Archive for August, 2020


Review by C.J. Bunce

The most comprehensive retrospective analysis of a film you’ve probably ever read has arrived.  For the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, film historian Marc Cushman saved his best for last, These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s Volume III (1978-1980), the sixth in his volume of comprehensive histories of the people and productions before, during, and after the original 1960s Star Trek TV series, forming a complete biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (who was born 99 years ago this week).  The creative vision and determination of Roddenberry came to its zenith in the period leading up to and during the filming of 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a series was resurrected and turned into a major franchise.  Cushman reviewed archives, records, contemporary articles, and interviewed key players for this book, to flesh out once and for all Roddenberry’s successes and failures with the film’s script and his pressure on the studio to maintain creative control, successfully spurring what would become 40 more years (and counting) of Kirk, Spock, and friends.

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It’s one of the only films this year to keep its original theatrical premiere month, and it’s still planning on coming to a theater near you.  And it’s one of the most eagerly awaited sequels of the year after director and star Kenneth Branagh delivered such an impressive adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in 2017.  A new all-star cast has assembled behind Branagh, returning as master detective Hercule Poirot, in Death on the NileDespite her many convoluted plots, Christie knew how to name a story.  Get ready for some more good sleuthing–The first trailer for the film is here.

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Coming later this summer from Titan Books is a new look at the concept artwork and special effects in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this past December.  It’s all in Star Trek: The Motion Picture–The Art and Visual Effects, by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki.  You can pre-order the book now here at Amazon, and we have a preview below for borg readers courtesy of the publisher.  Keep coming back for a review coming soon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For me the challenge and threshold for success for HBO’s series His Dark Materials was huge.  The first adaptation of Philip Pullman’s wildly successful series of novels was the 2007 big-screen film The Golden Compass, which rated #1 on my all-time favorite fantasy movie list here at borg back in 2012.  Late last year HBO took on its own adaptation, and the first season arrived, but fell in the shadow of more popular, and more marketed series last year like The Mandalorian.  So on the one hand we have a big-budget movie with an all-star cast–so how does the TV series fare by comparison?  At last His Dark Materials just arrived on Blu-Ray and DVD and the studio sent us a copy for review (you can order it here at Amazon), so check out my review below, along with a preview of Season 2.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the 100th centenary of the celebrated writer Ray Bradbury, his short stories were read, indexed, and partitioned to shake loose those tales that fall entirely (or even slightly) inside the crime story genre for a new collection, Killer, Come Back to Me: The Crime Stories of Ray Bradbury, being released for the first time tomorrow by Hard Case Crime in a deluxe hardcover edition.  Not your typical crime noir writer (and who would want that anyway?), Bradbury didn’t hesitate to mix in science fiction and fantasy elements in his attempts to arrive at something in the vein of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain’s writings.  His works verged on the edge of the stuff of The Twilight Zone, with the darkest entries even creepier yet.  Some of the selected stories were adapted into episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Bradbury’s own series, The Ray Bradbury Theater.

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You know her as the red-haired she-devil with the sword.  And they are the green-skinned invaders from the Topps trading cards.   And Mars.  Those vile little nasties of Mars Attacks are returning to Earth, but this time they have no chance against one of the fiercest heroines in the planet’s history, Red Sonja.  Or do they?  Sci-fi meets fantasy as Robert E. Howard’s savage barbarian queen pulls out all the stops to protect her world against the superior technology of science fiction’s most loathsome helmeted ghouls in Mars Attacks Red Sonja, coming this month from Dynamite.  Get ready to pull out your wallet for a stack of variant covers.

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One hundred comic book artists have come together over the past year to create the next great joint art project, this time featuring the Dark Knight Detective and Bruce Wayne alter ego, Batman.  Previous subjects have included Adventure Time, Wonder Woman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy, The Uncanny X-Men, and Captain America.  This year a new group of some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring the Caped Crusader (how many nicknames does he have anyway?) penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a DC Comics Batman #75 blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to–and in effect pays forward–comic book creators that have come before.  It’s called the The Batman 100 Project.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If I updated my favorite characters list, I’m not sure yet whether two of the stars of the television series Longmire would make my top five, but I am sure they’d give my top 10 a run for their money.  Those two stars would be Robert Taylor′s cool, dry, and wise Sheriff Walt Longmire and his best friend, Lou Diamond Phillips′ loyal, clever, and heroic Cheyenne bar owner Henry Standing Bear.  I don’t know how I overlooked Longmire in its run between 2012 and 2017, but I’m grateful, because watching it an episode per day during sheltering at home helped get me through those 150 days.  This is great drama, exciting, often humorous, and as good a modern Western as you could hope for.  It’s airing right now on Netflix.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

TV historian and Star Trek expert Marc Cushman is back to continue his second trilogy of books about the development, production, and struggles behind the first two decades of Star Trek.  In These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 2 (1975-77), at last we get to delve into the biggest Star Trek project never delivered: The 1970s Star Trek: Phase II series that would be parted out and become Star Trek: The Motion Picture and later Star Trek: The Next Generation.  And that’s not all–ideas and early scripts for Phase II continue to be tapped in the 21st century Star Trek series and films.  Even better, Cushman digs into the ever-developing Star Trek novels, conventions, and more, which became the practice grounds for the wider, broad world of pop culture fandom as a whole.  How did Star Trek finally movie forward from the original series to become what it is today?  How did the fans play a major role in making that happen?   Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

After what I viewed as the best superhero series pilot yet here at borg back in May, Stargirl never let up, never let us down, and with this week’s season finale rises to become the very best superhero series yet.  We can slice and dice and compare series like The Flash and Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but did any of them adapt the comic book mythos to the screen as written and drawn by years of comic book writers and artists?  Or did they all twist the stories to cut away at what made the stories enduring in the first place?  Even Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina–two fantastic comic book adaptations–were nudged aside by thirteen perfect episodes of comic books in TV form.  Not since the heart in the original series The Flash, The Incredible Hulk, and the animated series Superfriends has a series full of superhero characters gotten so much so right.  And one scene in the season finale was so good, so surprising, it may have you stand up and cheer.

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