Category: Con Culture


Happy New Year!!!!

woodstock-2017

We at borg.com want to wish you a festive and safe New Year’s Eve and a spectacular 2017.  We’re entering our seventh calendar year of daily updates here, and we want to say thanks for reading.  We wish everyone a great new year.

We can all look forward to plenty of anniversaries ahead in 2017:

In the film industry John Ford, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, and Bela Lugosi had their film debuts 100 years ago.

Charles Schulz’s Woodstock from Peanuts turns 50.

The comic book characters Ghost Rider, Barbara Gordon, Deadman, Blue Beetle, and Ronan the Accuser turn 50.  Huntress, Cerebus, and Judge Dredd turn 40.

Valerian, the lead character in the new Luc Besson movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, turns 50.

Star Wars turns 40.  Look for a volley of marketing from Disney about this throughout the year to rival Star Trek’s fiftieth observance last year, including 48 variant covers from Marvel Comics, like this Stuart Immonen artwork:

stuart-immonen-sw-2017

Image Comics turns 25 in 2017.  Look for some titles including The Walking Dead to drop to 25 cents for the month of February.

The Jungle Book, The Dirty Dozen, and the original Casino Royale turn 50.  Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind turns 40. E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Dark Crystal turn 35.  Predator, The Princess Bride, and RoboCop turn 30Unforgiven, A Few Good Men, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and My Cousin Vinny turn 25.

Fifty years ago–in 1967–The Beatles released its Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, and Rolling Stone magazine published its first issue, and Marx Toys released their line of Best of the West toys, including Geronimo and Fighting Eagle, and the Fort Apache metal playset.

In science news from 1967, the world’s first heart transplant was performed, and NASA faced one of its lowest points as astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffey, and Ed White perished in the fateful launch of Apollo 1–all 50 years ago.

So there’s plenty to reflect on throughout 2017.  But back to New Year’s… Six (yep, six!) years ago we posted a YouTube clip we thought we’d re-post here to welcome in the new year, from Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and it’s now been watched nearly 18 million times!):

Thanks for coming back and thanks for following borg.com on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, or subscribing to daily updates, or just dropping by now and then to see what’s new.

Happy New Year!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Happy New Year!!!

16

We can’t believe we’re entering our sixth calendar year of daily updates here at borg.com.  Our big benchmark for 2015 was passing 1,400,000 site visits so we want to say thanks again.  We wish everyone a great new year.

Five (yep, five!) years ago we posted a YouTube clip we thought we’d re-post here to welcome in the new year, from Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and it’s now been watched more than 16.5 million times!):

Thanks for coming back and thanks for following borg.com on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, or subscribing to daily updates, or just dropping by now and then to see what’s new.

Happy New Year!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Marvin Robot voice Alan Rickman

The great British actor Alan Rickman died yesterday in the same week as singer and Labyrinth star David Bowie, and the Internet is full of tributes.  Alan Rickman gave us some great performances and as genre performers go, few have traversed more of our favorite franchises than Rickman.  In honor of Mr. Rickman let’s take a walk through our favorites in case you might have missed one.

Most of us first met Rickman as the villain Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard, the first of action-packed films featuring Bruce Willis as John McClane.  Rickman’s ability to portray the seething, classic, moustache-twirling villain won us over from the beginning, and would be a hallmark of the characters he would play over the course of a quarter of a century.  At least one of my friends would recount Quigley Down Under as his next memorable film, but most remember well his Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.

Nottingham Rickman

All in, Rickman was featured in three of my all-time top ten fantasy film favorites: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  It is the sequel to the latter, Alice Through the Looking Glass, where we will witness Rickman’s last performance on screen later this year, as the voice of the blue caterpillar.  It will be difficult not to tie Rickman to his Severus Snape incarnation in all eight Harry Potter films for an entire generation–and many generations to come.  He stepped into the shoes of Snape more than any of his film roles.

Severus Snape Rickman

But Rickman won’t be remembered only for his major fantasy film roles, as two of his films struck chords for fans of sci-fi movies.  His parody of a Spock-type alien Dr. Lazarus in the 1999 Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest was second to none.  And his voicing of the droopy robot Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy opposite Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel added the gravity needed to make the 2005 movie another sci-fi classic.

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Happy New Year!!!

2015 logo

We can’t believe we’re entering our fifth calendar year of daily updates here at borg.com.  Our big benchmark for 2014 was passing 1,000,000 site visits so we want to say thanks again.  We wish everyone a great new year.

Four years ago we posted a YouTube clip we thought we’d re-post here to welcome in the new year, from Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both who have been pretty busy with TV and films since they first posted this:

Thanks for coming back and thanks for following borg.com on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, or subscribing to daily updates, or just dropping by to see what’s new.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Syfy New logo

Last night the Syfy Channel premiered a new show documenting its 20 years of bringing science fiction and related programming to cable TV.  The Syfy Channel 20th Anniversary Special chronicles the key landmarks of the channel going back to its inception in 1992 as a network of mostly reruns of classic sci-fi series like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and the original Star Trek, as well as collecting and expanding upon series that didn’t make it on other networks, like Sliders and Andromeda.  The 2-hour show is a great way to reminisce about all the good–and bad–TV that has sucked you in, featuring commentary by series creators and cast, and narrated by Lois and Clark star Dean Cain.

Actors Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge and Michael Shanks discuss the first big hit for the network originally called the Sci Fi Channel: the Stargate franchise, including Stargate SG-1, and spinoffs Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, as well as the made-for-TV movies.

Then there were early series that didn’t last long, like USA Network series that moved to Sci Fi, like Good vs. Evil, The Invisible Man, Welcome to Paradox, and Mission Genesis.

Ben Browder and Claudia Black chat about the four seasons of the Australian production, Farscape, the next big series for the Sci Fi Channel.  The renaissance of science fiction fans fighting for a series to return occurred with Farscape, resulting in Brian Henson bring a 4-hour mini-series event to round out and tie up the loose ends of the series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Renaissance gal Zooey Deschanel seems to be at the top of her game in many respects.  She has headlined major motion pictures, such as Jon Favreau’s Elf and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, she’s the star of the funniest sitcom on TV this year, The New Girl, and she has cut several albums with Portland singer-songwriter M. Ward in her group She & Him.  With their new album, A Very She & Him Christmas, you won’t be alone if you think you’re listening to old vinyl LPs of excerpts from the 1950s and 1960s, of tunes and voicings evoking The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Patsy Cline and Dusty Springfield, backed up by a solid Willie Nelson-inspired guitar.  It’s not every day you listen to an album four times in a row, trying to determine who sang that song before, who this singer seems to sound just like, and wondering if you’ve just heard this album somewhere before.

With Christmas albums, either you want something new, or more likely, you’re after that feel of the familiar, nostalgic tune that you’ve heard so many times over the years that you have the lyrics committed to memory.  With A Very She & Him Christmas, you get not only nostalgia, you get some 1950s rock, some Hawaiian vibes, some beach music, some lounge/1960s mod, most soulful, a few cheery, and all ultimately sentimental and sweetly sung.   Look for some nice acoustic walking guitar lines, as well as some cool reverb electric guitar a la Del Shannon’s Runaway.  Don’t look for a lot of Deschanel’s typical layered alto, leathery smooth voice.  It still is a sophisticated sound, but more adherence is given to classic renditions of these mostly familiar songs than improvising or toying with the classics.

Expect little of the often labeled “cutesy Zooey Deschanel”–here instead is a more mature Dusty Springfield style of emoting, some Patsy Cline-inspired sounds mixed with some Karen Carpenter-esque aching loneliness and all with a Mama Cass Eliot level of a Deschanel’s full volumed voice.

This is a great addition to your Christmas CD collection or iPod.  The album cover says it all, with its That Thing You Do retro feel.  Some highlights of the recordings on A Very She & Him Christmas include:

1. The Christmas Waltz.  A lazy and quirky version of a classic that feels like Deschanel is stuck inside on a wintry day, passing away the hours, looking out on the world she is missing.

2.  Christmas Day.  A hip and up-tempo ice 1950s electric guitar, breezy, California Christmas.  An unfamiliar but nice tune, that feels a bit like it could have been written by George Harrison while singing with the Travelling Wilburys.

3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  Melancholy and melancholy.  Almost a creepy dark , soulful vibe.  Will have you wondering if you left a Carpenters album in the stereo.

4.  I’ll be Home for Christmas.  Tinny and tinselly classic rock version of a usually bland and dreary, sentimental song.  Still soulful, this version’s background skips along with some actual hopefulness.

5.  Christmas Wish.  This song has the feel of a California beach Christmas tune.  Very Beach Boys influenced, almost feels like this should be on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album.  reminiscent of the old Coca-Cola commercial sound “I’d like to teach the world to sing.”

6.  Sleigh Ride.  A great up-tempo, cheery tune you’d expect on a Zooey Deschanel album.  She sings on the back beat of the normal tune, more than just playing with the syncopation of the tune.   At first gives you a bit of a start.  And she does this holding of notes on consonants that is unusual but kind of cool.  Ultimately the playfulness of the back and forth between Deschanel and Ward make this a highlight of the album.

7.  Rockin’ Around the Christmas.  The best song on the album.  Upbeat 1950s, great use of background singers.  Sounds as if you pulled a vinyl Christmas album out of a vinyl retro shop and spun it on the 50-year-old stereo you’ve kept in the attic.  And not just any album… a Patsy Cline Christmas album.  You’d swear it was Cline on the last line of the song.

8.  Silver Bells.  A cool idea, Silver Bells, only Hawaiian style, backed with Deschanel playing ukelele.  A lot less of the full sound we’ve heard before from Deshanel as far as voice goes.  But that’s a good thing here because instead she mirrors the nostalgic singing style of Rosemary Clooney.

9.  Baby, It’s Cold Outside.  Tons more playful than her brief version from the movie Elf, Deschanel and Ward really balance each other equally in a classic rendition of the song.

10.  Blue Christmas.  Probably the best version of this song I have ever heard, and it’s pretty much my least favorite Christmas song, so that’s saying something.  Deschanel is more expressive and soulful than on the other songs on the album.  It also has a little Country pop ballad twist, which is a nice interpretation of this song since Country often equates to “blue” lyrics.  You get the feel she is singing to a few folks from atop a stool with her guitar in some off the highway, Alabama roadhouse bar.

11.  Little Saint Nick.  Another fun, California Christmas song.  Nice use of background voices.  Sang sweetly, again with a touch of that ukelele played by Deschanel.

12.  The Christmas Song.  A drifting, willowy, mature, satiny version of the classic.  Another album highlight.

Years ago you couldn’t get through any New Year’s Eve without seeing or hearing Guy Lombardo playing “Roll Out the Barrel” and “Auld Lang Syne” and, hey, I really am not that old.  We also had Dick Clark, the man who never ages, and the big old ball drop in Times Square in New York City, that still keeps rolling along.

This is the album by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Auld Lang Syne, now available on CD for only $2.99, that, back in 33 1/3 LP form, got worn out by several families across the U.S.:

One of the classic holiday tunes that is also all about New Years’ is Nancy Wilson’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

In the world of viral videos on You Tube, it is awesome and appropriate that one of our favorite celebrities of 2011 uploaded a free song to celebrate the New Year, Zooey Deschanel and her cool ukelele, accompanied by her good pal Joseph (Joe) Gordon-Levitt, hangin’ around the house singing.  But the result is great.  Check it out:

If you’re not keeping up with the year, Deschanel has had a super year.  You may know her from several movies, both drama and comedy, including one of the holiday season’s best new classics, Elf, with Will Farrell, or from her musical duo She & Him, and more recently by her hit comedy series on ABC, New Girl, that has garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.  We reviewed her new Christmas album a few weeks ago here, and we’ve been loving her TV series all season, and discussed it here, too.

You’ll recognize “RegularJoe” Joe Gordon-Levitt from everything from a kid on Family Ties to Dark Shadows to Quantum Leap, from Roseanne to The Outer Limits to the show that made him well known, 3rd Rock from the Sun, from films like G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra to Inception.  Next year will be a big year for Gordon-Levitt, as he will have roles in both The Dark Knight Rises, and play President Lincoln’s son in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, based on a Doris Kearns-Goodwin book.

Sounds like Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt are not an “item,” but they sure look cute together, right?  It makes you wonder if anyone is paying attention.  How about a musical like A Knight’s Tale, Ella Enchanted starring these two?  And how cool to give a song out like this for free?

Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By Elizabeth C. Bunce, Jason McClain and C.J. Bunce

Last week the sixth episode of New Girl aired, and instead of waiting to establish itself the show went head-on into its Thanksgiving day episode.  And it could not have been funnier had it been from season 6 and we had spent years getting to know these characters.  In fact, unlike any other show this year New Girl hasn’t missed a beat, with every episode just as funny as the last.

A NEW HOLIDAY TRADITION:  New Girl, “Thanksgiving.”  Air date: November 15, 2011.

THE SETUP: Jess (Zooey Deschanel) asks co-worker Paul (Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard, MacIntosh ads, Battle for Terra) to Thanksgiving at the loft.  The guys are apprehensive about Paul, until they find that he is just like Jess, including the spontaneous singing at any time.  Clearly Jess and Paul are made for each other.  Jess hasn’t made Thanksgiving dinner before, but Schmidt has, and Schmidt decides to make dinner for everyone so long as they get out of his way and do as he says, and so long as Jess’s girlfriend Cece (the model) is coming along.  Nick won’t give Paul a chance, and quickly decides he doesn’t like the guy.  Jess finds out and confronts him in the hall and pummels him with a rant about all the things she wants to do with Paul…umm… of the intimate variety, but all this is said in the silly way only Jess could come up with.  Until Winston opens the door and announces that everyone inside, including Paul, can hear.  Meanwhile, Schmidt has taken command of the kitchen and begins to criticize Cece for double dipping as he is making stuffing.  His mean comments to Cece actually make Schmidt attractive to her.  He has unlocked the secret to Cece… and Schmidt blows it.  Schmidt seems to get this, but she continues to taunt him, and ultimately germ-free cooking wins out over infatuation with his dream girl.  A burnt turkey and a dead body later, and it is hard to believe this was only a half hour show.

But that’s new TV.

So we thought about our favorite Thanksgiving TV episodes and want to share them with you to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

C.J.’s PICK: WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkeys Away.”  Air date: October 30, 1978.

First off, if you haven’t seen it, take a half hour to watch here:

(YouTube versions change a lot, so feel free to look around for a better version, unless it’s already carried by one of your streaming providers)

THE SETUP:  The lovable but slightly dim radio station manager, Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump), is feeling unwanted.  He’s trying to get involved with the radio station, work with the employees, participate somehow.  Receptionist Jennifer (Loni Anderson) runs the front office and won’t let Mr. Carlson touch or do anything.  News announcer Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) is paranoid when Mr. Carlson asks him what he’s been up to.  Sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) is full of his one-liner schtick.  DJ Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) fakes being asleep.  Carlson encounters DJ Venus (Tim Reid) and marketing manager Bailey (Jan Smithers), and he offers to help them, making the decision to give out free Boston T-shirts over Foreigner T-shirts, because he’s worried about the quality of foreign products (if you don’t get that joke, go review your 1970s rock bands).

Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) tries to console Mr. Carlson and it backfires.  Mr. Carlson is going to micro-manage the station, and develops a plan for the greatest promotion ever, where everyone has a part:  “I just made a deal that is going to make radio history,” he says.  They just need to get 20 live turkeys.

By the end of the half hour, we hear Les Nessman reporting from the street, “the big WKRP Thanksgiving turkey giveaway,” “the greatest turkey event in thanksgiving history,” “I think I hear something now,” “it’s a helicopter coming this way,” “something just came out of the back of the helicopter,” “no parachutes yet,” “I can’t tell what they are… Oh, my God, they’re turkeys!” “they’re hitting the ground like bags of wet cement,” “oh, my God, oh, the humanity!” “I can’t watch this anymore!”  Les’s reporting sounds just like the footage of the Hindenburg exploding.  The line goes dead.  Johnny fever announces: “The Pinedale Mall has just been bombed by Thanksgiving turkeys.”

The staff discusses what happened as Jennifer tries to explain what happened to the local humane society, and Mr. Carlson stumbles in with the classic line: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”  And you almost see the other actors start to laugh.

Surprisingly, other than Herb and Les’s clothes, the show isn’t that dated, and the office relationships are as real as in any office environment today.

“You made a bear!  Undo it!  Undo it!”

ELIZABETH’s PICK: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs.”  Air date: November 23, 1999.

The Thanksgiving TV episode is almost as much of a contemporary American tradition as the holiday gathering itself (or if not that, then certainly equal to Black Friday commercial madness), and over the years we’ve seen some classics.  From the alltime fan favorite WKRP episode profiled by our esteemed editor, to the free-range turkey fiasco of Murphy Brown, to the more recent tartar-sauce-in-the-green-bean-casserole incident from Chuck, to the absurdist efforts of Dharma & Greg to combine vegan and traditional dishes—and relatives—into one meal, the Thanksgiving episode always provides an over-the-top look at holiday excess, in this case, the strained efforts of American families everywhere to create the Perfect Family Holiday.  In those outrageous examples, we see our own holidays reflected, and for 30-60 minutes, at least, feel relieved that at least we’re not that bad.

My personal favorite Thanksgiving show has to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Season 4 episode “Pangs.”

THE SETUP:  Like classic episodes before and since, this one revolves around Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ringer) attempt to recreate the Norman Rockwell holiday of her childhood.  But she’s hampered by absent family, a lack of cooking skills and equipment, ambivalent best friend Willow… and the angry ghost of a wronged Native American warrior seeking vengeance for the destruction of his tribe by white settlers.  This conflict reflects a very current, late 1990s concern about how Americans viewed our colonial past, and is particularly well-represented by Willow (Alyson Hannigan, Veronica Mars, How I Met Your Mother), who wants nothing to do with either the holiday meal or the vanquishing of the warrior spirit.

“Pangs” is, first and foremost, hilarious—as every great Thanksgiving episode must be.  In a way, it’s almost “Thanksgiving Deconstructed;” we get every piece of the traditional framework—but everything gets a Buffyesque twist. Strange relatives? Check—nobody’s stranger than mystically-syphilis-stricken Xander (Nicholas Brendon, Criminal Minds) and his tactless, ex-demon girlfriend Anya… except possibly down-on-his-luck vampire Spike (who’s already been kicked out by his own ‘family,’ of sorts).  Cooking drama?  How about confusing the stuffing recipe with a spell for combating the ghost?  And in the middle of it all is poor Buffy, as the classic harried hostess trying futilely to please everyone, when everything is falling apart around her.

Funny moments abound, but it’s the social commentary that makes this episode so memorable.  Archetypal Others Anya and Spike have never been more on-point in their blunt attacks on cultural sacred cows.  “I love a ritual sacrifice,” Anya declares about the traditional Turkey Day meal, and Spike deftly tramps all over the storyline’s key ethical dilemma in a clear but uncomfortable summation: “You won.  All right?  You came in and you killed them and you took their land.  That’s what conquering nations do. End of story.”  It’s a shocking, if alarmingly accurate, analysis—and only a show like Buffy could get away with saying it straight out like that.

“Pangs” definitely takes the catastrophic holiday theme to new lows, but it’s a perfect example of how genre fiction, by stretching concepts to their most outrageous limits, so often highlights the essential truths about issues we’re all grappling with—collective guilt, the inability to live up to imagined standards, and, of course, pie.  Happy ritual sacrifice, everyone!

“Look Ma, I’m on TV!”

JASON’s PICK: Mike and Molly, “Mike Cheats.”  Air date: November 21, 2011.

THE SETUP:  Surprisingly, well maybe not because Elizabeth and C.J. took “Buffy” and “WKRP” as those are two of my favorite shows ever and you probably don’t ever have to wonder why we all blog together, my favorite Thanksgiving episode ever just debuted on Monday November 21, 2011.  It is Mike and Molly and the episode “Mike Cheats.”  How can an episode less than a week old already reach the stratospheric heights that the other entries have?

Simple, I’m in it.  Since I’ve never been in a Thanksgiving TV episode, this is a whole new ball game.  I mean it has to be a favorite, right?

Early on in the episode, just after the credits, Samuel (Nyambi Nyambi) serves breakfast to Officer Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell) and Officer Carl McMillan (Reno Wilson).  Over Officer McMillan’s shoulder is a guy already eating his breakfast and talking to a bearded companion.  I’m that guy enjoying eggs and potatoes.

It’s wild being a part of a multi-camera sitcom.  You do film in front of a live studio audience.  The previous day, you rehearse and get to hear and see the rest of the scenes that take place on the other sets all in a line on the same stage.  You get to see how the button on Officer Biggs shirt pops off due to an air compressor.  You get to see the actors try different lines as they get new pages of scripts.  It’s a cool learning experience about how a show comes together.

It makes it even better when you can see me in the episode.  I have no lines, I’m in the background as a good background actor should be and I’m always in profile, but I’m still there.  I can point at that episode and say, “Look ma, I’m on TV.”  It may not have the same weight as the line, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly,” but I’ll take it.

A few years ago, I doubt I would have ever thought that I would be able to experience that.  Now, I do occasional background work, I’m hoping to get a novel published and I enjoy contributing to various sites on the web with my writing.  I’m thankful for the opportunities that allowed me to live in Los Angeles and achieve some creative goals and have a fun time seeing and doing new things.  I’m thankful for my friends and family with whom I share my love of writing and entertainment and for all their support.  It’s Thanksgiving and this is the perfect Thanksgiving episode to represent those feelings.

From everyone here at borg, Happy Thanksgiving! 

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