Category: Retro Fix


Review by C.J. Bunce

Like most things about baseball, The Battered Bastards of Baseball reflects as much about an era of American culture, economics, and politics as it tells a wonderfully engrossing story about a brief history of the sport.   Independent baseball–privately-owned teams unaffiliated with the Major League Baseball conglomerate–was a thing of the past when Portland, Oregon’s minor league baseball team the Portland Beavers left town.  It was the early 1970s and Portlanders weren’t spending their time or money on minor league games.  Then enters the well-known TV actor Bing Russell, stepping off his last of 14 seasons on Bonanza where he played a deputy sheriff.  Russell appeared in everything back then, from Westerns from Wagon Train to Rawhide, and modern fare like The Munsters, The Rockford Files, and The Twilight Zone.  There begins an underdog story, a mix of The Bad News Bears, Necessary Roughness, and Moneyball.

If you’re lucky enough to trip into the Netflix documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball, you’ll wonder where this story is headed.  It’s a brief history of 1970s Portland and national baseball, and then actor/movie star Kurt Russell and his mother Louise Russell begin discussing his father in a typical documentary format.  It turns out father Bing had a life-long affinity for the game, even being part of a significant piece of baseball history as mascot for the New York Yankees, befriending Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, and Lou Gehrig, who gave Bing the bat he used in his last game before retiring.  That love for the game apparently never left Bing, who concocted an idea to bring baseball right back to Portland by taking the entrepreneurial route–forming a pure upstart baseball team to play minor league ball.  Resurrecting the independent team model he would hold an open tryout for the new Portland Mavericks–if you build it they will come.  And they did.  Players rejected from the big leagues, some retired, many with paunches, and pre-movie star Kurt on the team, too, some players older than most teams would favor, and a bunch of hairy-faced guys decades before it became the “in” thing–all would come together to form a motley band of brothers that would earn a crack at the pennant.  With a 30-man roster, and Bing’s personal brand of fun, fans packed the stadium again, the team setting a record for the highest attendance in minor league history, blazing the trail in other ways, naming the first woman general manager in baseball, Lanny Moss.  But like all good things it seems, a villain would enter the picture to wreck it all.

The real deal: Kurt Russell playing in the Minor Leagues with the Portland Mavericks.

With that nostalgic, cheery vibe of Ivan Reitman’s 1970s movie Meatballs or a dialed-back Slap Shot, Bing’s grandsons Chapman Way and Maclain Way splice together both baseball, Hollywood, and Portland nostalgia to assemble a completely engaging, crowd-pleasing story of underdogs and misfits and the pied piper who led them.  If you remember that every baseball stadium in 1970s America–and every grade school–had kids chomping on Big League Chew–you’ll learn that connection to the Mavericks, too.

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Escape from New York book Walsh

Review by C.J. Bunce

Forty years after the release of the sci-fi classic Escape from New York, we finally have a thorough, modern account of the making of the movie.  In celebration of the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s one-of-a-kind story of Kurt Russell’s future criminal Snake Plissken and his attempt to rescue the President from a downed plane over a locked-down New York City, Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film pulls from the studio archives a trove of behind the scenes photographs to showcase the creation of the movie.  First previewed here at borg back in June, this must-have hardcover book for John Carpenter fans is at last available now here at Amazon.  

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Jupiters-Legacy-Ben-Daniels-Netflix

Review by C.J. Bunce

Jupiter’s Legacy leads comic book creator Mark Millar’s “Millarworld” projects for Netflix.  The eight-episode first season of the series introduces TV audiences to the latest new superhero world that–unfortunately–primarily serves to remind us why the DC and Marvel characters stand out as timeless after 80 years–and how those kinds of beloved characters don’t come by easily.  The first season of Jupiter’s Legacy is streaming now on Netflix.  Among other things, the series pushes aside the supervillain (who we only get to see a copy of) to focus on what’s right and what’s wrong among the superior ability set, and the result is that it’s spectacular only in its ability to lack action and intrigue.

Let’s talk about what’s good first.

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Underexposed cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Stanley Kubrick’s The Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles.  Peter Jackson’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.  George Miller’s Justice League.  Robert Rodriguez’s Barbarella.  Shane Black’s The Monster Squad.  Two John Carpenter movies you’ve never seen.  If you’re wondering what the best movie was in any given year, you have plenty of options.  You can look for the movie that had the biggest take at the box office.  You can look to critic reviews.  You can scroll through the Internet Movie Database.  You can review awards lists or Alternate Oscars.  Or you can just watch the movies and choose for yourself.  Underexposed! The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, a new book arriving this month from Abrams, could have been called False Starts–it’s a book about movies that almost made it to the big screen.

Underexposed 6A

Peppered with movie poster mock-ups from art group PosterSpy, filmmaker and film enthusiast Joshua Hull tracked down interesting histories of some of the best and most quirky movies that almost got made, but were either abandoned, had legal rights issues, lack of funding, lack of interest, or simply were not made to save audiences from a bad idea.  They aren’t from obscure creators, either.  The list includes projects from Alfred Hitchcock to Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg–and some are ideas that sound like they could have been pretty great.  What were they thinking?  Find out in this book.  

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Next to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, there is probably no other actor in the action genre who has had more action figures with his likeness.  Snake Plissken himself, Kurt Russell.  Once upon a time movies like Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China came and went with no toys or collectibles, mainly thanks to a clash between R ratings and the unwillingness of toy companies to release toys for such films.  But even those classics now provide fans of Kurt Russell with a desktop warrior of many of his films to guide their day.  Today we’re running down a brief history of Kurt Russell in action figures and collectible toys.

The first image we had of Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, were images of collectible figures for his character Ego.  You can get his Marvel Legends version of the figure here:

If Dorbz are your thing you can also find him in that format here, and as a Funko Pop! figure here.  There is also a MiniMates version, but no Hot Toys or Sideshow versions of Ego available–yet.

   

Although we’ve found no Bone Tomahawk or Tombstone figures for Russell, his Western The Hateful Eight resulted in a 1:6 scale figure of Russell’s John Ruth, available here, an eight-inch version here, and a Funko Pop! here.

   

But how about the Kurt Russell classic characters?

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Escape from New York book Walsh

Forty years after the release of the sci-fi classic Escape from New York, fans will at last get a look at the making of the movie.  In celebration of the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s one-of-a-kind story of Kurt Russell’s future criminal Snake Plissken and his attempt to rescue the President from a downed plane over a locked-down New York City, Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film pulls from the studio archives a trove of behind the scenes photographs to showcase the creation of the movie.  You can pre-order the book now here at Amazon, and check out a preview of the book below.

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Quentin Tarantino‘s next film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, has so many reasons to give it your attention, where do we begin?  As heavily advertised, the “retired director” is back as writer and director on his ninth film, and every one of his films gains critical and popular acclaim–from Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight, they’re all notable for Tarantino’s unique brash and violent style.  Emphasize that style element because he tends to hit the right mark when searching out throwback vibes for his fans, whether via Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson in the 1970s in Jackie Brown or reaching back through time with 1950s nostalgia with John Travolta and Uma Thurman in a retro diner in Pulp Fiction.  So where will Tarantino turn for a film set in 1969?  Something violent in an era of unique style.  So the “Manson family” murders, of course.

The biggest risk for Tarantino (beyond being seen as exploiting a murder still in the national consciousness 50 years later) is casting some major actors, and some not-so-major actors, as actors from the past.  The easier question to answer may be “Who isn’t in this movie?”  In the leading role is Leonardo DiCaprio as a fictional character based on Burt Reynolds.  Brad Pitt co-stars as a character based on Reynolds’ long-time stuntman, Hal Needham.  Margot Robbie plays actress and Manson family victim Sharon Tate, who was married to Roman Polanski and pregnant at the time of her murder.  Dakota Fanning plays Squeaky Fromme, Bruce Dern plays the rancher that allowed the Mansons to reside on his land where they are believed to have planned the murders, and Lena Dunham plays another Manson family member.  Al Pacino plays a Hollywood agent, and from the Tarantino acting troupe, look for bit appearances by regulars Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen.  As a sad footnote, this will be the last film appearance of Luke Perry, who portrays real-life TV Western star Wayne Maunder, who died just this past November.

But the real challenge is casting Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee, Connie Stevens, and Mama Cass Elliot in the film–highly-recognizable icons.  Those roles go to Homeland and Life’s Damian Lewis as McQueen, Empire and Inhumans’ Mike Moh as Lee, Dreama Walker (Gran Torino) as Stevens, and Rachel Redleaf as Cass.  We only get a brief look at Redleaf and longer view of Moh as Lee (with a decent vocal impersonation) in the first trailer for the film–Lee had been working on a film with Sharon Tate.  Tarantino also invited in a league of children of well-known actors for his film, like Andie MacDowell’s daughter Margaret Qualley (IO), Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter Rumer Willis (Hawaii Five-O), Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter Maya Hawke (Stranger Things), Kevin Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith (Supergirl), Clifton Collins, Jr. (Star Trek 2009) grandson of Western actor Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, and one more relative, Tarantino’s wife, Daniella Pick (Pick Up, Exit).  

Along with real-world characters, Tarantino pulled in some familiar actors from the late 1960s and 1970s, including Nicholas Hammond, known for role as Peter Parker in TV’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a regular face from the 1970s and 1980s: Martin Kove (The Karate Kid), and Brenda Vaccaro (Airport ’77, Capricorn One).  And even frequent TV guest star Spencer Garrett is a ringer for any number of Disney film stars from the 1960s (and he’s the son of actress Kathleen Nolan (Magnum, p.i., The Incredible Hulk)).  There are many more familiar actors in this one, including James Marsden (X-Men), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), Lorenza Izzo (The House With a Clock in Its Walls), Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer favorite Danny Strong.  (With so many extras listed as Playboy Bunnies, it’s probably fair to expect a cameo from someone playing Hugh Hefner, too).

In case you missed it, here is the first trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

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The year is 2020 and it’s hell on Earth.  Ching Dai has declared himself ruler of all.  Jack Burton is alone in a tiny corner of Florida with only his broken radio to talk to, until one day it picks up a message.  Someone is out there.

After thirty years a sequel to Big Trouble in Little China sounds like a pretty good thing to John Carpenter and Kurt Russell fans.  That sequel is coming your way later this year, not as a movie, but as part of BOOM! Studios ongoing comic book chronicles of Jack Burton and the Pork-Chop Express.  This good news is Big Trouble in Little China director John Carpenter is penning the story himself, along with comic book writer Anthony Burch and artist Jorge Corona.

Taking a tip from the Marvel Comics playbook and its Old Man Logan stories of an elder Wolverine, the Big Trouble sequel series will feature the end-of-the-line story of Kurt Russell’s truck driver.  Titled Old Man Jack, the series is practically begging for every publisher to begin featuring the older side of its heroes.  This story is also timely in that we have just seen a good look at grey-haired Kurt Russell as Starlord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Even though Russell is not in this new story, we know exactly what “Old Man” Jack Burton looks like.

  

The series will include at least four covers, a standard cover featuring Jack in Florida by artist Stephane Roux, a variant featuring Lo-Pan by Sam Bosma, a retro action figure variant by Michael Adams and Marco D’Alfonso, and other variants by artists Will Robson and Paul Pope.

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mash-up kurt russell

If you’re not a Kurt Russell, please avert your eyes and come back later.

A big Kurt Russell project is coming your way this year.  Director John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China and his Escape from New York will see a dream mash-up only the way BOOM! Studios could do it.  Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York will become a six-part crossover comic book series in the Fall.

Written by Greg Pak with artwork by Daniel Bayliss, your favorite swaggering truck driver Jack Burton (played by Kurt Russell in 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China) will be teleported to the bleak future of 1997, where he meets the Man with No Name-inspired, eyepatch-wearing Snake Plissken (also played by Kurt Russell, in 1981’s Escape from New York).  Check out the two variant covers for Issue #1:

Big-Trouble-in-Little-China-01-550x835    Big-Trouble-in-Little-China-02

And here is the full poster together:

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarantino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorsese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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