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Archive for August, 2017


Tonight is that Black Friday prequel known to Star Wars toy fans as early Christmas.  Only last year it was labeled Force Friday, so this time around it’s called Force Friday II.  Force Friday II is that off-hour store raid where you have the chance to be the first on your block to say that you own the umpteenth variant of a Boba Fett action figure (seriously, another classic Boba Fett is hitting toy stores tonight, and no, that doesn’t mean he is going to be in the new movie).  The first Force Friday was September 4, 2015, with new toys for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but for whatever reason we didn’t have a Force Friday last year for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Those toys were first widely released September 30, 2016.  The same kind of thing happened earlier, including way back with the prequels, and to a less coordinated extent with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Only back then you had to know someone who knew someone who was in the local distribution chain who would sell you (under the table) the only three Yodas (with the orange, not the brown snake) that shipped to your town for what was then a steep upcharge of $3.50 apiece (flash forward a year later when Target had an entire wall of the exact same action figure on clearance for fifty cents apiece).  These days retailers are required to stick to schedules or they risk losing future opportunities.

If you thought George Lucas had the tie-in marketing game perfected, you haven’t met Disney.

Force Friday II weekend” kicks off tonight at midnight local time.  Disney marketing refers to it as the launch of new products “inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”  It’s the variety of stores that makes this year’s early toy store raid so unusual.  Bed, Bath and Beyond, Staples, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Hot Topic, Brookstone, are involved.  For Star Wars?  Yes, and Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Wal-Mart, and other stores like you’d expect.  Disney actually issued a pdf file listing all the stores having events early Friday morning.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi tie-ins are serious business.  And they will be everywhere.  Campbells’ soup labels?  Yes, even grocery stores are heavily involved in marketing the December 2017 film release.

So maybe your best bet is to gather up the gang in the car and go for a drive around town and just look for store lights.  If it’s midnight and they are turned on, the store is probably selling some kind of Star Wars exclusive, and store-by-store you can try to amass a small portion of the giant haul that will be what stores are carrying in plentiful supply by Christmas.  Or just go to StarWars.com for an extensive list of what is available, and where.  Note:  All stores in all locations may not be open tonight.

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JAWS–It’s the reigning king of summer blockbusters–the movie that even prompted the term blockbuster throughout most of the U.S.A. in 1975 because of its crazy long theater lines.  It’s still a favorite of those lucky enough to see it in the theater that summer (drive-in, in my case), and absolutely re-watchable like no other film.  Steven Spielberg directing the toughest shoot of his career, special effects that had to be ditched, a stunning score by John Williams, Richard Dreyfuss at his dramatic funniest, Robert Shaw at his finest.  And coolest.  Robert Shaw.  The Oscar-nominated actor from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Force 10 from Navarone, and From Russia With Love, turned 86 this month.  To celebrate, Narragansett, the brand of beer that Shaw drinks on-screen and the can that he crushes in that famous Jaws scene, re-released its famous 1975 commemorative beer can this summer.  Don’t remember the scene?  Check it out below.

Narragansett timed its release with Shaw’s birthday August 9 and Shark Week.  Unforeseeable to the beer company, Quint was brought back into the limelight later in the month with the discovery by Paul Allen and his research team of the actual USS Indianapolis shipwreck some 18,000 feet below sea level on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.  Shaw and Spielberg have been praised by survivors for the realism provided in the movie.  It’s a dose of reality in what was otherwise a summer action movie.  Yet we surmise the story of the tragedy might not have received the prominence in history it deserved, and maybe Paul Allen might not have learned of the ship to seek it out, without the pervasiveness of the film today, and the lore it perpetuates.  Fortunately 22 of the original sailors that survived that fated voyage are still with us.

Narragansett is the beer Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss created ads for.  Unlike Morley cigarettes (which we discussed back in 2011 at borg.com here), Hank Hill’s Alamo Beer, Thomas Magnum’s Old Dusseldorf longnecks, Al Bundy’s Girlie Girl Beer, Homer Simpson’s Duff Beer, Laverne & Shirley’s Shotz Beer, or Drew Carey’s Buzz Beer, Quint was downing and crushing a can of real Narragansett.  Still brewed today, it’s the preferred beer of many in the Northeast and Eastern U.S, where it is distributed.  The iconic movie scene solidified the brand’s reputation as the beer of choice for everyday New Englanders and continues to captivate viewers to this day.  The company offers many great fan products, so make sure you check out its website store for items like its throwback can Christmas ornament, a great two-sided throwback T-shirt, and “Crush it like Quint” full-sized poster.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Once every 176 years a window opens whereby humans can send spacecraft in a trajectory that would include Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  Scientists knew of this pathway for centuries and the time for this window was approaching as 1970 arrived.  To act, with achievements in rocketry, aeronautical science, and experience in space travel, decisions needed to made quickly.  When President Richard Nixon was told this–and that the last President who could have done this, Thomas Jefferson, missed his opportunity–Nixon authorized the creation of two spacecraft to make the journey at a cost of about $1 billion.  The result is considered by many scientists to be the greatest space mission ever devised by humans.  The information recorded on the grooves of the accompanying golden records will survive intact for at least a billion years, making ours the first generation to create something that will not only outlive us, but will outlive our star.

One of the highlights of the year from NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and PBS that we previewed in January here at borg.com has arrived.  An excellent, and surprisingly poignant and even epic journey of exploration as exciting as any voyage you’ve ever read about or seen awaits you in PBS’s new documentary The Farthest–Voyager in Space.  You will be hard-pressed (and must be made of some substance not found on this planet) to watch this film and not find yourself joining the Voyager project members in shedding a tear or two as you follow along in the amazement and surprising emotion of the Voyager missions, their euphoric highs and nearly devastating lows.  Should it surprise us that scientists and retired scientists saw their mission as so personal and yet so global in scope, to get so emotional when discussing the Voyager probes 40 years since they left the Earth?  Individual experts in all aspects of science, from NASA engineers to imaging specialists, describe their creation in terms like they would a child sent off into the unknown, never to return, but that would keep sending postcards and messages home for decades to come.

The film’s journey chronicles benchmarks of the Voyager spacecrafts as the individual scientists who were there from conception of the idea in 1972 to the 1977 launch of the first ship, Voyager II–which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year–to its arrival at Jupiter and Saturn, to Voyager I’s arrival at Uranus and Neptune, to its emergence beyond the magnetic bubble that defines our solar system and entering interstellar space and beyond.   The probes were the first manmade objects to do many things, among them the first to observe volcanic activity outside of Earth, to discover moons which may contain life, and to leave our solar system.  The Voyager space records that humans have been so fascinated with since 1974 are explored in the film, too, as well as the afterparty attended by Chuck Berry, whose “Johnny B. Goode” continues its voyage into the unknown every day.  Standing in for Carl Sagan–who directed the creation of the two physical Voyager records (plus a few extras to keep for Earthlings) and their contents in less than six weeks–is his son Nick Sagan, whose greeting to possible alien life as a young boy was included on the records.

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We’re back today with the second part of my interview with Nicholas Meyer, director, screenwriter, and storyteller, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and its return to theaters next month as part of the Fathom Events series.  Meyer directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he was a screenwriter on both movies as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  He chatted with me about his films and more this past week.  If you missed part one of the interview, check it out here.

CB:  You’ve written words spoken on-screen by Lawrence Olivier (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek VI), and Christopher Plummer (Star Trek VI).  Are there any other great actors you maybe fantasize, or would like to write, dialogue for?

NM:  I’ve also worked with Jason Robards and John Lithgow (both in The Day After).  I’ve worked with some really wonderful actors.  Fantasizing about working with actors is interesting.  When I listened to the Chandos recording of the music from Henry V–the Olivier film with Christopher Plummer reciting or acting out the various Shakespeare vocal parts–I thought, “Wow, I’d really love to work with this man.”  And I wrote the part of Chang in Star Trek VI specifically for him.  That’s the first time I’ve ever written for an actor other than the Star Trek cast.  I said to my casting director Mary Jo Slater, “Whatever you do, don’t come back without him.  Because there’s no movie unless it’s him.”  It would take me longer than this conversation to rustle around in my brain other actors I’d love to work with–Benedict Cumberbatch–sure, of course.

Nicholas Meyer directing the production crew, with Christopher Plummer as General Chang, on the Klingon courtroom set of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

CB:  Your Time After Time co-star Malcolm McDowell joined Star Trek in the seventh movie in the series, Star Trek Generations, after you were no longer with the franchise, and it always seemed to me to be an obvious choice to get him into the Star Trek universe.  Did he ever contact you about taking on a Star Trek role?

NM:  No… we never discussed it.  David Warner, who actually has been in two Star Trek movies (as Chancellor Gorkon in The Undiscovered Country and St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Fronter), was the great post-war Hamlet with the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), and I think Malcolm at one point was a spear carrier in that company at the time when David was this huge star.  In Time After Time they used to kid each other about those times.  Something about carrying a pack of cigarettes under your costume.

CB:  You have said you see yourself first as a writer and have been writing and telling stories since you were five years old.  Are you as excited today to sit down and craft a story as you were in 1982?

NM:  I think when I get going the answer is yes, and if it’s going well the answer is yes, and the hours can go by and I look up and it’s a week later.  But as I’ve gotten older, the process of actually starting, of facing what used to be a blank page, which is now a blank screen, having done it again and again and again…  Most of the stuff I’ve written has never been produced.  Most of the stuff I’ve written for books I’m happy to say has been published, but I haven’t written that many books.  But most of my screenplays–including probably my best screenplays–have never been done.  So as you get older and you embark on this again and again and again there is a kind of a weariness of picking up the yoke and putting it on your shoulders.  That said, getting paid for telling stories beats work any day.

On the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Engineering set, that’s Catherine E. Coulson (later Twin Peaks’ Log Lady) with the camera, director Nicholas Meyer (in Starfleet captain’s jacket) and James Doohan as Scotty, filming the emotional finale.

CB:  In your memoir The View From the Bridge, you mentioned some of your best ideas or solutions when writing come while doing laundry, while in the tub, or even building a model boat.  What was your biggest revelation and strangest place you found it?

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Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan–a member of that fabled Class of 1982’s “best summer of movies”–turned 35 this year, and to celebrate, the film is returning to theaters as part of the Fathom Events series.  It has been said the film’s director and screenplay writer Nicholas Meyer saved Star Trek.  Meyer was well-known as the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and its screenplay, which earned him an Oscar nomination, and for directing and writing the screenplay for the fan-favorite, time travel thriller, Time After Time.  After the lukewarm response at the box office to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, executive producer Harve Bennett tapped Meyer to take the franchise in a bold, new direction, and the result, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, became the best reviewed film of the franchise and a classic among all science fiction.  Many details about Meyer’s work have been recounted in Allan Asherman’s The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Meyer’s own memoir, The View from the Bridge.  Meyer has also shared a trove of his thoughts and work on the film in director commentaries accompanying the film’s various home releases.  He’s not quite finished with Star Trek yet–he’s back again as a writer and producer on the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, premiering next month.

I was ecstatic to interview Nicholas Meyer this past week and listen to him reminisce as director and screenwriter of The Wrath of Khan for the approaching anniversary theatrical release, and ask him questions I’ve had for years about his long writing career.  Meyer sees himself first as a storyteller.  In addition to The Wrath of Khan, he wrote the screenplay for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and he directed and wrote the screenplay for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I think you’ll discover—or rediscover—that in Meyer’s selections of leading stage and screen actors like Christopher Plummer, Meyer provided gravitas to the Star Trek universe, and by infusing classical literature into the voices of characters from the likes of Shakespeare, Doyle, and Melville, he elevated Star Trek’s story beyond mere popular science fiction.  Everything that would come after The Wrath of Khan in the Star Trek franchise exists as a direct result of Meyer’s success on that film.

Director Nicholas Meyer observing final detail work as Ricardo Montalban’s headwrap is applied, filming the first appearance of Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

CB:  Welcome to borg.com.  Thanks for chatting with me and borg.com readers today and congratulations on the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

NM:  Thank you so much.  It’s a real pleasant surprise—As Kirk said to Scotty, “That’ll be a pleasant surprise.”

CB:  Let’s talk about Ricardo Montalban as Khan.  I have always loved this line: “I’ll chase him ‘round the Moons of Nibia and ‘round the Antares Maelstrom and ‘round Perdition’s flames.”  When you write something like that, do you know that you’ve got it, and when you see Montalban saying it and it appears on the screen, do you get any satisfaction of seeing that all come together?

NM:  Absolutely!  I have to say, first of all, I didn’t write it.  Herman Melville wrote it.  I substituted a few planets or something.  This is all Ahab.  I just cribbed it.  I remember with some satisfaction what I took to be at the time my cleverness (which turns out to be the curse of Kirk: “I patted myself on the back for my cleverness”).  It wasn’t until I saw Ricardo actually do it that I got goosebumps, and thought, “Holy cow.  This is wonderful!”  And I said to him actually at some point during the movie, “You really should be playing Lear.”  He sort of looks like Lear–with a big set of pecs.  Because he has been on stage, he was on Broadway, he did legit plays.  He was very touched, I think, that I had told him this, and he made some disparaging remark about his Hispanic accent.  I said, “That’s all bullshit.  You enunciate perfectly.  You could do this.”  I think Khan was as close as he ever got to doing it.

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He wasn’t a machine, but he was Borg just the same.  Like many European athletes at the time, Bjorn Borg was reserved when in the public eye, a man of few words who chose to express himself instead on the tennis court.  Quite the opposite was John McEnroe, seemingly always outspoken, and his hallmark became a courtside tantrum when frustrated, often yelling at the referees and smashing more than a few rackets.  Both players were the best of the best.

A new movie coming this Fall focuses on the infamous rivalry between John “You Cannot Be Serious” McEnroe played by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, The X-Files, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and Bjorn “Iceman” Borg, played by Sverrir Gudnason (Gentlemen & Gangsters, Blowfly Park), as the two players headed toward their showdown at Wimbledon in 1980.  Alternately titled Borg/McEnroe and Borg vs. McEnroe, the film’s publicity boasts a battle of wills and personalities greater than Mayweather vs. McGregor.  Directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, whose credits include directing an episode of True Detective, the film also stars David Bamber (The King’s Speech, A&E’s Pride and Prejudice, Valkyrie, Doctor Who), Tuva Novotny (A War, Slim Susie), and Stellan Skarsgard (The Hunt for Red October, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Avengers).

Both lead actors look the part, and the cinematography by Niels Thastum (When Animals Dream, The Girl and the Dogs) shown in the first two trailers evokes the realism of Ben Affleck’s Oscar winner, Argo.  If you don’t remember Wimbledon of 1980, don’t look up the summary, just wait for the film.  Suffice it to say, millions watched the finals via television, and it was, indeed, a great event, and when all is said and done, these two were truly equals.  A review of their compared stats is simply stunning in similarity.

Check out these previews for the film:

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With all the modern blockbusters celebrating anniversaries, we often forget about the classic genre films.  Modern science fiction owes the most to a handful of early 20th century films, namely, the early adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, George Méliès’s 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, and Fritz Lang’s 1927 dystopian vision, Metropolis, which turned 90 this year.  To celebrate its 90th anniversary, this weekend Eureka Entertainment is releasing its definitive version of Metropolis for audiences in the UK and Ireland in a Special Edition Boxed Set, containing the 150-minute reconstructed and restored version of the film.  Drawing on–and defining–dystopian sci-fi themes, Metropolis depicts a dark future where society is divided between an underground, browbeaten working class, and the ruling class, which enjoys a decadent life of luxury and leisure.

When Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) ventures into the depths in search of a woman named Maria (Brigitte Helm), plans of rebellion are revealed and a Maria-replica robot is programmed by mad scientist named Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) and the Master of Metropolis Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) to incite the workers into a self-destructive riot.  With its futuristic cityscape (that cinema would one day translate into the world of Blade Runner and other films) and an attractive female robot (that would inspire the entire lineage of cinema’s robots, borgs, androids, and more), Metropolis is considered among the most famous of all German films.

In addition to the Special Edition Boxed Set, Eureka, which owns the UK and Ireland rights to the film (it’s in the public domain in the U.S.)., is also bringing the 2010 reconstructed and restored Metropolis to the big screen later this year.  Don’t miss the excellent trailer they made for the film below.

Metropolis will be screening at the following venues throughout the remainder of 2017, with more expected to be announced:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The appeal for fans of this summer’s big-budget science fiction adventure Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has been the greatest for its spectacular visuals.  The film was a labor of love for director Luc Besson, whose science fiction classic The Fifth Element stands alone in the sci-fi genre for its elaborate designs and completely new look at the future.  Besson fell in love with the French comic book source material by Jean-Claude Mézières that featured space pilots Valerian and Laureline.  Besson says he counts Laureline as his first love, “She was totally free and badass, and a very modern heroine.”  For years Besson did not think an adaptation could be done, until he watched James Cameron’s Avatar, and that film was the impetus for him to begin to look at the idea anew.  The result became Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

A film that pushes the possibilities of a future that is not so bleak and dystopian–as so many science fiction films paint the future–deserves a proper account to detail its creation.  That book is Mark Salisbury’s The Art of the Film: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a full-color, wall-to-wall visual, hardcover chronology of the concept art and photographs of the film’s characters, planets, spaceships, and costumes.  Well-known for his behind the scenes looks at Crimson Peak, Prometheus, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Elysium, and Alice in Wonderland, and his landmark series on creating comic books from the viewpoint of the industry’s best, including Artists on Comic Art and Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Salisbury provides more here than an edited accumulation of imagery.  He tells both the development of the film scene-by-scene from beginning to end, and interweaves the framework for the story on the screen.

Salisbury’s primary source in the book is Besson himself, who cites the creations he used in the film when he adhered to Mézières’s original vision from the source material, and when–and why–he didn’t.  It’s a testament to his adaptation that Mézières approved of his many creations and adaptations, including Valerian and Laureline’s famous ship, the Intruder. 

No expense was spared by Besson in creating Valerian with complete artistic freedom.  His development of a creative team was unprecedented.  Instead of taking the traditional route in developing the team–such as hiring thirty designers working very fast–as used for traditional films, his requirements for his effects-laden film were far greater than normal, requiring more outsourcing to multiple teams, including Industrial Light and Magic.  But instead of hiring a core team of thirty key creators for three months, he hired five creators for a year.  “We sent a message to more than 1,000 design schools saying, ‘We are going to make a design film and if you want to participate, submit an alien, a spaceship, and a world,'” he said.  He received 3,000 entries.  The lucky five chosen were Patrice Garcia, who had worked with Besson on The Fifth Element and Arthur and the Invisibles, Ben Mauro (Elysium, The Hobbit), book designer Marc Simonetti, illustrator Alain Brion, and artist Feng Shu.  Veteran storyboard/concept artist Sylvain Despretz (Alien Resurrection) joined the team, and it is their artwork and ideas that readers primarily will find throughout the book–and in the film.

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After unprecedented commercial success with Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg did the unthinkable, directing a fourth blockbuster that would outperform them all, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  And it happened over that magical Summer of 1982.  On its way to proving that 2017 may be the biggest year of returning classic films to the theater, Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are partnering again as part of their TCM Big Screen Classics Series to bring E.T. back to the big screen.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial saw the big screen breakout roles of Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, and C. Thomas Howell.  Nominated for nine Academy Awards, it would take home four awards, for John Williams’ vibrant score, for sound, visual effects, and sound effects editing.  The film is the only movie from the 1980s that is among the top 50 all-time box office record-holders, currently holding its place at#15.

Phone Home.  Be good.  I’ll be right here.

The 35th anniversary screenings of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial will be the first nationwide re-release of the film in 15 years.  The original theatrical version will be presented at four screenings, which will include a special commentary by TCM Primetime Host Ben Mankiewicz.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment also celebrates the film’s anniversary with a special gift set, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 35th Anniversary Limited Edition on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray™+ Digital, available on September 12.

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Back in February 2015 we reviewed here at borg.com director, composer, and writer John Carpenter’s first solo album, John Carpenter’s Lost Themes.  His new music evoked the feel of his earlier compositions for more than a dozen of his films–a programmatic treat for the ears that had us imagining what characters and scenes were appearing on some magical, invisible screen.  A year later we previewed Carpenter’s second solo album here, Lost Themes II, featuring even more chase themes, pulsating rampages, ethereal motifs, dark places, sustained tension, and electronic vibrations of time and space.

Carpenter is back again, this time revisiting the themes he created, and others he is newly covering, all from his many popular films.  Look for thirteen familiar Carpenter films represented on his new album, Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998.  As with his prior solo albums, his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies worked on the new recordings with the director.

Look for the album in CD, digital, and vinyl.  Carpenter plans to offer variant editions in seven-inch vinyl format, with movie-influenced colors like “The Fog Over Antonio Bay,” and “Christine Red.”  Here is a preview of the album, the first track from “In the Mouth of Madness”:

These are the tracks: Continue reading

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