Category: Backstage Pass


Review by C.J. Bunce

Your first glance at the title of TCM’s latest overview of a key genre of Hollywood’s greatest films may give you pause: Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and BeyondOnly 31 movies?  Quickly you’ll figure out that the 31 highlighted movies in horror historian David J. Skal’s list are only the framework for a larger, chronological examination of the horror genre, with a lean in to Hollywood’s horror classics, the kind you’re most likely to find on the Turner Classic Movies TCM channel.  In this list of recommendations, readers are sure to pull their hair out, since it’s very likely nobody’s personal list will match the author’s–or anyone else’s.  Yet that’s why we turn to these books, and as you’d expect, Fright Favorites doesn’t disappoint: You’re practically guaranteed to add an obscure–or not-so-obscure–horror film to your future watch list.

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Currently housed in a Tudor-style mansion in Manhattan, The Explorers Club is a real place with a legacy of adventurers among its ranks.  Parodied in The Freshman, the club is a meeting place established in 1904 for the purposes of promoting scientific exploration around the planet, and it does host an annual dinner with unusual flair.  A table can cost you $100,000 and features food including tarantula and other exotic animals that would be a nightmare for animal rights advocates, not to mention the taxidermy displays (Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was filmed there).  Honorary members include the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, John Glenn, Sir Edmund Hillary, Buzz Aldrin, and the club has bestowed its highest award to notables including Mary Leakey, Jane Goodall, Robert Ballard, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Not quite a secret society, the members have circumnavigated the world, flown, sailed, driven, and walked across each continent in search of the next discovery, returning back to the club to share the stories of their accomplishments.  In one of his last projects before his death in 2003, journalist and noted personality George Plimpton (himself a member) collected 51 first-hand accounts of these journeys from the club’s ranks and published them as As Told at the Explorers Club: More Than Fifty Gripping Tales of Adventure, available now in a new edition from Lyons Press.

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Founded in 1939 by Martin Goodman as Timely Comics, then re-branding as Atlas Comics, becoming a household name in 1961 thanks to the inspiration of creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko, hitting its low in bankruptcy, but rising like the Phoenix to become a movie franchise and Disney property in the 21st century, Marvel Comics has seen eight decades of change.  A new hardcover book aims to chronicle all that.  Marvel: The First 80 Years–The True Story of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon is coming your way next month.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Star Wars in pictures.  It’s something fans of the franchise have gotten excited about now for 43 years running.  From the first publication of Ralph McQuarrie’s earliest concept art, fans want more.  So it makes sense we’re going to see three books are concept artwork this year for the first season of The Mandalorian, the best thing to happen to Star Wars since the original trilogy (OK, and one or two “Star Wars story” movies).  The first of these behind the scenes books is Titan Magazines’ The Mandalorian: The Art & Imagery, just released in three versions, one via newsstands, one via comic shops, and a hardcover version you can pick up here at Amazon and brick and mortar bookstores.

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It’s not every day you get to be part of a project that is exciting and fun.  My wife, borg contributor, and author Elizabeth C. Bunce has been writing her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series for a few years now.  Prompted by a quick utterance of “premeditated murder” and a cat that showed up one night in the rain, a character and an idea took hold and before we knew it she had created and sold the first four books in a new series of mystery novels.  But as Tom Petty said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”  Tomorrow, after the obligatory pandemic delay, not only does the first book, Premeditated Myrtle, arrive in bookstores, but the second installment, How to Get Away with Myrtle, too (available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook).  How often do you begin a new series and can hardly wait that next year for the second installment?  Solved! 

It’s been exciting to watch Elizabeth build the story from the ground up, featuring 12-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle, an irrepressible and tenacious heroine living in England in 1893 as the sciences of criminology and forensics are taking off.  Her father is a local prosecutor, and with her governess Miss Judson she forms a sort of dynamic duo, solving crimes as she faces the pressures of Victorian society and growing up with other kids whose interests are less… morbid.  And the team is only complete with Peony, a truly opinionated neighbor cat, who joins her on her sleuthing.

“Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune…the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures.”  —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 

Premeditated Myrtle is currently an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month How to Get Away with Myrtle was a #1 Amazon New Release (and is currently a #3 New Release).  Last week Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”  

“In the tradition of heroines like Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Myrtle is a fine example of the Victorian scientific female—smart, inquisitive and fearless,” says Rhys Bowen, the New York Times bestselling author of the Her Royal Spyness series. “Written with a terrific mixture of humor and suspense, Premeditated Myrtle is a perfect read for any budding detective.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You’re likely to find as many books on the Alien franchise as any other major sci-fi franchise (and we’ve tried to review all of them here at borg), but for the coming 35th anniversary of the release of the first sequel, Aliens, one of the best chroniclers of blockbuster films has provided the definitive look at the film in the giant hardcover book The Making of Aliens J.W. Rinzler, the writer of some of the best known books about George Lucas’s films and Planet of the Apes, adds to 2019’s The Making of Alien (reviewed here) to give fandom his most readable account yet.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s been three years since the arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi cult classic, Blade Runner, itself based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  At last fans of the franchise, sci-fi, and futurism have a worthy tribute to the artwork behind the production with Tanya Lapointe’s Blade Runner 2049 Interlinked–The Art, now available from Titan Books.  A companion piece to the author’s 2017 book, The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049, published in 2017, which focused more on the entire production than the ideas behind the look of the film, this new book is packed with more reproductions of concept artwork than text, a journey for anyone thinking about the next Syd Mead–who will he/she be, and what the world they create might look like.

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The next concept artwork and special effects book in the Star Trek franchise arrives tomorrow, this time taking a fresh look at the success and failures in the visual effects created for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this past December.  It’s all in Star Trek: The Motion Picture–The Art and Visual Effects, by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki.  Diehard fans of the history of filmmaking will learn more about the most celebrated visual effects masters in the business as they did their best to rescue a floundering production back in 1979.  You have today left to pre-order the book at a discount here at Amazon–this will be a welcome addition to bookshelves for fans of the franchise’s first feature film.

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Bueller?  Bueller?

If you think about it, who would have taken better advantage of staying home from school during a pandemic than Ferris Bueller?  (That’s some pretty good social distancing in the above museum image).  In advance of its 35th anniversary next year, the cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of many groups that have reunited for fans in such an unprecedented way this summer in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  These great panel discussion events are a good start at sharing some positive vibes right when everyone needs it.  It’s like a year long comic-con.  This Ferris reunion definitely belongs on the top shelf of what not to miss.  This event was part of Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart videos.  The upbeat actor hosts Ferris himself, Matthew Broderick, along with co-stars Alan Ruck (Cameron) with great COVID hair, Mia Sara (Sloane), Jennifer Grey (Jeanie), Cindy Pickett (Mom), Lyman Ward (Dad), and some charming bits from Ben Stein (Ferris’s econ teacher).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The most comprehensive retrospective analysis of a film you’ve probably ever read has arrived.  For the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, film historian Marc Cushman saved his best for last, These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s Volume III (1978-1980), the sixth in his volume of comprehensive histories of the people and productions before, during, and after the original 1960s Star Trek TV series, forming a complete biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (who was born 99 years ago this week).  The creative vision and determination of Roddenberry came to its zenith in the period leading up to and during the filming of 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a series was resurrected and turned into a major franchise.  Cushman reviewed archives, records, contemporary articles, and interviewed key players for this book, to flesh out once and for all Roddenberry’s successes and failures with the film’s script and his pressure on the studio to maintain creative control, successfully spurring what would become 40 more years (and counting) of Kirk, Spock, and friends.

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