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Category: Movies


You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.

In the beginning there was Georges Méliès’s 1902 space fantasy/science fiction film Le Voyage dans la Lune.  It would take another 65 years before we’d get a look at what a realistic outer space could look like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but before that we’d get glimpses from film visionaries in the likes of Forbidden Planet, TV series like Lost in Space and Star Trek, and a final, old school vision of the future in the 1976 film Logan’s Run.  Each of these has its place in the history of science fiction, but none can compare to the epic storytelling, characters, and special effects–the surprise rollercoaster ride–we walked into on May 25, 1977, as the opening crawl passed over our heads to reveal an enormous spaceship and our first breaths in a world with this phenomenon called Star Wars. 

What would we be looking back on if not for the imagination and personal interests of George Lucas, the writer?  What if Lucas hadn’t grown up a fan of Flash Gordon, classic sci-fi movies, classic fantasy lore, and Akira Kurosawa films?  What would we be talking about in 2017 to escape the challenges of the real world if not the first images of an eighth follow-on film to Star Wars?  From Star Wars sprouted changes across cinema.  Cutting edge sound improvements thanks to THX.  Cutting edge visuals thanks to Industrial Light and Magic.  Mass marketed tie-ins of every sort throughout the creative arts as a new, multi-billion dollar, international industry.

Ten times.  My brother, my sister, my mom and dad, and me, first at the old Southridge III Theater.  We saw it ten times in the theater, and a few of those screenings we just sat through over and again all day on a Saturday, and then we saw it on the giant, wide screen downtown at the River Hills theater.  I missed the premiere and opening days, but my schoolmates at the end of my first year of school couldn’t stop talking about it.  My innate stubbornness and hesitation to join the crowd was already fixed: “But Star Wars is such a boring title!”  And then I saw it.  And everything changed.  Hardly a year would go by that I, or my parents, weren’t contributing to what would be Lucas’s $4 billion dollar empire, buying tie-ins we’d never even heard of before May 1977.  But what a fun ride he provided in return!

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Is this a stand-up fight or another bug hunt?

Would Aliens–that epic sci-fi war movie sequel to the groundbreaking sci-fi horror tale Alien–have been half as great without the performance of Bill Paxton as Colonial Marine Private Hudson?  Tens of thousands of fans came out to celebrate Paxton and his performance in the film when news spread of his passing this February.  Always willing to recite a line from one of his movies for fans, you have to think he would have loved a read like Aliens: Bug Hunt, a new anthology from Titan Books.  Aliens: Bug Hunt hones in on the gritty band of spacefaring soldiers as 19 authors share 15 new short stories of the Alien universe.

The new release, just after the Aliens 30th anniversary and nicely timed to this month’s theatrical release of Alien: Covenant, provides stories before and after Aliens, some sci-fi, some horror, action and drama, or a mix of each.  One story tells the tale of Corporal Hicks before the events in Aliens, and a personal mission to locate the cause of his wife’s death.  Another story details an operation of the Marines in an encounter with a hostile alien menace unrelated to the Xenomorphs.  One story provides insight into the synthetic Bishop and how he came to be the determined and decisive crew member we met in the series.

The anthology was edited by Jonathan Maberry with new works by Maberry and a “usual suspects” list of tie-in book writers and more.  Dan Abnett, Rachel Caine, Larry Correia, Keith R.A. DeCandido, David Farland, Matt Forbeck, Ray Garton, Christopher Golden, Heather Graham, Brian Keene, Paul Kuppenberg, Tim Lebbon, Marina J. Lostetter, James A. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Mike Resnick, and Scott Sigler contributed stories.

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Beware the light.

Review by C.J. Bunce

On first viewing of Logan, this year’s most critically acclaimed superhero film, a viewer may love it or leave it.  It’s not your typical Marvel Comics adaptation, full of f-bombs and the bloodiest of action and violence.  Yet it’s also a finely crafted final chapter to the successful X-Men film saga and a tribute to Hugh Jackman’s unprecedented nine-film run as Logan.  Last week 20th Century Fox showed a limited screening arranged by the director of Logan in black and white, called Logan: Noir.  The version is also included on the Blu-ray release available everywhere tomorrow.  If you haven’t seen Logan, skip the theatrical version and go straight to Logan: Noir and if you have seen Logan prepare for a completely different experience with this special edition of the film.

Logan: Noir would be more aptly titled Logan: Black and White, as this is not so much classic noir than a modern Western tale shown in black and white.  Thankfully writer/director James Mangold (Cop Land, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine) carefully and elegantly filmed Logan with an eye for the stark contrasts that black and white film once regularly captured so well.  Parts of the film will reach into your chest and hold you breathless, revealing the full potential of a comic book based film–and more specifically a superhero film.

Its bleak, cold landscapes are evocative of a John Ford (Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Grapes of Wrath) Western.  Its slow, calculated scenic pans are something Stanley Kubrick (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove) could only have hoped to have achieved in his early work.  Inasmuch as Hugh Jackman is a classic, Western, antihero archetype in his so-far-gone, washed-up, tired and grizzled Logan–former Wolverine of the X-Men–he appears far lonelier and resigned to a dismal, unrelenting future in black and white.  The cold contrasts in this Logan somehow create a vision more true to the Old Man Logan of the comic book source material.

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One thing missing from the latest round of Star Wars toys is the miniature catalogs that were included in playsets and vehicles back in the 1970s and 1980s.  These were not only features of Star Wars toys.  Other lines, such as LEGO brick sets, included similar booklets.  As a kid you either learned about the next round of Kenner toys from commercials tucked between Saturday morning cartoons or the big deal for all kids each year–the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs.

Along with the inserts and catalogs, kids would learn about new toys from other sources, like advertisements in comic books, magazines, and even local newspapers.  It’s these advertisements that Star Wars fan and chronicler Philip Reed has collected for his next book about toys.  Now fully funded is his latest Kickstarter campaign, A Galaxy of Action Figure Savings–a companion to last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories–a 96-page hardcover book loaded with more newspaper ads, toy photos, commercial screenshots, and images of related marketing materials.

We’ve read Reed’s eighth of now nine books on the history of toys, last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories, an unofficial overview interspersed with trivia and close-up photos of marketing materials and the actual trilogy tie-in toys spanning 1977 to 1986.  It’s easy to spend hours gawking at these artifacts of the past again, comparing prices, and studying those items that may or may not have made it to store shelves.  But fair warning, comparing the costs of action figures to today’s prices is a bit depressing.

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Excelsior!  Legendary comic book writer, editor, actor, producer and publisher Stan Lee will be making a special appearance at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines tonight and Saturday, May 20.  The most iconic and well-known of all comic book legends and the spark that lit up the current heyday of comic books and comic book movies, Mr. Lee has done it all–the man behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and hundreds of other characters, he is a member of both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.  This weekend he will greet fans, pose for photos, sign autographs, and conduct an interactive Q&A at the Iowa Events Center as Wizard World Comic Con celebrates its third year in Des Moines.

Mr. Lee will be joining fan-favorite genre actor John Cusack, another late addition to the headliners appearing at this year’s event.  Cusack’s impact on a generation of moviegoers can’t be overstated.  Most first saw him as a kid in Sixteen Candles and Stand By Me.  He became a household name in teen flicks like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead…, and One Crazy Summer, but it was Say Anything… that made him a star as the lovable Lloyd Dobler, the boyfriend with the boom box.  His adult drama work resulted in many cult classics, like Eight Men Out, The Grifters, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Pushing Tin.  Films like Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, and Robert Altman’s The Player proved he was the real deal, and later films High Fidelity and Hot Tub Time Machine proved he’s willing to return to his roots as the everyman good guy that audiences love.

John Cusack and Charlie Sheen in the baseball film classic Eight Men Out.

This weekend Cusack joins a big pantheon of celebrities including Eight Men Out co-star Charlie Sheen, plus Dean Cain (Lois & Clark, Supergirl), James Marsters and Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th), Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (Charmed), Barry Bostwick (Spin City), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), and more.

The convention will be held at the Iowa Events Center at 730 Third Street in Des Moines, beginning May 19, 2017, opening at 4 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m., Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A full list of Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines programming is available here (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).  For more on the event, visit the convention website here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Hollywood captures hundreds of movies each year in its talk of the Summer Blockbuster, with as many films arriving at screens before summer actually begins as after.  With Guardians of the Galaxy 2 the 2017 “summer” blockbusters are already on their way.  This week 20th Century Fox revealed the first glimpse of Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, not only the star of the new reboot of The Mummy, but said to be the lynchpin behind all the new Universal Monster movies.  The new previews reveal a lot about this new monster flick.

The final movie trailers are now out for Alien: Covenant, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  No doubt we’ll be seeing more trailers soon for other big movies hitting the theater this year like Transformers: The Last Knight, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Spider-man: Homecoming. 

Which movies are on your much-watch list?  For now, check out these latest trailers, as Hollywood wraps the final marketing push for this year’s first summer blockbusters: Continue reading

On the Big Wheel.  On the bedroom wall.  On the Trapper Keeper.  On the toy box.  On the dresser.  Everywhere your parents didn’t want you to put ’em.  If you were a kid in the 1970s and 1980s and you collected Topps Star Wars trading cards, your sticker collection might look like this today:

Because the stickers that came one per pack ended up going anywhere kids are going to think they should go.  Or you might have kept your stickers intact–maybe you even made a complete collection of the trading cards–but, because of the nature of random inserts, your sticker collection looked like this:

If this describes you, then this new throwback book is just for you.

As a supplement to the series of books chronicling the original Star Wars trilogy trading cards (reviewed previously at borg.com here), the stickers are now available in a single volume from Abrams, Topps, and Lucasfilm, Star Wars: Topps Classic Sticker Book.  Reprinting a selection of the original sticker images from these card sets as removable stickers, kids young and old can use them anywhere or place them on one of five double-sided pullout posters included.

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RoboCop Blu-ray

Thank you for your cooperation.

It is likely the best format you will have seen of director Paul Verhoeven’s classic vision of social commentary meeting science fiction since it appeared in theaters 30 years ago.  If you’ve only watched it on TV and in standard formats you’ll want to take another look at RoboCop, your favorite borg cop, on high-definition Blu-ray in its unrated director’s cut.  Known for its excess violence and campy cyborg superheroics, RoboCop avoids the dated look of many of its contemporary films, falling in an elite league of re-watchable, cult-favorite 1980s films with The Terminator and Tron.   Filmed in Dallas for its futuristic building locations instead of its actual story setting in Detroit, the police uniforms, corporate setting, and street scenes all feel as if they could be part of some future, with maybe only hair styles and faked media clips that shout 1980s.

RoboCop remastered

Relive the classic boardroom scene where Ronny Cox’s new alternative police replacement robot has a “glitch.”  Relive the first time you saw Ray Wise and Kurtwood Smith playing their earliest genre roles, plus the late Miguel Ferrer in one of his best roles.  And don’t forget that unforgettable Basil Poledouris (The Hunt for Red October, Starship Troopers, Conan the Barbarian, The Twilight Zone) soundtrack.

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Pop culture fans will find there is something for everyone at this year’s Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines.  At its first appearance in Des Moines in 2015, Wizard World featured Central Iowa native son, Superman actor Brandon Routh.  This year the convention is bringing another Superman to town, Lois and Clark star Dean Cain.  Cain will join actors Charlie Sheen, James Marsters, Marina Sirtis, and a host of other celebrities for autographs, photos, and panels to be held May 19 through May 21, 2017, at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines–the city’s third Wizard World convention.

Known most recently for his work on Two and a Half Men, Anger Management, and Spin City, Charlie Sheen has appeared in many modern film classics–everything from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Major League, Eight Men Out, Wall Street, and Platoon.  James Marsters is best known for his role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  Marina Sirtis starred as Counselor Deanna Troi, one of the most beloved characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Other celebrity guests include TV and film star Barry Bostwick, Micky Dolenz from The Monkees, Charmed actress Holly Marie Combs, and Napoleon Dynamite actor Jon Heder.

In addition to aisles of dealers of comics, toys, apparel, and collectibles, fans can meet nationally known writers, artists, and other creators, including Iowa’s own Phil Hester (Green Arrow, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, The Flash) and Ant Lucia (DC Bombshells).

Some highlights of the more than 50 panels scheduled include:

  • Interactive Q&A sessions with Charlie Sheen (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.), James Marsters (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.), Dean Cain (Saturday, 5 p.m.), Barry Bostwick (Saturday, 2 p.m.), Marina Sirtis (Saturday, noon), Jon Heder (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.), Holly Marie Combs (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.), Micky Dolenz (Sunday, 1 p.m.) and The Expanse star Cas Anvar (Sunday, 2 p.m.).

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What exactly is Atari doing in 2049?

Ridley Scott’s neo-noir, sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner is one of science fiction’s classic films. Released in 1982, Blade Runner, a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? revealed a world of life-like borgs called Replicants hiding among us in the year 2019.  Scott is back, this time as an executive producer, for the surprise sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival).

Top billing this time goes to Ryan Gosling, who wasn’t born yet when the original was in production.  Harrison Ford returns, as seen in the trailer released this week by Sony and Columbia Pictures.  Blade Runner is known for its brilliantly realized future city, and the teaser includes no indication of whether it will be set in the giant wonder of technology that was the city where Harrison Ford’s Deckard hunted Replicants and befriended one in Sean Young’s beautiful damsel in distress, Rachael.  Young appeared in last year’s Western Bone Tomahawk.  Will she have a surprise cameo in Blade Runner 2049?

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Other actors appearing are Suicide Squad’s Jared Leto (a pretty gross fellow in the trailer), The Princess Bride’s Robin Wright, Ant-Man’s David Dastmalchian, and Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre’s Dave Bautista.  Here’s the new full-length trailer for Blade Runner 2049:

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