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Tag Archive: borg


Review by C.J. Bunce

This year’s first cinematic examination of life as a borg came from a beloved international favorite, Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson as “Major,” a truly badass heroine who turns a mission of criminal pursuit into a discovery of the self.  Originally published in Japan as a manga comic written and illustrated by Masimune Shirow in 1989, The Ghost in the Shell went on to become an even more popular anime film series beginning in 1995.  Originally titled Mobile Armored Riot Police, Shirow wanted (and eventually secured) the title Ghost in the Shell to pay tribute to Arthur Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine, which inspired his story.  This year’s early spring release of the live action Ghost in the Shell is based on the manga, and its available on streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD this month.

Any fan of cyberpunk, future Earth, replicants and borgs shouldn’t miss this one.  Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) directed a visual treat, a futureworld that is not on par with the dazzle of either Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner or Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, yet it still works well, and the cinematography choices by Jess Hall (Transcendence, Hot Fuzz, Grindhouse) combined with the music of Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell (which owes much to the scores for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Tron Legacy) sucks viewers into a surreal plane in a sister realm to Tron or Source Code.  Major is probably Johansson’s best lead role, too–a tempered, thoughtful, deliberate performance dotted with the action and violence her fans look for.  She was well-prepped for the role, starring in as the lead in the dark world of director Luc Besson’s stylish action thriller Lucy, and it’s easy to see Johansson getting cast for this role after that performance.

Although the story begins slowly, as more pieces are added to the puzzles and plot threads the film builds to become a thought-provoking examination of the dark side of cybernetics and future technologies.  The source material for Ghost in the Shell is relatively late to the discussion table for cyborgs, following after Philip K. Dick’s replicants in Blade Runner, the similarly themed man-turned-machine in Robocop, and Martin Caidin’s Bionic Man in Cyborg.  More than anything, the story calls back to the Bionic Woman and Jameson Parker and Mare Winningham made-for-TV movie Who is Julia?, a story of a woman struggling to deal with the world’s first brain transplant.  In Ghost in the Shell Johansson’s character wakes up after a near-death, her brain transplanted into a new (better, stronger, etc.) mechanical body as the first brain transplant subject in a world where cybernetics are now commonplace.  Her doctor is played as an elegant and caring protector by Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche.  But the beauty of the film is that just as it has in parts a very predictable story for its place in science fiction (following a long line of visionary medicine stories beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), Ghost in the Shell offers some satisfying surprises that sets up the story well for a superhero-esque sequel or film series.

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Author Simon Ward has crafted a new behind-the-scenes account of a sci-fi film, this time the latest entry and third Ridley Scott-helmed film in his Alien series, Alien: Covenant.  As you would expect, The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant features hundreds of photographs from what is probably the goriest film in the series.  Like another sci-fi/horror mash-up film 10 Cloverfield Lane, it also has its share of surprises, particularly as it leaves viewers in suspense as they learn the kind of horror film unfolding isn’t what they first thought.  Ward’s new book doesn’t reveal all the surprises, but enough to encourage readers to wait until they’ve seen the film to read the book.  Since a book like this is mainly for the diehard Alien fan, this won’t be an issue to most of its readers.

The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant, like Ward’s previous works The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence (reviewed here at borg.com) and Aliens: The Set Photography (reviewed here) is more about the making of the film than a traditional “art of” film resource.  so don’t look for the typical concept art.  You will see plenty of film stills, behind the scenes shots with the actors, and some good visuals of the film’s set design.  Ward also moves step-by-step through the film, pulling in production staff and actors to give insight into the filmmaking process for this unique movie.

Ward interviewed director Ridley Scott, revealing Scott’s thought process behind this film and its place in the series, each key cast member discusses their view of their characters.  Concept artist Steve Burg describes the differences between Alien: Covenant and the last film in the series, Prometheus.  Creatures supervisor Conor O’Sullivan reveals the influences in the new Xenomorph designs.  Director of photography Dariusz Wolski provides a look at scene set-up and his lighting and cinematography choices.

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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.

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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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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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20th Century Fox released a teaser last month for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and last week followed up with a full preview, including an intriguing cyborg.  The secret British spy organization is coming back to theaters this year and the sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service stars a top-notch cast including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Taron Egerton, Channing Tatum, and Julianne Moore.

Edward Holcroft returns as Taron Egerton’s stuck-up nemesis, Charlie Hesketh.  But this time he’s sporting interchangeable arms, no doubt a future contender for the borg.com Hall of Fame.

Check out this first, full-length preview for Kingsman: The Golden Circle: 

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HUMᗄNS–The award-winning British science fiction television series exploring humans living with cyborg technology and living as borg is finally returning next month to AMC.  Viewers in the States have not seen an episode of the series since the first season finale in August 2015.  The eight-episode second season just aired in the UK.

Below is a video segment featuring the new characters introduced in season two, including a new artificial intelligence scientist played by Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix, Jessica Jones, Chuck).

Season two picks up several months after the first season.  Synth Niska (Emily Berrington) has not yet been found, and her synth circle of friends Mia (Gemma Chan), Leo (Colin Morgan), and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) struggle to fit into human society.  Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Laura (Katherine Parkinson) return in season two, as do first season actors Will Tudor, Pixie Davies, Neil Maskell, Lucy Carless, Ruth Bradley, and Theo Stephenson.  New regulars include Moss, Sam Palladino, Marshall Allman, Sonya Cassidy, Bella Dayne, and Letitia Wright.

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Check out these previews for season two of HUMᗄNS:

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Star Wars Rebels officially crossed over into the Star Wars Cinematic Universe in December with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  The series’ plucky little astromech droid C1-10P or “Chopper” was seen at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4, and the series space vessel the Ghost was also seen docked there and in other scenes, including a scene with the Rebel Fleet making a jump to hyperspace, and fighting at the Battle of Scarif (no doubt there are some great opportunities here to replay Rogue One from the perspective of the crew of the Ghost).  At the same time, Grand Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy of sequels to Return of the Jedi is now firmly enmeshed into the Star Wars canon, and a new trailer teases even more events will bridge the original trilogy with the prequel trilogy.

It all begins with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s message–a warning–sent to the remaining Jedi after Anakin Skywalker massacred so many (along with Emperor Palpatine’s Order 66) in Revenge of the Sith.  Stephen Stanton, who is known for his ability to mimic Sir Alec Guinness’s voice, is the new voice of elder Kenobi.  Stanton has voiced other Star Wars roles, most recently as the Mon Calamari Admiral Raddus in Rogue One.  The second part of Season 3, continuing this week, will feature Mon Mothma on the Ghost, more Tarkin, and Forest Whitaker again taking on the role of Saw Garrera from Rogue One, albeit an earlier, less cybernetically modified incarnation.

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The trailer for Season “3.5” also shows a bipedal Darth Maul in the shadows of Kenobi’s bonfire.  It looks like it is time for a revisit of their battle in The Phantom Menace.  Watch closely for the guards surrounding Grand Admiral Thrawn, black-armored Death Troopers, which are apparently tied to the “Legends” (the old Expanded Universe) creation of a zombie trooper legion in the new Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide.  Death Troopers are also seen in Rogue One. 

Here is the preview of Star Wars Rebels 2017 episodes:

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Masters of the Universe.  Red Dwarf.  Mortal Kombat.  And we revisit Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek.

Let’s start this year’s borg.com Hall of Fame ceremony by talking a little about who is NOT in the Hall of Fame who might come close if borgs were more loosely defined.  We still haven’t included the non-organic: like automatons, androids, or robots.  Think Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation before he met the queen in Star Trek: First Contact–despite his perfectly life-like appearance.  For the bulk of the series Data was always an android, not a cyborg.  He’s just a highly advanced C-3PO–until First Contact. 

Droids from Star Wars, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robot B-9 from Lost in Space or Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, the Autobots and Decepticons of Transformers, the police force of THX-1138, Box in Logan’s Run, the perfectly human appearing kid-like star of D.A.R.Y.L., the several automatons of episode after episode of The Twilight Zone, Beta in The Last Starfighter, Tron and Flynn and the other microscopic, human-like bits of data in Tron, Hellboy II’s Golden Army, the future Iowa Highway Patrolman in Star Trek 2009 (we assume he’s just wearing some police safety mask), Rosie the maid in The Jetsons, Hogey the Roguey from Red Dwarf, Marvin the Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, X-Men’s Sentinels, Lal and Juliana Tainer from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the title character of CHAPPiE, or Iron Giant, despite their human-like or bipedal nature, none are actual borgs because they lack biological matter, living cells, or the like.

The same applies for the robotic hosts in Westworld–Michael Crichton’s original was clear these were merely automaton robots and we’ve seen nothing from 2016’s HBO series to show that has changed (even the NY Times got it wrong).  Which explains why The Stepford Wives aren’t on the list, or Fembots, either from The Bionic Woman or the Austin Powers series, or the Buffybot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So who’s in?

Here is Round 4, the twenty-eight 2016 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order, some from 2016 and others from the past, bringing the roster count to 134 individuals and groups:

First up is Time, yep… Time itself.  From Alice Through the Looking Glass, a powerful Father Time-esque human/clockwork hybrid who rules over Underland–

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From George Lucas’s original Force-wielding character as envisioned by Mike Mayhew: Kane Starkiller from Marvel Comics’ alternate universe story, The Star Wars:

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The Major, from 2017’s Ghost in the Shell:

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Max Steel got his own movie in 2016:

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Steel hails from the Mattel action figure who received multiple super powers due to an accidental infusion of nanobots:

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Cave Carson from the update of the classic DC Comics comic book series spelunker, the new series Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye:

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Although he was a charter member of the borg.com Hall of Fame, Darth Vader returned in Rogue One, providing some new images of the classic borg:

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More of our inductees, after the cut…

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Our borg.com Best of 2016 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Top Picks and Best Movies of 2016 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2016 yesterday here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV Borg — Ash vs Evil Dead (Starz), Bruce Campbell.  We searched high and low for the year’s best TV series featuring one or more borg characters, but didn’t really need to go that far.  The brilliantly funny pop culture ace actor Bruce Campbell’s reboot of the borg.com Hall of Famer Ash could have gotten overlooked had it been just another horror series.  Yet underneath this over-the-top, blood and gore-filled demon hunt is a whole lot of silly fun.  And the actors could have been better, with the likes of Lee Majors (pictured above), Lucy Lawless, and Ted Raimi all making appearances.  We couldn’t ask for a better actor than Campbell to take our borg.com TV title this year.

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Best TV Series, Best TV Horror Series – Grimm (NBC).  The fifth season of Grimm was simply fantastic, full of gripping writing and a change-up of character roles in a way we’ve never seen before.  This season we saw the best action, twists and turns, and flat-out excitement, above every other series on television.  Pulling bits and pieces of folklore from Western and Eastern mythologies and everything in between, the writers delivered all season long.  The writing team’s best work was what they have done all along, taking the story in a direction no one could have predicted.

Stranger Things cast

Best TV Sci-fi Series – Stranger Things, (Netflix).  It’s nearly impossible to list all the influences that came together to form our pick for this year’s Best Retro Fix.  Stand By Me, Firestarter, Silver BulletStranger Things could be another coming of age Stephen King tale, but with nicely creepy John Carpenter undertones and the wonder and sci-fi of a Steven Spielberg movie.  Think Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, and Super 8.  Whatever it is, great performances by a lead group of kid actors, teen actors, and a few adults from filmdom’s past made for a fun season one.

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Best New TV Series, Best Re-Imagining on TV  – Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  We knew Syfy had a winner in the first episode of this year’s best new TV series, Wynonna Earp.  A great mash-up of Western, paranormal, and horror, Wynonna Earp took an American legend and made it interesting for today’s viewers.  Melanie Scrofano’s Wynonna is a classic heroine in a supernatural setting.  And her interactions with Tim Rozon’s Doc Holliday include some of the best humor on TV.  Did we mention the villains are basically zombies?  Wynonna’s got a gun–a Peacemaker–and she knows how to use it, giving us a fun, over-the-top shoot ’em up each week to look forward to.

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Best Animated TV Series – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  For the second year in a row, Star Wars Rebels proves that animated shows are just as compelling as big budget theatrical blockbusters.  This season we met the great villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, finally introduced to Star Wars canon.  Every episode gave fans something to be excited about, as in the episode “The Antilles Extraction,” where Sabine goes undercover as a cadet in the Empire’s elite flight academy to bring Imperial pilots over to fight for the Rebellion.  Darth Maul and Captain Rex are also standout characters.  Original trilogy voice actors, compelling visuals, and rousing music, make this one of the best series on TV.

After the cut, come back for more of our Best in Television 2016:

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What a year!  The world’s a changing place and no less so than with the welcome onslaught of new movies, television shows, books, comics, and everything else that entertained us in 2016.  All year long we tried to keep up with the best of what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  We watched all of nearly two dozen TV series, and enough of others to know we’d seen enough.  We watched dozens of new movies, reviewed more than three dozen books (and read even more), and kept up with dozens of comic book titles.  We witnessed the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Archie, and Captain America, the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Charles Schulz’s Great Pumpkin, Rocky turned 40, and it was the 30th anniversary of Aliens and Labyrinth.  And the Cubs finally won the World Series.

Today we reveal the best genre content of 2016–with our top categories from movies and television Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero Fix, Best Animated Fix, and Best Borg, followed by our Best in Movies picks.  The big winner was Rogue One, taking 13 spots, followed by Doctor Strange with three.  Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, our special look at Kick-ass Heroines of 2016, followed by our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.

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Best Sci-Fi Fix – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm).  Although the franchise is more space fantasy than science fiction, all the elements of the best sci-fi were crammed into Rogue One.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology.  A compelling story.  We’re wagering this film will be a classic we go back to for years to come, upsetting Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the third best of the eight films in the series.  It’s everything a sci-fi fan could want.

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Best Fantasy FixThe Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures).  Like Rogue One it was a prequel that was also a sequel.  Better than the original Snow White and the Huntsman, this early 2016 release provided a high-fantasy story rooted in the classic fairy tale, rewarding viewers midway with a surprise change-up.  Three tough female leads, four brave (and funny) dwarves, two epic quests, a fairy tale romance, and elaborate costumes and sets made for a perfect fantasy film.

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Best Superhero FixThe Magnificent Seven (MGM/Columbia Pictures).  When we first reviewed The Magnificent Seven we were surprised it had adapted the Yul Brynner version and Akira Kurosawa’s earlier Seven Samurai so well.  We were even more surprised at how well the cast, and cast of characters, worked together to create a true ensemble piece.  It rivaled every attempt by the studios to make a great superhero team-up, and, but for the Western garb and setting, it rates as the year’s best of the superhero genre.  Runner-up, a close contender for the win was the second appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver doing his speedster business slow-motion style again in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Stranger Things cast

Best Retro FixStranger Things (Netflix).  It’s a TV series that would have made a solid movie hit in 1982.  So many series appear unexpectedly these days with a full season ready to stream immediately.  Most demonstrate why they couldn’t cut it with the networks or a major cable channel.  Not so with some of Netflix’s series, especially the surprise hit Stranger Things.  With a nicely eerie soundtrack, title font, a Twin Peaks-meets Steven Spielberg coming of age film cul-de-sac for the setting, and  John Carpenter meets Stephen King vibe, it’s no wonder Stranger Things was the #1 talked about series this year.  Our favorite part, besides the young heroine of the show, was the attention to throwback clothes, toys, posters, and 1980s pop culture references.  It’s a series we’ll revisit in the future, and look forward to in its second season.

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Best Borg/Best Movie Villain – Darth Vader (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).  Darth Vader returned in his best scene of the franchise outside of The Empire Strikes Back in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It wasn’t James Earl Jones’s return to voice one of the best villains in the history of cinema that grabbed us, but the full-on rampage Vader takes to pursue the stolen Rebel plans in the film’s finale.  Director (and lifelong Star Wars fan) Gareth Edwards gave fans exactly what they wanted, utilizing an impressive UK creature actor Spencer Wilding to do his bidding as the imposing Lord of the Sith.  We also got a peek at what little of the man remained years after his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.  We saw inside his cybernetic suit of armor via a scene featuring him floating in a bacta tank.  Darth Vader remains one of the greatest borgs of all time.

Want to know who we picked for best in effects, soundtrack, and best sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and horror movies of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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