Category: Con Culture


Topps Empire Strikes Back Abrams

Coming next week is the latest volume from the partnership of Abrams ComicArts and Topps Trading Cards as they document some of the greatest non-sports trading cards ever released.  Complete with a photo of the famous stick of bubble gum on the cover, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back–The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Two reproduces–for the first time–all 352 cards and 88 stickers in a single deluxe hardcover volume.

It’s the next book in the now long line of great trading card books from Abrams.  It includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, and a wax pack-style book jacket like the similar excellent releases Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  Abrams ComicArts and Topps released the first compilation of Star Wars trading cards just last year–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, reviewed here at borg.com.  An introduction and commentary throughout Volume Two is provided by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the sets and wrote the card titles for The Empire Strikes Back series, too.

Yoda Topps card    ESB Topps title 2 card

Gerani recounts reading the script for Empire in advance of the release, and learning the real #1 secret that Lucasfilm was trying to keep under wraps.  And it wasn’t about Luke Skywalker’s parentage or a bounty hunter with little actual screentime.  Hint: It may be related to a certain spectacular new “muppet from space”.

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Arnold Terminator Genisys

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and as with last year we’re certain we reviewed more content this year than ever before.  This year was a big year for borgs in TV and film, so we had some difficult decisions to make.  All year long we sifted through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre TV, films, comics, and other books we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.

Today we reveal the entire list–the best genre content of 2015–with our top categories Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero FixBest Animated Fix,  and Best Borg selected regardless of medium.  A dozen properties garnered multiple mentions.

We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2016!

Killjoys

Best Sci-Fi Fix – Killjoys (Syfy).  Surprised?  Killjoys pulled together great worldbuilding, characters and actors in a year of a dozen new sci-fi shows to provide us the closest thing to the next Firefly we’ve seen in a long time.

Galavant

Best Fantasy Fix – Galavant (ABC); Runner-up The Librarians (TNT).  It aired early in 2015 but nothing surpassed Galavant’s medieval high adventure and all-out Princess Bride-style fun.

the-cw-arrow-flash-crossover

Best Superhero Fix – The Flash (CW).  Of all the Marvel movies and TV series from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agent Carter and from Arrow to Supergirl, nothing had us coming back for more each week like the superhero world in The Flash.

Rebels season 2

Best Animated Fix – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  Compare it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and see if you think this animated Star Wars galaxy had an even better story and characterization, along with the return of its own group of original trilogy actors, compelling visuals and rousing music.

Terminator Genisys image

Best Borg – Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Terminator Genisys (Paramount).  Schwarzenegger created yet another borg that could stand up against his prior successful characters from the series.  A cool, moving character in a big year for borgs on screen!

Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Best Borg Movie –  Ex Machina (DNA Films).  Incredible storytelling and a small cast of talented actors provided a classic science fiction story and Oscar-worthy film about our favorite subject.

Humans series

Best Borg TV SeriesHumans (AMC).  On television the most in-depth look at life as a borg and among borgs has never been portrayed more dramatically than on this year’s surprise sci-fi hit series from AMC.

Star-Wars-Force-Awakens-Rey-Finn-BB8-running

Best Kickass Genre Movie Heroine – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney); Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Terminator Genisys (Paramount); Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Mad Max: Fury Road (Village Roadshow)

Liv Moore

Best Kickass Genre TV Heroine – Liv Moore (Rose McIver), iZombie (CW); Honorable Mentions: Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), Killjoys (Syfy); Helena (Tatiana Maslany), Orphan Black (BBC)

Want to know who we picked for best villain and best comic books of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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John Carpenter Christine Plymouth Fury

Director John Carpenter announced this week that Hot Wheels will be issuing a die cast metal version of his famous car Christine, the 1958 Plymouth Fury from his horror film based on Stephen King’s novel.  It doesn’t have a sound chip for playing Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin'” but it’s still going to be a cool mini-ride.  Other new releases include Richard Dreyfuss’s truck from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Emergency! red rapid response truck from the 1970s TV series.  Not familiar with the retro entertainment line from Hot Wheels?  It gets better.

Stripes Urban Assault Vehicle    Electric Mayhem School Bus

So far the Hot Wheels plant has rolled out something for everyone, coming up with a pretty broad array of vehicles.  Remember the green GMC mobile home “Urban Assault Vehicle” from Stripes?  It’s coming in 2015.  Remember Mr. Miyagi’s yellow 1948 Ford–the one he gives as a gift to Daniel-san for finishing his karate training in The Karate Kid?  They’ve got that, too.

Dreyfuss Close Encounters of the Third Kind truck

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New View-Master 2015

More than one billion View-Master reels reflecting at least 10,000 different topics had been put into circulation since the first mass-produced 3D viewers were manufactured in Portland, Oregon back in 1939.  We spent many hours with our standard black “Model-C” 1946 Sawyer reel viewer–the original version of what is still sold today–and the 1952 View-Master personal stereo camera that allowed anyone to create their own photographic reels.  What kid didn’t own the 1970s classic red, complete with reels of vacation destinations like Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore, movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron, The Muppet Movie, and Harry Potter films, and TV shows like Doctor Who, M*A*S*H, and Popeye?

This weekend Mattel, the current owner of the View-Master brand, is announcing at Toy Fair 2015 in New York City the next stage in 3D viewing with its 2015 View-Master virtual reality digital viewer.  Using Google Cardboard virtual reality technology, the new viewers will sport a similar design to the classic viewers, this time allowing a smart phone to slip into the case instead of their trademark reels.  Only a prototype is being shown at Toy Fair, however the Google Cardboard technology will demonstrate how newly designed reels in the new plastic viewer will allow anyone to have a 360 degree, immersive 3D experience.

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new-captain-america-the-winter-soldier-poster

In case you missed them, we’ve got some new movie trailers released Sunday during the Super Bowl: one from Transformers: Age of Extinction featuring Mark Wahlberg, two more from The Amazing Spider-man 2, two from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and one from Muppets Most Wanted.  All hit theaters over the next few months.

First up, looking better than the last Transformers movie, check out Mark Wahlberg and the Dinobots in Transformers: Age of Extinction:

And Marvel Studios has released new footage for The Amazing Spider-man 2 in two spots Sunday:

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And now a word from our sponsor…

GE idea creature

Too many commercials.

Everywhere you go advertising is thrown at you.  From the margin on every web page showing you an ad for something you looked at yesterday at Amazon.com or on eBay, to the signs behind left field at the baseball game, to billboards on your way to work and quick-talking radio ads on your way home.

But once in a while you don’t mind so much.  Take the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials.  We’ve given our thumbs up to several past ads here at borg.com, like Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in his Volvo commercial, Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” and his sci-fi milk ad, the Volkswagen Star Wars Cantina re-creation commercial went above and beyond, too.

So what are the best commercials you’ve seen this year?

GE has a new commercial featuring a giant muppet-like fellow that should get some consideration for all the emotion it packs into a fantasy-themed promotion.  Check it out here:

Earlier this year genre favorites Mark Strong (Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes), Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Sneakers, Gandhi), and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Thor 2) created a fun commercial for Jaguar with a British villain theme.  If you missed it earlier, here it is an extended version:

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Sesame Street at NerdHQ

Nerd HQ offered up a great variety of panels from the best of TV Saturday.  Here are some great panels to check out.  After four years of 45 minute panels offered just yards from San Diego Comic-Con, many of these have become a source for stand-up comedy from the actors.  See for yourself.

First up what may be the best panel idea ever, the voices and muppets themselves, from Sesame Street, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert, and Murray.  And Grover reveals the true identity of Super Grover.  This one can’t be missed.

A Conversation with Sesame Street

Intruders TV Series Panel with John Simm, Mira Sorvino & Glen Morgan

Orphan Black Panel with Tatiana Maslany and Other Cast Members

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Tonight Show Family Feud Fallon Steve Harvey

Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred and twenty episodes in of his first year at the helm of The Tonight Show and somehow we managed to fail to mention Jimmy Fallon’s incredible big year here in our ongoing quest for the best in entertainment.  We’ve watched Fallon since his days on Saturday Night Live and figured we’d give him a try as he took over for Jay Leno.  We gave the same college try to Conan O’Brien when he started out on his TBS gig, but that show quickly fizzled out.  Fallon hit the ground running, taking comedic bits from his Late Night hosting stint and expanding them into the weightier format of the classic king spot of nightly live comedy.  And we haven’t laughed out loud this much in a year in a long time.

Go back and watch David Letterman, Leno or Johnny Carson late show episodes on YouTube and you’ll quickly ask yourself why we thought those guys were so funny.  We’re saying this after years of enjoying the best of The Tonight Show for decades.  Fallon’s sincere, boy-next-door-makes-good, and unapologetic fanboy image was a perfect choice for this show, and his use of social media incorporated into his weekly line-up makes the show potentially appealing to every demographic.

Credit goes to Fallon, of course, but also his great writing staff that comes up with all this fun, as well as The Roots, the complicit house band (probably the coolest band ever to appear on a regular TV gig), and Fallon’s own Ed McMahon, the quick-witted banter partner, Des Moines native Steve Higgins.

Rivers last Tonight Show

Recurring bits include Fallon’s obsession with Canadian politician Rob Ford, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Vice President Joe Biden, the Eww girl, and a would-be one-time stint dancing bear that became the out-of-breath show mascot Hashtag the Panda.  Fallon’s “Pros and Cons,” “Thank You Notes,” and “Hashtags” are now locked into the national weekly calendar.  Fallon also gets the best A-list celebrities around on his show on a regular basis, and even entices many to play crazy party games and lip sync battles or act in skits like you’d see on the best days of Saturday Night Live.

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Drew Man Behind the Poster poster

The best of the new documentary on the life and career of Drew Struzan is not what you might think.  You’d expect Drew—The Man Behind the Poster, now available on video and digital release, to include images of the best of Struzan’s stylized movie posters.  What you might not know is the variety of artwork he produced before and after his two decades of poster work.  He’s well known for unique designs and more than 150 memorable movie posters that defined the movies for audiences before they stepped into the theaters, creating his last movie poster before retiring in 2008 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Probably his best work includes a six-poster series for the two Star Wars trilogies, which begs the question: Can Disney get Struzan to come back from retirement for the next three films?  Will Disney understand the nostalgia factor?  In recent weeks Struzan seems open to the idea, but seems to be waiting for Disney to call.  Unfortunately Episode VII plans came after the documentary so you won’t find answers to those questions in the film.

Drew-Struzan-Star-Wars-Posters

Will he or won’t he?

For the most part Drew—The Man Behind the Poster is a straightforward success story about a struggling and very amiable artist that found his audience.  You won’t see an abundance of critical awards coming for the filmmaking–it’s something like an episode from the old Biography channel with Peter Graves.  But it’s worth watching for the explanations behind his process for the most well-known posters, including the Muppet movies and the quickly designed yet successful poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing. 

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Radioactive girl in green hoodThe new TV series Defiance and Graceland have been using Imagine Dragons’ powerful hit song Radioactive as the background music for their promotions. Remember last year’s Phillip Phillips’ song Home during every sporting event, including a live performance at the Major League All Star Game, product ad placements, and even the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team’s theme for two (long) weeks?  We think Radioactive is a far better tune, and it’s addictive.  It’s also been used to promote the movie The Host, for the video game Assassin’s Creed III, shows on the History channel, and the TV show Chicago Fire.

If you haven’t seen the video for the song, we’re posting it here because its depiction of a Muppet vs. Care Bear cage fighting death match can’t be beat.  That’s right, a Muppet (actually a Muppet lookalike) and a Care Bear.   And a haunting girl in a hood with the secret weapon.  That’s just… neat.

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