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Tag Archive: Chevy Chase


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re not a player of Dungeons & Dragons, a new journey through the hills and valleys of the roleplay game that started it all will get you up to speed quickly.  Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a comprehensive, authoritative, and licensed look back at nearly 50 years of gaming, storytelling, and artwork.  If you grew up with the game you are certain to find both nostalgia and page-after-page of new information in its more than 700 color images from the past, images of heroes and villains, monsters and other creatures, that brought in some 40 million players over the years.  Boasting some 10-15 million active players today, D&D now features the results of writers/D&D celebrity fans Michael Witwer (D&D historian), Kyle Newman (director of the movie Fanboys), Jon Peterson (game historian) and Sam Witwer (actor, Being Human, Smallville, Battlestar Galactica) pulling together published images and source art from each edition of D&D’s core books, supplements, and modules, magazines, advertisements, tie-in products, sketches, and draft rules.  Their sources include the archives at Wizards of the Coast, private collectors, and more than 40 designers and artists from every era of the game’s history.  Released in two editions, fans old and new can choose from the standard 448-page hardcover alone or a special edition Hydro74-designed boxed set with some intriguing extras.  You’ll find a 14-page preview below courtesy of publisher Ten Speed Press.

This… treatise… this behemoth of a book is smartly designed so readers can approach it for a quick burst of throwback fun or a detailed dive behind the creation and many changes of the game and the companies behind it.  You can find a side-by-side evolution and comparison of monsters and other characters, soak in old maps and character sheets, and compare the covers and key art across all editions.  Possibly the best contribution is comparative images showing specific pop culture sources for many of the designs that made it into the early books and supplements, everything from Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian paintings to panels of comic book art from Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales.

From Guidon GamesChainmail to TSR to Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro and the latest 5th Edition rule books, the D&D story is one of corporate takeovers, failures, successes and strategies, all to survive and ultimately consolidate with games including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, World of Warcraft, and the entire Milton Bradley tabletop game catalog, all under one umbrella.  It all started with creators Gary Gygax and David Arneson, and their efforts to build on miniature figure battle games from centuries past, and modern rules for gaming that had a historic source:  sci-fi/fantasy author H.G. Wells first penned a gaming rulebook for miniatures titled Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books, an influential book inspiring gaming to this day.  The founders would pull in amateur artists and eventually professional artists, sprouting from a small headquarters in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, ultimately the source of Gen Con, the gaming convention that has been tied to D&D since the beginning.

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Saturday night I was working on my list of the best comedy movies.  As always when I try to think through my list, the first movie that comes to mind is Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.  It’s not only that the movie teams up two of the best actors Hollywood ever met, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, nearly every line of dialogue has a rhythm, perfect comedy timing that squeezes the pulp out of the English language.  Simon passed away today at the age of 91.  No writer accomplished what he did to entertain audiences with both his plays and films.  Simon put forward only the right words to optimize each moment of his stories.  Often the very best laughs were throwaway lines, humor that’s dropped along the stream of dialogue that must continue in furtherance of the story.  So that means frequently you don’t have time to laugh before the net joke is set.  I don’t laugh out loud at the movies very much–it takes something really funny to get me rolling, and no comedy writer has provided me with more laugh-out-loud moments of movie watching than Neil Simon.

My first introduction to Simon was in Barefoot in the Park.  He wrote the play and screenplay for the 1967 film.  If you love Robert Redford or Jane Fonda it could be in part due to Simon’s dialogue for their characters in this film, which showcases the actors’ talents and makes them incredibly likeable.  The film was an instant hit.  His characters are frequently frustrated, with others, with their own current circumstances, so the audience readily empathizes with them.  We’re right there with them.  For Barefoot in the Park, it’s a newly married couple trying to get their footing in their new apartment, with their new daily routine.  The humor doesn’t just flow through the lead parts.  The mother of the new bride gets her own laughs, as does the mystery man who lives upstairs.

Only a year later The Odd Couple arrived in theaters, another Simon play adapted to film.  Many are familiar with the television series adaptation later, but nobody gave the rhythm, drama, and glorious comedic tones to Simon’s sports writer Felix Ungar and his suicidal friend Oscar Madison like Matthau and Lemmon.  Ask me the funniest line ever written and I won’t skip a beat.  I’d swear I almost died laughing when I first watched this film late at night on cable by myself, lying on the carpet, holding my stomach, tears filling my eyes, trying to breathe.  It was one line that hooked me, a dropped laugh that scoots along with another Oscar Madison rant about Felix, this one about Felix leaving notes on his pillow.  I’d include the video but you need the context to maximize the punch.  Just put The Odd Couple on your list at the top of your comedy must-watch list.  I wasn’t around yet in 1967 and 1968, but I’m sure all I need to know I can find in these two films.  Simon’s works are far-reaching.  The most obscure reference I can think of is a recent homage comic book cover from Buffy the Vampire Slayer that was an homage to The Odd Couple.

Simon achieved critical acclaim on Broadway and for his films, four Oscar nominations, 17 Tony nominations, and his dialogue resulted in 50 Tony nominations for the actors that said it.  One of his only actual wins was the Golden Globe Award for his screenplay to The Goodbye Girl, a 1977 film he wrote directly for the screen, with his then wife Marsha Mason in the lead role opposite Richard Dreyfuss fresh off his success in Jaws and released in the same year as Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It’s easy to feel for the single mother actor auditioning for roles that keep getting taken by younger women. The juxtaposition of drama and humor in Simon’s work can hardly be found as electric as in the rants between Mason and Dreyfuss’s characters here.

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It was about the time when I got my first dog (first of what would eventually be 12) when my Mom took me to the old Wakonda Theater to see For the Love of Benji.  It was 1977 and the film was a life-changing movie for a little kid.  The original film premiered in 1974, titled simply Benji, and everyone saw it and fell in love with its lead pooch.  Its song, sung by Charlie Rich, was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe Award.  The movie marketers of the day, well aware of its surprise success, used its word-of-mouth popularity in its ongoing promotional campaigns, and the film’s success led to eight movies, two documentaries, and a short-lived TV series.  They hold up surprisingly well because the star character, second in all-time popularity only to Lassie, was a great actor (actually actors), and the stories were about good kids being good to their four-legged friend.  Next month Benji makes his way back into a feature film, one of the new brand of movies released exclusively on Netflix.  It’s a remake of the original, also called Benji, brought to life by the original family that created the character nearly 45 years ago.

The original canine star of the films was a mixed-breed black and tan dog named Higgins, who had a 14-year career in film, going back to Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres.  Higgins even co-starred in 1971 with Vincent Price and Zsa Zsa Gabor in a film called Mooch Goes to Hollywood.  He came out of retirement at 14 to make the original Benji.  Remember Tramp from My Three Sons?  That was Higgins’ son Mac.  (My grandma named her dog after that character).  But Higgins’ daughter Benjean would go on to star in several films taking on the role of Benji, from For the Love of Benji in 1977 to Benji the Hunted in 1987.  It was Benjean who took on the human voice of Chevy Chase in the very funny and memorable 1980 comedy Oh, Heavenly Dog!  In that film Benjean acted alongside Jane Seymour and Omar Sharif as a reincarnated detective (Chase), seeking revenge on his murderer.

Everybody in the 1970s loved Benji. That’s Higgins (left) on the film re-issue poster and Benjean (right) on the cover of every kid’s favorite magazine.

All the time it was creator, writer, and director Joe Camp who kept the Benji stories fresh and fun.  For this year’s film, Joe’s son Brandon Camp will take the helm, writing, directing and producing the film.  Brandon, who appeared in For the Love of Benji when he was six years old, previously directed Love Happens with Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston, and he wrote the script for the film Dragonfly (which starred Kevin Costner, Susanna Thompson, and Casey Biggs).  His new film stars a new dog unrelated to the past family of Benji stars, and features two kids, played by Gabriel Bateman and Darby Camp, who oddly enough does not appear to be related to Joe and Brandon Camp.

The new poster (above) was released this week.  And check out this trailer for the film:

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Star Wars Episode VII photo

We’ve just wound down another year of big movies–from Captain America: The Winter Soldier to X-Men: Days of Future Past to Guardians of the Galaxy to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. So what’s on the radar at borg.com for 2015? We think you’ll want to see several of these big sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and action flicks coming to a screen near you next year.

Vice movie poster Bruce Willis

Vice – Jan. 16 – The next in a long line of Bruce Willis action flicks.  This time it’s a sci-fi story about a future resort where humans freely pursue their vices–with artificial humans.

Wild Card movie poster

Wild Card – Jan. 30 – A story based on a novel by Academy Award winning writer William Goldman, starring Jason Statham as a gambler.

Kingsman movie poster

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Feb. 13 – This Colin Firth as spy action flick will tell us once and for all whether Firth would be a good choice to play James Bond.  With an all-star cast including Mark Hamill, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Chappie movie poster A

Chappie – March 6 – Neill Blomkamp’s latest science fiction entry.  A Pinocchio story where a robot learns to live among humans.

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Community cast

It may be a sign that fans of much-loved TV series are finally having a say in determining what stays on TV.  With fans voting with their wallets last month to bring Veronica Mars to the silver screen via an unprecedented Kickstarter campaign, someone savvy at NBC programming must have realized the loyal fan following of Community was worth keeping by saving the half-hour comedy series.   Last night NBC announced Community will be back for a fifth season, moving it ever closer to the series not-so secret mantra “six seasons and a movie”.

The roars of thousands of series fans who chanted along with the montage of key scenes from the past three seasons at Comic-Con last summer said it all.  And it didn’t matter that Chevy Chase wasn’t returning to the series or the much liked show creator Dan Harmon was cast away, as show regulars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover continued to provide all the fans want and more over the past 84 episodes.

Community McHale

Why do fans like the show?  The humor?  The characters?  The actors?  All of the above?  Watch the series cast talk about the show last year at Comic-Con:

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No doubt Oscar Pistorius’s unprecedented entry and run in the Olympics this weekend will go down as a highlight of these games.  The first person to bridge the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics, clad in neither bionic nor cyborg prosthetics but walking “blades” certified to give no advantage to him against other runners, South African runner Pistorius gave a competitive go of it in his 440 meter semi-final track event.  Truly he’s an inspiration to everyone, disabled or not.

So in honor of the closest person we’ve found to a real-life borg Olympian, we are presenting this list of the ten most interesting sci-fi or fantasy sports we’d like to see in a future Olympics.  In whittling down this list we have eliminated motor sports or the like, so no pod racing or light cycle races (but we’ll make an exception for broomsticks).  We also found far too many gladiator events in classic sci-fi, going back to the original Star Trek’s “Gamesters of Triskelion” and “Bread and Circuses” battles to Star Trek Voyager’s Seven of Nine vs. The Rock arena combat called Tsunkatse, to the combat in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which continues on this year in genre shows like Bo’s battle to the death in Lost Girl.  So we’ll skip those for this round.  Most of our games reflect a possible evolution of today’s games and come from sci-fi TV or movies, but we just had to throw some fantasy events into the mix for good measure.  So here goes:

Updating who knows what Olympic sportsParrises squares (Star Trek: The Next Generation).  A future J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot movie sequel really could do some good by showing us an actual Parrises squares match.  The often celebrated Star Trek universe game has been played by everyone from Tasha Yar to the EMH’s daughter on Voyager (who sadly, dies from a Parisses squares injury).  But all we have seen are the uniforms.  This barely makes our cut because we simply haven’t seen the game in action yet, yet the possibilities from what we’ve heard from Star Trek characters is enough to make it to the list.

Updating taekwondo and judoBat’leth and Mok’bara (Star Trek: The Next Generation).  In the episode “Parallels,” Worf returns to the Enterprise from a bat’leth tournament. Part of the plot revolves around whether he scored first or ninth place in the games.  He even has a nice trophy to show for it:

Mok’bara was Worf’s version of taekwondo, an elegant art of movement for the Klingon set.  Both of these are future martial arts we’d like to see added to the Olympic slate.

Updating fencingLightsaber dueling (Star Wars).  Ben Kenobi showed Luke he could practice his saber work without anyone getting hurt.  You can even perfect your skills with a floating spherical sparring partner.  Fencing uses foils, sabers or epees. Maybe lightsabers can be set to “stun”?  I can’t think of a more elegant sport for a civilized age.

Updating fencing, judo and taekwondoAnbo-jyutsu (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager).  We’ve only seen this played by Will Riker and his dad and B’Elanna Torres and Kes, but that was all we needed.  Cool uniforms and football-type padded gear, these guys really play hard.

Updating basketballPyramid/Triad (Battlestar Galactica), and Serenity basketball (Firefly).  Less elegant than martial art competitions, street sports like Pyramid/Triad and “Serenity basketball” (played in the episode “Bushwhacked”) allow everyone to get into the act with little upfront cost to play.  Even when the end of the world just happened, you can assemble a pick-up game of Pyramid, even on board a starship like the Galactica.

Serenity basketball seems to have less clear rules, but we’re sure it can factor in to a future Olympic event.

Updating hockeyRollerball (Rollerball).  The game itself really sold the movie.  Maybe we were cheering for James Caan because we still saw him as Brian Piccolo playing alongside Gail Sayers in Brian’s Song.  Nah… he’s just cool in everything.  What an intense action sport Rollerball would be in real life, and so much fun to watch in-person.  (And yes, we allowed this sport on our list even though they use motorcycles).

Updating triathlon, skiing and shootingJames Bond skiing (The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, The World is Not Enough, with nods to Arnie in True Lies).  Good luck making it down the black diamond while someone is trying to throw you off balance.  We’d substitute blanks for bullets so our athletes can come back for more.  We saw a bit of this in an old Chevy Chase Saturday Night Live skit with the Olympics and Claudine Longet.  Not a lot of Olympic sports add the element of surprise like this “sport” could.

Updating discusIdentity discs (Tron, Tron: Legacy, and Tron: Uprising). Think discus but a bit more precarious, and we don’t even need a disc battle-to-the-death like in all the Tron live action and animated shows.  Just something that puts the thrower off balance as he’s trying to make a great throw, with the addition of a boomerang feature in the discus and two athletes throwing the blindingly lighted discuses at each other–so there’s some dodging required.

Updating rugby and soccerJump Ball (Starship Troopers).  You can’t beat a sport where men and women play along side each other on equal footing.  And Johnny Rico and his pals looked like they were having so much fun, too.  Part indoor football, and full contact, with cool gear–all that makes this one a game everyone would want to play and watch.

Updating rugby, polo, and basketballQuidditch (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, etc).  Beyond the flying, Quidditch offers multiple goals and ways to win, and that puts this toward the top of our list of exciting otherworldly sporting events.  On the one hand it’s another form of “air hockey” (or “basketball on broomsticks with six hoops” as Harry calls it) where you have to get the ball in the goal, but with the addition of the trickier seeker’s job, viewers can choose which part of the game to watch—assuming someone can film all the details and project it on a nice jumbotron.  And like Jump Ball, boys and girls play together on the same team.  With neat equipment like the quaffle and bludgers and the zippy little golden snitch, who wouldn’t get excited about this kind of match?

So that’s it.  Cheers to Oscar Pistorius.  We hope he comes back for the next Olympics.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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