Category: Fantasy Realms


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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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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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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BOOM_DawnPOTA_003_A_Main    BOOM_Cluster_001_A_Main

With the dozens of new titles from all the comic book publishers being released Wednesday, we thought we’d hone in on a few with the independent publishers you might miss.  The first new Legenderry title featuring Vampirella is out tomorrow from Dynamite, as is a new Jungle Jim series and sci-fi series called Cluster.  From the classic genre film world, BOOM! Studios is releasing new issues of Escape from New York and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. 

Legenderry: Vampirella Issue #1 is packed full of great steampunk elements.  It’s the first of three new series spinning out of the world created by Bill Willingham.  King: Jungle Jim Issue #1 brings Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond’s series to a modern audience.  Great characters and artwork have the classic feel of Raymond’s original stories.  BOOM! Studio’s new Cluster series is an interesting sci-fi story giving prisoners a chance to get out of life sentences if they’re willing to work in a futuristic military service.

KingJim01-Cov-A-CookeCol    LegenderryVampi01-Cov-A-Benitez

Escape from New York, Issue #3 continues the BOOM! Studios adaptation of the further adventures of Snake Plissken.  And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Issue #3, also from BOOM!, follows the exploits of the apes from the successful reboot movie series.

Check out all the previews, after the break:

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Alien retro action figures

It’s time to pull your vintage Kenner Star Wars and Indiana Jones figures and spaceships out of the closet.  Remember wanting to pit your vintage Boba Fett action figure against the alien from the movie Alien, but there was no Alien figure out there of the correct scale?  Did you ever want to set Han Solo and Firefly’s Mal on a mission to the Outer Rim in the Millennium Falcon? Have you ever considered teaming up Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Bill and Ted to take on Ahnold’s Terminator?  Or stage the ultimate face-off between Snake Plissken and the alien from Predator?  Funko toy company is going to make your dreams come true.

ReAction logos

With the December 2013 release of a retro 3 ¾-inch line of action figures with 5 points of articulation from the movie Alien, Funko is beginning a series of more than a dozen licensed properties that will get the vintage Kenner-style, retro action figure treatment under a vintage Kenner font “ReAction” brand.  Based on drawings and prototypes of a halted 1979 line of Alien movie action figures intended to add to the Star Wars action figure toy market, Funko is releasing its first line of five Alien action figures to whet collectors’ appetites.

ReAction Retro Alien figures series

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Predator masked ReAction figure card   Escape from New York Snake Plissken figure card

Funko toys figured out the secret to the collectible action figure, and their new line of licensed action figures that launched last month with the Alien line is beginning to take shape.  Entertainment Earth has just released photos of the action figure sculpts and cards for several of their new series: Escape from New York, Predator, Terminator, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Rocketeer.  The action figures begin shipping in April, and you can pre-order them now.  Keep checking back here at borg.com as we reveal the new sculpts and cards for other series in the line, including Back to the Future, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Universal Studios Classic Monsters, Firefly, Goonies, Pulp Fiction, Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, Halloween, and The Crow.  It’s the biggest ever mass release of multiple franchise action figures.  And all of the first line of figures are available for pre-order now.

T800 Terminator action figure ReAction retro card   T800 Endoskeleton

The new retro ReAction figures from Funko are stylized as 3 3/4-inch figures from the “golden age” of action figures, with approximately five points of articulation, accessories, and period-authentic blister card packaging.  These intentionally are not photo-real images like you might find in modern action figure lines.

Rocketeer ReAction figure card   Jack Skellington Nightmare Before Christmas action figure card

Funko figured out that classic packaging and nostalgia are what many fans are after, not a picture-perfect sculpt.  Compare the original 1970s Star Wars action figure line–the clear inspiration for the new ReAction line–to the 1980s updated Star Wars line or even the current Star Wars Black Series line that has been updated yet again.  If you still prefer the 1970s figures to today’s series, then the new ReAction line is for you.  Here is an early look at a few of the figures:

Predator masked sculpt Terminator ReAction figure sculpt Snake Plissken figure ReAction sculpt

We first mentioned the ReAction line here at borg.com back in November with news of the Alien release.  Since then they released the full Alien series and they look great, including these:

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riddick-blu-ray-box-art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Many times when a movie is heavy with CGI and matte paintings, the overall look can suffer.  Not so with Riddick, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on January 14.  In his third live-action performance as Riddick, Vin Diesel finds his character marooned on an unnamed desert planet in its own primitive, almost Jurassic stage.  The first half of the film showcases the night-visioned anti-hero in an almost Conan the Barbarian-like quest for survival in a very Frank Frazetta-inspired fantasy world setting.  It’s a setting that really pops in the new hi-definition Blu-ray format.  We’ve previewed the Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios, including its extra features.

Riddick manages to surpass the epic second franchise entry Chronicles of Riddick with its more basic and tightly-written survival story.  We get a cameo from Karl Urban’s Vaako, including some of those great Necromonger soldiers and futuristic costumes familiar to fans of the series.  But this Riddick has more of the feel of the first entry into this world, Pitch Black, also written and directed by David Twohy.  Because Twohy has maintained control over the universe and its characters, the three films (plus the early animated entry, Dark Fury) all make for a cohesive and well-designed saga.  Twohy discusses his take on the character at length in the special feature “The Twohy Touch.”

Riddick and storm

Along with the stunning Monument Valley on Mars sets is some excellent CGI and motion capture creature work, including vicious mud-demons which take Riddick down a Ridley Scott-esque path toward films end, and some dog-like jackal beasts.  Riddick ends up raising one of these dogs as he finds his way through challenges to grasslands and an abandoned science station, where much of the remaining action takes place.  He sets off an S.O.S. beacon which brings two opposing groups of bounty hunter mercenaries, one to get the bounty for his head in a box, the other a military based group with a more personal agenda.  Their two ships become Riddick’s target for a plan to leave the planet.  His shadow ninja abilities allow him to drop in on these mercs, and create his own form of psychological war.  And his early encounter with the mud-demons plays into the coming rainstorm and his face-off with the mercs.

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A lot of directors or producers have cameos in their films.  Some, like Clint Eastwood, direct and compose scores for their films.  John Carpenter has served as writer, director, actor, editor, and composer of the score in a number of films.  Maintaining control of a vision from beginning to end doesn’t work that well for many directors.  As a viewer you wish some of those powerhouse Hollywood directors would let someone else edit their works.  Not so for Carpenter.  You can come in on the middle of a Carpenter movie, past or current, and you know it was made by John Carpenter.  His signature style is truly his own.  And who else bills his movies under his own name–John Carpenter’s They Live, John Carpenter’s Vampires, etc.?

Carpenter is a genre bender–one film can be billed under several categories, from action-adventure, to sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and thriller.  Most of his films fall in all of these categories to some extent.  You’ll know his films through a dark thread of chills, a thumping baseline of a guitar or synthesizer, and a rebel or outcast lead character just trying to get by but being threatened by something, usually something otherworldly.

My first Carpenter movie was The Fog, back in 1980.  Because of the rating, my older brother and sister and their friends rolled me up in a sleeping bag and smuggled me in the back of our parents’ Ford pickup into a two-movie drive-in showing.  I remember The Fog was just plain spooky and as the sky got darker and the shocks came out of nowhere there was no chance I was going to get any sleep that night.  Years later I rented it and re-rented it and to this day love the ghost story that is the backbone of the picture.  And Carpenter’s now former wife and then-mega TV and pin-up star Adrienne Barbeau played sultry Stevie Wayne.  Working alone at a lighthouse radio station, she encounters a strange fog bank inching ever closer into Antonio Bay.  The Fog itself becomes a character, a breathing, classic villain in its own right.   The Fog was remade in 2005 with Tom Welling (Smallville), Maggie Grace (Lost), and this time Selma Blair (Hellboy) as Stevie Wayne.  It’s a great remake with its own twists and turns–both versions of The Fog are a lot of fun.

In 1981 we got to see our first taste of a “modern” dystopian vision of future in movies–a vision that to this day has been copied again and again– in Escape from New York.  Carpenter brought together a low-budget production but with a creative team whose work still stands the test of time, including Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau, Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, co-writer Nick Castle and Carpenter’s longtime collaborator, producer Debra Hill.  All of these individuals would work in more than one Carpenter picture.   Russell plays anti-hero Snake Plissken.  Plissken is why we like Russell to this day and think Russell is just plain cool.  Convicted bank robber Plissken takes on a suicide mission to rescue the downed-flight of the President of the United States in future Manhattan, which has become a free-for-all maximum security prison.  New York was a major hit and its low budget but high box office gross vastly surpassed a certain box office flop with a similar dark vision of the future: Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner.   Plissken would return in 1996’s Escape from L.A., which unfortunately doesn’t rise to the level of New York.  Russell would return in a similar role in 1986’s now-cult classic,  Big Trouble in Little China.  A bizarre story of a trucker in Chinatown–today what stands out is how much fun co-star Kim Cattrall is to watch early on in her career.

In the past ten years I caught up on Carpenter’s films and was amazed by his 1976 low-budget Assault on Precinct 13, a remake of sorts of the old John Wayne/Dean Martin classic western Rio Bravo.  Here you won’t recognize any big-named actors but the story and setting feels gritty and real.  A psychotic gang of killers tries to bust one of its own out of an understaffed local jail.  Precinct 13, too, would be remade, in 2005 with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne, and although not as good, again, even remade Carpenter stories stand the test of time.  Watch the original, and you’ll never again go back to the ice cream man when he gets your order wrong.

And who hasn’t seen 1978’s Halloween?  Carpenter created the definitive Halloween holiday thriller with Michael Myers and summer camp-defining gotchas.  And it set Jamie Lee Curtis on her long and successful career path.  Carpenter’s primarily horror-genre films are classics: in 1982, The Thing (itself a remake and I have to admit I like the original better because Stan Winston’s special effects here were just too over the top), an alien film set in the arctic; in 1983, Stephen King’s Christine, a fun romp about a guy and his car and their mutual (!) obsessive relationship with each other; and several other films including the popular John Carpenter’s Vampires, starring James Woods as a kick-butt vampire hunter out for revenge.

In 1992 Carpenter directed a more mainstream film, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, starring Chevy Chase and Darryl Hannah, Sam Neill and Michael McKean.  The film is classic science fiction from beginning to end, with Chase as a businessman in the wrong place at the wrong time who becomes invisible, and Hannah stars as his girlfriend.  Carpenter showcases Chase’s humor and a simple film concept resulted in a fun chase/thriller.  It was the first time i n over a decade that we got to see Chase as the classic leading man we saw him play in Foul Play and Seems Like Old Times (both co-starring Goldie Hawn, who is now married to Kurt Russell).  Until his role in Chuck last year, it was the last time we got to see Chase performing in a non-comedic role.

Two other Carpenter films rise about the rest in terms of textured storytelling, depth and intrigue in the sci-fi and fantasy realms.

First, in Prince of Darkness, Jameson Parker (Simon and Simon) and Donald Pleasance lead a great character ensemble of experts trying to stop the devil from breaking into our world via an old church and a creepy and scary hellmouth of green plasma.  Alice Cooper has a cameo as a zombie drawn to the churchsite.  Parker is superb and the jolts are perfectly timed.  A creepy, dark, fantasy-horror film.

Finally, probably tied with The Fog my favorite Carpenter film is They Live.  Professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, in an incredibly underplayed performance, stars as a loner trying to keep to himself.  He is thrown into the middle of a waking up-to-reality by a group of grassroots rebels who discover that the wealthier elements of society are actually hideous aliens in cloaked bodies, attempting to keep us asleep through subliminal messages in our advertising.  When our hero discovers special sunglasses and later contact lenses that show the true world, we soon learn the secret behind the plot and why this is a classic sci-fi film.  They Live also has the best of Carpenter’s soundtracks–including the repetitive theme of our hero, following him and leading us through Piper’s dark discoveries.  And just like Steve McQueen’s Bullitt is known for its famous San Francisco car chase, here They Live has a standout best fight scene, a hilariously choreographed, iconic, hand-to-hand fight scene between Piper and co-star Keith David that stretches in excess of 15 screen minutes.

Carpenter’s horror film The Ward premiered last year and he has several Halloween themed projects in the works.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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