Category: Movies


PCKC 2020 comics

***Update***

The mayor of Kansas City has ordered the delay of all events with greater than 1,000 people in the city for 21 days, due to the city’s declaration of emergency for coronavirus/COVID-19.  Planet Comicon Kansas City will therefore be postponed, according to the event website until late summer or fall 2020.  See PlanetComicon.com for further updates and details.  Note: Since many creators were relying on this event for their income, please consider reviewing the guest list and purchasing their comics, books, and creations through their other channels (we’re all going to be home for a while, so it’s a perfect time to catch up on reading, right?).  In light of the cancellation, instead of the sneak peek at her new novel Premeditated Myrtle and cover reveal for her second novel in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries series (the cover created by award-winning artist Brett Helquist) planned for Planet Comicon weekend, our own borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce will be revealing the cover for the second book–How to Get Away with Myrtle, here at borg–look for it here coming soon!

Original post:

In only one week the pop culture convention Planet Comicon Kansas City is scheduled to return, this time to celebrate its 21st year.  The event is expected to host a pantheon of nationally recognized writers and artists for its eighth year in its downtown Kansas City, Missouri, venue at the Kansas City Convention Center.  The show runs Friday, March 20 through Sunday, March 22.  This is of course now subject to any cancellations, individually or as a whole, arising from corona virus/COVID-19 outbreak concerns.  Some of the biggest names and most popular comics creators are in the line-up for the 2020 event, probably the best-known being Roy Thomas, the comic book writer and editor who was Stan Lee’s first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.  Characters he created or co-created include Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Vision, Carol Danvers, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Red Sonja, Ultron, Man-Thing, Red Guardian, and Valkyrie, the majority of which have become so famous they’ve made it to recent big or small screen adaptations.  Famous for his work on X-Men and Avengers, Thomas is also known for his work on classic titles All-Star Squadron and Justice Society of America.

Several other comic book creators scheduled to attend the event for the first time include Bill Amend, Garth Ennis, Adam Hughes, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Ed McGuinness, Afua Richardson, and Peter Stiegerwald, plus many others.  Returning PCKC regulars slated to appear include Freddie Williams IIJason Aaron, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Ant Lucia, Skottie Young, Megan Levens, Seth Peck, Rob DavisJason Arnett, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, and Darren Neely.  In addition to comics creators, fan-favorite novelists scheduled for the show include borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce, who hopes to debut the cover for the second book in her new Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries series at her booth over the weekend.  Other authors scheduled to attend include convention regulars Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, plus Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, and Timothy Zahn–and many more.

PCKC 2020 authors

Back again, the Elite Comics flight crew is planning its “Party on the Pillar” hoping for attendees to pick up some great deals on what the Con is all about–comics.

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Arnold Terminator Genisys

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and as with last year we’re certain we reviewed more content this year than ever before.  This year was a big year for borgs in TV and film, so we had some difficult decisions to make.  All year long we sifted through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre TV, films, comics, and other books we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.

Today we reveal the entire list–the best genre content of 2015–with our top categories Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero FixBest Animated Fix,  and Best Borg selected regardless of medium.  A dozen properties garnered multiple mentions.

We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2016!

Killjoys

Best Sci-Fi Fix – Killjoys (Syfy).  Surprised?  Killjoys pulled together great worldbuilding, characters and actors in a year of a dozen new sci-fi shows to provide us the closest thing to the next Firefly we’ve seen in a long time.

Galavant

Best Fantasy Fix – Galavant (ABC); Runner-up The Librarians (TNT).  It aired early in 2015 but nothing surpassed Galavant’s medieval high adventure and all-out Princess Bride-style fun.

the-cw-arrow-flash-crossover

Best Superhero Fix – The Flash (CW).  Of all the Marvel movies and TV series from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agent Carter and from Arrow to Supergirl, nothing had us coming back for more each week like the superhero world in The Flash.

Rebels season 2

Best Animated Fix – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  Compare it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and see if you think this animated Star Wars galaxy had an even better story and characterization, along with the return of its own group of original trilogy actors, compelling visuals and rousing music.

Terminator Genisys image

Best Borg – Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Terminator Genisys (Paramount).  Schwarzenegger created yet another borg that could stand up against his prior successful characters from the series.  A cool, moving character in a big year for borgs on screen!

Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Best Borg Movie –  Ex Machina (DNA Films).  Incredible storytelling and a small cast of talented actors provided a classic science fiction story and Oscar-worthy film about our favorite subject.

Humans series

Best Borg TV SeriesHumans (AMC).  On television the most in-depth look at life as a borg and among borgs has never been portrayed more dramatically than on this year’s surprise sci-fi hit series from AMC.

Star-Wars-Force-Awakens-Rey-Finn-BB8-running

Best Kickass Genre Movie Heroine – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney); Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Terminator Genisys (Paramount); Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Mad Max: Fury Road (Village Roadshow)

Liv Moore

Best Kickass Genre TV Heroine – Liv Moore (Rose McIver), iZombie (CW); Honorable Mentions: Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), Killjoys (Syfy); Helena (Tatiana Maslany), Orphan Black (BBC)

Want to know who we picked for best villain and best comic books of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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Veronica and Keith Mars

Just how big is the Veronica Mars movie that was funded by fans via Kickstarter last year with more than $5.7 million in contributions?  Kristen Bell posted on her Twitter feed last night the new full-length trailer for the March 14 release, and when I clicked on it I was viewer number 301.  It now has more than 675,000 views, in just a day.  That’s just those active followers of Bell & company.  It’s the first big genre news of the year and is further proof Hollywood should have stepped up and made this happen so fans didn’t need to.  The ultimate proof will be seen in March, when we get to see actual box office numbers.

Veronica Mars movie logo

Unlike the first trailer, this new preview is smartly edited, showing watchers enough of the story to remind us why we liked Veronica, her dad (Enrico Colantoni), and her friends from day one.  There’s plenty of Dick (Ryan Hansen) and Leo (Max Greenfield)–in fact they get some of the best moments in the trailer.  Even Jamie Lee Curtis and real-life Kristen Bell hubby Dax Shepard have cameos.  And a Neptune High School class reunion is a great excuse to bring back the rest of the regulars, including Percy Daggs III, Krysten Ritter, Tina Majorino, and Francis Capra.

Veronica Mars and Leo

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thousand dollar tan line rob thomas jennifer graham veronica mars novel

Fresh on the heels of the theatrical release of the Veronica Mars movie (reviewed last week here at borg.com), series creator and movie director Rob Thomas (along with writer Jennifer Graham) have just released its sequel, Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line We’re reviewed several franchise tie-ins and this new novel is among the best.  All that you think you’d need, the familiar characters, setting, and mood are here, but the most important is that inner monologue of Veronica.  Who better to scribe the next story, the immediate aftermath of the events of the movie, and Veronica’s voice than Thomas?

If you’re not already a Veronica Mars fan, the novel has enough of a standalone detective story to make for a good entry point for the series that genre king Joss Whedon referred to as “Best. Show. Ever.  Seriously, I’ve never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn’t making, and maybe even more than those… These guys know what they’re doing on a level that intimidates me.  It’s the Harry Potter of shows.”

Veronica back at Mars Investigations

Picking up in the days after the events of the movie and taking place literally in March 2014, the novel allows Veronica and hacker pal Mac to use all the resources of social media and modern technologies to sleuth out two missing young women who vanished on Spring break in the seedy beach town of Neptune, California (as Piz says in the movie, there really is a Hellmouth under there).  Veronica’s dad Keith is slowly recovering from his car wreck injuries.  Logan is off on an aircraft carrier in the Navy.  And Veronica is dead serious about partnering with her dad full-time at Mars Investigations, to his disappointment.

We get to catch up with a character from the series from Veronica’s distant past, as well as a new character that will likely play a key role in future stories for both Veronica and Keith.

Hacker Mac Veronica Mars

Just as true to life as the original series was, Veronica’s relationship with her dad couldn’t be more believable.  She really isn’t going back to New York to become a lawyer.  And she lives at home again.  As much as we’ve cheered Veronica on, as successful as she could be, like Michael Corleone they keep pulling her back to Neptune.  And it turns out the success we hoped to see Mac achieve (shouldn’t she be CEO of a Google or Facebook by now?) is also on a backtrack, as she quits her prestigious job at Kane Software to work for Veronica as hacker and researcher.  How could all of this have gone so wrong for these two?  Rob Thomas’s choices, if disappointing for all who have cheered on these characters, does something important:  it creates the possibility of future movies and novels.

If the Veronica Mars movie and this first Veronica Mars novel is any indication, then fans will be begging for even more Veronica Mars, no matter the format.

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Veronica Mars movie poster official

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Diehard Marshmallows who didn’t spend last weekend at Planet Comicon will have seen the movie version already.  Those of us who had to slave away at a booth hawking books for three days had to wait.  But what’s another week after ten years of pining for our favorite girl detective?

Famously bankrolled by fans in an innovative Kickstarter campaign last year, Rob Thomas’s big-screen reunion of his short-lived TV series, Veronica Mars, felt like falling into another episode (except ten years on, the drinking, sex, and swearing has all grown up… and somehow feels a little uncomfortable now).  The whole gang is back–Mars (Kristen Bell) and father Keith (Enrico Colantoni, Galaxy Quest), ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring, Ringer), hacker pal Mac (Tina Majorino, Andre, Corrina, Corrina), biker pal Weevil (Francis Capra), sweet socialite Gia Woodman (Krysten Ritter), even our favorite disgraced deputy, Leo (Max Greenfield, now in New Girl).  A couple of lively new additions, including Gaby Hoffman (Field of Dreams, Uncle Buck), and Jerry O’Connell (Sliders, Stand by Me) as Sheriff Dan Lamb (brother of slain series sheriff, and Mr. Mars’s archrival, Don Lamb) round out the cast.

Veronica Mars back at Mars Investigations

On the brink of her ten-year Neptune High reunion, Veronica Mars finds herself a little too settled, with a good job as a slick New York attorney and a good relationship with college boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell, Private Practice) waiting for her.  But good news!  Troubled ex-boyfriend Logan has been accused of murder again.  Veronica to the rescue, much to the chagrin of father and boyfriend.

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Berkeley Breathed, Mike Mignola, Lynn Johnston, Joe Jusko, Kevin Eastman, Freddie Williams III, JK Woodward, Scott and David Tipton, Marc Andreyko, Bobby Moynihan, and cast from Wynonna Earp, are among dozens of comic book and television creators to be featured at signings and panels hosted by IDW Publishing at next week’s 49th annual San Diego Comic-Con.

As you’d expect IDW will also be bringing to Booth #2743 lots of comic book exclusives and special edition hardcover format books.  You’ll find Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin, and John Byrne Artist’s Editions, plus comics featuring Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DuckTales, Danger Girl, Judge Dredd, My Little Pony, Sonic, Transformers, Ghostbusters, Sword of Ages, and more, including several exclusive variant covers only available at SDCC 2018.

Get more information on all the SDCC 2018 exclusives from IDW at the publisher’s website here.

Here are the announced exclusives from IDW, followed by IDW’s signings and panels:

Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Monsters Artist’s Edition, Heroes Convention Variant
Cover by Jack Kirby
$150, Limited to 100 units
15” x 22”
Many of Jack “King” Kirby’s most iconic heroes (Captain America, the X-Men, Ant-Man, and Sgt. Fury) join seven of his best monster stories in this collection, plus a gallery section filled with covers and pin-ups.  Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring Tales of Suspense #98 — Captain America versus Black Panther.

Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Monsters Artist’s Edition, Monsters Convention Variant
Cover by Jack Kirby
$150, Limited to 100 units
15” x 22”

Jim Starlin’s Marvel Cosmic Artifact Edition, Signed Convention Variant
Cover by Jim Starlin
$150, Limited to 100 units, each with a bound-in signature plate signed by Jim Starlin.
12” x 17”
This Artifact Edition focuses on Jim Starlin’s beloved Warlock, Thanos, and Captain Marvel, stories that shaped the Marvel Universe for decades. Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 with Thanos fighting Spider-Man and the Thing.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition, Signed Convention Variant
Cover by John Byrne
$150, Limited to 100 units, each with a bound-in signature plate signed by John Byrne.
12” x 17”
John Byrne’s run on the X-Men that introduced Alpha Flight and created the near-mythical storylines “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past!”  Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring X-Men #133, where Wolverine goes berserker-style on the Hellfire Club.

Joe Jusko’s Marvel Masterpieces Hardcover Convention Variant
Cover by Joe Jusko
$75 each, Limited to 150 units
Joe Jusko’s complete Marvel Masterpieces painted trading card art from the 2016 Upper Deck set is collected in its entirety for the first time — more than 130 never-before-seen masterpieces, including hard-to-find premium cards.  Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring a new painting of the Incredible Hulk.

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Hansen on Everest

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am an avid follower of the many chronicles of the May 1996 disaster on Mount Everest But it all comes down to the brilliant storytelling of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air that really sucked me in.  So compelling, his account made me feel like I was having breathing issues reading his novel into the wee hours of the morning.  Russian climber guide Anatoli Boukreev didn’t like Krakauer’s account, so he responded with his own, The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest.  Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest documents Beck Weathers’ story.  Each of these are worthy reads.  Other accounts include Climbing High: A Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy, by climber Lene Gammelgaard, After The Wind: 1996 Everest Tragedy–One Survivor’s Story, by Lou Kasischke, High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places, by David Breashears, and the Everest IMAX movie (filmmakers encountered the disaster climbers on their own climb and Brashears was instrumental in saving Beck Weathers).  Krakauer’s story got a less than adequate treatment in the film Into Thin Air, starring Christopher McDonald.  Which brings us to director Baltasar Kormákur’s 2015 theatrical release Everest, now available on streaming services and home video.

Fortunately Everest the movie is not a disaster.  It gets the story right.  The cast is nearly perfect.  Yet it doesn’t match the thrills of the true-life adventure it adapts, and so a detailed critique is warranted.  The screenwriters have pieced together all the key scenes and moments from the various firsthand accounts, sometimes picking and choosing so as not to adapt any single vantage point from another.  Yet it skips over some key climax points that could have made the film so much better.

Jason Clarke Everest

In a story where there are more males than females, why not highlight the two female climbers we do meet (played by Amy Shindler and Naoko Mori), instead of focusing on spouses (played by Keira Knightley and Robin Wright) whose only participation was a series of phone calls?  In the two roles where women get plenty of screentime, Emily Watson and Elizabeth Debicki are left with recurring close-ups where they are supposed to show concern, yet they come off as emotionless.  The actors were given little to work with.  A directorial or screenwriter problem?

Part of the problem also is the missed opportunity for well-edited musical cues.  Composer Dario Marianelli (V for Vendetta, I Capture the Castle) provides a score that is neither thrilling nor matches the emotion of the struggle and despairs depicted in the film.  It’s a sweeping score but never prepares us for what is ahead and never lands where it should.  But the music is secondary to the writing.

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Everest movie

Twelve climbers died on Mt. Everest in 1996, but the harrowing story of the events that occurred on May 10-11, 1996, have created the most exciting story of human endurance and survival yet documented.  More than 300 hundred documented climbers have died on the mountain, many whose bodies line the road to this day and still are used as checkpoints or mile markers for future climbers.  We don’t know all the details of their stories like we do of the May 1996 disaster.  And that’s thanks primarily to the fact that a master storyteller was on the mountain to be part of what happened.

That storyteller is Jon Krakauer, a journalist who would later document the events in the bestselling account Into Thin Air, one of the most exciting, jaw-dropping books ever written.  Without Krakauer so many people around the world would not know so much about these peoples’ lives we’d otherwise have no reason to know about:  Beck Weathers, Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, Anatoli Boukreev, Doug Hansen, Andrew Harris, Yasuko Namba.  The crossroads where they would all meet is finally coming to the big screen this year in director Baltasar Kormákur‘s Everest.  It will be difficult to screw up this story.  Millions of dollars went into the production.

Josh Brolin is Beck Weathers

Just look at the major league cast alone.  Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Zodiac, Source Code, Homicide) plays Fischer, Josh Brolin (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jonah Hex, Men in Black III, Milk, No Country for old Men, The Goonies) is Beck Weathers, Michael Kelly (House of Cards, Fringe, Law & Order, Unbreakable) is Krakauer, John Hawkes (Deadwood, Lost, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), is Hansen, Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genisys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is Hall, Martin Henderson (The Ring, House, M.D.) is Harris, Icelander Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson is Boukreev, and Naoko Mori (Humans, Torchwood, Doctor Who) is Namba.

Check out this first, full-length trailer for Everest:

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Nick Spencer, the writer of Morning Glories describes the story as “Runaways meets Lost.”  I think you could get better comparisons.  How about “Runaways meets Planetary” (Brian K. Vaughn and Warren Ellis!) or “Veronica Mars meets Lost” (Rob Thomas and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse!)?  All four have a strong fan base, the comparisons stay in the same medium and one side is based in the adventures of teens and the other side is based on mysteries in physics.

I’m picking nits as all four of those stories have compelled me to read more or see more at any given time.  (I just finished the entire run of Veronica Mars in a little under two weeks before Netflix could take it off the instant queue and I would have had to wait for DVDs in the mail.  I get obsessive sometimes).  I definitely think that Morning Glories could compel me in much the same way.

On each side of those comparisons though, there is a question that might not have crossed your mind.  I think it boils down to the simple question: how do you like your mysteries?

For example, take the final season of Lost and the “sideways” reality. (LOST ***SPOILER ALERT*** – which shouldn’t really be necessary as it has been a year since the finale).  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.  Desmond is there to help them realize what is happening and to bring them all together to see each other again.

Let me say that again, and just think about it for a while.  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.

I’m not sure about you, but the number of stories I can recall that deal with life in the afterlife is not that great. For comedy purposes, there is the wonderful Defending Your Life.  In myths there is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice that has been forever tainted by The Killing.  (I shudder to even mention that series in the company of actual good stories). Death appears in The Seventh Seal and later Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Off the top of my head, that’s about it. (I’m sure there are more examples and feel free to enlighten me about them).

Lost did it differently though.  The adventures on the island took up less than three months for some characters.  (I’m looking at you Boone and Shannon).  For others, it was several years of their lives as they went back in time and lived in the Dharma community.

So, what does the island mean in comparison to the rest of your life?

For Ana Lucia, it didn’t mean much as she didn’t join the rest of the survivors in waking up in the afterlife.  For others, it meant the world.  Waking up brought in a flood of emotion for the characters (and this member of the audience) as these people that meant so much to them for just a part of their life reappeared.

So, what is the afterlife?  How do you use your time?  Do you use it to become the father that you wish you were, that you wish you had?  Do you use it to come to grips with your own physical failings that resulted in your own emotional failings?  Do you beat yourself up over all the evil that you did?

In Defending Your Life the battle was against fear.  For Albert Brooks, as the writer, I’m sure that is a very personal battle.  For the characters of Lost they had different battles to face.  Finding justice, finding love, finding friendship, finding forgiveness or whatever they needed to find so that they could move forward.

(Thinking about that personally, I’m not sure what I would need to face in order to move along. It’s a mystery of myself that I will have to explore).

In those personal battles, what is more important, the previous 20, 30 or 40 years, or the time spent on the island?  How would you ever be able to work in the experiences of the island in comparison to the building blocks of your personality, your life that happened so many more times?

That is the question I have of the afterlife.  I’ve never met my grandfathers.  I know they played an important part of my parent’s lives, but they both died before I was born.

What happens in their afterlife?  I assume they link to the lives of their children who then link to their children and then we meet.  Or maybe they have directory assistance in the afterlife and instead of reaching a phone, you physically transport to that person.  No matter what is the way of the afterlife, the next question becomes how long do we see each other?  What about all the people we’ve met over the course of our lives?  What if a friend from elementary school that we remember as the person who first exposed me to video games doesn’t remember us?  With whom do we spend time in the afterlife?  What do we need to do to improve ourselves?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that Lost helped to create the questions.  Sometimes a good mystery doesn’t have an answer.  Yet.  Sometimes we don’t want answers as we don’t want to infect the hopes, dreams and prayers of our imaginations.  Whatever answer we get will pale in comparison to what we had created in our minds or it may be so big that we would have never thought to dream it.

The thing is mysteries are everywhere, we just may not see them.  In Veronica Mars only two people believed something different about the Lily Kane murder, everyone else just went on with their business.  In Lost different people discovered different things about the island that they decided to share or not share. (By comparison, Rose and Bernard chose to ignore all the hoopla and just live in the moment that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The mystery they got to solve was how they would grow old together).  In Planetary we find that the world doesn’t work the way we think and three “heroes” lead us to examples that wander into the fantastic.  In Morning Glories we see six kids that start at a boarding school.  We don’t know why they are there.  We don’t know the purpose of the school.

So, what kind of mystery do you want?  Do you want ones that are concrete and you can solve and figure out within a set amount of time, like a murder, or the existence of a polar bear, or why someone can talk to machines in some sort of origin story or why people born on January 1st, 1900 or May 4th are special?  (May the 4th be with you significance aside).  Or do you want what friendships mean, or how friendships start, or what the afterlife is like, or what relationships do we have with our parents, or how we need to fool ourselves to actually find our more about ourselves?  In other words, should mysteries reveal more about the soul of the person or the plot of the story?

Ideally, a great story gives you both as you explore characters and their environments.  I think Morning Glories is well along that path after only six issues.

Of all the genre types there is one that doesn’t quite fit into any other bucket of movies.  These movies themselves are complex and rarely made, but when they are done right they tend to bridge popular audiences and critical acclaim.  They are about people who also don’t quite fit.  They are often referred to as “coming of age” movies, and with such a lame title it’s no wonder there is not a giant video header at the rental stores for “Coming of Age” movies.

Some of these are really just “teen angst” movies.  Some of the best of these for mid-teens, documenting the high school experience, are Clueless with Alicia Silverstone, 10 Things I Hate About You with Heath Ledger, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles with Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald, Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden with James Dean, West Side Story, Tex with Matt Dillon, Crossroads and The Karate Kid, both starring Ralph Macchio, and even The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland, where Dorothy establishes a defining piece of the genre–dreaming of “getting out of Dodge” (OK, Wichita, so close enough).

A younger teen focus subset of these films, where kids are either turning into teens or otherwise encountering adult situations at a young age, include Bless the Beasts and Children, Lucas, Stand by Me, Angus, The Sandlot, A Christmas Story, Explorers, the Harry Potter films, Super 8, and a superb superhero genre crossover called Sky High, that is one of those movies that pulls itself apart from the typical kid-centric flick by brilliantly delving into kids’ relationships with each other.

One film proves we probably shouldn’t stop with three subsets of the coming of age film, and reflects the universal nature of life in change.  A film that covers the same themes yet for the transition from college to the “rest of life” is Buck Henry and Michael Nichols’ The Graduate.  The Graduate launched the careers of Dustin Hoffman (All the Presidents’ Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Midnight Cowboy, Rainman, Tootsie) and Katherine Ross (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, Donnie Darko).  The subject is simple, yet believable and accessible, stuck in a rut, not ready to move onward, a recent college graduate needs some impetus to get moving forward.  In the 1960s of this movie, Hoffman and Ross’s characters step forward at the end, but you get the feeling the “coming of age” for them is still far outside their reach.  Similar elements of angst, alienation, and change are reflected in films of the older set, like St. Elmo’s Fire, Do the Right Thing, Lords of Dogtown, Wayne’s World, Shaun of the Dead, and even the 1976 movie Car Wash.

The subset of the genre targeted at older teens, those teens at the end of high school transitioning to “the rest of their lives” (or at least trying to) stand separately as their own class of film.  The greatest of these reach cult status, and often include all-star casts before they were to become stars.  Very likely it is these films that propelled the young actors into bigger roles as a next step in their careers because we, the audience, love these characters, and when we like characters we latch onto the actors that portrayed them.  Sometimes these themes cross into other genres that take over the film, such as the sci-fi film The Last Starfighter–where a teen must decide not whether to stay in town and work or go to college, but be a starfighter and save the universe.  Let’s look at a few of these classics that should be on your must-see list:

AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973).  Even if George Lucas never came up with Star Wars he would have been remembered for creating this masterpiece of cinema.  All the key criteria of the genre are covered here: (1) fascination with cars, including races and chases; (2) incredible music, both as soundtrack as well as being listened to by the characters throughout the film; (3) teen rebellion, like pulling the rear axle off a police car (!), drinking, smoking, etc.; (4) alienation–one or more nerds, here exemplified by Charles Martin Smith’s Terry, who does the impossible, getting not only a girl, but THE girl, here Debbie (played by Candy Clark), and contrasted with the “cool kids,” (5) fitting in and not fitting in; (6) angst–Richard Dreyfuss’s Curt is the archetype for angst-ridden teen, not knowing his own abilities, uncertain and nervous about the next step in life: college; (7) life choices:  Go to college?  Go to which college?  Join the military?  Work in the garage at home?, (8) teens dealing with sex, and (9) an all-star or before-they-were all-star cast, launching careers:  Here that includes Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Harrison Ford.  Why do audiences of all ages relate to these themes?  Is it because we all continue to go through choices, decisions, and angst every day moving forward?

GREASE (1978).  The PG-13 rating really reflects components of all the films on this genre list: “sexual content including references, teen smoking and drinking, and language.”  Showing that you can successfully deal with the transitional phases of life in musical version like West Side Story (who doesn’t like music at any level in these movies?) here the 1970s portrays the 1950s again (this time 1959) as did American Graffiti.  Social strata, growing up rich or poor, from the south or west or north or east side–it all has meaning in the genre.  Like Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story this is focused on high school teens–yet Sandy is thinking about college and Danny and Sandy each need to figure out who they want to be when school is out.

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982).  With American Graffiti documenting the American teen experience of the 1950s in the 1970s, Fast Times reflected the day.  Who is more of a classic rebel than Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli?  Full of both nerds and chock full of household name actors to-be, like Penn, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stoltz, Nicholas Cage, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, Judge Reinhold and Jennifer Jason Leigh.  Fast Times included another piece of the genre, generational slang.

THE OUTSIDERS (1983).  Probably the biggest film to launch careers of teen actors is The Outsiders. Francis Ford Coppola was harassed by a high school class to make this film and finally agreed to do it.  Socs vs. Greasers.  Literally kids from opposite sides of the tracks.  Matt Dillon plays Dallas, the ultimate teen anti-hero.  C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio again, the poster actor of the genre, play the alienated unlikely rebels with heroes within screaming to get out.  This one launched the careers of Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Diane Lane.  For teens who think they are alone, that the crap piled on them only happens to them, like the other films on this list, The Outsiders illustrates that everyone is an outsider sometime.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986).  Although it is Matthew Broderick’s character Ferris Bueller’s sister Jeannie, played by Jennifer Grey, that really shows the teen experience in the high school of 1986, it is Bueller and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), that are soon moving away to separate colleges.  Bueller rebels differently than most characters in this genre, yet is he really any different from Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times or Curt in American Graffiti?

SAY ANYTHING (1989).  You don’t have to have an ensemble cast to make your point and here a small cast illustrates dealing with adult issues early, struggling with who you want to be and what you want to do.  If you don’t want to make something bought or sold, sell anything made or bought or buy anything made or sold, John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler feels your pain.  Cusack, Ione Skye and Lili Taylor form a great team to reflect angst and confusion.  Dobler standing at the Gas and Sip with a bunch of “losers”–and Dobler leaving them behind, is what the genre is all about.  And blaring your stereo from the street so the girl of your dreams hears you to apologize outside her window–again, music is key to a classic like this one and made that single image iconic.

DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993).  Here the 1990s plays the 1970s, almost cementing the cyclical nature of these themes as a part of the genre.  The highs and lows of partying, friendship, and rebellion.  Every bit as much a classic film as American Graffiti, with authentic (not so cool) clothing and very cool cars, this movie probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves from a huge cast of good young actors.  Like some of the other films above, this one was an early film for later big names, like Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, and Parker Posey.

ORANGE COUNTY (2002).  Orange County is one of those films you can watch over and over, with Colin Hanks’s Shaun Brumder a wanna-be writer whose high school guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) sends the wrong stats to his college of choice.  His girlfriend wants him to stay home.  His brother (played by Jack Black) chose to stay home and shows Shaun what he doesn’t want.  A mentor emerges in the form of a professor played by Kevin Kline at just the right time.  Like Ron Howard in American Graffiti, Shaun makes a different choice from his friends, a different path than he’d originally planned.

SUPERBAD (2007).  Christopher Mintz-Plasse takes Charles Martin Smith’s alienated nerd full circle in Superbad as the self-named “McLovin.”  Despite being the third wheel in the film, he manages to conquer all the roles of the myriad of characters throughout all the above films.  Speeding along with Van Halen’s “Panama” blaring as he buddies up with two local police officers, McLovin practically gets arrested trying to buy beer, and ends up setting fire to a police car in a near parody of the genre.  And he gets the girl.  Future Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill and pal Michael Cera show what good friends will and won’t do for each other as Hill’s character learns Cera’s character will be rooming with McLovin at college.  Yet it all works out somehow, after the “quest for beer” and obligatory party, and Hill’s character giving his girlfriend an inadvertent black eye.  Superbad proves the genre stays strong, and that the themes of life in transition remain universal and accessible to movie audiences.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
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