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Tag Archive: Bruce Boxleitner


  

Review by C.J. Bunce

Primarily in-universe looks at the first three seasons of ABC/CW’s series Supergirl and the first four seasons of CW’s The Flash, two new books offer up a complete look at the superheroes, their encounters, and the extensive and diverse world of supporting characters in the shows.  The last of the series to round out CW’s Arrowverse–the live-action world of DC Comics characters outside the movies–Supergirl, the series, revolves around the famous daughter of Krypton created by the performance of Supergirl aka Kara Danvers actor Melissa Benoist.  The character’s personality comes to the surface in Supergirl: The Secret Files of Kara Danvers, a diary style guide to the TV series, which includes a three-season episode guide.  It’s a companion to both Arrow: Oliver Queen’s Dossier (previously reviewed here at borg) and S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon’s Journal, and another new book in the series, The Flash: The Secret Files of Barry Allen, another diary style book documenting the latest incarnation of the superhero aka Barry Allen, as portrayed by Grant Gustin.

The first takeaway of these books is the breadth of stories that have been adapted from the comic books into these series.  The guest actors fill in the world from the comic books, and for older viewers, they conjure a bit of nostalgia, several from past superhero incarnations, from the movie version’s Helen Slater to Smallville’s Erica Durance and Sam Witwer, Lois and Clark’s Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain, Heroes’ Bruce Boxleitner and Adrian Pasdar, Hercules’ Kevin Sorbo, and the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter.  The wealth of villains alone in The Flash series makes The Flash: The Secret Files of Barry Allen a must-have for CW Arrowverse fans.

Both books feature dossiers of the good guys and the bad guys you need to know about, whether based in National City for Kara Danvers or Central City for Barry Allen.

Here are previews of each book, published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams:

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It’s a member of the exclusive clubhouse of the greatest year of movies–1982.  In a summer that gave us E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Poltergeist, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, Disney’s groundbreaking Tron is a great movie, and it stands the test of time as a unique science fiction classic.  For a movie fan, if you were stuck in a time warp you could hardly find a better place to be than 1982.  Getting noticed in a year of movies like Conan the Barbarian, Rocky III, First Blood, Tootsie, The Secret of NIMH, The Last Unicorn, Night Shift, The Man from Snowy River, Tex, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was no small feat.  Tron sees the 35th anniversary of its release this week.  A cinematic milestone?  Of course.  A must-see classic?  Absolutely.  Better still, you can view Tron in a more vibrant and detailed clarity than how you may have viewed it in a local 1982 movie theater thanks to an updated 2011 Blu-ray release.

For those not involved in the computing world in the early 1980s, Tron first introduced audiences to programming terms like the Master Control Program (MCP), random access memory (RAM), and the idea of avatars.   It introduced us to light cycles, an early CG home run–even decades before quality 3D or IMAX–viewers were ducking and dodging in their seats as opponents exploded into the walls of the Grid.  Identity discs brought to life what were only blips on the screen in the “real” world, and we cringed as Flynn took a step too close and almost fell off the game rings.  No other film since looks like Tron, not even its big budget 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy or its 2012 animated series Tron: Uprising.  Its backlight animation worked amazingly well for our first entry into a world we hadn’t seen before.  Video games were just beyond the stage of blip games like Pong.  It was a time before the Atari 2600.  It was in this world that director Steven Lisberger was able to film Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley aka Tron and Jeff Bridges as programmer/hacker/high scorer Flynn in a complex blue-black and white costume and fill in the details in post-production and place them in a brilliantly colored, infinitely tiny, futuristic universe.  The look was both retro to an almost 1940s vision of the future and yet also it pushed ahead, way ahead, to some future we will never really meet.  Just look at this futuristic, visionary image from early in the film where Bridges plays an avatar of his real world character–well before anyone knew what an avatar was:

And the story works.  Tron offers a one-of-a-kind and unreal world where, in the classic sci-fi style of The Fly, you can be teleported to someplace not outside but deep within this world, where Flynn tries to understand his new world of the Users, to fight to survive with identity disk battles and light cycle races, and to get home.  Boxleitner, who would get far less screen time than Jeff Bridges, provided an understated hero for a generation of kids.  David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek V, VI, Star Trek: The Next Generation), the best actor to play a villain in any franchise, also played a dual role as Dillinger and the MCP, giving movies one of its all-time best villains, and adding yet another perfect genre performance to Warner’s portfolio.  Caddyshack’s Cindy Morgan as Lora/Yori, Dan Shor as the ill-fated RAM, and Barnard Hughes as Dumont all created memorable supporting characters (plus master stuntman Vince Deadrick, Jr. (Iron Man, True Grit, Star Trek Enterprise, Fletch, Romancing the Stone) to boot).

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Heroes Reborn NBC banner

What we thought was going to be another ad for the DVD release of Gravity actually was a teaser for the return of Heroes to NBC.  NBC released a few details to the press before the Olympics Saturday night teaser premiere, revealing a new Heroes TV series will be returning in 2015.  NBC and creator Tim Kring will be holding the details close to their vests until Heroes Reborn draws closer, but we’re thinking there is no way to move the series forward and call it Heroes without at least Hayden Panettiere as invincible ex-cheerleader Claire Bennet, Milo Ventimiglia as power-borrower Peter Petrelli, Masi Oka as time traveler Hiro Nakamura, or the always awesome Jack Coleman as Claire’s dad, the horned-rimmed glasses guy.

NBC has ordered 13 episodes for the new mini-series, an entire season for any other property. Could this be a try-on that could be continued if the first year is successful?

“The enormous impact Heroes had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke.  “Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment.  We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept,” Salke continued.  “Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”

Heroes Reborn - how about bringing back Jack Coleman as HRG

Masi Oka is currently on Hawaii Five-O on CBS, Hayden Penettiere is on Nashville on ABC, and Milo Ventimiglia is filming a series on the Crackle online network coming off of his Mob City mini-series in TNT.  Ali Larter, who played Tracy Strauss and her mirror twin on Heroes, last filmed a mini-series on TNT and continues her string of big screen movie projects, and ex-cop Greg Grunberg is making a string of movies.  Although he’s been seen on ABC’s Scandal, Jack Coleman also had a key role in the last season of USA Network’s Burn Notice last year.  USA Network is an NBC sister network.  Could that mean a possible connection to have Coleman’s character lead the new mini-series?  Something like Agent Colson on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Coleman is our top pick, and we think HRG is the most likely driver of a new series.  But why stop there?

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borg dot com benchmark logo tape

We kicked off borg.com as a way to catch up on entertainment news, books and movies back on June 10, 2011.  We’ve posted what’s new each day to provide “your daily science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment fix” for two years now and continue to forge ahead as we tick past our 800,000th view by readers today.

We want to say thanks to you for reading.  It’s a lot of fun (and hard work) keeping up on all the great genre entertainment out there, be it on TV, in theaters, in books, or comics.  We also want to thank all the comic book publishers out there that provide us with preview review copies, as well as book publishers and TV and movie studios and collectible companies that allow us to give you first available previews and reviews.  We cover only what we’re interested in and excited about–we figure that if we like it, so might you.

bionic borg meter

Some of the most fun we’ve had is meeting new people as we keep up on the coolest happenings in the genre realm, some at conventions, some are friends we are grateful to chat with each week of the year.  And lucky for us, borg.com has allowed us to meet some of our own favorite celebrities over the past two years, sci-fi stars like Mark Hamill, Joss Whedon, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Anthony Stewart Head, Scott Bakula, Adam Baldwin, Lindsay Wagner, Saul Rubinek, Zachary Levi, Eddie McClintock, Wil Wheaton, and Mark Sheppard.  Sci-fi and fantasy writers like Peter S. Beagle, Connie Willis, James Blaylock, and Sharon Shinn.  And comic book creators like Frank Cho, Jim Lee, Sergio Aragones, Neal Adams, and Howard Chaykin, and scores of other great comics creators like Mike Mayhew, Mike Norton, Michael Golden and Mikel Janin (and several not named Mike).

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Year's En

Merry Christmas!

It’s the end of December and another year is winding down.  Everywhere you turn someone is talking about the Best of 2012, so here we offer our take, resulting from absorbing more content this year than ever before, from books to movies to TV to comics, we reviewed and previewed entertainment from most of the big comic book publishers, and received screeners of shows and books from different publishing houses.  And we watched a lot of TV and went to a number of movies.  So what was the best of the best this year?  No one will ever have the same list but here’s where we ended up:

Best Genre Movie:  The Hobbit.  We had to wait all year for the release but once we saw it–it was well worth the wait and we want to go back and see it again and again.  How could you possibly follow one of the only fantasy films ever to win a Best Picture Academy Award and expect to come close in quality and entertainment?  Peter Jackson figured it out.  Not even The Avengers came close to touching this epic film with giant sets, special effects, elaborate costumes, a perfect story adaptation, and the best CGI creature to date: a Gollum even better than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Best Dramatic Film: Argo It was an international event more recent in the public psyche than even Watergate, yet it had never been addressed on the silver screen before–the kidnapping of American nationals in Iran.  Ben Affleck served as both director and star of the film and performed both roles brilliantly.  Both exciting and funny–with the incredibly bizarre hook of using Hollywood to create a sci-fi B movie as CIA cover to sneak in to Iran and remove a small group of hostages–it was a story worthy of adapting to screen.  Brilliant!

Best Animated Movie: Brave Kelly McDonald’s wonderful Scottish voice, an all-star Brit voice cast including Emma Thompson, Bill Connolly, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane, coupled with Brenda Chapman’s story and the best of Walt Disney and Pixar’s animation so far, make Brave the slam dunk animated film winner of 2012.   A gorgeous film about a tough and feisty red-headed girl skilled with a bow and arrow who wants to make her own destiny provided a great story for young and old alike.

Best Animated TV Series: Tron: Uprising Disney Television Animation finally figured out a way to bring its Tron franchise forward with Tron: Legacy, and this prequel series gives us what the movie lacked–more Bruce Boxleitner as Tron.  We hardly noticed this wasn’t a live action series, and with voice actors like Frodo’s Elijah Wood, Alien’s Lance Henriksen, Paul Reubens and Tricia Helfer, you could hardly go wrong.  The brilliant choice of lighting, futuristic yet retro light cycles and funky soundtrack made this one worth coming back for each week.

Grimm-Silas-Weir-Mitchell-Bree-Turner

Best Actor: Silas Weir Mitchell, Grimm With the updates for the second season of Grimm, Mitchell’s reformed Blutbad Monroe was hard to beat as the sometimes hilarious sometimes dramatic glue that held the series together, setting up new conflicts, like the strange discovery of Renard and Juliette’s relationship, sure to drive the story next year.

Ksenia Solo as Kenzi in Lost Girl

Best Actress: Ksenia Solo, Lost Girl.  As succubus and series star Bo’s tagalong human friend and roommate Kenzi, Solo held half of the dramatic workload for the Canadian series first released to U.S. audiences this year on the Syfy Channel.  The Latvian born actress plays it funny and smart–she makes for the ideal kickass girl from the best genre fiction stories.

Cobie Smulders in The Avengers

Best Breakout Role–Female:  Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill in The Avengers.  We knew her already from How I Met Your Mother, but Smulders took what could have been a throwaway background role in the biggest movie of the year and instead put her character’s footing almost on par with the Avengers themselves, heading up an early chase scene and appearing with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury throughout the film.  Now she’s set to come back for the next Avengers films, she’s a character that we never knew about but are glad she’s on the team going forward.

Max Greenfield in New Girl

Best Breakout Role–Male: Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl.  Greenfield is one among a handful of great young actors in New Girl, now in its second season, but this season his character Schmidt stepped out to create the craziest, most hysterical moment of nearly every episode.  Whether he is ranting that there is no black Santa Claus, or trying to show a stripper how to lap dance the right way, whether he is wearing his high-cut male kimono, ranting about germs, or his stupid actions result in him putting the most money in the coffee table jar, Greenfield took a funny part and stretched it to insanely funny.  This from the same guy who performed dramatic roles in Veronica Mars, Life and Castle?  Awesome.

Best Guest Appearance:  Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance in Action Comics. It was a bit of a marketing gimmick, but what could tie the education of real science, a popular TV non-fiction series host and comic book readers together better?  The real star-vested Tyson found a possible location for Superman’s home planet of Krypton, revealing it to the Man of Steel in the pages of the ongoing series.

Best TV series: Arrow, CW Network.  We got our first look at the pilot for this series at Comic-Con this year and loved it, but wasn’t sure how it would appeal to a mass audience.  Pretty much everyone we know watches this series, including those who would never otherwise think to look at a series about a masked superhero.  We have a critical eye out for all things Green Arrow, but Arrow, led by a well-cast Stephen Amell, surpassed our expectations.

Best Comedy Series: New Girl, Fox Network.  New Girl wins this category from one simple thing: This series made this writer laugh so hard his gut hurt and corresponding tears shot out of his eyes from the quick humor in so many scenes this year he lost count.  And when the series dipped into dramatic elements it never veered far from the core of what makes the show work–it’s a comedy first.  Tuesday night this year was New Girl night.  Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston and Cece could be the next Friends (but funnier) if the series can get a wider audience.

Sherlock Belgravia episode

Best Single TV Episode: Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” BBC America.  You just have to watch this episode of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s brilliant series over and over.  The entry of the beautiful and unpredictable Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver, was perfection, and Cumberbatch and Martin’s scene with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft in Buckingham Palace can’t be beat.  Sure to be a classic episode for years to come.

Best Cliffhanger: Shawn’s dad gets shot, Psych, USA Network.  It seems like it has been forever since Shawn’s dad Henry, played by Corbin Bernsen was shot at the end of this season’s last episode of the hit USA Network comedy/drama series.  At its core, Psych is a light-hearted pleasure, so they just CAN’T kill off Henry.  We’re really looking forward to finding out.

Best Series Ender: In Plain Sight, USA Network.*  In a year where several mega-hits wrapped for good, including House, M.D., The Closer, Awake, and Chuck, one series finale tied up all the necessary loose ends the best, and that was the aptly titled “All’s Well that Ends” from In Plain Sight, which ended after five solid seasons.  The writers skipped the gimmicks, with no gut wrenching death scenes for major cast players, but instead honored the characters as they’d been for the entire series, rewarding viewers with an end where everyone wins.  *Update:  Leverage‘s surprise December 25, 2012 series finale came in with a powerhouse finale, slightly trumping In Plain Sight at the last minute after we posted this piece.  See our review here.

Jason Isaacs in Awake

Best Series that Cancelled Too Early: Awake, NBC Network We only got to see 12 episodes of Awake, but in those episodes we saw a great paranormal drama develop.  Jason Isaacs, like Paul Blackthorne, is one of those actors you want to helm a series every week.  His dual role of father who lost his kid and husband that lost his wife, both in the same auto accident, showed this actor could do anything with a role.  Although they were able to nicely wrap-up Awake in its last episode, we’d prefer to have seen a lot more of it.

Best Surprise in Entertainment: Dallas, TNT Network.  How was this even possible?  Who would think to take THE 1980s primetime soap and bring it forward to 2012, AND think it could work?  TNT mixed a CW Network-inspired young cast with a plot continuing the struggles in the classic series and melded it into something for anyone willing to give it a try.  Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing never missed a beat as the ultimate TV villain, even in his 80s.  The writers took bits from the tangents of the original to concoct the main storyline of two young heirs fighting for family and social dominance.  The result was addictive TV.

The Major Crimes Gallery

Best Comeback:  The ensemble cast of Major Crimes The great thing about a great ensemble cast is that you like every player equally.  When this is successful, you can stand to lose a character or two and still keep going, or as was the case with the wind-up of The Closer, lose three main characters: Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, Chief Pope, and Sgt. Gabriel.  Major Crimes added three new replacement characters and never missed a beat, pleasing fans who knew it was too soon for the stories from the L.A. Major Crimes unit to end.

Best Second Wind: Haven, Syfy Channel Some cable TV series limp along and just end after a year or two.  Haven’s single theme of solving the riddle of “the troubles” seemed a candidate for this, but something switched on with the 2012 season allowing the rich stories and great cast chemistry to give us the series’ best episodes in its three-year run so far.

Volkswagen cantina commercial

Best Genre-Related Advertisement:  Star Wars Super Bowl ad, Volkswagen The best Super Bowl ad last January with a dog, a James Brown tune, and a pristine recreation of the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original Star Wars was an instant classic that will be hard to beat in 2013.  Complete with its own recreated hive of scum and villainy, Tom Spina Designs’ creatures gave us something we want to see more of–maybe a new Disney-produced TV series based in Mos Eisley using all these obscure characters fanboys know by name?  Missed it?  See the full ad here.

Best Press Marketing: Coma mini-series press kit, A&E Network We at borg.com received tons of content this year, from books to comics to advance screeners, but one marketing gag was so awesome in its own right it surpassed what it was advertising.  The advance marketing for the Coma TV series marked a possible return by A&E to the classic TV shows we used to get in the days of shows like Price and Prejudice or Nero Wolfe.  Sporting an underground conspiracy plotline, print and online ads created a cool concept that the mini-series itself did not quite match.  When we received a human organ carrier in a “thawed” labeled box that we cautiously unzipped to find the screener, well that was just too awesome not to mention again.

Best Costumes: The Hobbit The Hobbit already made our Best Genre Movie of 2012, but it’s worth a second nod for having the most incredibly crafted costumes of possibly any film made so far in any year.  Building on the costumes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the slow panning of the camera in The Hobbit allowed us to see every seam on Bilbo’s patch-work coat, and every new emblem on each dwarf’s tunic.  How can a production make so many unique costumes for one film?  The result sets the standard for all major films to come.

Doctor Who A Town Called Mercy

Best Borg Appearance: The Cyborg Gunslinger, Doctor Who episode, “A Town Called Mercy” Andrew Brooke’s gunslinger was a slick-looking borg addition, a throwback to Westworld that gave us equal parts of good sci-fi and classic Western movies.  Doctor Who has created the best costumes and make-up of any sci-fi franchise in the past few years and this guy just looked great.

Best Web Series: TableTop bi-weekly Internet series, Geek and Sundry.  Wil Wheaton, known for Star Trek: The Next Generation and more recently his appearances on Big Bang Theory and Leverage, as host of his own online series, brought us all back from the video game world to the boardgame format that allows friends to really interact and have fun for their own game nights.   He chatted over great games like Tsuro, Munchkin and Zombie Dice with friends and celebrities alike, and showed us what could easily translate to its own Game Show Network series.

Best Villain:  The Harp Seal, Battlepug, Mike Norton. Easy choice.  This year’s Eisner Award winner for best digital comic revealed this unexpected villain, a funny surprise for readers.  Imagine a world where the harp seal gets its due–a role reversal where warriors fear him over all other creatures.  A great idea.

Best Ongoing Comic Book Series (tie):  All-Star Western, DC ComicsArtist Moritat and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took a long-dead comic book title and bridged 1800s Gotham City and Jonah Hex to make a gritty and fun book that rose to the top of DC Comics’ New 52 titles first released in September 2011.  Who knew a Western comic could be this good?  Bionic Man, Dynamite Comics Phil Hester took a Kevin Smith script and expanded on it, taking the most nostalgic bits of the classic Six Million Dollar Man TV series and updating it for 2012.  The highlight of the fun was an appearance by the classic TV series guest star, Bigfoot.

Thor - God of Thunder 1

Best Single Comic Book Issue: Thor, God of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.  How do you reintroduce a classic character like Thor in a new way?  Exactly like Aaron does in this first issue of his new series, breaking up his story into three time periods, and highlighting the changing face of Thor over time.  Ribic’s lush images of Thor and a certain strange new world escalated this book to the top of my year’s reads.

JK Woodward AssimilationSquared

Best Comic Book Art: JK Woodward, Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation².  J.K. Woodward’s painted artwork throughout this limited series was stunning.  Probably the best depiction to-date of Star Trek characters in a comic book, Woodward took a fanboy’s dream job of merging two of the biggest sci-fi franchises together for the first story ever attempted and delivered a great looking story, now available in a trade edition.  We just want to see more.

Mystery in Space 1 by Ryan Sook

Best Comic Book Cover Art:  Mystery in Space, Ryan Sook, Vertigo Comics Ryan Sook had a big year, providing sensational covers for everything from The Shadow to the new Sword of Sorcery to one of our favorite titles, Justice League Dark.  But his cover for Vertigo Comics’ Mystery in Space #1 blended sci-fi and fantasy in the best way, with a steampunk angel painting the universe inside a spaceship with the help of flitting fairies, or is she creating our actual universe?  A great idea and perfect execution made this a standout on the store shelf this year.

Hawkeye cover by David Aja

Best Comic Book Cover Art Runner-up:  Hawkeye mini-series, David Aja Aja’s six unique Hawkeye series covers served not only to entice us to read this mini-series with great use of simple colors, but his own artwork between the covers made us feel like we were rewarded with what was advertised–a very cool and unusually stylish series.

Best Comics Collected Edition:  Flash Gordon, Volumes 1 and 2, Titan Books These were the best presented books we reviewed this year.  Reprinted Sunday comics from the 1930s and 1940s in a giant-sized edition that allowed readers to appreciate the story and art of creator Alex Raymond was a feast for the eyes.  The content allowed readers to see just how relevant and interesting the original mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy could be.

Best Retro Reviewed Book: Moonraker, Ian Fleming.  Casino Royale was a great read, Live and Let Die was a bit of a letdown, but Moonraker was as exciting as any book I’ve read in years.  Far different from the film of the same name, this thriller was packed with spy world intrigue.  Compared to all the other retro reviews this year, including Philip K. Dick classics, this one really stood out.

Best Reviewed Book: Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Kim Newman Although it was initially released in 1998, a new edition was re-released this year.  The best “post-modern steampunk” mash-up and incredibly detailed world building made this novel a great read, full of artful prose and creative crossovers.  Newman also added another level of storytelling, mixing the real world with the world of fiction, and the result is a densely packed, enjoyable volume.

Bond and Queen

Best Mash-Up of Fiction and Non-Fiction Worlds:  James Bond accompanies the Queen to the Olympics 2012 was the Year of Bond with his 50th year in film.  How better to highlight the best of Jolly Old England at this year’s Summer Olympics than to begin with a meeting of the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, and the actual Queen Elizabeth II in her 60th year in Buckingham Palace, followed by a faked aerial dive by the Queen over the stadium in London.  The Queen was a real sport, adding herself to the long list of Bond girls.  And don’t forget the real-world borg Oscar Pistorius’s impressive showings at the Olympics this year.

Comic-Con Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel

Best Genre Event: The Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con.  More than 7,000 fans stood in line for only about 5,000 seats but the all-night wait was worth seeing most of the cast of Firefly reunite with creators Joss Whedon and Tom Minnear to talk about the short-lived series.  Firefly fans are a passionate bunch, and were able to get Whedon to make the big-budget movie Serenity a few years after cancellation.  But get most of the stars to come back ten years later?  Pretty cool feat.  With Whedon and series co-star Adam Baldwin (Jayne) dropping by to greet the people sleeping and standing in line overnight it was an event that attendees will never forget.

Best News Story: George Lucas sells Star Wars rights to Disney Some liked it and some hated it, but as months go by we’ll see what it all means.  As entertainment goes, this multi-billion dollar exchange was the talk everywhere this year.

Best Science Story: Curiosity lands on Mars.  NASA’s description of dropping a rover on the surface of the planet Mars sounded like threading a needle blind-folded wearing gloves.  Its early morning coverage of the successful landing was something like the moon landing, and made everyone want to see what more we can do in the space program now that the last Space Shuttle has been mothballed.  What will the future hold for NASA and humans in outer space?

Best Nationwide Genre Participation Event: The Avengers Marathon, AMC Theaters We only wished for something like this when we were kids–the ability to watch something like all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies in one screening.  The lead-up to the midnight premiere of The Avengers allowed fans to watch all the lead-in Avengers films so far:  Iron Man I and II, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.  A great idea that will hopefully continue with other franchise films.

Best Single Thing for Genre Works: The Avengers movie.  Genre, and specifically superhero, films needed a good kickstart.  The dark and dreary Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan was monopolizing superhero films, and we needed a giant, vibrant superhero film to usher in a new age of comic book films and Joss Whedon delivered the goods.  It’s not a perfect film (and what is?) but was completely fun and entertaining, delivering something every fan could enjoy.  Challenging the top two positions for all-time box office draw also showed everyone that fans want to see more of this kind of movie.

What were your favorites?  We hope a few of these are on your own list.  We at borg.com will be back with more coverage and reviews in 2013.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

By C.J. Bunce

You can spend your weekend at Comic-Con wandering the exhibit floor looking for mass market collectibles, talking with dealers of original art, talking with writers and artists of current and classic comic books, attend panels and see comic and other creators, TV and movie stars and get the low-down on coming projects, go offsite for parties and studio and publisher events–the biggest problem is doing all you want when there is nowhere close to enough time to do it in.  If you’re in for only a few days, you really have to pick up your pace and narrow down what you want to see.  Since I spent a whole day in panels and did not stay for the entire weekend, any encounters I had with creators and studio celebrities were pretty much based on happenstance this year.  Many creators are now friends, others I gawk at like everyone else from afar.  So who did I see?

First of all, in panels I saw the cast of Community, Firefly, and the new series Arrow, including guys I’d love to talk in person someday–Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin, David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel from Bones, and the guy you may know as Bud from Married with Children, David Faustino, who is doing voice work now for Nickelodeon, and he voiced the character Mako as part of the Legends of Korra panel.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, waiting in line allowed me to meet and get a photo with Joss Whedon.

The Soup host Joel McHale, Firefly star Nathan Fillion, former Angel star David Boreanaz and Korra’s David Faustino really stood out as funny guys in these panels–surprisingly quick-witted people who got the crowd cheering with everything they said.

I saw the main cast of the Syfy Channel series Haven during their signing session.  They really looked like they were having a good time–like they really get along with each other.  Also signing in the Sails Pavilion were Richard Anderson, who was the classic character Oscar Goldman from one of borg.com’s favorite borg shows: The Six Million Dollar Man, and Cindy Morgan from the original Tron and Caddyshack.  I hoped to run into Bruce Boxleitner, JK Woodward and Scott and David Tipton but my panel schedule caused me to miss meeting them.

On the exhibit floor I watched Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) talk with fans and sign autographs.

Arnold Schwartzenegger was coming into the hall and I staked out a photo op location but his handlers moved him out of the hall so I missed seeing him.

As a Star Trek fan, I was very happy to finally meet and have a nice conversation with Brent Spiner.  He was a great guy who was as nice in person as you’d hope him to be from years of watching his lovable character Data.  I also had a brief chat at day’s end with Levar Burton, also a friendly guy, signing photos of Geordi LaForge for fans.  I’d met Marina Sirtis before so I didn’t chat with her this round, but she was also signing Counselor Deanna Troi photos in the hall.

Earlier this year I reviewed Table Top, a new, fun Web series hosted by Wil Wheaton with the Geek and Sundry creators.  I met him near a Starbucks and shared my feedback with him on his show.  We talked about some of the games and he graciously introduced me to his wife and friends.

Wheaton is truly “one of us” and a really personable guy.  Of everyone at the Con, he is probably my first pick of someone you’d like to wander the Con halls and chat with.  Another show host, Blair Butler was attending the Con from the popular genre cable channel G4.

Of the comic book realm, I met Cat Skaggs, a well-known comic book artist who was signing cover prints to Smallville Season 11 #1 and she sketched a great Green Arrow bust for me.

I also met Neal Adams–a comic book legend who created the look of the Silver Age Green Arrow and I finally was able to add one of his sketches to my folio.  Neal was sketching non-stop for fans just like the newer, younger artists in Artist Alley–a real “working artist” even after all these years.

I ran into my friend Freddie Williams II also, and he also was busy sketching for fans throughout the Con and selling original art from his various DC Comics series.

David Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard work, was working on commissions for attendees and selling shirts and art at his booth in Artist Alley.  I also lucked into getting a sketch from him and enjoyed talking with his wife, who manned the booth when he was doing signings elsewhere.

I ran into Frank Cho again this year and he said he is still expecting to get Guns & Dinos out soon.  He was selling a great pin-up calendar featuring Brandy and the Liberty Meadows gang.  More on that in future posts.  A nominee for the Eisner in two categories this year, Rachel Rising creator Terry Moore was busy talking with fans.

As with last year, Jim Lee could be found at several panels and signing throughout Comic-Con.

As with Freddie Williams, I met up with several folks from back in the Midwest.  I ran into artist Ande Parks and met his wife, while hanging with Sean and William from Elite Comics and Chris Jackson who runs Planet Comicon.  Parks was chatting with his frequent cover artist Francesco Francavilla, this year’s Eisner cover artist of the year winner, and someone we have talked about here at borg.com all year long for his great cover art.  I ran into Star Trek author Kevin Dilmore twice on the exhibit floor–my third year seeing Kevin at the Con.  It’s crazy how you can be in your hometown and never run into anyone, and then fly to San Diego and see so many people from back home.

Disney Television Animation has announced a mega-panel at Comic-Con for Friday, July 13, 2012, featuring the creators and voice actors from the new Disney XD series Tron: Uprising.

Bruce Boxleitner, the voice of Tron, headlines the panel along with series star, Elijah Wood, who plays the young Grid cycle repair technician turned rebel named Beck.   Former Battlestar Galactica star Tricia Helfer, the voice of The Grid, is also scheduled to appear, along with Emmanuelle Chriqui (Paige), and creative staff Charlie Bean (executive producer/director), Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (consulting producers), Alberto Mielgo (art director), and Robert Valley (lead character designer).

Disney also released the rest of its animation panel schedule:

Saturday, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. —  Phineas and Ferb Q&A Panel (Room 6A) featuring a clip from a coming two-part cliffhanger episode “Where’s Perry?”  Panelists include Dan Povenmire (creator/executive producer & Dr. Doofenshmirtz), Swampy Marsh, creator/executive producer & (Major Monogram), Vincent Martella (Phineas), Alyson Stoner (Isabella), and Dee Bradley Baker (Perry).

Saturday, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. — Disney Channel Television Animation Q&A Panel: (Room: 5AB), featuring footage and clips from upcoming Disney Channel’s Fish Hooks and Gravity Falls series, plus a first look at the upcoming series Wander Over Yonder.  Scheduled panelists include: Noah Z. Jones (Fish Hooks creator/executive producer), Maxwell Atoms (Fish Hooks executive producer), Justin Roiland (Oscar on Fish Hooks), Kari Wahlgren (Shellsea on Fish Hooks), Alex Hirsch (Gravity Falls creator/executive producer), Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls creative director), Jason Morgan Ritter (Dipper on Gravity Falls), Craig McCracken (Wander Over Yonder creator), and Lauren Faust (Wander Over Yonder co-producer).

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Tron is one of those franchises that has barely been tapped for its universe of potential stories about the Grid.  The original movie Tron followed Jeff Bridges’ character Flynn as he became sucked into the computer sphere, into the video game, Tron.  The graphic novel Tron: Betrayal smartly covered the events after the original film, to provide a segue into the new Grid universe in Tron: Legacy, a strange, cool, new world of the Grid on the big screen.  Tron: Legacy met Flynn again, this time an aged hermit-slash-guru, trapped for years as an outcast rebel leader, and his son, who enters the computer world to find him.  We got a brief glimpse of Tron’s real-world equivalent (Bruce Boxleitner, Chuck, Scarecrow & Mrs. King), but didn’t see much of Tron himself.  The excellent updated role play video game Tron: Evolution features even more of the new world, but not until now do we get what we’ve wanted all along, more Tron, and specifically more Boxleitner as Tron.  Unfortunately Tron isn’t the lead of the new animated weekly half-hour TV series on Disney XD, Tron: Uprising, but he gets an important key role as Jedi-like mentor to Elijah Wood’s young Padawan-esque character, Beck, years after the events of Tron: Legacy.  The story is one of persecution and revolution, and the whispered message across the Grid is “Tron lives.”

You’ll find plenty of parallels to Star Wars and other good science fantasy and science fiction, even cool references back to the original Tron movie itself, like the little floating diamond that repeated the word “yes” with nice comic timing.  And you’ll be hard pressed not to try to compare it to the Clone Wars animated series.  I think the art, sound, story, music, color, depth, movement and vibe leaves not only Clone Wars behind, but any other animated series that comes to mind, after watching the first three episodes broadcast yesterday and last Tuesday.  If there is any drawback it may be characters and producers still getting comfortable with the dialogue and techno-babble, but this may just get ironed out over the course of the series.  The other drawback is getting used to the string-bean thin and tall hero characters of this universe.  But those items are easily dismissed for all that is very cool in this series.

The best part may very well be the band Daft Punk’s soulful, hopeful, sometime dark, sometimes bright techno music that is borrowed from their unique and stunning score for the film Tron: Legacy and carefully and expertly edited into this series.  The thumping base line and synthesized strings at the right movements take you into this new world to the point you find the art direction and sound together creating a complete universe–and you will question whether this is a movie or a video game or an animated series.  Imagery of a classic Encom light cycle has glass-like mirror reflections of animated characters that looks like it could exist in the real world.  Water flows like real water, yet nicely done with a computerized edge to it as in the original Tron film.

And then you have Bruce Boxleitner as not an elder Tron so much as a mature Tron, leader and icon of this new uprising.  His character looks a bit like Boxleitner without the need for motion capture technology.  Elijah Wood’s Beck is young and impulsive.  Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Paige and Kate Mara’s Perl are cool, tough villains.  Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice) provides the perfect voice for the voiceover introductions as well as the voice of the Grid.  Lance Henriksen’s (Alien) Tesler is a slicker villain than Jeff Bridges’ motion capture computer-generated character Clu from Tron: Legacy.  And Paul Reubens’ voice is perfect for Tesler’s henchman.

You can’t forget the animation itself, and Disney has outdone itself here.  it looks like it must have taken years to developed this type of imagery.  Some scenes look they come from the best of Pixar’s achievements, including some that just establish setting, with little or no action, although the light cycle chase scenes are seemless and exciting as you’d hope for.

A great start for a great franchise!

The TV series Cops is in its 24th season.  Survivor began its 24th season this month (although its been around half as long as Cops).  Cops began because of scrambling network executives who needed to put something on TV in light of a writer’s strike.  And its all gone downhill from there.  Like Huey Lewis used to say, “sometimes bad is bad.”

Yet someone is watching this stuff.  American Idol and Dancing with the Stars show little signs of fading away.  What part of the collective psyche of the modern TV viewer makes so many of us show up each week for this kind of programming?   And it’s not just an American pastime.  As an example, Survivor variants can be found all over the planet.   Networks love these shows because they don’t need to hire the best, aka most expensive, writers.  They can basically put anything out there and we will watch it.

Back before “immunity” and “voting people off the island” there was an earlier counterpart to shows like Dancing with the StarsBattle of the Network Stars was a series of 19 specials back when we had three networks to watch.  Like Dancing with the Stars, sometimes the celebrities were just barely celebrities, but more likely than not the general population would be able to identify who was competing on the semi-annual show.  Battle of the Network Stars pitted stars from each network against each other in several physical games, such as football, running, biking, golf, volleyball, swimming, and even kayaking.  At the end of each 2-hour tourney the two highest scoring networks would compete in a tug-of-war battle to the death (OK, not really, actually just a good old-fashioned tug-of-war).

Then again, Robert Conrad and Telly Savalas look like they have some serious money wagered on the outcome of this episode.  I hope someone told Ron Howard to get out of Penny Marshall’s way

Overall the shows were successful.  They were fun, generally light-hearted, and only rarely did competitors seem to be fiercely competing or all-out angry when they lost.  The shows weren’t about ostracizing anyone, or making fun of competitors.  They generally reflected what you would see in neighborhood softball games at home.  More like Dancing with the Stars than other current reality shows, you found yourself cheering for someone to succeed more than hoping anyone would fail.

A single race had many celebrities–some still on TV, including David Letterman and Billy Crystal.   MmmA Hulk team-up with Geordi LaForge?  Awesome!

The shows began in 1976 and ended in 1985.  To add to the spirit of competition, Howard Cosell was the host of the shows, announcing the play-by-play as if he were announcing the Super Bowl, often over-exaggerating and parodying his own animated announcing style.

One of the best parts of the Battles were the networks’ coaches who served to anchor the teams and cheer on the sometimes athletically-challenged participants.  The first captains were Gabe Kaplan, Robert Conrad and Telly Savalas.  William Shatner and Tom Selleck would later serve as popular captains, among others.

For fans of these actors and actresses in the years before most of the country would have access to Fan Cons, this was a rare chance to see that these celebrities were normal people like the rest of us.  Of course, in hindsight it is hard to get past some obvious style changes, especially “short shorts.”  Ultimately the shows were about being good sports, although there was plenty of humorous trash talk between the networks.  You could imagine that these actors, many still on TV and even in movies, would probably not want to go back and watch these shows, celebrities like Bruce Boxleitner, Michael J. Fox, Heather Locklear, Rosalind Chao, Morgan Fairchild, Stephen Collins, Jameson Parker, Cheryl Ladd, Valerie Bertinelli, Howard Hesseman, Lynda Carter, Richard Hatch, Adrienne Barbeau, Levar Burton, Kurt Russell, David Letterman, Lou Ferrigno, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.

Kids got to see an even better show, the Saturday morning parody cartoon version

The biggest difference between Battle of the Network Stars in the 1970s and 1980s and reality competition shows of 2012?  Back then Battle of the Network Stars was the exception.  It aired twice per year.  We weren’t saturated with battle shows and celebrities not doing what celebrities were meant to do on TV, like act in dramas, mysteries and comedies.

When you see good TV you know it.  If you’ve watched shows like the popular Downton Abbey and The Hour from BBC TV and public television, shows like Mad Men on AMC, Homeland on Showtime, long-running network shows like House, MD on Fox or the several Law and Order series on NBC, you know a lot of time and effort and creativity went into the formulation of these productions.  We can’t help feel a little guilty when watching a show about a couple guys running a pawn shop.  And maybe we should.

Captain Shatner

Did audiences in the 1970s and 1980s know something we don’t know?  Did the networks?  It may sometimes feel like we will never come out of this glut of reality TV.  But there’s always hope.  Creative and interesting series like NBC’s new supernatural mystery Awake, dramas like The Closer and In Plain Sight, comedies like Psych and New Girl, genre shows like Warehouse 13 and Lost Girl, all make you think there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  And just for the fun of it, how about dumping all the reality shows and bring back some goofy fun like Battle of the Network Stars?

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Spoilers!

When the original Disney movie Tron arrived in theaters in 1982 it was a technological innovation.  Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn and Bruce Boxleitner’s Tron, a user and a program, interract in a fully realized alternate universe after Flynn is sucked into his own computer system.  Nearly thirty years later the Disney sequel Tron: Legacy revisited the computer world known as the Grid to show us what happened to Flynn and Tron.

But before the film’s release, Disney released a graphic novel in two parts that explains what happened between the two movies.  And the result is actually better than what we saw onscreen in the movie sequel.

Tron: Betrayal, written by Jai Nitz, takes us to the world that we wished had made it to the screen.  The graphic novel compilation includes a nice prologue to get the reader that missed the original film up to speed on the events of the original Tron film.  This was enormously necessary because Disney failed to re-release a DVD version of the film in the months leading up to the release of Tron: Legacy.  (A prior edition had been released more than a decade ago, but in classic Disney marketing style it had not been put back into release once it sold out).

Tron: Betrayal begins with Kevin Flynn revisiting the Grid.  He works with Tron and begins building a new world, a “perfect world”.  Flynn uses the same Tron movie laser technology to transport between realities, and in our world we learn his wife is pregnant with the son we will meet years later in Tron: Legacy.  Lori, whose avatar was Yori in the original film, is still with Tron’s user, Alan.

Kevin is addicted to the Grid and subtley Nitz reveals a man who each day becomes more and more obsessed, a man who can hardly pay attention to his life in the real world, his wife, his new son, his business he is supposed to be running.

Flynn needs to be in two places at once.  So he creates an avatar of himself to carry out his work on the Grid, called Clu.  Clu works with Tron and his loyal assistant Shaddox, who points out that Clu is doing all the work, with little help from Flynn, the creator.  And as a new pest called gridbugs infest the world, “life finds a way” (to quote Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park), and new gridpeople are spontaneously formed–isomorphs or “isos”–including a self aware female named Ophelia (in the film Tron: Legacy this would be revisited with the character Quorra).  Flynn declares all isos are to be protected by Tron and Clu.

The key conflict becomes clearer, the same conflict that would be revealed in the new film: Clu, just like a computer program would react in the real world, does not know what to do when confronted with ambiguity as Clu is given seemingly inconsistent direction from Flynn.  What is a perfect world?

In part 2, Flynn’s real life falls apart.  He has a son, but his wife has died and he is left to raise son Sam with his other obligations still pressing in on him.  His inlaws are there to help…but nothing works for Flynn.  Here Jai Nitz has set up relationships and realities that, despite being a fantasy story about a guy who gets sucked into a video game, reflect modern pressures of life in a believable way.

Beyond the complex story of priorities, faith, and duty, Jeff Matsuda and Andie Tong’s artwork is excellent, all locked into this dark world inside the computer sphere.  The cover by Jock is up to his typical cool style.  Neon cycles, including Flynn’s superbly crafted white light cycle we barely see in the new film, are a great extension from the perfect cycles of the original film.  It is here where the look is better than the final film, even though the final film looks great in its own right.  What is certain is that this story would have made a better film, for several reasons.

First, this story includes the title character, Tron, in a key role.  Tron: Legacy inexplicably barely used Tron, and when it did, we barely got to see the beloved actor Boxleitner be the Tron we loved in the original film.   The movie is called Tron, right?  Is Boxleitner’s fee greater than Academy Award winner Bridges?  Also, this is the story that happened following the events of the original film and this is the story most fans would want to see.  The Flynn of the new the film is washed up.  He is past the character most fans would want to dig into.  He is the Dude from The Big Lebowski right before he ODs.  The new film was subtitled Legacy and it is about Flynn’s son Sam.  Yet we as fans care for Kevin and Alan, the original characters that excited us.  This story also allows a greater depth of character than we were shown in the movie.

With the graphic novel Tron: Betrayal we get to see what that more ideal film could have been.  And that would have made a very cool movie.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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