s works on your own: His directorial debut The Pleasure Garden (1925), the Jack the Ripper inspired The Lodger from 1927, the 1928 romance Easy Virtue, the Irish civil war story Juno and the Paycock (1930), the 1930 musical Elstree Calling, the musical Waltzes from Vienna (1934), the Peter Lorre/John Gielgud mistaken identity film Secret Agent (1936), and the 1937 crime thriller Young and Innocent.  The line-up also does not include the 1949 Ingrid Bergman/Joseph Cotton historical thriller Under Capricorn and the 1955 Cary Grant/Grace Kelly hit To Catch a Thief.  Hitchcock directed another full-length film, the 1926 film The Mountain Eagle–a lost film considered by many to be the most sought after missing film of all time. 

And TCM isn’t going to stop with only a screening of 44 of Hitchcock’s films.

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Stranger Things took the world by storm last year, bringing its mix of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and nostalgia to the small screen.  Stranger Things is not only Netflix’s best show, its second season is the most eagerly awaited series this year.  Now a household name, star Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) signed on for the second season along with Winona Ryder, and fan favorite Sean Astin will star as a new character aptly named Bob Newby.  The other kid stars are back:  Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), sporting Ghostbusters outfits at their grade school on Halloween Day 1984–a great choice for the season opener since we’ll be watching the episode premiere on Halloween day.

And like the many throwback movies the series pulls from, Stranger Things is getting its own line of action figures.  Funko has produced the first line of figures rapidly considering so many shows don’t get tie-in toys at all.  Six figures have been finalized for the first wave from the series.  Fan demand for everyone’s favorite ill-fated friend Barb will no doubt necessitate at least a second wave.

Best of all, there’s something doubly nostalgic about these figures.  They are from Funko’s ReAction line, which itself bridges the classic 1970s and 1980s Kenner style action figures with modern TV series and movies.  It’s easy to imagine the kids in the world of Stranger Things would appreciate seeing themselves as action figures that look like their own Star Wars figures.

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It’s the latest sensation.  This generation’s Beanie Babies.  Like last year’s Pokémon Go, collectors just “gotta catch ’em all.”  And Funko, the toy company that makes them exclusively, has licensed seemingly any and every property on Earth for their POP! line of bobblehead dolls.  Almost.  Funko is always reaching for the next great franchise, the next cool character, the next thing for fanboys and fangirls to go nuts for.

Really.  They’ve secured the licenses for nearly everything.  Challenge us on that?  How about Tupac Shakur?  They made him into a vinyl POP! figure.  Michael Jackson?  Yep, in multiple outfits.  Invisible Bilbo Baggins.  The creature from Sharknado.  Duck Dynasty?  They made ’em.  How about 1970s Elvis?  Yep.  Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, The Muppets, and Game of Thrones?  Of course.  The Golden Girls?  Nah…. yep!  They made those, too.  Piglet from Winnie the Pooh and Butters from South Park.  The Elf on the Shelf?  The cast of Friends?  They’re just toying with us now.

       

But it doesn’t stop there.  There’s Bob’s Big Boy and Bob’s Burgers.  Parks and Recreation.  BBC’s Sherlock.  The cast from Lost.  Universal Monsters.  My Little Pony.  NFL football.  The Gilmore Girls.  The A-Team.  Pewdiepie from YouTube???  Gremlins.  The Walking Dead.  Power Rangers.  The Exorcist.  It goes on and on…

Is there no end to the properties that the Funko toy company will rematerialize into bobbleheads?  They’ve got Santa Claus, Homer Simpson, David Bowie in Labyrinth, Breaking Bad, and the kids from Twilight.  And the band members from Metallica.  Thankfully they don’t yet have The Twilight Zone or we’d have to witness a frightening POP! of Billy Mumy’s victim Dan as the jack-in-the-box from “It’s a Good Life.”  [[shudder]]

       

But this week’s release tops them all.  Truly there is now one Funko POP! to rule them all.  The real Top POP!  But who could it be?  Who is the big surprise?  Drumroll, please…. The One POP! to Rule Them All is…

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We here at borg.com can’t be the only ones who are fans of time loops, and the folks at Universal Pictures must think the same thing.

This time around, time loops–the story trope featuring a repeat of time usually offering the protagonist an opportunity to fix the recent past–are going to be coming at you for Friday the 13th–October 13, 2017.  And unlike many horror movies that are pushed to a February release, this horror flick is being delivered when everyone wants to see it, right in time for Halloween.  Does this indicate it might be better than the average horror flick?  This next time looper comes on the heels of the teen mystery film Before I Fall, a release from January, which was preceded by last year’s sci-fi thriller, ARQ.  Before that, time loops were found in everything between Groundhog Day and Source Code, TiMER, Looper, and television shows Early Edition, Haven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka, The X-Files, Star Trek, and Xena–Warrior Princess.  Yes, we can’t get enough of the time loop.  Check out our previous discussions of time loops at borg.com here and here.

And this one has a throwback horror title–Happy Death Day–which is either the title of a bad slasher flick (Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine) or just a clever title for the kind of throwback gore flick horrors fans are all over.  Which will it be?  Happy Death Day appears to be less like the time loops listed above and more like Tru Calling, the Final Destination film series, Donnie Darko, Haunter, and Butterfly Effect, at least as the time loop element is delivered.  You might recall Tru Calling was a weekly series starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Eliza Dushku as she tried to save someone from dying each week via time loop.  The Final Destination films added the bloody violence while also attaching to a rollercoaster ride full of “oh, no, they didn’ts.”

Happy Death Day hails from director Christopher Landon, screenplay writer on horror films like Disturbia, Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4, and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.  It stars Jessica Rothe (La La Land) as the young woman who gets murdered, only to continue to get murdered in different ways by a creepy masked character no matter what she does to prevent it.  Unlike most modern horror flicks with the kind of production quality in the trailer, the film does not have a single known quantity actor to anchor the film.

Here is the first trailer for Happy Death Day:

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The year is 2020 and it’s hell on Earth.  Ching Dai has declared himself ruler of all.  Jack Burton is alone in a tiny corner of Florida with only his broken radio to talk to, until one day it picks up a message.  Someone is out there.

After thirty years a sequel to Big Trouble in Little China sounds like a pretty good thing to John Carpenter and Kurt Russell fans.  That sequel is coming your way later this year, not as a movie, but as part of BOOM! Studios ongoing comic book chronicles of Jack Burton and the Pork-Chop Express.  This good news is Big Trouble in Little China director John Carpenter is penning the story himself, along with comic book writer Anthony Burch and artist Jorge Corona.

Taking a tip from the Marvel Comics playbook and its Old Man Logan stories of an elder Wolverine, the Big Trouble sequel series will feature the end-of-the-line story of Kurt Russell’s truck driver.  Titled Old Man Jack, the series is practically begging for every publisher to begin featuring the older side of its heroes.  This story is also timely in that we have just seen a good look at grey-haired Kurt Russell as Starlord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Even though Russell is not in this new story, we know exactly what “Old Man” Jack Burton looks like.

  

The series will include at least four covers, a standard cover featuring Jack in Florida by artist Stephane Roux, a variant featuring Lo-Pan by Sam Bosma, a retro action figure variant by Michael Adams and Marco D’Alfonso, and other variants by artists Will Robson and Paul Pope.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When Brad Pitt has another winning performance you find you’re glued to the screen.  From Twelve Monkeys to Meet Joe Black, Ocean’s Eleven to Inglourious Basterds and Moneyball, Pitt has range, plus the charisma and presence that translates to star power.  As with Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, if you can strip away the celebrity and focus on the performance, Pitt seems like he just can’t fail.  Pitt is just as mesmerizing as any character in his past body of work in the new film War Machine.

In another time War Machine would be a theatrical release–it carries the production values, cast, script, and studio support as much as any other movie, and is produced by Pitt’s own Plan B Entertainment, the same company that garnered a Best Picture Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave.  But we’re now in No Man’s Land.  With Netflix making not only its own competitive, award-winning shows for the small screen, it has moved on to the theatrical film that simply isn’t intended for a theatrical release.  War Machine is based on Rolling Stone writer Michael Hasting’s book The Operators, a biographical account of now retired General Stanley McChrystal that was expanded from the piece he wrote when he was embedded with the general and his men.  You’ve heard the story, the one that took down the general’s career as he was attempting to gain traction in his efforts in Afghanistan in 2010.  McChrystal’s was an American story, one that has plagued leadership in wartime notably since World War II– how do you win a seemingly unwinnable war?  You’ll be hard-pressed not to find story elements from Vietnam days in War Machine, but also echoes of the Persian Gulf War, and other actions where data, facts, politics, economics, miscommunication, and personalities muddled direction and purpose.  Only War Machine isn’t about McChrystal really–Brad Pitt’s character is only based on McChrystal.  For storytelling purposes it’s close enough, and fortunately allows the viewer to enjoy the fictional story being told without the effort of comparing the story to the real events the underlying book was chronicling.  So throw out your own politics for a few hours and get ready for an interesting character study.

Were War Machine released in theaters, there’d no doubt be discussion of the film as the next chapter in a line of films with Twelve O’Clock High, The Best Years of Our Lives, Apocalypse Now, Patton, Full Metal Jacket, and Born on the Fourth of July.  Pitt’s General Glen McMahon is Pitt aged a decade or so, sporting gray hair and a fixed sideways sneer, a raised eyebrow, and a stature (especially when running exercise laps before the other troops awaken) that makes him almost unrecognizable.  McMahon is smart, fierce, determined, and strong–the perfect selection for someone who has been appointed to complete an impossible task–in essence, do all that needs to be done to fix Afghanistan and get ready to leave without bringing in more troops–when he should have known he was doomed to failure from the beginning.  Don’t we want our generals to be confident, strident, and to a certain extent, bold risk takers?  McMahon is quirky, just a little bit off, while exhibiting a bravado and charisma–albeit awkwardly packaged–that entrenches the picture in believability.  Pitt believes in his character so we do as well.  This includes the loyalty of his men, which begins to form the movie’s all-star cast, including McMahon’s obnoxiously loyal, angry, and mouthy#2 man played by Anthony Michael Hall (the film’s take on then-Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served 24 days recently as national security adviser) and an image guy played by Topher Grace.  The cast is rounded out on all sides by Ben Kingsley as President Karzai, Alan Ruck and Griffin Dunne as Administration policy wonks, Tilda Swinton as a German politician, and Meg Tilly taking on the role (brilliantly) of McMahon’s wife (plus a nicely handled cameo by Russell Crowe).

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Gary Gerani, Topps editor for hundreds of classic trading card series returns with a new book in Abrams ComicArts’ unprecedented series of hardcover books recounting the  classic Topps “non-sports” trading cards.  This time Gerani looks at the entire collection of Planet of the Apes images featured throughout three series chronicled on cardboard by Topps in Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series.

In nearly 500 pages Gerani includes the fronts and backs of all 44 cards from the original 1969 Topps set documenting the original film starring Charlton Heston, all 66 cards based on the 1975 television series (featuring Roddy McDowell and Star Trek’s Mark Lenard), and all 90 base cards, 10 sticker cards, and 44 chase cards from the 2001 reboot film directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg.  If you’re a Planet of the Apes fan, a fan of either of these incarnations of the several adaptations of Pierre Boulle’s 1963 science fiction novel Monkey Planet, or a POTA completist, you’ll learn something new about the franchise now spanning nearly five decades.

    

Although you’ll get exactly what you’d expect–full color images of the fronts and backs of the cards, Abrams’ trademark bubble gum cover and wax pack wrapper jacket, and promotional images–the real insight is found in Gerani’s knowledge as a Topps and Hollywood insider.  Working directly on the second and third series and working with the creators of the original series, Gerani provides an understanding of the business of designing a trading card series, the challenges (like celebrity image licensing restrictions), and high points (like finding that perfect image for a card that fans will love).  Many cards use photos taken on the shooting set, so they give different vantage points to the actors and sets than found in the films.

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In a strange twist to the home video release marketing strategy, IDW Entertainment, the company behind both Wynonna Earp the comic book series and the Syfy Channel television series, is well on its way through what looks to be a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to bring Wynonna Earp Season One directly to its fans.  The first season will only be released on Blu-ray–no DVD–and only via the Indiegogo campaign.  Discs are expected to ship around September 2017.

Wynonna Earp follows Wyatt Earp’s great-granddaughter as she battles demons and other creatures in a town called Purgatory.  With her unique abilities, a demon-killing gun named Peacemaker, and a posse of dysfunctional allies, only she can bring the paranormal to justice.

Although fans and new viewers can also watch each episode of the first season on Netflix, as Wynonna Earp begins its second season (with the premiere episode of the season airing on Friday nights beginning last Friday, June 9), it’s going to be a little bit harder for the new viewer who would otherwise be willing to buy the first season to get caught up, especially if they missed the Syfy Network recap this Memorial Day weekend.  But this likely will really only have an effect on the fans of the show who would ordinarily pay to have Season One in-hand closer to the start date of the next season.  Will this be the next regular marketing method for shows that would otherwise not justify a home release to still be able to make fans happy?

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We already got a first look at Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa, the ruler of the kingdom of Wakanda whose alter ego is the Black Panther, in last year’s great superhero mash-up Captain America: Civil War.  Next year Marvel Studios is giving Boseman his own solo movie in a film called Black Panther, as the comic book character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four A first trailer and poster (above) were released this past week.

We don’t know much about the plot for this new film, other than T’Challa must defend his kingdom from being torn apart by enemies outside and within.  Boseman, who was excellent as Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42, will have an impressive supporting cast.  Adonis himself, Creed star Michael B. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia and Andy Serkis is Klaw, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Forest Whitaker is Zuri, The Hobbit and Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is Everett K. Ross, and Green Lantern’s Doctor Waller, Angela Bassett is Ramonda.

Here is the first trailer for Black Panther:

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