Tag Archive: Bill Paxton


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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Super7, the toy company known for its wide variety of action figure licenses and its retro Kenner style carded, 3.75-inch action figures, greatly surpassed its delivery at last year’s Toy Fair (shown here and here) by bring hundreds of prototype figures, card back mock-ups, and final versions to New York Toy Fair 2020 this past weekend.  More than the typical sneak peek, Super7 previewed a huge variety of action figure cards for its ReAction line, with pre-ordering forecasted for later this year and some items available now here at Amazon.

New action figure licenses at the show include Army of Darkness, An American Werewolf in London, Aliens, Andre the Giant, Back to the Future II, Knight Rider, The Munsters, Archie, Red Dawn, Beavis and Butt-Head, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Son of Frankenstein, Spongebob Squarepants, Halloween II, and a new line of NBA All Stars.  Bands with new figures seen for the first time in the Super7 line include RUN DMC, Notorious B.I.G., and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Plus past figure lines will see more additions this year.  Those include Universal Studios Monsters, Peanuts, several Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Nightmare Before Christmas, lots of Transformers, Toxic Crusader, Thundercats, Ghost, Misfits, Mars Attacks, Alien, Chucky, and Robocop, and Super7 displayed several final figures this weekend that were previewed last year here at borg, including They Live, Teen Wolf, Major League Baseball All Stars, MLB Mascots, and characters from the Rocky movie series.

Take a look at close-up views of just a sampling of the action figures on display at this year’s event:

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If you’re a fan of action figures, Super7 delivered again with a sneak peek at a whole host of action figure cards for its ReAction line, expected to be fleshed out even more this weekend at New York Toy Fair 2019.  How much fun is in this single photograph?  We’re expecting Super7 will be revealing details this weekend, but until then, here’s what we can tell is coming soon from the toy company’s line of licensed, retro 3.75-inch action figures with the classic Kenner five points of articulation.

In the top row we’re seeing that Super7 is preparing three figures from John Carpenter’s They Live, a sci-fi classic fans of the ReAction line have been asking for for years.  So there are cards for Roddy Piper’s John Nada (before the fight and after? without bubblegum?), and a male and female alien (nope, no Frank or Holly).

The eight Rocky IV figures include the previously announced Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago (both in boxing ring attire), Rocky and Drago (in final round outfits), Rocky (winter training), and Sico the Robot.  Add to that a Carl Weathers Apollo Creed and a mystery figure (most likely blacked out because the likeness hasn’t been approved yet), maybe Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla or Talia Shire’s Adrian?  Burt Young’s Paulie?  We’re hoping Super 7 may be looking back a movie to Rocky III and Mr. T’s Clubber Lang.

The Super7 Major League Baseball “Supersports” line-up has some great picks:  In addition to Jackie Robinson, we see Roy Campanella, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, and two others under the Classic All-Stars logo, including Juan Marichal, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, plus Madison Bumgarner and at least one other under the Baseball All-Stars logo.  We’re guessing there are four Mascots in the initial wave, including the Giants’ Crazy Crab, Mr. Met, and the Phillie Phanatic.

The first Aliens line has all the right figures, a new Sigourney Weaver Ellen Ripley, plus Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson, Jenette Goldstein’s Private Vasquez, a seriously messed-up Lance Henriksen’s Bishop, and a new Xenomorph variant.  Is there a Michael Biehn Corporal Hicks hiding off-camera?  Maybe a Jonesy and Newt combo pack?

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Coming in at about the same price as the actor’s screen-used prop blaster from Return of the Jedi this summer (discussed here at borg), Harrison Ford proved again he is #1 among pop culture and entertainment memorabilia collectors.  At Prop Store‘s entertainment memorabilia live auction in London yesterday, called Treasures from Film and Television (which we previewed from San Diego Comic-Con here in July), one of the fedoras worn by ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark brought record bids for a prop from the franchise, taking in an estimate of between $522,500 and $558,000, including fees and taxes.  Ford’s Han Solo blaster sold in June for $550,000 (before tax).  The hammer price for the hat was £320,000 when the winning bid was placed and the hammer struck, or about $424,755.  Provenance for this hat was not provided by Prop Store in its catalog, but the company said it could be screen-matched through identifying marks to several key scenes in the movie.  An Indy bullwhip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sold for $74,460, including buyer’s premium, at the auction.

One of the other auction lots worn by Ford was supposed to be the crown jewel of the auction, a simple stylized blue jacket worn in The Empire Strikes Back said to have been screen-matched to the film’s Cloud City scenes.  Although it was expected to garner $660,000 to $1.3 million, bidders were just not willing to push bids past the $600,000 mark and the seller’s minimum reserve price.  The jacket was one of the only hero costume pieces from the original trilogy to be offered at public auction.

This week’s big star prop of the Prop Store auction was crowded among other Hollywood props on display at San Diego Comic-Con this past July.

Several other key props from the four corners of genredom sold in excess of six figures (including buyer’s premium and net of taxes) in yesterday’s auction.  A light-up T-800 endoskeleton from Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991) fetched a massive price of $326,500.  A Christopher Reeve costume from Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) sold for $212,200.  A Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker lightsaber from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) sold for $180,000 and an Ian McDiarmid Emperor lightsaber from the film sold for $114,000.  A background First Order Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised everyone, selling for a whopping $180,000.  A Johnny Depp costume from Edward Scissorhands (1990) sold for $106,100.  Of several original comic book art pages that sold, the star was Page 15 from The Amazing Spider-Man (1966), Issue #32, by artist Steve Ditko, which fetched $155,000.

More than two dozen other memorable props and costumes from sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and horror classics fared well (prices quoted include pre-tax conversion from British pound, including buyer’s premium):
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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the high points from a scientific standpoint this year was the discovery in August of the USS Indianapolis on the floor of the Pacific Ocean by undersea adventurer and billionaire Paul Allen, more than 70 years after it was sunk during World War II, and thirty-two years after undersea explorer Robert Ballard first discovered the location of the wreckage of the most well-known maritime disaster, the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  In 1995, 2001, and 2005, director James Cameron, well-known already for Aliens, the first two Terminator movies, and True Lies, would take knowledge he learned filming The Abyss to pursue a lifelong dream of undersea explorer in Ballard’s and Jacques Cousteau’s footsteps.  Ultimately Cameron would make thirty dives on the site of the wrecked RMS Titanic, more than anyone, first for footage that would be used for his film Titanic (which would win 11 Academy Awards), and later for pure scientific knowledge and exploration.  Cameron documented his expeditions in his book Exploring the Deep: The Titanic Expeditions, now available in a paperback edition from Insight Editions.

One of the low points of the year was the death of beloved actor Bill Paxton.  What many people may not know is the role Paxton (known for dozens of films including Edge of Tomorrow, True Lies, Aliens, and Tombstone) played in the exploration of the real Titanic after starring in Cameron’s film Titanic.   He accompanied Cameron on four deep-sea dives, documenting his experiences and serving as narrator on one of Cameron’s documentaries, the 2003 film Ghosts of the Abyss.  In his foreword to Exploring the Deep: The Titanic Expeditions, Paxton notes his reservations of traveling to the ocean floor.  “At the time, because I had young children at home, I felt it was more risk than I should be taking,” he said.  He spoke highly of Cameron, “He is someone who values his friendships and has a deep appreciation of just how brief our time on earth is–and he’s determined to make the most of it.”  The feeling was mutual.  Of Paxton, Cameron wrote, “Bill has become the pitch-perfect explorer.  He acquired the clipped tone of a test pilot when he played Fred Haise in Apollo 13, and of course he played  treasure hunter Brock Lovett in the Titanic movie, but if he’s playing a part now, it’s merged so perfectly with reality that there is no difference.  He’s now a real explorer, and this is a real mission, two and a half miles down.”  Indeed, half the fun of Exploring the Deep is following Paxton via his words and photographs in his adventure, adding his own insights and bits of humor along the way.

James Cameron and Bill Paxton exploring the remains of the Titanic two and a half miles down on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in Exploring the Deep: The Titanic Expeditions.

But it’s the knowledge learned by Cameron one hundred years after the Titanic sank that makes the book compelling and thrilling and even chilling at times.  Cameron, along with the other leading experts in Titanic history–Dan Lynch, Ken Marschall, and Parks Stephenson–lay out each expedition step by step, including development of the technological tools created by Cameron to be able to film the ship and eventually more easily maneuver the rooms inside the ship’s remains, something no one else had yet done.  The book includes a detailed log written by Cameron for the fifth dive in September 2001, including recollections of his historical research as he observed actual locations on the ship tied to known events and passengers, some famous, some members of the crew.  He uses photographs of the Titanic’s sister ship, the RMS Olympic, to highlight identical artifacts inside the ship.  Many artifacts surprisingly are still intact, like mirrors, windows, glassware, and dishes–and equipment in the Marconi Wireless Telegraph rooms, which were instrumental in saving the 706 survivors.  Where possible he includes rare photographs taken the day of or just before the Titanic went to sea on its maiden and only voyage, and otherwise he incorporates for reference Ken Marschall’s detailed paintings, Parks Stephenson’s computer-generated simulations, and his own recreations used in his film Titanic–all with an eye toward conveying to readers what Titanic looked like in 1912.

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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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When you think of the Alien franchise, what iconic images come to mind?  Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in a giant power loader suit or going face-to-face with a Xenomorph?  The first facehugger?  Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez realizing they were facing something hopeless?  Queen of sci-fi Veronica Cartwright’s scream at the first terrifying chest burst?  Ridley holding Jonesy finally sighing with relief that they survived the alien onslaught?  Dozens of these and other iconic images are packed into a new adult coloring book, Alien: The Coloring Book, coming this May from Titan Books.

The adult coloring book business is gaining steam with publishers taking extra efforts to see that the artwork inside meets the standard of the franchise.  Alien: The Coloring Book has pulled together artwork that resembles the actors and key scenes from the movie, but also does so in a visually interesting manner and conforms to the whole point of these books: to give fans a chance to color their favorite scenes (in or outside the lines).

Creating scenes from all of the Alien movies featuring heroine Ellen Ripley are artists Leandro Casco, Wellington Diaz, Vinz El Tabanas, Salvador Navarro, Guilherme Raffide, Rubine, Vincenzo Zerov Salvo, Adriano Vicente, and Daniel Wichinson.  Eighty pages provide Xenomorphs, chestbursters, Xenomorph eggs, your favorite characters, spacesuits, ships, Ridley Scott’s futuristic sets and H.R. Giger-inspired designs.  One of the fun illustrations features Lance Henriksen’s cyborg Bishop playing mumbletypeg with the hand of Private Hudson (played by the late Bill Paxton).

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the-circle-gillan-watson

The Circle is no doubt another in a long line of topical dramas starring the great Tom Hanks.  Everyone loves Tom Hanks, the actor, yet his roles have become predictable.  If you’re making a movie and you want to bring instant sympathy, respectability, or authority–especially if the source material doesn’t have much of its own character development–Hanks is your guy.  He reportedly brings in $10 million to $20 million per film, and double or triple that if he negotiates profit sharing deals, which may explain why he’s not in many special effects-heavy films.  Where his performance is always reliable, it’s the films themselves–the stories and settings–that have often let us down once we crossed into the 21st century.  What will be his next Philadelphia or Forrest Gump?  His next Splash or Big?  These days he’s the go-to guy for biopics (Charlie Wilson’s War, Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks, Sully), historical teleplays and documentaries (Band of Brothers, The Pacific), and novel adaptations, especially the never-ending Robert Langdon series (The DaVinci Code, etc.).  The Circle fits in as a novel adaptation, this time an adaptation of a novel about the horrors of our modern technological age written by Dave Eggers and directed and co-scripted by James Ponsoldt.

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But Hanks isn’t the real draw for this film, it’s the mega-sized co-lead actors who all hail from the biggest genre franchises that really make this a movie we might want to check out in the theater this April and not wait for the home release.  The star is Emma Watson, Hermione of the Harry Potter franchise whose other big 2017 film–Beauty and the Beast–with Watson in the lead role as Belle, will be released only six weeks prior to The Circle.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens and this year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi star John Boyega (ex-Stormtrooper Finn) has next billing.  Oddly enough someone just as popular in the U.S., the U.K., and Asia should have next billing in the trailers, yet she’s seen but not listed in the title credits.  That’s the popular Doctor Who companion Amy Pond and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy, Karen Gillan.  That’s some pretty popular acting names and pop culture street cred for a flick outside the sci-fi and fantasy realm.  But that’s not all.  The Circle also features beloved comedian and nerd crusader Patton Oswalt, fan fave Bill Paxton (Aliens, Apollo 13, Edge of Tomorrow, Training Day), and familiar face Glenne Headly (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Monk). 

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The plot follows a new worker (Watson) at a trendy tech company (think Google), where this fictional company and its outlandish benefits encompass and suffocate the workers’ private lives.  Here’s a new trailer for The Circle, followed by an earlier version of the trailer:

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training-day

Director Antoine Fuqua, who is pretty much an ace in the hole with great movies like Shooter, The Equalizer, and last year’s The Magnificent Seven, brings another one of his hit movies to television this month.  This time Fuqua is in the executive producer role along with Jerry Bruckheimer for Training Day, a sequel series to the film, airing Thursday nights at 9 p.m. Central on CBS, starring Bill Paxton (Aliens, Apollo 13, Edge of Tomorrow, Twister, Weird Science) and newcomer Justin Cornwell, with Julie Benz (Angel) and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Without a Trace).  The series is directed by Danny Cannon (Gotham, CSI, Eleventh Hour).

Training Day was the 2001 surprise hit that garnered Denzel Washington an Oscar and Ethan Hawke one of his four Oscar nominations.  It’s known for its gritty realism and its view of urban street life with a rookie (Hawke) in his first day in a new role with a veteran cop of questionable motives and actions (Washington).  The series is far less gritty, fitting the modern police procedural framework with more humor and bordering a bit on the melodramatic.

For the series, which aired its first episode last night, we’re brought 15 years after the events in the movie with young do-gooder detective Kyle Craig, played by Cornwell, tasked by the squad’s deputy chief (Jean-Baptiste) to track the actions of an alleged crooked cop, Detective Frank Rourke, played by Paxton.  Training Day’s first episode reveals this is just the latest in decades of L.A.P.D. shows going back to Dragnet.  It’s plenty fun simply to watch an hour of Bill Paxton spouting those quirky words of wisdom his characters are known for.  Episode one even throws in a Western stand-off complete with some background music straight out of an old Western TV show.

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The plot of the series is swappable for any police procedural.  The hook with the series is the title, which fit the movie better since the entire movie took place in one day, but Training Day could easily be a follow-up to Martin Scorcese’s Departed, another film about a rookie trying to get the goods on a bad cop.  The change-up is in the title–who is training whom?  The TV series updated the movie’s 1979 Monte Carlo with an even earlier muscle car for the series taking place so many years later–you can envision a series 40 years from now still using 1970s cars as their street rides.  Ultimately it will be enough for Paxton fans to see him driving around in that car in a seedy L.A. doing his shtick every week.

Here is a behind the scenes look and a preview for CBS’s Training Day:

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ripley-and-newt

Review by C.J. Bunce

Aliens is a film like no other, a rare sequel that is arguably as good or better than the original.  It’s horror, but even more so than the original Alien, it is a science fiction classic in its own right.  Aliens was ahead of its time, a successful blockbuster from James Cameron, who quickly put together a story treatment and sold the studio on his vision of the follow-on to Ridley Scott’s unique and acclaimed original.  Last month here at borg.com we reviewed Aliens–The Set Photography, a new book chronicling the creative work behind Aliens released for the film’s 30th anniversary.  Action-packed with top-notch acting from Sigourney Weaver and a great supporting cast, plus some of Stan Winston’s best creature work, Aliens rightfully is getting the 30th anniversary treatment this month in Blu-ray.

Aliens is one of about a dozen science fiction or horror films to earn Academy Awards.  It won two, for visual effects and sound editing.  It was also nominated for art direction, sound, film editing and original score.  Better yet, Sigourney Weaver earned her much deserved first nomination for best actress.  Weaver’s Ellen Ripley is among science fiction’s best performances, and Weaver the core of what made the franchise and this film successful.  The anniversary release includes two previously released versions, the 1986 original theatrical version and the 1991 extended edition.  If you missed the extended edition, it’s well worth your time.  Ripley gets more screen-time, and more character development, including the dichotomy between the death of Ripley’s daughter mirroring the Alien queen’s protection of her offspring–it’s great fun to see a character you think you know in scenes not included in the original version you saw in the theater.

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The extended edition commentary track is as good as you’ll find on any disc.  Where most releases these days include the director or producer and one or two cast members, the commentary accompanying the extended edition includes far more–a treasure trove of content and insights into the film.  You’ll hear details on movie making from director James Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, the late, great, alien effects creator Stan Winston, visual effects supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, and actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn.

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