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Tag Archive: Frankenstein


Review by C.J. Bunce

Credit for the success of Blade Runner 2049 as a worthy sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner is a shared prize for director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario), the writers, including screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant), source material creator Philip K. Dick, and original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher (The Mighty Quinn), plus at least two dozen other unnamed creators whose early science fiction works were mined for the story.  Predictable, derivative, slow-paced, and overly long, Blade Runner 2049 still lands as a solid sequel and will no doubt please fans loyal to the 1982 film.  The beauty of the sequel is the earnest, ambitious effort of Villeneuve under the eye of executive producer and original Blade Runner director Ridley Scott to give the story a reserved touch.  The sequel has the now classic dystopian look of the Mad Max or Terminator: Salvation variety, stretching the original Syd Mead futurism and punk noir vibe into a different but logical new direction–think Blade Runner with the lights turned on.

From the first scene Villeneuve & Co. dig in to not just sci-fi tropes but cyborg heavy themes that sci-fi fans know very well from similar explorations in countless books, television series, and films since the early 1980s, when the idea of adapting something like Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into a big budget film was something less familiar to film audiences.  The filmmakers touch on many classics–Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Pinocchio, Shakespearean tragedy–to countless episodes of the Star Trek franchise (lead character and Replicant K/Joe played by Ryan Gosling revisits several direct themes the android Data explored in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  More than ten minutes is spent revisiting the latest technology called an “emanator” that Star Trek Voyager fans will be familiar with as the Emergency Medical Hologram’s “holo-emitter,” a device allowing holograms to move around the world.  What in the early 1980s may have wowed audiences is here not so eye-popping because of the legacy Trek tech called the holodeck.  But none of these flashbacks to sci-fi’s past really take anything away from the elements re-used in Blade Runner 2049 because they are all stitched together into a clean story.  To some it will be a Where’s Waldo? of sci-fi storytelling and to others the simple nostalgia of exploring Isaac Asimov’s themes of the Robot and the Self will be worth a revisit.

Many questions are asked in the lengthy 2 hour-and 43 minute-long film, and some, but not all, will be answered, disappointing a few loyal fans of the original.  Deaths of characters and actors since the original limit the return of certain characters from the original, but where they happen it’s done right.  One scene, however, is a complete misfire–a character walked onto the screen to the gasp of this reviewer’s theater audience, only to find it wasn’t really who was expected based on the build up of the scene.  But the biggest misfire is Villeneuve’s use of sound and score.  Thankfully for the reputation of Vangelis, which scored the original film, Villeneuve turned to Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer this time, creating a dreadful use of sound in a film.  Where the use of Vangelis’s synthesized cautious, futuristic melodies took a backseat to story and dialogue in the original, here Wallfisch and Zimmer lean on dissonant John Cage-esque chords and blare noises like someone sitting on a piano or a kid plugging his guitar into an amp for the first time, over and over, at full volume–the aural equivalent of J.J. Abrams lens flares.  The poor sound really takes away from a visual work that could have benefitted by a closer reflection of the use of sound in the original.  I.e. take at least one earplug along, especially in an IMAX or other digital theater.

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An encore presentation of the National Theatre’s presentation of Danny Boyle’s production of Nick Dear’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein’s monster and Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, is coming to theaters in time for Halloween.  Fathom Events and National Theatre Live has partnered to create the next Halloween event for your calendar–a new Halloween tradition with one of England’s best known and most popular actors.

Recorded from a live stage production of the National Theatre in 2011, U.S. audiences have one opportunity this year to see the production on the big screen.  Directed by Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), the production features Jonny Lee Miller (CBS’s Elementary, Trainspotting) and Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit, Doctor Strange, The Imitation Game).  The adaptation was written by Nick Dear.

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The original production featured two performances with Miller and Cumberbatch switching roles.  The production was a sell-out hit at the National Theatre, and the broadcast has since become an international sensation, viewed by over half a million people in cinemas around the world.

Here is a preview of the Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein:

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Universally acknowledged as one of the best comedy, parody, science fiction, and monster movies of all time, Young Frankenstein is back tonight for one showing in theaters across the country.  Following on this past August’s news of Gene Wilder’s death, this month’s release of the first major behind-the-scenes look at the film (previewed here at borg.com), and being the prime month for monster movies, it’s the perfect time to view Young Frankenstein like audiences did when it premiered back in 1974.
Even as a young kid I laughed out loud at the Mel Brooks classic, whether I knew the meaning of all the jokes or not–it’s one of those films with clever writing that results in good fun for all audiences.  Five years ago this month it made my top 10 list of best films for Halloween viewing.  My own nephews are big fans as well–the humor still holds up more than four decades later.  And, heck, Peter Boyle’s monster is even in our own borg.com Hall of Fame!
If you go, be prepared to witness a dream team of comedy: Actors no longer with us including Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, and Boyle, and those still with us, including the great Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr, all at the top of their game.  Plus a bonus–one of the best cameos ever–by Gene Hackman.
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So what are you waiting for?

Sphere car

Review by C.J. Bunce

In simplest terms, Jurassic World is simple entertainment on a big scale–a feast for the eyes.  But for all its incredible special effects and fantastic futuristic technology, Jurassic World proves the maxim George Lucas laid out in reference to the success behind the original Star Wars–“Special effects are a tool, a means of telling a story… A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”  And that sums up Jurassic World, as a film and a 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital release–the umpmillionth variation on the Frankenstein how-not-to-build-a-monster story, and the latest twist on Michael Crichton’s original look at a theme park gone bad in his movie Westworld.

Touted in its marketing as the #1 movie of the year, and proven out at the box office, in many way Jurassic World is a remake and certainly an homage to the original Jurassic Park.  More than twenty years after the devastation caused in Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully realized, fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond.  You’ll experience deja vu several times as these new characters, and one from the original, fail to learn the lessons of history.  Didn’t the production team watch The Lost World (Jurassic Park II) and Jurassic Park III?  The new theme park is built over the old park where so much went wrong and so many died, including leaving the original park all derelict and intact as it was in the last scene of the original movie, including leaving old Jurassic Park jeeps around for a modern, distracted teenager to magically restore to driving condition in a single scene.  Dinosaur battle shots mirror those from the original, including the finale, although despite new technology the dinosaurs don’t seem as “real” here.  Jurassic World seems to repeatedly search for a scene to match that “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” scene in the original.  Michael Giacchino’s score misses the wonder and excitement of John Williams’s original themes.  Although the effort is there, no single scene in Jurassic World captures the startling jumps and wows of Jurassic Park.

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With four script/story writers for Jurassic World, it’s obvious why the story failed to deliver.  Although we note above that George Lucas knows storytelling, he is also now famous for the stilted dialogue of his Star Wars prequels.  The story team in Jurassic World offers up similarly strange words from the mouths of its actors–things no one would possibly say.  And we can’t believe these dinosaur monsters are scary when the cast bounces back from each near-death experience so quickly.  Even the worst of the characters, the youngest boy (who is a walking disaster) seems barely affected by the death going on around him for half the film.

The real conflicts within the script can be found in the strange parallels and inconsistencies.  For one, director Colin Trevorrow has been quoted as saying his inspiration for the film was an image of a little girl texting in front of a T-Rex behind her.  The corporate bad guy theme that underlies the plot is that no one cares about dinosaurs anymore, they are old news, and audiences needs something bigger and better.  You can just see Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg laughing all the way to the bank over the irony here.  The message, as delivered in the climax, is “bigger isn’t always better” and that often the original, the classic, offers up the best experience.  Yet Jurassic World hammers into us the over-sized fantasies of Godzilla and King Kong instead of the science-fictional world that made a success of Jurassic Park.

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Ex Machina trailer

Jurassic Park was not only Michael Crichton’s most popular novel, it finally allowed him to synthesize all the elements he had worked out over the course of his career into a perfect story.  Crichton could easily have been the writer behind the examination of man vs. machine that is this year’s big screen release Ex Machina, now in Digital HD and Blu-ray.  Writer-director Alex Garland (28 Days Later) could have taken us on another bland adventure about man’s fascination with technology and mortality, but instead he creates a morality play that is eerily simple yet surprisingly profound.  Behind Ex Machina is a modern Victor Frankenstein complete with a reclusive laboratory and spectacular creations.  Oscar Isaac (Sucker Punch, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is Nathan, the uber-wealthy CEO inventor atop a Google-inspired enterprise, who secretly is using his company’s collective search data to create artificial intelligence–and more.  Is he the classic mad scientist?

In the spirit of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, Nathan launches a contest for employees with the prize being a weeklong visit to his own Skywalker Ranch.  The winner is the smart and amiable Caleb, played by Domnhall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Star Wars: The Force Awakens).  All is not what it seems.  Someone here is being played and it’s for the audience to figure it all out.  Nathan has really brought Caleb to his lair to test out his new humanoid robot, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Seventh Son), and give her a battery of ad hoc tests to see if she passes the Turing test–to confirm whether Nathan has really created the ultimate intelligent machine.  Loosely inspired by more than one classic fairy tale, the seemingly simple story and strange circumstances quickly grow dark.  Who is manipulating who?

Isaac and Gleeson

Garland doesn’t need to rely on his fascinating, humanoid, robotic creations–arguably cybernetic or borg, and eminently believable–to carry the picture.  Its backbone is a well-paced story with a satisfying payoff.  Fans of Neill Blomkamp will love Garland’s study of class and society in the post-modern future: relations between employee and boss, scientist and subject, and master and servant.  In a world of secrets and locked doors, who can you trust?

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Castle Frankenstein 2015

As to sheer volume of remakes, via books, film, or other media, Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein have gone head to head for decades.  Why not another remake of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the original seed of the science fiction genre and the original cyborg?  Our only question is: Why wait for Thanksgiving when it is such an obvious draw for the box office at Halloween?

The latest incarnation, the big screen’s Victor Frankenstein, stars X-Men’s James McAvoy as the Doctor opposite Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe as assistant Igor.  It’s directed by frequent BBC Sherlock director Paul McGuigan.  From the first trailer released this week, this new film has all the requirements of the Gothic horror tale–a slightly mad doctor, his quirky minion, some steampunk techno-machinery, a creepy castle, storms and lightning, and, of course, the Doctor’s latest creation.

It must be better than last year’s I, Frankenstein, right?

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No doubt the most fun likely will be the banter between the popular British leads.  check out this first trailer for Victor Frankenstein:

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i-frankenstein moving poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

I, Frankenstein is a fantasy-horror motion picture released earlier this year, based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux.  Starring Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Bill Nighy (Underworld, Shawn of the Dead, State of Play), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings), and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher), all signs pointed to the possibility that the film could be minimally watchable.  But retellings of classic monster stories are tough to get right.  In our ongoing pursuit at borg.com to identify the best of Blu-ray 3D home video we screened I, Frankenstein in Blu-ray 3D.  Despite having some pretty stellar 3D special effects, the film unfortunately can’t overcome its thin effort to retell the Frankenstein story.

With creators of Underworld behind the scenes, it’s no wonder this film has the look of that franchise.  It also shares the same dark vibe as the respectable and fun monster mash-up Van Helsing.  But its clunky twist on Frankenstein’s monster isn’t saved by the serious acting of lead Aaron Eckhart, or the quality bad guy villainy portrayed by Bill Nighy.

Adam Frankenstein

Good monster retellings?  Try Young Frankenstein (1974), Phantom of the Opera (2004), Van Helsing (2004), the American Werewolf series, Wolf (1994), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), The Mummy (1999), and the short-lived Dracula (2013) TV series.  These all show how retellings of classic monster stories can be done right.

Nicely done action sequences and fiery explosions?  It’s got ’em.  Beautifully-rendered, in-your-face 3D?  It’s got that, too.  And if you only want to watch special effects with the backdrop of a classic, then this may be something for one of those moments.

But I, Frankenstein is about a legion of gargoyles and their gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto) who are in a battle with demons under the control of a demon prince played by Nighy, posing as a modern-day biotech businessman.  Nighy’s character wants Dr. Frankenstein’s journal, to be able to resurrect soulless bodies for demons in hell to fill.  Otto’s character attempts to recruit Frankenstein (the monster has taken his creator’s name) to her cause, even giving him the rather silly name of Adam (which nobody else ever uses). Hundreds of years after their initial meeting, Frankenstein and the gargoyle queen reunite in the present day (still wearing the same costumes).

Huh? 

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Jayne Cobb and Vera action figure Firefly Funko ReAction Retro Buffy the Vampire Slayer ReAction figure Funko

Funko’s classic Kenner style 3 and 3/4-inch ReAction series of action figures are sure to be a big focus at Sunday’s annual Toy Fair in New York, and we have a first look at the sculpts and packaging courtesy of Entertainment Earth.  We revealed the new Predator, Terminator, Escape from New York, Rocketeer, and The Nightmare Before Christmas figures here at borg.com last week, and we couldn’t be more excited about the rest of the line of 1980s style action figures.

The rest of the figures include Back to the Future, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Pulp Fiction, the Universal Monsters, Horror Classics, Goonies, and The Crow.

Some highlights can be found in the Firefly line.  Zoe’s sculpt looks particularly well done, Wash comes with his toy dinosaurs, and Jayne comes with his favorite weapon: Vera.  Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes with his guitar.  Hellraiser’s Pinhead comes with a tiny puzzle cube.  And Bruce Willis finally gets an action figure–his Pulp Fiction character is wearing his dad’s watch from the film.  Several characters are represented in the Pulp Fiction line, but no Christopher Walken, yet.  There’s no Xander from Buffy, either, or Josh Brolin’s character from Goonies, or a River or Simon for the Firefly line.

ReAction Funko The Crow Eric Draven figure  Pulp Fiction ReAction figures Funko

Each of these can be pre-ordered from Entertainment Earth at the early bird prices by clicking on the images below.  We’re betting this first line will be a big success and that Funko will move on to expand these lines and add more licensed properties in the future.  Check out these great series:

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Shelley handwriting banner The earliest modern source for what it means to be “borg” is no doubt Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, perhaps the most famous and widely reproduced work of fiction–and certainly the most adapted over the past 200 years in books, plays, television, and movies.  Originally titled Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, Shelley wrote her book in a series of notebooks from an idea she had from a dream while pondering what to write for a competition to write a “frightening tale”.

Frankenstein first edition 1818

Published first in 1818 with a run of 500 copies, her original manuscript notebooks survived. If you happen to be more than a few decades old, you remember the days of pages of handwriting, before word processors and PCs, and long before the days when schools stopped teaching handwriting.  Tasks we can perform quickly today only years ago took far greater effort, and the thought of writing something as lengthy as an entire book long-hand seems so very archaic in 2013.  And exhausting.

Page from Shelley's Frankenstein

Original handwritten page from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein manuscript.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Re-think all you know about Flash Gordon.  Volume One of the eagerly awaited library edition of the original Flash Gordon color newspaper comic strip, Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library (Vol. 1), is now available and it will cause you to second guess what you think you know about science fiction and fantasy in its infancy.  And question just how innovative George Lucas actually was with the Star Wars series.

Rarely can you so precisely identify the source of “the modern.”  In science fiction film it is Georges Méliès’s 1902 French movie A Trip to the Moon, from 1902.  For science fiction novels you much reach back further to its Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all the way back in 1818.  For the intersecting genre of “science fiction-fantasy”–our key focus at borg.com–you must turn to January 1934 and a detail-oriented artist with an eye toward realism named Alex Raymond, and his new character, Flash Gordon.  Whether or not you are a fan like I am of the 1980 movie Flash Gordon with Timothy Dalton and a host of other cult favorite actors and an excellent soundtrack by Queen, or Alex Ross’s Dynamite Comics series Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, or even a fan of the old black and white Buster Crabbe TV serials, you should check out the original source material.

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