Category: Backstage Pass


Sam and Gene

My name is Sam Tyler.  I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973.  Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?  Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet.

First off, it’s really going to rile some people when you pronounce something the greatest ever.  But we’re talking here about the British television series Life on Mars.  And not just Life on Mars, but The Empire Strikes Back of television series, Ashes to Ashes.  You can quibble with M*A*S*H or Law and Order or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Twilight Zone, or engage you people over there shouting Firefly and Supernatural and the others over there fighting over the best Star Trek series–but we’re talking about Life on Mars here.  And if you’ve watched its two seasons in 2006 and 2007, or the three seasons of Ashes to Ashes from 2008 to 2010, then the news that another chapter of the series is in the works is the kind of happy news that can actually distract you from the real world right now.

Yet it’s true.  Life on Mars co-creator Matthew Graham confirmed it all yesterday as part of a Twitter “watch-along” of the first episode of the genre-bending series for the UK audience.  Graham first hinted at the possibility in a Tweet he posted Tuesday promoting the event, and he provided more details after the show.  Just like over the past 15 years, Brits posted how much they loved the series, how they believe it to be the best series ever made.  The series follows John Simm (Doctor Who, State of Play) as Sam Tyler, a British cop in 2006 who is working on a case when he is hit by a car.  He awakens in the same police station 33 years earlier, in the year 1973.  He knows he’s unstuck in time, but unsure how he got there.  Is he in a coma?  Did something supernatural take over?  Is this what death is like?  This is where the genre-bending begins.  Until you’ve watched all five years of episodes, you won’t really know what is the true genre behind the genres hinted at in the series.  Tyler befriends and shares his situation only with co-worker Annie Cartwright, played by Liz White (Doctor Who, The Woman in Black).  He finds he is now working under the cantankerous Detective Police Inspector Gene Hunt, played by Philip Glenister (Cranford, Horatio Hornblower), one of my picks of the greatest characters of all time (seriously, I wrote about it here eight years ago).  DCI Hunt becomes the centerpiece of this strange world, continuing past the second season of Life on Mars to co-star in the same role in Ashes to Ashes along with Keeley Hawes (Doctor Who, The Bank Job), a police officer named Alex Drake who is shot in 2008 and wakes up in 1981.  Life on Mars continued with Ashes to Ashes much like The Closer continued with the series Major Crimes for U.S. audiences, swapping out the lead roles, but continuing with the rest of the cast.  Here that included two other cops, played by Dean Andrews (Father Brown, Marchlands) and Marshall Lancaster (Doctor Who, Casualty) who appeared in all five seasons.

Ashes

During yesterday’s watch-along, Graham peppered Twitter with glimpses at what lies ahead in what he called, The Final Chapter.  Although he didn’t say if any actors had confirmed returning, it seems impossible anyone would make this announcement without buy-in from Glenister, Simm, Hawes, White, Andrews, and Lancaster.  To that point he said, “we intend to get as many back (across both decades) as we can.  So when you wonder who will be coming back for The Final Chapter – think Avengers Assemble!”  He specifically referenced wanting Annie (Liz White) back, and Hunt’s boss DCI Litton.  Graham mentioned the series will be set in Manchester and London, partially in the 1970s, partially in the 1980s, but mostly in an alternate now, all running for four or five episodes.  “I’d like to tell you that in The Final Chapter there will be a TV show WITHIN our TV show.  TYLER: MURDER DIVISION,” adding, “We would never make another Mars unless we really had something to say and could push the envelope all over again.  Finally we have something.”  While watching a classic scene in the first episode, co-creator Ashley Pharoah Tweeted, “I wonder if Phil and John could jump over that desk now?  I guess we’ll find out”.

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PatrickPicard

Patrick Stewart is back again to save the day, and he’s doing it in two ways.  As Sir Patrick Stewart, he has begun reading sonnets and sharing his readings online.  And as one of our favorite Captains, Jean-Luc Picard, he’s sharing news of the ability for anyone to stream the first season of his new series Star Trek: Picard on the CBS All Access streaming service–free.

As most know, the master thespian was an actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company before appearing in Star Trek: The Next Generation and as Charles Xavier in the Marvel X-Men franchise films, including one of his landmark performances in James Mangold’s 2017 Oscar-nominated film, Logan.  On his social media (see his Instagram page here) Sir Pat has begun reciting a sonnet a day, in the hopes that “a sonnet a day keeps the doctor away.”  He has so far read Shakespeare sonnets 116, 1, and 2.

Patrick Stewart

And Tuesday he announced more good news for his Star Trek fans: “Our #StarTrekPicard season finale is Thursday, and starting today until 4/23, you can watch for free on @CBSAllAccess in the US with the code: GIFT.”  All you need to do is sign up for the streaming service and use the code GIFT.  Check out the CBS All Access website for full details.

Star Trek: Picard takes place twenty years after the events in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, which resulted in the death of Brent Spiner’s character Data, and also after the events of Star Trek (2009), which resulted in the destruction of the planet Romulus.

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In a matter of two days, parts of the entertainment industry have been significantly carved back in their ability to reach audiences because of the rapid movement of coronavirus/COVID-19 and new guidelines from the Center for Disease Control recommending social distancing to stave off further spread of the disease.  While publishing, whether books or comics (hard copies, ebooks, other digital, or online), music (except live events), and TV and movies at home (it’s still debatable whether theaters are safe spaces or not) become safe alternatives to turn to, live sporting events are out, as are most pop culture events like comic book conventions and Renaissance faires–at least for the immediate future.  So this will be a time where creativity must lead the way.  “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  Creators will need to come up with new ways to reach consumers, and the better that businesses–large or small–are able to solve novel problems and innovate quickly, the better they will be able to get through the next few (or several) months.  We’ve seen two new great ideas that arrived right away worth checking out.

The first is Faire Relief 2020, a Facebook group that turned from nothing to nearly 3,000 members within its first day yesterday.  You can find the group at this link (there are no requirements to join).  From the group’s page: “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak a lot of events have had to be cancelled.  For those who make their living doing Renaissance Faires and Festivals this can be a devastating blow.  This group is to help aid those Merchants, Artists, Performers and the like by allowing them to put their Wares up for sale or sharing their contact information and Facebook pages so that people may purchase from them.”  You’ll find anything and everything there, from custom wood designs, jewelry, candles and incense, food and drink, and leatherwork, to custom cosplay like chainmail and other clothing (historical and modern fashions), pottery, and even gifts and collectables like wax seals, sculpted dragons and dragon egg statues.

Wood, Willow, and Whatknots–one of the Renaissance faire small businesses–offering jewelry, oils, fragrances, and wood burning. Find them at http://www.woodwillow.com.

At the same time, Wizard Entertainment, the company behind many nationwide comic conventions, distributed a press briefing previewing its new Wizard World Virtual Experiences, an attempt to bring pop culture conventions online.  For more than 20 years Wizard has produced “Wizard World” events where attendees meet celebrities, participate in Q&A panels, collect autographs and chat with their favorite celebrities, writers, and artists in gatherings at convention centers across North America.  Now Wizard wants to bring that experience to fans at home.

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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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The Ninth Doctor, Darth Vader, Superman, James Bond’s Q, Lt. Cmdr. Data, Ahsoka Tano, Ariel-The Little Mermaid, a Mythbuster, a slate of characters from the CW Arrowverse, Stranger Things, and The Karate Kid, and more are heading to Kansas City

For twenty-one years Planet Comicon Kansas City has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  And it’s only gotten bigger.  Last year’s show featured guests including Henry Winkler, William Shatner, John Wesley Shipp, Cary Elwes, and Joonas Suotamo, and this year more of the most memorable names from TV and movies from the past and present are slated to attend.  Leading things off, The Doctor is In–The Ninth Doctor to be exact–Christopher Eccleston, star of Doctor Who who also played villains in Thor: The Dark World and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, will make his first appearance at the annual event, which takes place at Kansas City’s convention center at Bartle Hall, March 20-22, 2020.

Fan-favorite nerd, cosplayer, builder, and either your first or second favorite Mythbuster, Adam Savage will be making his first appearance at the show.  Making their second appearances at the event are star of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (and Guardians of the Galaxy and Harry Potter universe actor) Darth Vader actor Spencer Wilding and Star Trek legend–Data himself (and Dr. Soong, Lore, and B9)–beloved actor Brent Spiner.  After several appearances of past Superman actors, Midwest native Brandon Routh is finally coming to PCKC.  He’ll be joined by other CW Arrowverse actors, Rachel Skarsten (in her second Kansas City convention appearance), plus Katie Cassidy, Kevin Conroy, Jes Macallen, Courtney Ford, and Caity Lotz.

Two Yutes?  My Cousin Vinny, The Outsiders, and Crossroads star Ralph Macchio is making his first appearance at PCKC.  Joining him are his co-stars from The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, Martin Kove and William ZabkaStranger Things fans can meet stars Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gabriella Pizzolo.  To top it all off, formerly James Bond’s Q and Monty Python comedy legend, John Cleese is making his first convention appearance in Kansas City.  And perennial Planet Comicon Kansas City guest, the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno will be back in town for the event.

–there’s something for every TV and movie fanboy and fangirl at this year’s show.

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Bond IMAX

Concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) have finally had an impact on movie theaters.  As companies like Twitter and Facebook are pulling out of Austin’s South by Southwest annual festival, and major guests and vendors have canceled their attendance at Seattle’s annual Emerald City Comic Con (including DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics), the first major motion picture is getting bumped amid concerns of a predicted decline in movie theater attendance.  NBC reports that delaying the release of the eagerly awaited film No Time to Die–said to be the last Daniel Craig stint as James Bond–was due to studio concerns about the virus.  Internationally, China, France, Switzerland, Italy, South Korea, and other countries have seen event closings and delays in recent weeks, with the film market already taking a hit in China, South Korea, and Italy.

On Wednesday, the official James Bond 007 social media account posted the following:

MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020.

So the 25th official Bond film that was almost here moves from next month to Thanksgiving weekend.  Until then, audiences will have to wait for their next Bond fix–Maybe dream about getting your own Aston Martin as part of an offer in conjunction with the film’s release (below), or a sweater like Daniel Craig wears in the new film.

NTTD pic

Check out these features, tie-ins, and trailers for No Time to Die below, including director Cary Joji Fukunaga discussing the film:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Watching the incredible award-winning Netflix series Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the seamless visuals and storytelling can’t prepare viewers for the amount of detailed craftsmanship required to create the series (which was our pick for Best TV Series, Best New Limited TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Writing for TV, Best TV Costumes/Makeup, and Best TV Soundtrack in our year-end wrap-up last year here at borg).  It was far more involved than any other live-action project, CGI production, or animated series, and that feat is what Daniel Wallace’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance–Inside the Epic Return to Thra is all about.

Like in Industrial Light & Magic Presents: Making Solo: A Star Wars Story (a diary of sorts of the making of that film reviewed here), creating this level of rich behind the scenes account for such a complex production benefits from being assembled during the development and execution of the series.  This is a complete story that begins where Caseen Gaines’ compelling The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History (reviewed here) ends, taking readers from 1982 into the development of Thra’s expanded universe of books, comics, and online resources, all waiting to be combined together to inspire and become the Netflix series.

But the biggest thing not found on the screen–the thing that glues together the book and process behind the series–is the imagination, influence, and contributions of Brian Froud.  Readers will find hardly a page of this volume without a key concept design personally envisioned, painted, or sketched by Froud, the visionary behind the look of the original The Dark Crystal film.

And that explains why the series feels so faithful to Henson’s original film.

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If you didn’t know her before you may have heard her powerful, soulful rendition of The Beatles’ song Yesterday performed with the photo montage memoriam during this year’s Oscar ceremony.  Eighteen-year-old singer Billie Eilish is the latest songwriter/singer whose work will define a James Bond film when No Time to Die debuts in theaters in April.  Eilish is the youngest person and second person ever to win the four main Grammy categories (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist), and now, co-writing the song with her brother Finneas O’Connell (Glee), Eilish becomes the youngest performer to headline a Bond theme.  The song features guitarist Johnny Marr, with orchestral arrangements by Hans Zimmer and Matt Dunkley.  She’ll perform the song live for the first time at the Brit Awards in London Tuesday.

Compare her No Time to Die (listen to the full song below) to Sam Smith’s Writing’s On the Wall from Spectre and you’ll notice a familiar framework.  Eilish doesn’t have the mature voice of Adele, as demonstrated in her passionate and aching theme to Skyfall.  Eilish opts for cracking whispers over the fuller sound of Bassey or Adele.  But clearly all three of these most recent performers for Bond films borrow something from Bassey’s sultry performances of early Bond themes.  Be sure to listen for musical cues and motifs from familiar Bond themes of years past dotting the background of Eilish’s song.  Note: The version on Eilish’s YouTube page probably doesn’t match what will hopefully be a cleaner, clearer edit used for the expected stylized opening credits sequence in the film–you may need to listen twice to catch all the lyrics, or watch this version with printed lyrics here.

Listen to all the prior Bond themes and watch all the corresponding opening credit sequences at our borg rundown of the themes here.  Then vote in our James Bond Theme Song Poll below for your favorite:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In The Oliver Stone Experience, writer Matt Zoller Seitz provided fans of Oliver Stone with an incredibly immersive deep-dive into the thought process of the acclaimed and sometimes controversial director.  Spending five years with Stone debating and analyzing the auteur’s films and influences was the stuff for the ultimate fan of his films, bordering on containing too much information–mostly insightful, but sometimes trivial and the stuff of information overload.  But can you really have too much information when you’re talking about your favorite creator?  Probably not, and it’s with the same gusto that Seitz digs into Wes Anderson–the man, the mind, the films.  Seitz admittedly is a fan of Anderson and it shows as he chronicles the writer/director’s life and career in his massive work of essays and photographs, The Wes Anderson Collection, a coffee table hardcover and collectible for every Anderson fan.

In a series of interviews about his films Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom, with two supplemental books available covering The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs (more on those below), Anderson becomes more accessible, and his films more understandable–even for those who aren’t fans of his work.  With original illustrations and production images, Seitz also makes a statement with the design of the book, incorporating the film frames, the quirky nostalgia, and the memory box-like set-ups seen in Anderson films, to highlight and explore the journey the filmmaker has taken with each new film.  The distinct tracking shots and color palettes that define Anderson’s films are featured in shots from the films and in behind the camera images of props, sets, and actors that come together to form these distinct stories.

Readers will find some overload of data here, but it’s also fun to watch a fan who has done his research interviewing a filmmaker.  Equally fun are Anderson’s reactions to complex questions the writer-director never himself pondered about his own work.  Yes, expect plenty of “Hmmm” responses, but much more content of the thought-provoking variety.  Every fan should have a book like this to go to for his/her favorite creator–the closest I’ve seen like this is surprisingly James Cameron’s interviews of directors in his Story of Science Fiction (reviewed here), and the James Bond books Bond on Bond (reviewed here), and The Many Lives of Bond (reviewed here), and the above-mentioned book on Oliver Stone.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re accustomed to seeing non-fiction tie-in books digging into what makes the big sci-fi franchises so popular.  But it’s only a recent trend that publishers are meeting fan demand by digging into those television series that don’t have the established fan bases and studio support.  Firefly was probably the first series to break out in this way, but publishers are now seeing–thanks to streaming platforms specifically–that fans want more content about their favorite shows.  Following recent books like Jeff Bond’s The World of The Orville (reviewed here at borg) and The Art and Making of the Expanse (reviewed here), the next acclaimed science fiction series has a behind-the-scenes account with Mike Avila’s The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World from Titan Books.

Designed almost identically to the successful The World of The Orville, this look at Amazon Studios’ The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World is both an overview of the series, its characters, its source material, and the creation of its detailed alternate world, and it’s also a visit with the creators behind and in front of the camera that made a complex, highly regarded work of classic sci-fi literature into a compelling benchmark in television storytelling.  As we’ve seen in interviews with Lisa Henson in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance–Inside the Epic Return to Thra and interviews about the Broccoli family in The Many Lives of Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy, this look at the Amazon series provides one of fandom’s first glimpses at Philip K. Dick’s daughter, Dick estate trustee and series executive producer Isa Dick Hackett.  So whether you liked (or not) how the series took portions of the novel, left some behind, and added new bits, Hackett explains the thought process behind the production’s choices.

The book covers the entire series–all four seasons–and is divided into four sections by theater: the Japanese Pacific States, the Neutral Zone, the Greater Nazi Reich, and Alternate Worlds, and these sections further highlight specific components of the series, including characters, locations, design, costumes, props, and music.  There’s even a section on creating the creepy opening title sequence, slightly altered each season.  And stills of the signage, both re-created concepts and alternate history imagery, provide fans the opportunity to at last study them in detail.

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