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gotham-court-of-owls

When we last saw Gotham, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) was returning to the series to lead a group of denizens from Indian Hill, a motley band of “enhanced” people created by Dr. Hugo Strange (BD Wong).  Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), no longer with the police force, is still working with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), but he’s now in bounty hunter mode, investigating the Court of Owls.

Gotham dials up more villainy in Season 3, beginning next week, with The Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), Poison Ivy (Maggie Geha taking over from the younger Clare Foley), Calendar Man from The Long Halloween, a Bruce Wayne doppelganger (David Mazouz), and more of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and his rise in power, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and his downward spiral, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Barbera Kean (Erin Richards), and Fish Mooney.  Morena Baccarin is also back as Gordon’s girlfriend Dr. Leslie Thompkins, along with Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Michael Chiklis as Nathaniel Barnes.

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Check out these previews for Season 3 of Gotham:

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gojira

It’s probably fair to say that all we really need to know about Shin Gojira or Godzilla: Resurgence (with Shin meaning all or either of “rebirth,” “renew,” “reboot,” or even “God” and Gojira as the Japanese name for Godzilla) is in the trailers that have now been released.  The Japanese film appears to be more homage than reboot, using original music (at least in the trailers) and a style that looks like a modern director trying to merge classic giant Japanese monster movies with American 1970s Irwin Allen disaster films.  Fair warning:  This is not a sequel to the U.S. Godzilla movies.  It is a reboot of the Japanese 2004 version featuring the same giant monster that perennially wreaks havoc with Japan.

Advance reviews from Westerners confirm what it all looks like: bad acting, strange direction with much of the film consisting of office interiors with close-ups on the reactions of astonished citizens, and little screen-time for the title baddie.  The U.S. trailer, released this week, will be painful to most.  Yet there is something nostalgic about the retro sci-fi kaiju look, the cuts, the sound effects and music in the trailer.  Several Japanese trailers devote less time to office interiors and close-ups and give us a better look at Godzilla.  Will Japan audiences see this in a similar way to how American audiences have reacted to Netflix’s 1980s throwback show Stranger Things?

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As for the local response, Shin Gojira is already a hit in Japan, released there in late July, garnering high praise for being loyal to the character while offering a commentary on the current culture and politics of Japan.  One Godzilla fansite warns American audiences to view the film with that in mind.  It’s not targeted at international viewers and the message of the film may not translate, despite the subtitles.

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cyclotron

If you happened to watch the men’s or women’s cycling races at this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, you know cycling can be exciting (and dangerous!).  We don’t know if the latest technology in cycling will result in top racing speeds, but the coolest design we’ve seen since the Montague Hummer folding bicycle was introduced in 2002 is the new Cyclotron.  The hubless “smart bike” is inspired by the Tron video game, especially the lightcycle style from the 2010 movie Tron: Legacy.  If only it came with a Daft Punk helmet!

The Cyclotron is the idea of a company called Cyclotron Cycles, and the result is a successful funding campaign with 132 backers that raised more than $50,000 via Kickstarter this past July.  Funders are still welcome to participate, with bike order options between $1,330 for a 12-speed and $2,990 for the deluxe 18-speed model still available.  Not only is the design state-of-the-art, so are the extra features.

It’s made from ultra-lightweight “space grade carbon fiber” with spokeless, airless, 6,000 mile capable wheels that actually can store your groceries or supplies as you travel.  What?!?  The website has the details.  The Cyclotron has an electronic gear box and chainless drive train.  Integrated smart lights and Halo LED wheels will make you visible at night like no other bike (and you’ll look very cool, too).  It has a bike laser lane projector to alert those around you.  And if you don’t like the futuristic lightcycle look (gasp)–they offer decals to change the look altogether.

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Check out the Cyclotron in action:

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star-wars-green-screen

Back in 1998, before the Star Wars prequels, PC users were given the first public look at the deleted scenes from Star Wars–the original, Episode IV, A New Hope, etc.  A two-CD-ROM set called Star Wars: Behind the Magic whetted the appetites of fans who were soon going to be able to see a new Star Wars movie for the first time in 16 years.  Deleted scenes?  Lucas shot scenes we hadn’t yet seen?   Finally those still images we only saw as kids in The Star Wars Storybook came to life, like this guy that looked like Clark Gable or Tom Selleck named Biggs Darklighter, with Luke Skywalker and a group of his young friends just hanging out on Tatooine.  Some of the deleted scenes never made it back into George Lucas’s re-worked final canon version of the trilogy.  But the data on those CD-ROMs was unprecedented, and better compiled and searchable than much information available even today on the Internet.

So we were excited to see Industrial Light and Magic release a new Behind the Magic entry this past week, even if only a few minutes long, this time for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  The reel, posted to YouTube by ILMVisualFX, is a bit of a rollercoaster ride through all the layers of CGI and blue screen work required to create so many locations, special effects, characters, and visual spectacles.  It’s wired up with crazy sound, too, and just might make you dizzy as you fall in and out of scene after scene.

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For fans of Star Wars waiting for the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in December, and the release of the 3D edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in November discussed here previously at borg.com, and featuring even more behind the scenes features, this new reel just locks in our fanboy and fangirl need for that 3D edition.

Check out this behind the scenes look at last year’s–and this year’s–biggest film, in Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

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final-restored-enterprise-on-display

You can usually expect that the Smithsonian Institution productions will deliver quality programming, and its latest is no exception.  The two-hour documentary Building Star Trek chronicles fifty years of Star Trek from its inception to the artifacts of the series that remain decades later, and from the idea of a 23rd century future and beyond to futuristic technologies being made reality today.

The Smithsonian used two museum exhibits to bookend its overview of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary, one on each coast.  At the Smithsonian’s own National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC, the museum recounts the recent restoration of the original filming model of the Enterprise, which has been on display there since 1974, but not as a featured display.  On the West Coast the EMP Museum in Seattle created a display of props and costumes as well.

Interspersed with snippets from the progress of each museum’s projects are interviews with insiders like reboot actor and writer Simon Pegg, actor Karl Urban, original series star Nichelle Nichols, original series writer DC Fontana, and Trek fans.  With each artifact featured in the exhibits, a short segment is given to an original creator, like the designer of the original shuttle Galileo, and a modern-day scientist working on the implementation of concepts introduced or emphasized in Star Trek, like phasers, tricorders, transporters, the universal translator, and warp drive.

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The Star Trek display running currently at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

The documentary doesn’t take itself too seriously, using campy graphics that reflect the humor of the original series–an acknowledged critical component of the show’s success.

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amell-time-loops

If there is one science fiction trope we love the most, it would have to be the time loop.  And if there is one young actor we want to see more of on the big and small screen it is Robbie Amell.  Both of them come together next week in the world premiere of the science fiction movie ARQ, only on Netflix.

We’re big fans of Robbie Amell.  He was the first actor to bring Firestorm to life in CW’s The Flash and Arrow.  We’ve also met him in person and think he’s one of the nicest actors around.  He’s got charisma that is reflected on the screen much like a young Tom Cruise, and his career is only going up.

And we can’t get enough of time loops.  We’ve discussed them before here at borg.com, that awesome story tool that allows characters to repeat a period of time and usually offer a chance to repair the past.  You’ve seen time loops used to great effect in films like Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, Donnie Darko, TimeCop, Looper, the Final Destination series, in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, on television series like Tru Calling, First Edition, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Eureka, Haven, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

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Here’s a preview of Robbie Amell, along with Rachael Taylor and Gray Powell, in ARQ, from director Tony Elliott (Orphan Black):

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uss-enterprise-from-the-cage

Creating a television series that makes it to a second season is a difficult thing to do.  It’s difficult today and was just as tough in 1966 when Gene Roddenberry created a full-color science fiction show in prime time about a “Wagon Train to the stars”–a Western in space–a Star Trek.  The unlikely series survived into not only its second season but also a third.  An untapped audience–a group of loyal fans kept the dream alive, and the stories would continue in an animated series in the early 1970s.  With the success of Star Wars, Star Trek made its way to the big screen by the end of the decade and the rest of the story, as they say, is history.

The future predicted in 1966 to “explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” isn’t here yet, despite the dates of yesterday’s future arriving and going by.  But that hasn’t stopped generations of fans from being inspired to pursue everything from medicine and law to astronomy and design.  To make this world better and build a greater tomorrow.  Star Trek may not have arrived yet, but the utopian future is something many of us look forward to and strive for.

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Or has it arrived?  Our iPads and smart phones, Bluetooths and medical scanners were all inspired by creative types behind Star Trek, like Wah Chang and Rick Sternbach.  If society as a whole hasn’t changed, the technology that drives it certainly is making headway every day.

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Here, September 8, 2016, fifty years after the airing of the first episode of Star Trek on NBC, the world is far different, yet it still continues the struggle for equality and fairness, the same desires Roddenberry’s original stories reflected as the world crept up to the cataclysmic summer of 1968.  The same elements are summed up in the Vulcan acronym IDIC–infinite diversity in infinite combinations–the core of Vulcan philosophy celebrating all the differences in life.  In short, that is what Star Trek is all about.

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van-helsing

A new vampire slayer is coming, and she looks familiar.

The series is Syfy’s Van Helsing, and the lead is True Blood and Legends’ Kelly Overton as Vanessa Helsing, descendant of vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Vanessa has been resurrected from the present and taken into the future, to a dystopian Earth where vampires rule.  She learns she is humanity’s last hope.

If this sounds familiar it may be because Syfy’s 2016 series Wynonna Earp features a similarly tough and determined “chosen one”–also a descendant of a famed character from the past with a supernatural, dark tale.  Maybe the formula is working for the network?

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Van Helsing co-stars Grimm, The Closer, and Smallville’s Jonathan Scarfe (son of recurring Romulan player Alan Scarfe from Star Trek: The Next Generation), character actor regulars Christopher Heyerdahl and Vincent Gale, and Medium’s David Cubitt.

Here are previews of the series from Syfy:

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Micronauts banner

I have been a fan of Edward Hopper since the first time I saw his artwork.  I view a print of his Automat every day at home.  In college a wall of every other dorm room had either Hopper’s Nighthawks or the Helnwein pop culture adaptation Boulevard of Broken Dreams with Hopper’s characters swapped for Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe.  A few years ago I made a special side trip to visit the original in Chicago, housed just across America’s most famous artwork, Grant Wood’s American Gothic.  Nighthawks means many things to many people.  For me it’s about nostalgia.

I always have an eye open for new adaptations of Nighthawks.  Some of the best adaptations have been created as variant covers for comic books.  It’s a rare find, but it happens, oftentimes in places you wouldn’t expect it.  The best comic book cover adaptation of Nighthawks is available this summer, and it’s our pick for the best comic book cover we’ve seen so far this year.

Nighthawks Hopper

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks

It’s J.K. Woodward’s variant cover to Micronauts, Issue #5.  Innovative, futuristic, inventive, thought-provoking, and evocative of adventure for fans of the 1980s toys.  I have been a fan of Woodward since his brilliant and beautiful watercolor work on his cover-to-cover Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who crossover series Assimilation².  At first glance you might not even realize this fantastic future world is something familiar to you.  Is it the alien behind the counter that cinches the Hopper homage?  Maybe the yellow hue color choices in the background?  The commercial coffee pot?  Or just the overall design?  Check out his artwork in full and decide for yourself:

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Stranger Things cast

Stranger Things is a rare thing among plenty of series bombarding viewers of streaming services.  It would never get accused of trying too hard.  It’s good but not great.  It features no major actors.  It has developed a cult following yet it is not produced by J.J. Abrams (think Lost, Fringe, Almost Human, Believe, Westworld).  And for all these things, it’s just what we want.  We’ve had enough of CGI and big budget explosions and special effects.  Low budget is just fine–for now.  It’s that movie you are looking for late on a Saturday night, but stretched to eight episodes long.

More series like this will make Netflix survive despite all the competition from other services.  Stranger Things is good enough–good at sci-fi and horror and coming of age retro fun–to get you to sign up with Netflix for your next binge watch session.  More important than its storytelling is how the story is told, and the efforts taken to make the series, the characters, the setting, the dialogue, all look like it was filmed in the early 1980s.  Several artists have even mocked up the series marketing material into VHS tape packaging.  Were it a movie-length feature it would probably fool many.  It’s in the same vein as Disney’s Watcher in the Woods.  Like Stephen King’s Firestarter, Stand By Me and Silver Bullet it features kids in a coming-of-age setting.  Its monster/alien horror and soundtrack (available here) reflects the look and vibe of John Carpenter movies.  The marketing screams Stephen King, especially that red-on-black title font.  And it will no doubt gin up nostalgia to spur cassette tapes of its soundtrack like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Stranger Things VHS

It’s Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, if the story had taken a darker turn, and very similar to Spielberg and Abrams’ Super 8 (Super 8 poster artist Kyle Lambert even created the poster for this series to further lock in the look).  Critics have picked apart odds and ends found in the background of scenes–this item didn’t exist then, etc.  But ultimately the overall feel is very right.  You’ll point to a pitcher on the table, a rug on the floor, a poster on the wall, all that you had back then.  And the season one wrap-up is as satisfying as you’re going to find in a TV series.

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