Archive for August, 2017


Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers is an ageless heroine.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one series you can revisit, find something new, and marvel at the dialogue of Joss Whedon’s greatest character, greatest writing, and greatest production, over and over.  And yet somehow Buffy, the series, turned 20 this year.  Twentieth Century Fox is rewarding fans of the series by releasing a new boxed set of all seven seasons of the series next month.  The 39-disc DVD set contains all 144 episodes of one of the smartest, funniest, and action-filled series, featuring arguably the greatest heroine of all.  Unfortunately, no Blu-ray release appears to be in the works yet.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series 20th Anniversary Edition DVD Boxed Set will include some extra features, which might entice fans who have purchased previous editions of the series.  It includes a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book from Dark Horse Comics featuring an exclusive variant cover and “coloring sheet.”  Seasons 1-7 also include special features material from prior releases.

But Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not the only series from Joss Whedon celebrating an anniversary this year and getting a new boxed set.  Firefly turned 15 this year, and Twentieth Century Fox is issuing a Blu-ray anniversary edition for Browncoats everywhere.  This boxed set will also be released next month and it features some new inserts, including a Firefly poster and collectible character cards.

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Today’s the big day.  The solar eclipse happens in a few hours.  That orange glow on the horizon?  That’s a 360-degree sunset.  In the States the eclipse can be viewed beginning in Lincoln Beach, Oregon, at 9:05 a.m. Pacific time, and end in Charleston, South Carolina, at 4:09 p.m. Eastern time.  For those in the path of the total solar eclipse, it will last no more than two minutes and 40 seconds.  Parts of 14 states will get the best views: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  The U.S. will have to wait another seven years for the next total solar eclipse to fall within its borders, on April 8, 2024, but that eclipse vantage point will only stretch from Texas through the Northeast.  The last total solar eclipse viewed from the contiguous United States?  February 26, 1979.  After today’s event, the next annular solar eclipse that can be seen in the continental United States will be on October 14, 2023, which will be visible from Northern California to Florida.  Between 2 and 7 million people are expected to travel to visit the path of totality from border to border today, so expect unusual volumes of traffic.  An estimated 12.2 million Americans already live within the path.

Because of the trajectory of path of totality of this solar eclipse over so many heavily populated cities, this will likely be the most viewed eclipse in the planet’s history.  Before, during, and after the event, eleven spacecraft will be filming the eclipse from different vantage points, plus three NASA aircraft, 50 high-altitude balloons, and the crew of the International Space Station will have unique vantage points (particularly useful for those where uncooperative weather prevents optimal viewing from the ground).  How often will a total eclipse be seen from a specific point on the Earth’s surface?  According to space.com, only once in every 375 years.  A rare event, indeed.  When will the eclipse be overhead for you?  Enter your zip code here to find out.

If you’re asking “what eclipse?” then you will not likely have time to acquire the required protective glasses in time for the event, although several locations still had glasses available this weekend.  Check your local grocery stores and libraries and they may be able to help, but start early Monday.  Every eye professional, scientist, and medical professional has advised of the serious risk of partial or total blindness Monday if you look at the Sun without the specific recommended eyewear, both before and after the totality of the eclipse–those seconds that the Moon is directly between the Earth and the Sun from your location when the Sun is completely blocked.  Review this material at planetary.org for detailed information.  Scan this checklist into your phone or print it out for a last-minute reminder–the time will fly by so don’t wait until it’s too late to get the information you need:

You can also learn some fast knowledge from NASA at these links, and you should check it out now especially if your kid’s school cancelled and you don’t want him/her blinded by the time you get home:

Alternate NASA live streams:
Facebook Live — https://www.facebook.com/NASA/videos/10155497958441772/
Twitter/Periscope — https://www.pscp.tv/nasa
Twitch TV — https://twitch.tv/nasa
Ustream — http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv
YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwMDvPCGeE0

Eclipse images raw feed (no commentary):
NASA TV Eclipse images channel
NASA TV on UStream

More information follows:

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Philanthropist Paul Allen is known by many as the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers, but he’s also known by space technology and science enthusiasts and science fiction fans.  In addition to co-founding Microsoft and earning billions allowing him to fund myriad projects, he owns the suborbital commercial spacecraft SpaceShipOne, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, which houses several screen-used props and costumes from the history of sci-fi TV and film, among many other educational, charitable, and influential enterprises.  Recently Allen used his wealth to begin to earn his sea legs as the next Dr. Robert Ballard, the ocean explorer who discovered the shipwrecks of the R.M.S Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989, the USS Yorktown in 1998, and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 in 2002.  In 2015 expeditions Allen and his team discovered among the ocean’s depths the bell to the British vessel HMS Hood and the remnants of the Japanese battleship Musashi, and earlier this year he located the wreckage of the Italian destroyer Artigliere.  Yesterday Allen and a small expedition crew on the research vessel Petrel discovered what was thought unfindable: the remains of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35).  Allen’s discovery off the coast of the Philippines, 18,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, now puts him in league with Ballard, and more importantly, will hopefully bring closure to the 22 remaining survivors of one of the most famous ships in modern history to meet a dire end at sea.

At 12:20 pm local time Saturday, August 19, 2017, Allen released the following tweet:

The “35” in the photograph above is the ship’s registry number painted on the hull (and throughout the vessel) clearly identifying the ship as the Indianapolis.  “To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement.  “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances.  While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”

Ship’s bell of the USS Indianapolis as photographed by the crew of the research vessel Petrel Saturday.

In the final days of World War II, the USS Indianapolis had completed delivery of components of the atomic bomb to the island Tinian.  Dubbed “Little Boy,” the bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima, precipitating the end of the war.  The mission was secret, and so on July 30, 1945, when Japanese submarine I-58 struck the ship’s starboard side with two Type 95 torpedoes–one in the bow and one amidships–the Indianapolis sank within 12 minutes, but tragically was not listed as overdue.  By the time a rescue party arrived, more than four days had passed and the approximately 800 survivors of the 1,196 crew ship dwindled to only 316, resulting from dehydration and shark attack.  A fantastic National Geographic compilation of interviews from 2015 provides first-hand accounts from surviving sailors of the Indianapolis’s end 72 years ago. But you already know this story.  Thanks to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, the Indianapolis has been etched in modern memory since the film’s debut in 1975.  Without the fictional character of Robert Shaw’s seaman Quint, the Indianapolis might be but a forgotten footnote to history along with so many equally valiant ships lost in wartime.  The Indianapolis is now a revered part of the American consciousness along with the USS Arizona, and it’s doubtful anyone would have pursued this project but for the importance and tragedy of this ship’s crew communicated to us by a film, and amplified by that film’s continuing legacy.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

She wanted the story of a lifetime.  He just wanted to fix things.

The pop sci-fi movie appeals to moviegoers who don’t typically dabble in science fiction, and it is frequently cast with the day’s biggest Hollywood stars.  A subgenre that includes Gravity and Interstellar, the pop sci-fi movie tends not to further science fiction as a whole for the avid science fiction fan.   It usually means thin story, heavy special effects, and sappy melodrama.  Some of that might apply to this year’s theatrical release, Passengers, now streaming in digital format, Blu-ray and DVD.

But wait–unlike the typical pop sci-fi flick, this one works just fine, thanks to a straightforward story and the believability and authenticity of a small main cast: Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, an engineer whose stasis pod malfunctions causing him to awaken early on a 90-year deep space transport ship; Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane, a passenger who is a journalist giving up her life for a big story; Michael Sheen as Arthur, a robot bartender who offers sage advice along the way; and Laurence Fishburne as Gus Mancuso, a deck chief on the ship.

Passengers was unfairly panned by critics and moviegoers, but the reasons make little sense.  It all boils down to two elements for the typical non-genre filmgoer.  First, Passengers did not simply give away its plot, or even the true nature of its genre, via movie trailer spoilers, surprising moviegoers looking for a pleasant date movie, and second, for being unconventional.  Yet probably more than any other movie this year it prompts plenty of water cooler conversation:  What would you do if you were put in Jim’s or Aurora’s position?  Jim is a hero (so is Aurora), but he is a pretty flawed hero.  Isn’t that the stuff of a good drama?  Passengers in many ways is the modern-day Stagecoach or Lifeboat–a closed room mystery, but without the whodunnit.  And Lawrence and Pratt have chemistry.

What would you do?

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Yes, the celebration of the movies of 1982 just keeps getting better.  As Blade Runner turns 35, Warner Bros. has partnered with Alamo Drafthouse theaters to present a new 4K restoration of Blade Runner: The Final Cut.  You thought you saw the final version of Ridley Scott’s original vision with the 2007 version?  Well you did, primarily.  Blade Runner: The Final Cut was in theaters only briefly then it was issued in several home variations.  The Final Cut featured restored and re-mastered original elements, plus added and extended scenes, added dialogue, along with new and improved special effects.  The version returning to theaters for the Alamo Drafthouse event updates the 2007 film version with 4K resolution, promising a more immersive theatrical experience than seen before.

All told, Blade Runner is one of the most modified and re-released films around.  The Final Cut was the eighth edition of the loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and this new edition is basically the same as 2007 with a sound and picture upgrade.  Does that make it the ninth version?  That depends on who you ask.  The biggest difference between the original and the earlier director’s cut was the elimination of Harrison Ford’s narration, Philip Marlowe style.  If you’re a fan of classic noir like we are, you really missed the narration in the later editions from the original theatrical release–that narration gave a nice retro feel in contrast to such a darkly futuristic film.  Legal entanglements, cuts for TV and DVD, and more, and a resolution or two later and here we are with this new upgrade.

Leading up to the October 6 release of the long-awaited–unlikely–sequel, Blade Runner 2049, Warner Bros. is releasing a 35th anniversary edition home release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, coming September 5, including director commentary.  You can pre-order the Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital here at Amazon now.

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With all the celebration activities earlier this year for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind hasn’t received all the love it deserves as it also celebrates the big 4-0.  But Star Wars and Close Encounters were each iconic, appealing to different facets of similar fandoms, with Star Wars as the space fantasy and Close Encounters as brilliant science fiction (and then Spielberg would make E.T.!).   Later this year fans of Close Encounters finally will get an eagerly-awaited, behind the scenes look at the quintessential UFO film as Harper Design releases its hardcover chronicle, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History.

Known for his work as a publicist on more than fifty films, author Michael Klastorin explores the production and legacy of the fan-favorite flick, coinciding with the anniversary of the movie and a return to the theaters in a restored 4K version coming your way the first week of September.  Klastorin worked with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment to unearth rare and never-before-seen imagery from their archives.  The book promises a stunning collection of on-set photography, concept art, storyboards, and more to create a visual narrative of the film’s journey to the big screen.  It will also feature commentary from every key player involved in the film, from Spielberg to the film’s stars and the key department heads, including model maker Greg Jein and composer John Williams, who brought Spielberg’s vision to life.

Look for special inserts and interactive elements including script pages, call lists, and concept sketches.  Check out the below 11-page spread, providing a great preview of what will be included in the book’s nearly 200 pages:

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Captain Jellico and an over-the-top Wesley Crusher join the crew of the Enterprise-D and get to play in the world of daggers, sashes, and deception with today’s release of the third issue of IDW Publishing’s limited comic book series Star Trek: The Next Generation–Mirror Broken.  Plus, for the second consecutive month of a series usually only issued sporadically, Archie Comics’ Archie Horror imprint is releasing the eighth issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  We have previews of both issues below for borg.com readers, courtesy of their publishers.

The creative brother team of David Tipton and Scott Tipton continue the Mirror Universe adventures of the Star Trek: The Next Generation era with another round of beautiful pages by J.K. Woodward in Mirror Broken’s next installment.  Look for the standard cover by Woodward and great variant covers by Tony Shasteen and George Caltsoudas.  This time Woodward has created a look for Wesley Crusher that will appeal to both lovers and haters of the classic sci-fi series’ obligatory child character.  Get prepared to see who wins and who loses in the ultimate strategy battle between Picard and Jellico.  And Trek fans should always check every corner of each panel for hidden throwback gems from the TV series.

   

In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, comic book writer and show runner of the CW’s Riverdale,  and artist Robert Hack continue to take Sabrina down a darker path than the character has ever experienced.  Sabrina has returned Harvey from the dead, but at what price, and will anyone be able to stop what has been unleashed before it’s too late?  The creative team continues to flesh out the personality of Riverdale’s timeless teenage witch, blending a young heroine’s tale with equal parts Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed.  Plus Hack’s classic pulp horror comic imagery gets better with each new issue.

Check out these previews for Star Trek: The Next Generation–Mirror Broken, Issue #3, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Issue #8: Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

At the beginning of Daniel Craig’s first foray as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig redefined Bond as viewers were taken back to his first kill, the event that earned Bond his 00 status.  The scene instantly set the standard for the modern fight-or-die scene.  This is the exact level of hand-to-hand combat viewers will be treated to in the new summer release, Atomic Blonde.  Charlize Theron terrifically portrays what everyone always wanted to see: a woman in the role of James Bond.  Sure, she has a different name, but Theron is believable just the same as a spy being interrogated by heads of MI6 at the end of a mission.  As she tells her story, in every way she convinces us that she could go head-to-head with, and maybe even knock out Craig’s tough and bloody version of the Brit master spy.  Only don’t think this is a typical Bond movie.  It isn’t.  It’s layered, more like The Usual Suspects or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, only better–less cerebral and more fun.  And Theron chalks up another badass cinematic heroine, resulting in a film that is easily worth the admission price.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City from Oni Press, Atomic Blonde follows the original, focusing on several nations’ spies trying to recover a secret list of agents being smuggled out of East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a no-nonsense top-level spy, with attitude and style, battered and bruised from some recent epic encounter when we meet her at the beginning of the movie.  She’s being interrogated and debriefed by both British and American agency heads, with John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Big Lebowski, Monsters, Inc.) as the American and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Doctor Who) as the Brit.  What unfolds is a smartly constructed Cold War thriller, more complicated than Ian Fleming but not as complicated as John le Carré, but enough so that it may lose viewers a few times along the way.  Ultimately Broughton finds herself trying to smuggle out of the country a German officer who memorized the secret spy list, played by Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, The World’s End).  The rewards and payoffs come not only at the resolution but in several scenes along the way, as Theron punches, kicks, hammers, fires, splatters, mows down, stabs, punctures… everything but bites her way through dozens of bad guys trying to kill her.  The violence is extreme, but it all works–it’s great fun much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Chuck Norris’s blockbuster rampages in the 1980s–and it’s not gratuitous like a Quentin Tarantino bloodbath (blown-off heads aside).

The Atomic Blonde of the title comes from Broughton’s short, 1980s style hair, and that length allows us to see that much of the time Theron is actually doing her own punching, and taking plenty of punches, from all these men.  She’s quicker, and she prepares herself for many of her punches and bruises by soaking in a tub of water filled with ice cubes–a concept that helps her more than once throughout the film.  The story and action really kicks in as Broughton begins to smuggle Marsan’s character out of the country and as the steps are laid out in a subplot involving her mission to assassinate Satchel, a double agent known for selling secrets to the Soviets.  It’s exciting like the real-life story told in Ben Affleck’s hit film Argo, where a spy smuggled a group of would-be hostages out of Iran in 1980.  Atomic Blonde has less subtlety and nuance than Argo, but Atomic Blonde similarly displays an early, retro style of storytelling compelling enough to keep viewers interested.  Does it feel like a comic book adaptation?  Sure.  Like History of Violence and Road to Perdition.  In fact Broughton could be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass all grown up.

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That week is here–All the lead-in built up by Marvel’s host of television series created for Netflix finally comes together this weekend.  Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist become The Defenders.  Netflix has released a final trailer leading up to the series premiere.

We’ve learned in the past few years that combining your A-league superheroes doesn’t guarantee a successful cinematic experience.  How much better than the theatrical Avengers and Justice Leaguers was the B-league team that comprised the Guardians of the Galaxy?  How about the strange success in Deadpool of partnering Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Deadpool?

So far we’ve loved most of what we’ve seen Marvel put together for Netflix.  Luke Cage earned several of our “Best of Television” categories last year here at borg.com.  The core of its new team-up of all the Netflix Marvel superhero stories is a classic Marvel comic book team-up:  Power Man and Iron Fist.  It’s amazing that this team-up has the potential to gain some real traction 40 years later.  And you can’t get much more nostalgic for 1970s comic books than the late, great Steve Gerber run on The Defenders.  So put together Luke “Power Man” Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and add in Elodie Yung as Elektra, and give us a villain played by sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver, and a supporting cast including the incomparable Scott Glenn, and a triple threat of actresses known for their badass roles: Rosario Dawson, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Simone Missick?  What’s not to like?  We asked it earlier with the first previews for the series: Can The Defenders be the best team-up on-screen yet?

Check out this final trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Virginian, Ironside, Amy Prentiss, Kolchak: The Nightstalker, and CHiPs.  For modern TV watchers and students of film and production, these series from the 1960s to 1980s won’t come to mind as the most memorable TV series to use to teach a TV production course.  But they are enough for Cy Chermak–TV executive producer, producer, story editor, and writer of those series and more–to incorporate into a step-by-step narrative providing an insider’s view of show process and studio politics in his new book The Show Runner: An Insider’s Guide to Successful TV Production. 

Nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, Chermak successfully–and sometimes not so successfully–negotiated the tiers of studio department hierarchy to create a lucrative career for himself.  In this autobiographical account he provides dozens of golden nuggets that any prospective TV writer will find insightful in understanding how an episode of television is created, from idea to final edit.  In addition to Chermak’s anecdotal lessons, he simplifies the duties and relationships of the production department from a show runner’s standpoint–a biased view, but a unique and interesting look from the top.  He uses an episode of his short-lived series Amy Prentiss–a 1974 series with Jessica Walter (Archer, PCU, Ghost in the Machine, Play Misty for Me) as the first woman chief of police in San Francisco–to take the reader on a walk-through as assistant to mentor Chermak as executive producer.

Along the way Chermak introduces us to the difficulties of ego and personality that seem to go with the territory of both studios execs and actors.  His examples include his personal interactions with Raymond Burr and Darren McGavin, who Chermak presents as particularly difficult to work with.  Chermak remains completely personable along the way, as if he’s putting his arm around the reader’s shoulder and giving the full studio tour, complete with interesting name dropping.  Chermak is quick to point out his own shortcomings and missed opportunities, like letting go by a young, yet-to-be-discovered Steven Spielberg making his way onto the studio lot as if he worked there to bump elbows with anyone who might screen his student film, Amblin.  Chermak’s first screenplay for the big screen was a movie called 4D Man, literally the first 4D movie (in addition to the 3D visuals it included physical effects, a concept taking off again at select theater chains today), featuring well-known actors Robert Lansing (Star Trek, Simon & Simon, The Equalizer), Lee Meriwether (Batman, Star Trek, Barnaby Jones), and Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker, The Streets of San Francisco).  

One of many rounds of re-write discussions for the short-lived series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

For kids of 1970s and 1980s television, look for Chermak’s discussion of the problem of dual lead actors, as he recollects a battle of ego between CHiPs stars Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, which ultimately spelled doom for Wilcox and Chermak, and cancellation of the entire series a year later.  “A year later” becomes a theme for Chermak.  He notes several instances of a series folding a year after he was removed as show runner of the series.

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