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Archive for October, 2017


Anyone still have their original Ben Cooper masks and costumes from the 1970s and 1980s?

That’s The Six Million Dollar Man, Dracula, and the original Darth Vader mask.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What shines through in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Tim Waggoner‘s novelization of this summer’s successful sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service is how lead spy Eggsy is so different from James Bond.  Even Ian Fleming’s later Bond novels don’t include the fast-paced, extended action sequences found in modern spy stories like this latest foray into the genre.  Both spies are dressed to the nines, they have a tech whiz supporting their efforts, and a smarter, wiser mentor guiding them.  But that’s where they veer apart.  Taking a graphic novel based world, then translating it to film, and back to prose requires certain elements be retained and others fleshed out.  Waggoner’s latest novel strikes the right balance–it is loyal to the source material, an interesting deep-dive into each of the story’s characters, and a fun read.  It’s also a good opportunity to compare the world of the Kingsman to other spy novels.

Eggsy, as seen on the screen, requires the viewer to get into his head to try to understand his motivations if he is to be something other than a plugged-in action hero.  His quick reactions are part of what defines the character and the Kingsmen–these are not simply the best agents but agents that are confident and cocky and their moves fully back up the confidence.  In the novel we see that Eggsy is as nice a guy as he is a brilliantly tuned, results-driven machine.  When he must get into bed with a target to plant a tracking device, he first hides in the bathroom to call his girlfriend.  Is he unwilling to commit to her because he is a James Bond womanizer?  No, he just hasn’t thought that far, in part because he’s a dumb street kid thrust into the spy world.

As we read earlier this year in Donald E. Westlake’s superb Forever and a Death, modern spy stories–like every new Bond movie–require more intrigue, more double crosses, more politics, and maybe something new.  Kingsman: The Golden Circle provides all of this.  The “new” is found in different places–in your face and over-the-top violence that draws from the Coen brothers and Tarentino, a lead who is more street urchin than London elite, a villain that out-crazies every Bond villain you can think of, and the real twist–a crime that seems to draw more from the zombie genre than the spy genre.

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It’s only two weeks away.  November 10-12, 2017, thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero fans will converge on Kansas City as Kansas City Comic Con returns to Bartle Hall.  The show again has booked an onslaught of comic book and fiction writers and artists as well as some great movie and TV guests.  Kansas City Comic Con annually boasts one of the largest assemblages of nationally known as well as local writers and artists, with hundreds of creators to be featured.

The star attraction of this year’s show is a reunion of actors from director Richard Donner’s Superman as an early celebration of next year’s 40th anniversary of nearly everyone’s all-time favorite superhero movie and Superman–the late Christopher Reeve.  Film co-star Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) returns to Kansas City, plus several supporting cast members including Sarah Douglas (Ursa), Jack O’Halloran (Non), Aaron Smolinski (Baby Clark Kent), Jeff East (Young Clark Kent), Diane Case (Young Lana Lang), and via SKYPE, a live video appearance by actress Valerie Perrine (Miss Teschmacher).

Fans of classic television can meet one of the original actresses who played the Catwoman in the 1960s Batman series, Lee Meriwether, plus Robin himself, Burt Ward.  Star Trek Discovery star Doug Jones, also known for hundreds of roles in films like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, will be making his first appearance in Kansas City.  Disney fans can meet Eva Bella, the actress who voiced the young Elsa, and Livvy Stubenrauch, the actress who voiced the young Anna, in the animated film Frozen.  Stuntman and actor Hamid Thompson (Jurassic World, Spider-man: Homecoming) will be on hand, as well as two Lucasfilm Star Wars animated series voice actors: Tom Kane (Yoda) and David Ankrum (Wedge), plus two of the Power Rangers performers: Karan Ashley (Yellow Power Ranger) and Walter E. Jones (Black Power Ranger).  And convention staples Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes are also returning to Kansas City for the show.

Original actors from the Batman TV series, Burt Ward’s Robin and Lee Meriwether’s Catwoman.

Nationally known comic book creators featured at KCCC include legendary writer/artist Mike Grell as well as Star Wars writer and Eisner winner Jason Aaron, artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks, writer Jai Nitz, artist Johnny Desjardins, artist David Finch, artist Mark Sparacio, artist Art Thibert, writer Frank Tieri, writer James Tynion IV, and comics legend Bob Hall.  But that’s only scratching the surface–check out the full list of national and local creators here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Timed for release as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, fans of Close Encounters finally get one of the most eagerly awaited, behind the scenes looks at the quintessential UFO film as Harper Design releases its hardcover chronicle this week, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History.  And it’s everything fans of the film could hope for.

Known for his work as a publicist on more than fifty films, author Michael Klastorin worked with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment to unearth rare and never-before-seen imagery from their archives.  The book is a stunning collection of on-set photography, concept art, storyboards, and recollections of the cast and crew to create a visual narrative of the film’s journey to the big screen and through the entire production process.  First created as a story idea by Spielberg in his twenties, Close Encounters is still considered by Spielberg as one of his most personal projects.  Spielberg recounts his efforts to sell the film, his attempts to get a known screenwriter to write it only for him to finally decide to write it himself, and his original story synopsis, which remained hardly altered.  Spielberg initially wanted to reflect Watergate in his film to reflect the current zeitgeist, something of a government trying to cover up the aliens like Project Blue Book, but by the time the film was far along in pre-production it was determined audiences were tired of conspiracies as the sole defining theme.  Spielberg’s discussion of his early vision seems very similar to what Chris Carter would develop more than a decade later in his television series The X-Files.

Except those who are no longer with us, all of the players you’d expect provide contributions in the book.  Actor Bob Balaban provides some of the most interesting stories from the set, including his casting process for the film and development of his working relationship with internationally known director and film co-star Francois Truffaut.  Richard Dreyfuss’s recollections focus on his campaigning Spielberg to be cast for the role, the difficulty in the Nearys’ location shoot for the family home, and his realization from his very first discussions about the project with Spielberg that Close Encounters would stand up as a noble film pursuit.  Melinda Dillon’s role changed throughout the shoot, cutting one scene for financial reasons and adding the scene where she has the revelation that Devil’s Tower is the image in her dreams.  She also filmed much of the movie with a broken toe, followed by another leg injury caused on-set jumping from a helicopter.

The most fascinating behind-the-scenes effects discussion comes from Doug Trumbull.  His UFO storm development effect work was extraordinary.  You’ll find location photographs, visual effects explanations and process development discussions, photos of the Mother Ship model and other set models, concept art from Ralph McQuarrie, and many views of the film’s extra-terrestrials.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The 800-page, two-volume hardcover book set Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, published last year by Abrams (still in print and available here at Amazon), has been celebrated by fans as one of the best looks behind the scenes of Star Wars ever created.  The exhaustive, comprehensive collection of the concept art Ralph McQuarrie created for the original Star Wars trilogy will enlighten even the biggest fans of the franchise.  You may have known how closely McQuarrie worked with George Lucas to bring Lucas’s story to life visually, but only after stepping scene by scene through these images do you realize that when you close your eyes and think Star Wars, what you’re seeing was drawn or painted by Ralph McQuarrie.

Compiled by Brandon Alinger, Wade Lageose, and David Mandel, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie takes readers chronologically through the films, and tie-in specials, documenting not only the familiar final visual McQuarrie created, but copies of retained interim designs that McQuarrie painted over.  So if your only familiarity is The Illustrated Star Wars Universe or the original portfolio reprints many of us had as kids, then this monumental volume is for you.  But this book set may not be in most readers’ budgets, listing at $250 and even on sale it can be priced at greater than $150.  Star Wars and Ralph McQuarrie fans now have a second opportunity to obtain a more affordable look at McQuarrie’s artwork.

Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie: 100 Postcards is Abrams’ latest bookshelf keepsake in the style of the successful Star Wars: Frames: 100 Postcards series reviewed previously here at borg.com back in 2015.  Selected from Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, these panoramic postcards are a celebration of Star Wars as a masterpiece of design and world-building.  The deluxe full-color package also functions as a display frame: the box features a die-cut window, so fans can rotate their favorite production design paintings into view.

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We first previewed Bright last winter here at borg.com.  It’s a police procedural.  It’s high fantasy.  It’s even an urban fantasy.  And it’s a supernatural action movie.  In Bright, the December release starring Will Smith, we get to see a mash-up of the science fiction classic Alien Nation and the short-lived Karl Urban series Almost Human.  This time the lead cop, played by Will Smith, is not partners with an alien but an Orc.  That’s an Orc of Middle Earth fame played by Joel Edgerton, the co-star of last year’s brilliant film Midnight Special (and you may know him as young Uncle Owen from the Star Wars prequels).  It has the look of John Carpenter’s They Live and Attack on Precinct 13.

So get ready for fantasy–not science fiction, other than the parallel Earth–a Los Angeles where Humans, Orcs, Fairies, and Elves have lived and co-existed throughout our history.  It’s good ol’ classic fantasy, so there’s an epic quest for a talisman–a wand–a powerful and illegal wand, and the two LAPD cops are searching for it as they protect a female Elf.  And Will Smith gets to wield a sword.

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Bright is directed by David Ayer (director of Suicide Squad, Fury, Street Kings, and writer for Training Day, The Fast and the Furious) and written by Max Landis (Victor Frankenstein, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), with co-stars Noomi Rapace (Alien: Covenant, Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Edgar Ramirez (The Girl on the Train, Domino), Dawn Olivieri (Heroes), and Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad).  

Here’s the latest trailer for Bright: 

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Author Sue Lowell Gallion and artist Joyce Wan first introduced kids to friends Pug & Pig in the 2016 picture book Pug Meets Pig.  Pug was a happy pup whose life was perfect until newcomer Pig moved in, but it wouldn’t be long before they realized they’d be inseparable friends.  In their next adventure, Pug & Pig decide to take on a Halloween adventure together, but it doesn’t quite go as planned.

In Pug & Pig: Trick-or-Treat, Pug and Pig get new Halloween costumes.  They’re about to venture out as skeletons and Pig couldn’t be happier.  But the costume is not right for Pug and he rips his costume apart and decides not to go along with Pig.  Can Pig help Pug figure out a solution?  Or will Pug be able to make sure both he and Pig still have fun on Halloween night?

Pug & Pig: Trick-or-Treat is a perfect story for little ones, sharing what it means to be friends, with adorable images of the unlikely pals, sure to get anyone into the holiday spirit.

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With Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki transported Japanese anime into the mainstream consciousness in the United States.  A dramatic fantasy story with gravitas and an incredible journey, Spirited Away would win the Oscar for Best Animated Film–Miyazaki’s only Oscar (except his lifetime honorary Oscar).  A modern fable in the classic tradition, 16 years ago audiences first met Chihiro Ogino, a brave ten-year-old girl not happy with her parents moving her into a new neighborhood.  But when she wanders off, she finds herself trapped in a world of spirits, beasts, and uniquely imaginative surprises.  Wondrous, curious, and even grotesque, something of everything is tucked into Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is not just any other movie.  Like Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, it transcends the typical use of animated cinema, providing the kind of experience that will leave audiences discussing it long afterward.  Critics across the globe lined up in agreement–not only was it the highest grossing film in Japan’s history, the critical acclaim seems to know no end.  In 2016 it was listed as the fourth best film of the 21st century as picked by 177 international film critics.  Earlier this year the New York Times called it the second best film of the century so far.

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The film is back in theaters for a limited three-day release beginning this weekend as part of the Fathom Events series, in partnership with Studio Ghibli and GKids.  Spirited Away follows the brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

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Don’t those pumpkins look like they have seen better days?  This weekend Netflix released the final poster (above) for the second season of Stranger Things, on its way to Netflix this Friday.  Last year’s blend of 1980s sci-fi and horror returns one year later, and as the poster suggests, a focus of season two will be young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who was absent for most of the first season, sucked away into the “Upside Down.”  And Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown) looks… angry.

Netflix also added two new features on the Web to help fans of the show get ready for the season premiere.

A retro-style free Stranger Things video game is available now for download.  You can find it on both Google Play here and via iTunes here.  Here’s the description from game creator BonusXP:  It’s 1984 all over again. Stranger Things: The Game is an action adventure game true to the games our heroes would have played back in the day.  Explore Hawkins and its surroundings. See your favorite locations like Mirkwood Forest and Hawkins Lab.  Uncover exciting areas you’ve never seen before!  Solve puzzles with the unique abilities of each character.  Lucas can nail anything with his Wrist Rocket.  Nancy has a whole set of bats to swing this time.  Collect all the Eggos and Gnomes you can lay your hands on.  You never know what they might unlock.

You can look forward to some new, driving beats, along with some haunting sounds from the Stranger Things season 2 soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.  As with last year’s soundtrack, the duo provides funky techno arrangements in the style of John Carpenter.

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BBC and BBC America just released a photo of new stars of the next Doctor Who series featuring the previously announced 13th Doctor, to be played by Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block, Broadchurch).  Peter Capaldi’s last outing as the 12th Doctor will be during this year’s annual Doctor Who Christmas Special.  This weekend new showrunner Chris Chibnall provided actor and character names and discussed his excitement taking on the role as caretaker of the UK’s oldest genre franchise along with three new cast members.  The next season will offer ten episodes, but won’t be broadcast until late next year.

Television actor Bradley Walsh (Law & Order: UK) will join Whitaker’s Doctor as a character named Graham, along with Tosin Cole (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Ryan, and Mandip Gill (Hollyoaks) as Yasmin.  According to the BBC these are the “three new companions,” and Sharon D. Clarke (Waking the Dead) will also appear as an unnamed character.

“The new Doctor is going to need new friends,” said Chibnall. “We’re thrilled to welcome Mandip, Tosin, and Bradley to the Doctor Who family.  They’re three of Britain’s brightest talents and we can’t wait to see them dive into brand new adventures with Jodie’s Doctor.  Alongside them, we’re delighted that Sharon D. Clarke is also joining the show.”

Prolific stage actress Sharon D. Clarke will appear on the new Doctor Who series.

Bradley Walsh added his recollections of watching the original series. “I remember watching William Hartnell as the first Doctor.  Black and white made it very scary for a youngster like myself.   I was petrified, but even though I’d watch most of it from behind the sofa through my fingers, I became a fan.  I then queued up for ages to get into the Carlton picture house in Watford to watch the great Peter Cushing appear as the Doctor in a full-length feature film made in glorious color (Doctor Who and the Daleks, 1965).  Am I thrilled to be part of this whole ground breaking new dawn for the Doctor??  Oh yes!”

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