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Archive for July, 2017


A collection of hundreds of digitized video clips of unique research aircraft from the 1940s until this past decade is making its way to YouTube.  The collection contains footage of many of the vehicles flown at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, previously known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards, California.  It only takes a few minutes to get sucked into this visual history of modern aviation and spaceflight.  Every few days more video resource materials are being uploaded to YouTube by the Center, and the result is a superb educational tool.  For decades much of this footage was limited to access by the public via still images in World Book Encyclopedia, and now anyone can observe and compare NASA’s aerial test vehicles at their own pace.

Want to revisit the liftoff and landing of the space shuttle Columbia?  Check it out here from April 1981.  How about flights of the Enterprise, Endeavour, and Discovery, and a beautiful landing of the Atlantis?  Much footage has been made available for everyone in the past few years by NASA, but not in such a complete collection as is happening this summer.  NASA has even uploaded footage of a visit by Nichelle Nichols to the Flight Research Center’s page, as well as a 1969 training flight of the lunar landing vehicle by the Center’s namesake, Neil Armstrong.

You’ll find a full history of experimental flight–views of the rocket-powered supersonic research aircraft X-1 from the 1940s and 1950s to Boeing’s present day flying wing, the X-48.  Some of the videos are mere curiosities, like painting the first Orion crew module and various earthbound Mars Rover tests.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Amnesia.  A terrifying loss of self, or a chance to start anew?  This is the theme explored in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1946 film noir Somewhere in the Night, starring John Hodiak (Lifeboat, Battleground, The Harvey Girls) and Nancy Guild (Give My Regards to Broadway, Black Magic, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man).  Hodiak plays a WWII vet who awakens in a South Pacific hospital with a broken jaw and amnesia.  The only clues to his identity?  Doctors who keep calling him “George Taylor,” and a wallet empty but for a devastating, angry Dear John letter accusing him of destroying someone’s life.  Unable to stand the idea of being that person, yet without any other identity, Taylor returns stateside, where he discovers that an old friend, Larry Cravat, has opened a bank account in his name, ready to support him upon his return to civilian life.

But his efforts to claim the money open up a can of worms and set a gang of thugs, conmen, mobsters, and even an evil fortune-teller on Taylor’s trail played by Fritz Kortner (The Razor’s Edge), all convinced he can lead them to the mysterious–and still missing–Larry Cravat.

Hodiak’s Taylor is likeable, earnest, and sympathetic, as he tries to navigate the increasingly confusing and seedy world of his pal, Larry Cravat.  Mugged, beaten, chased by cops, thrown out of a sanatorium, and nearly run down by a truck (as it turns out, a villain’s weapon of choice), Hodiak can’t help but wonder: What kind of a guy is this Larry Cravat?

Along the way, Taylor hooks up with a few friendly faces–savvy nightclub singer Chris (Nancy Guild) has a soft spot for the guy, even when she finds out he’s on the trail of the man who broke her best friend’s heart and contributed to her death.  A sympathetic police detective, played with delightful aplomb by Lloyd Nolan (The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, Airport, Earthquake) provides some backstory into the criminal dealings Cravat may have been involved in.  Chris introduces the local nightclub owner, played by Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, Ocean’s 11, The Godfather), who is in love with Chris and tries to help Taylor.  Keep an eye out for producer/director/actor Sheldon Leonard (It’s a Wonderful Life) and Henry Morgan (M*A*S*H, Dragnet) in bit parts.

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The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise.  Your kind made a wasteland of it….  Would an ape make a human Monopoly game, with ape street names? … Don’t look for it, Taylor.  You may not like what you find.  –Dr. Zaius (paraphrasing a bit)

In its most recent earnings statement, toymaker and licensor Hasbro reported that its gaming unit revenue for the second quarter was up significantly over last year.  Its franchise brand revenues, driven by growth in games like Monopoly, resulted in a 21 percent revenue increase for the company, to $545.7 million.  What does that mean for fanboys and fangirls?  Not only is Monopoly thriving, the 115-year-old marathon board game about real estate that we’ve all played over the years is here to stay.  Although it was slow to adapt to computing (the bootleg game Monopole was popular before then-owner Parker Brothers jumped in), to keep up with the times Monopoly partnered with municipalities, sports teams, movies, and other brands to keep Monopoly fresh.  What?  You missed the U.S. Navy edition?  The Ford Thunderbird edition?  The Superman Returns and Pokémon editions?  The Heinz, Doctor Who, and Batman and Robin editions?

It’s a madhouse.  A madhouse! … We finally really did it.  You maniacs! –Astronaut George Taylor

For its next franchise tie-in, Hasbro has partnered with 20th Century Fox Consumer Products to release this summer’s strangest mash-up game: Monopoly: Planet of the Apes Retro Art EditionIt’s not just your typical Monopoly tie-in with a popular franchise.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2014 spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, is coming to the theaters in a few weeks.  If you didn’t see the original, it was probably because of its rather uninspired title.  But don’t wait any longer.  Kingsman: The Secret Service is a blast.  And it’s streaming right now.  Kingsman: The Secret Service stars Colin Firth as a secret agent in a new brand of 007 series, as he attempts to recruit the next member of the Kingsman organization, the son of a former agent, played by Taron Egerton.  It’s stylish.  It’s wall-to-wall action.  It’s part dark comedy.  And its over-the-top violence is operatic and epic.  The last time we had this much fun was watching Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live.

For those hoping Firth would ever be tapped as Bond, this is every bit that, only Firth’s master spy has moves like no Bond ever had.  One scene provides so much hand-to-hand combat you’d think you were watching Kill Bill, and the Quentin Tarentino influence doesn’t stop there.  You’d almost think the retired director was the ghost director behind the mayhem in the film’s climactic battle.  It’s just as well, as actual director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) proves again he knows the action genre.

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle is up there with the best.  Her missing lower legs (no, we never learn why) were replaced with steel blades, blades that can kill–and very much do.  Think of Bond girls played by Famke Janssen and Grace Jones, and Boutella fits right in.  Every bit the combat equal to Firth and Egerton’s spies, Gazelle is practically a character missing from Tarentino’s Kill Bill movies. Continue reading

The Klingons have always been the favorite aliens of legions of Star Trek fans.  For every new series of action figures it seems the toy companies always knew to include an extra Klingon variant to meet fan demand.  Whether you’re a fan of Kor, Koloth, and Kang in the original series, Worf, Gowron, Kurn, K’ehleyr, Klag, Lursa and B’Etor in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Martok in Deep Space Nine, B’Elanna Torres in Voyager, Kolos, Orak, and Duras in Enterprise, or Kruge, Kamarag, Korrd, Gorkon, Chang, and Azetbur of the movies, the Klingons have been an integral part of Star Trek.  And this year they return as the antagonists of Star Trek Discovery.  So what better time to get yourself ready for the new Klingons?  You can delve into the homeworld and beyond in the newest of the Hidden Universe Travel Guides–Star Trek: The Klingon Empire.

The second entry in Insight Editions’ new Hidden Universe Travel Guides series will prompt you to book your next vacation early, and brush up on your Klingonese.  Your travel guide to the Final Frontier, Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward scoured Qo’noS and beyond and the battle-filled history of those ridged-foreheaded aliens to target your second galactic trip–this time not to the planet Vulcan, as detailed in last year’s Hidden Universe Travel Guide–Star Trek: Vulcan (reviewed here at borg.com), but to the lands of the honorable Klingon Empire.  And yes, Klingon culture is just as much fun as you think it is so brush up on your Shakespearean Klingon and sharpen your bat’leth and dk’tagh.  Blood wine and gagh awaits you.

This in-universe book channels Ward’s Trek expertise from producing Star Trek novels and the artistry of Livio Ramondelli and Peter Markowski.  The travel guide follows the format of the Vulcan guide, which in turn followed the format of Earth destination books.  You’ll test your own knowledge of the planet, people, and culture, and learn even more along the way.  You’ll walk away knowing how to get around, what are the best sights and activities, where to shop and what’s happening, and what’s current in dining, nightlife, and lodging for select destinations.  Are monuments honoring the notable among the Klingon dead your thing?  How about some Klingon opera?  The pervasive and ever-expanding franchise of Quark’s Bar is here (you’ll want to check out the Klingon spin on a hot chicken wing eating contest).  But if anyone tries to sell you tickets to the local Tribble hunt, watch out (you’ll learn why).

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What would Devil’s Tower be today–40 years after the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind–if director Steven Spielberg hadn’t located his point of first contact with aliens at that singular national monument?  Think about the revenues Spielberg drove into the National Parks over the years–today it gets 400,000 visitors annually.  How many side trips have we all taken off the beaten path between Yellowstone Park and Mt. Rushmore to see it for ourselves?  Would it have the same allure?

Forty years later and Close Encounters of the Third Kind has been given a full 4K restoration, and it’s coming to theaters for one week this summer followed by a home release.  Fresh off the success of Jaws, it was a return: Spielberg, John Williams, Richard Dreyfuss, production designer Joe Alves and more–and nobody knew what Spielberg was bringing to audiences as the big follow-up after his first summer blockbuster.  A science fiction film nominated for eight Academy Awards?  It would take home the award for sound effects editing (Frank A. Warner) and cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).  Plus we saw memorable performances from Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Mr. Mom), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story) nominated for her role, French director François Truffaut in one of his few acting performances, and Bob Balaban (Lady in the Water, Best in Show).

This new theatrical version has been restored from the original negatives–it’s the director’s cut, for those familiar with the various releases over the years.  If you missed it in the theaters (or weren’t born yet!), don’t miss this epic masterpiece on the big screen.  And for eagle-eyed genre fans, watch for brief encounters in the film with Carl Weathers (Rocky, Predator) and Lance Henriksen (Alien). 

Check out this smartly edited new trailer for a sci-fi classic:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Both Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) tried it, but didn’t complete it in time.  Professional comic book writers and artists and especially the combination writer/artist most likely have all heard of the 24-hour comic challenge, but not everyone has given it a try.  Twenty-seven years ago comic book writer/artist Scott McCloud came up with the idea to improve his skills and speed in creating a 24-page comic book complete with story and art, which normally can take about 30 days.  The result was not so much a contest but a personal achievement challenge like running a marathon or climbing a mountain.  A new documentary titled 24 Hour Comic, directed by Milan Erceg, screened for attendees Saturday at the Marriott Grand Ballroom at San Diego Convention Center as part of San Diego Comic-Con.

Eight participants.  24 hours.  Gravitas Ventures’ 24 Hour Comic follows an event hosted at my old local comic book shop, Things from Another World, in Portland, Oregon.  24 Hour Comic is both a celebration of the Portland comic book creator scene and a close-up look at eight individuals of differing levels as they each try to meet the challenge.  Not everyone makes it to the end.  Four-time Harvey Award and Eisner Award winner Scott McCloud appears in the film, describing the origin, process, and history of the 24-hour challenge, which is hosted by comic book shops, schools, and art studios around the world, often following a designated annual 24-Hour Comic Day.  Eisner and Harvey Award winner McCloud wrote the useful guide to sequential art Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and several other comic book art texts.  He also compiled several attempts at the 24-hour comic in his book 24 Hour Comics, where he showcases the efforts of Neil Gaiman, Steve Bissette, Alexander Grecian, and others.

The rules can be found here, and are detailed in McCloud’s book.  The biggest surprise having read about the contest and several 24-hour comics over the years was that I assumed the artists used standard comic book pages, those full-sized 11×17-inch art boards.  In the film each artist uses what appears to be paper half that size, splitting each sheet into two full pages, which would seem to take less time to fill.  Erceg introduces us to his eight subjects, each in different phases of skill, from a 13-year-old girl to a 16-time participant, a web creator, a design professional, independent creators, and an ex-creator returning to give the process another try.  The final works for those who completed the challenge?  We don’t get to read the entirety of the final books from any creator in the film, but the excerpts given are surprisingly polished. Far from the frantic scribbles you might expect from anyone missing a night’s sleep to work round the clock, the comics appear professionally done, clever, and humorous, reflecting each artist’s creativity and talent.  The film is dotted with interviews by several well-known faces, including Dark Horse Comics president Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics editor-in-chief Scott Allie, cartoonist Batton Lash, and graphic novelists and digital creators Arnold and Jacob Pander.

The hour-long documentary provides a fair look at a cross section of a profession where the median income for a full-time comic book artist is about $38,896, according to the film.  Although the challenge is not a competition per se, a few participants throw about some contrived and good natured trash talk to keep the film light-hearted.  One participant had some interesting insights into the comic book profession, a bit of a creators’ quagmire: “You work on a project you don’t care about, but make good money, but you work on a project you do care about, and don’t make any money on it”–something reflected in many fields, no doubt.  This is not a time-compressed look at the 24-hour period of this challenge, but provides interviews with subjects about their status at intervals throughout the day, night, and following morning.  So to fill some of the time Erceg follows two subjects on a quick trip to Stumptown Comic Con, other subjects are interviewed at local studios or homes, and another is followed on a side trip to Seattle to discuss a commission project.  The majority shared how difficult it is to succeed in the comic book industry, and one tried and left the industry after initial success because it couldn’t pay medical bills.

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The first instinct of diehard fans of any classic book, song, TV show, film, or anything else, is to flinch at the notion of a remake or reboot of a beloved original.  For years we here at borg.com have included The Watcher in the Woods as a favorite recommendation of a ghost story.  It’s a Disney film unlike any other Disney film–the rare instance of a movie being stronger than its source material (the novel by Florence Engel Randall), a Gothic ghost story (or is it?) that may be the creepiest and scariest story the studio released, certainly the spookiest of the 1980s.  So a remake that is being released this year for the Lifetime channel being previewed at San Diego Comic-Con this year is going to hit our radar.

As a kid, the film bridged being surprising enough to get you to jump out of your seat without being an adult horror movie. As an adult, I have recommended The Watcher in the Woods to friends for children’s Halloween parties, and it’s proven still to be a hit for kids into their pre-teens.  Melissa Joan Hart, known best for her Sabrina, the Teenage Witch series, is directing the remake, and as with the original, she enlisted one of the best to ground the film, Anjelica Huston, who takes on the role made famous by Bette Davis.

The result?  Hart has at a minimum completely nailed the trailer.  In an interview below she discusses concepts kept and concepts updated.  But when you get to the trailer, any concerns for the remake pretty much vanish, like the key image of the trapped, blindfolded girl in the film.  And the creepy woods as a singular character.  In the original, “Bond girl” actress Lynn-Holly Johnson (For Your Eyes Only, Ice Castles) and Kyle Richards played the sisters with Richards at the height of her child-actor career between Halloween and Little House on the Prairie.  In Hart’s new movie, these roles are played by young actors Tallulah Evans and Dixie Egerickx.

Even if you don’t agree Hart gets this one exactly right, you’re going to watch it because it’s on cable, and why not?  Check out this nicely spooky trailer from Comic-Con:

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Not to be outdone by the dozens of movie and television trailers released in San Diego at this weekend’s annual Comic-Con, BBC’s Doctor Who panel Sunday previewed “Twice Upon a Time,” the annual Doctor Who Christmas special–what will likely be Peter Capaldi’s last full episode of the series, plus a few surprises.  It was major international news last week that Jodie Whitaker will be taking over the reins from Capaldi to become the 13th Doctor at the end of this year’s Christmas special.  That is, unless her first episode is part of the next season premiere, expected to air either in the March-April 2018 timeframe or August-September 2018 depending on production schedules.  A new trailer has no mention of the Doctor’s regeneration into the 13th Doctor, but does show another Doctor will be appearing in the Christmas special, so plan to see at least two, and maybe three, Doctors on Christmas Day.

The panel was held at Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center on the last day of Comic-Con yesterday.  Doctor Who show runner Steven Moffat appeared with Capaldi, Mark Gatiss, 2017 season regulars Matt Lucas and Michelle Gomez, and 2017 season companion actress Pearl Mackie.  This may be the last Comic-Con appearance for Doctor Who for all of these creators as a new team takes over for 2018.

Best known as Filch in the Harry Potter movies, David Bradley will return for his third stint playing the First Doctor, originally played in 1963 by actor William Hartnell.  A ringer for Hartnell, Bradley previously played Hartnell and the First Doctor in An Adventure in Space and Time, a BBC drama about the First Doctor, and again in this season’s finale.  Also, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat’s long-time production and writing partner in projects including the BBC’s Sherlock (and Mycroft on the series) will play a World War I captain in the special.

But that’s not all.  Doctor Who fans will be surprised to see Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts one more time on the series, as she has an appearance in the Christmas special.  By all counts fans didn’t expect to see Bill return after this season’s finale.  It doesn’t look like Mackie will be back in 2018, so get ready for much speculation over the next year on the choice for the next Doctor Who companion.

Check out the Comic-Con preview of “Twice Upon a Time,” the Doctor Who Christmas special: Continue reading

So many continuing genre TV shows!  CW’s iZombie, Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Riverdale.  Then we have all the fantasy genre shows like Vikings, Outlander, and Game of Thrones.  There’s The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and The 100.  HBO’s sci-fi series Westworld.  And new superhero shows–Black Lightning, The Defenders, and Gifted.

What do they all have in common?

All 16 were featured in panels this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con.  And each has a new trailer or special Comic-Con video recap leading into the next season.  The winner?  Check out yesterday’s exciting trailer for Stranger Things, season 2, (shown here at borg.com) which seems to eclipse them all.  But from today’s list make sure you watch Netflix’s The Defenders–if you liked any of the other Netflix Marvel series, this will be a must-see.  And the four minutes of iZombie is a great recap of fun TV.

So let’s get on with it.  Watch your favorites or check out all of them, straight from Comic-Con 2017:

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