Tag Archive: The Last Starfighter


Review by C.J. Bunce

I Love the ’80s was a ten-hour VH-1 series that waxed nostalgic for all things pop culture in the decade, and a new five-hour documentary strives to do the same thing with the sci-fi genre movies of the decade as its focus.  In Search of Tomorrow: A Journey Through ’80s Sci-Fi Cinema is the result of a crowd-sourced project, now available for pre-order exclusively at the project’s website here.  It is one of several projects we’ve seen like it over the years, the best being Must-See Sci-Fi (reviewed here), Turner Classic Movies’ guide to 50 significant science fiction movies, and James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction (reviewed here), a book and series which gives insight into the genre’s most significant creations via interviews with the directors that made them.  In Search of Tomorrow features only a handful of A-listers in its interviews–the advertised top talent being Peter Weller, Billy Dee Williams, Dee Wallace, and Nicholas Meyer.  It pulls together a group of the few remaining actors, visual effects artists, and other creators behind the scenes who fans of the genre probably haven’t seen in decades (yes, it’s been more than 30 years since the 1980s).  Writer/director David Weiner focuses on a swath of 54 movies that reflects the best–and the worst–of the decade.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s no wonder Netflix got its hooks into Ryan Reynolds (and he into them).  With great films like Free Guy and 6 Underground, not to mention his Deadpool series, he’s becoming reliable–still far to go to become the next Tom Cruise, but well on his way.  In his new movie The Adam Project, which started this weekend on Netflix, you get a lot: an almost family friendly, coming of age, sci-fi movie (with lightsabers).  It feels like director Shawn Levy, known for everything from Stranger Things to The Pink Panther to Night at the Museum to Free Guy and Lassie (and being Eugene’s brother) completely understands what it took to make a great 1980s Steven Spielberg sci-fi movieIt has spectacular special effects like you’d see in Guardians of the Galaxy, but they take a backseat to a story of relationships and second chances.  It belongs alongside E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Explorers, The Last Starfighter, Starman, Flight of the Navigator, D.A.R.Y.L., and J.J. Abrams’ own 1980s tribute, Super 8.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Words are power in Scotto Moore’s expansive, mind-bending first novel, Battle of the Linguist Mages.  “Power morphemes” are power itself, punctuation marks are aliens, and nothing is as it seems in an almost drug-induced frenzy about a young woman immersed in the real-life politics behind her favorite MMPORG virtual reality universe, Sparkle Dungeon 4.  Follow as the Queen of Sparkle Dungeon infiltrates the corporation behind the game in this new Tor release, arriving at bookstores this month, and available for pre-order here at Amazon.  How to break reality in three easy steps.  Mr. Robot meets Ready Player One and The Fifth Element?  Maybe, but the world building is more imaginative and detailed than in Ready Player One, and this story isn’t about nostalgia.  The granular level of the world building would feel like something concocted over decades if the subject matter wasn’t so modern.  Someone reading it in 1995 wouldn’t have a clue what it’s even about.  But it’s an extension of sci-fi storytelling dating back to The Last Starfighter and Ender’s Game.  A bit of Avatar--the James Cameron one–but more interesting.  It’s ambitious, but mostly a fun ride.

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Fletcher costumes

This week saw the passing of Robert Fletcher at age 98.  If you don’t know the name, you definitely know his work.  Nobody creating the 20th century’s view of futurism through clothing was more influential than Fletcher, who created more Star Trek costumes than any other designer, including William Ware Theiss before him and Robert Blackman after him.  The maroon costumes worn by bridge officers in the first seven Star Trek movies were designed by Fletcher, and are likely the most beloved of all Star Trek costumes by fans excepting possibly the original series bright Starfleet tunics.  Scotty’s radiological suit is also a classic, along with the Klingon uniforms, which were probably the most enduring, used with little modification from Star Trek: The Motion Picture throughout the entire runs of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  The open-chested costume of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan?  Also Fletcher.  The widest reach outside genre fans that Star Trek ever achieved was Star Trek IV, and even those who don’t care about science fiction recall the robe worn by Leonard Nimoy’s Spock and the pink shell outfit worn by William Shatner as Kirk when they returned to walk the streets of San Francisco, managing to save a pair of humpback whales on the journey.  Again, costumes designed by Robert Fletcher.  He also created costumes for another sci-fi classic: The Last Starfighter.

Star Trek and its stories continue on.

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By way of new stuff, in the “old is new again” context this week online megastore Entertainment Earth began taking pre-orders for a new retro series not from the movies featuring the original Enterprise crew, but from Star Trek: The Next Generation (which, if you’re paying attention, featured costumes primarily by Robert Blackman).  We’ve talked at length over the past decade about Super7’s line (formerly sold by Funko) of ReAction Kenner-style retro action figures.  Those familiar with Star Trek action figures will find the new line closer to that of the early, rarer Galoob line than the Playmates larger figures that dominated the market for years (and can now be found in vintage toy stores everywhere, generally for about $2).  Check out all the new designs, and the new cardbacks, and pre-order them at the below links.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How many sci-fi and outer space tropes can you pack into one hour of TV?  You’ll find out in the first episode of Syfy’s new space fantasy series Vagrant Queen It’s like Firefly and The Fifth Element as if they were directed by Sam Raimi.  Star Wars elements meet Doctor Who aliens with effects that feel a lot like The Last Starfighter.  And humor that’s a cross of Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Or maybe it’s just sci-fi created by Canadians.  Whatever it is you’ll be all-in with the crew of the spaceship Winnipeg as it takes off into adventures in some galaxy out there that is… not ours.

Adriyan Rae (Atlanta) plays the scavenger Elida, a mix of Marvel’s Valkyrie and Rey from Star Wars, who stealthily has masked her former persona as Queen Eldaya, being pursued by the dreaded Republic, led by Commander Lazaro, played by Paul du Toit (remember Gary Oldman’s Zorg in The Fifth Element? He’s like that guy).  Tom Rozon (Lost Girl, Wynonna Earp) is Isaac, a frenemy from Elida’s past (part Han Solo or Jack Harkness or Lone Starr from Spaceballs or Bruce Campbell in… anything).  They come together with a Kaylee-inspired ship mechanic named Amae, played by Alex McGregor, to save a space station’s bartender, get a ship back, and rescue the queen.  And that’s just the first episode.

It’s light-hearted, campy fun a la Xena: Warrior Princess featuring a group of actors who seem to be competing to see who has the most fun.  It’s a little bit… everything… that you enjoy about space travel, with a cool lead like Killjoys and alien makeups reminiscent of Farscape.  Goofy banter and situations, you’ll find yourself calling out the inspiration from nearly every scene, beginning with an opening rif on The Mandalorian.  This is the escapism you’re looking for right now.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For every new movie you watch, you need to go back and see a classic, right?  If The Hunt for Red October is Star Trek in the ocean, then Outland is The Sand Pebbles in outer space.  A predecessor to science fiction staples like Total Recall, Blade Runner, and Firefly, Outland is still one of the best depictions of what life actually may be like working aboard a space vessel, once modern technology figures out how to get past that zero gravity issue.  Isolation rarely has been portrayed as believably as directed here by Peter Hyams (Timecop, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, The Star Chamber, Amazing Stories).  The 1981 Academy Award-nominated classic, Outland is now streaming on Starz, Hulu, Amazon, and Vudu.

Audiences never saw Sean Connery so average as he was playing Marshal William T. O’Niel.  In a very low-key role more frequently seen played by someone like Steve McQueen, Connery is a federal cop in space, assigned to the titanium ore mining outpost Con-Am 27.  He was selected because he was likely to phone in his job, and not ruffle feathers.  But he finds himself when he learns the outpost is a haven for drug smuggling and worse, using drugs to work crews to their deaths, all part of a cover-up.  The film’s own predecessors were any number of cop shows, and it has themes from Westerns, too, especially High Noon, another lone lawman trying to take out a local band of ruffians–and another man with marital problems.  Critics accused the film of being thin, but it’s exactly why the film works so well and holds up well still today.  In many ways the film is better, and even scarier, than Alien and Total Recall, proving you don’t need monsters to be truly alone and unprotected from life-threatening elements in space.

O’Niel’s only help is from Frances Sternhagen (Doc Hollywood, Cheers, The Closer) as Dr. Marian Lazarus, a no-nonsense crewman who is sympathetic to O’Niel as the newbie having to dodge the unfamiliar “way things are done.”  Dr. Lazarus is one of sci-fi’s least known but toughest sci-fi heroines, and her chemistry with Connery as comrade-at-arms is superb.  Another crew member is played by sci-fi and Western veteran James Sikking (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, MD), who would continue for decades to play similar roles.  And the baddie of the bunch is played by your favorite film Frankenstein, Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, Johnny Dangerously, The X-Files, Everybody Loves Raymond).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

An overlooked 2018 sci-fi adventure mini-series is making its way to a trade collected edition tomorrow.  The six-issue story arc in Image Comics/Skybound’s Stellar is a mix of good sci-fi concepts and action-adventure imagery.  You’ll find big-eyed aliens similar in design to the villainous hunter Zando-Zans of The Last Starfighter, a rundown future world bent on destruction like in Firefly, fast-paced action and characters like that of Syfy’s Killjoys, and a lead heroine called Stellar who is stuck out of time, with a past and future hidden from her, evoking recent years’ Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel stories.

Writer Joseph Keatinge (PopGun, Shutter) takes on a surprisingly complex idea created by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Marc Silvestri (Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine) and delivers the kind of story that belongs in the graphic novel format.  Stellar moves from place to place, from time to time.  She pursues the evil Zenith, an alien monster she believes to be the cause of destruction in her future.  Or is he pursuing her?  She’s moving through time, encountering those who may be able to help her unravel the twisted time loop she seems to be stuck inside.

The pretty, futuristic stylings and color choices by artist Bret Blevins result in a standout read visually.  And Keatinge pulls elements in from all kinds of sci-fi stories to create uncertainty and doubt.  Readers will ask “what’s going on here?” more than once, with an ending that is both satisfying and interesting.  It’s not the kind of tale that needs a sequel, the complete story is right there.

Here are some preview pages of Stellar, courtesy of Image/Skyborne:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After its second week in theaters, Ready Player One is still chalking up sold-out screenings nationwide.  Whether or not you’re a video game fan, and whether or not you read Ernest Cline’s novel the film is based on, it’s a fun way to spend 2.5 hours.  Although his producer credits are hit-and-miss over the past few decades, director Steven Spielberg tends to take on films he loves, and handles them with due care.  Same goes for Ready Player One.  Along with his Oscar-nominated film The Post, Ready Player One proves there’s no slowing down for the director’s success in making good films.  Even if Ready Player One is not as great as the films from the 1980s that it honors (Spielberg’s choice to ignore references from his own films leaves a big, obvious gap throughout scene after scene), it’s a nice story, and a progression of the kind of coming-of-age story the director first created long ago with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Yet the backbone of the film doesn’t flow from the 1980s, but from a 1971 film classic: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

In the year 2045, Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan (X-Men: Apocalypse), and a group of people he has only met as their avatars in a giant MMPORG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called OASIS, embark on a quest to solve the late OASIS founder’s puzzle in three steps, which would reward the winner with control of the OASIS and the hundreds of millions of dollars the company behind it (called IOI) is worth.  The big win is the authenticity of relationships between Sheridan and his co-stars, including Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) as Art3mis (pronounced Artemis), Aech (sounds like the letter “H”) played by Lena Waithe (Master of None), Daito (Win Morisaki), and Sho (Philip Zhao) as they work together on their journey.  Cooke’s character comes alive as the high point of the film.  The villains are more textbook bad guys, led by Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), with his hulking minion i-R0K (“I rock”) played by T.J. Miller (Deadpool), and a seriously underutilized Hannah John-Kamen as F’Nale.  i-R0K carries the bulk of the film’s best comedy lines.  Surprisingly the story misses the opportunity to give the viewer enough information to solve the three riddles of the film.  Instead we watch the characters move through a great big fictional world only they know about.  But the adventure is a good ride.  Look for Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Shaun of the Dead) as an interesting odd couple of Gates/Jobs-inspired visionaries.

Get ready for dizzying races and chases with the latest CGI and motion capture special effects–so much so that much of the movie feels like an animated movie.  We’ve come a long way from the 1980s version of the subject matter in Disney’s Tron–the first foray into a video game world.  But Ready Player One is similar in tone to Tron and another video game movie of the era, The Last Starfighter–all good family films with positive themes.  Here that’s the importance of community, leadership, and personal responsibility, and the negative side of new and emerging technologies like drones and having more than merely virtual social relationships.

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Years after a much publicized but failed effort to restore the Star League by the likes of Steven Spielberg and Seth Rogen, the writer for 1984’s beloved science fiction classic The Last Starfighter looks like he may finally be getting a sequel off the ground.  According to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Rebels writer Gary Whitta, he has teamed up with writer Jonathan Betuel on a film that would stand as a sequel and a reboot to the original story that watched young Alex Rogan leave planet Earth to become a Starfighter to defend the Star League against the Ko-Dan Armada.  It’s one heck of a tease–on the heels of last weekend’s release of the 1980s nostalgia-driven film Ready Player One, Whitta picked a great time to pique the interests of the original film’s legion of fans.

Originating from a video game parked conveniently at a rural trailer park and store called Starlite Starbrite (the store still exists in Acton, California, southwest of Vasquez Rocks Park), a young man demonstrated for the first video game generation that–despite parents’ protests to the contrary–you can save the world by playing for the high score.  Although plenty of movies enter the concept art phase only to end up a footnote in a retrospective film art book decades later, preliminary design drafts of what has been referred to previously as merely Starfighter emerged via Whitta’s Twitter account Wednesday.  Matt Allsopp, a concept artist who worked on Rogue One along with Whitta, created these unmistakable designs, incorporating the Star League emblem, Gunstar ships, and Starfighters.  This takes the idea past the rumor phase, providing some evidence that this latest effort looks to be real after all.

Whitta teased the coming film project with eight photographs of concept art, writing on his Twitter page, “Okay, probably shouldn’t show you this so early but here’s a little something I’ve been tinkering on with my co-writer Jonathan Betuel.  You might recognize the ships.  Thanks to the amazing Matt Allsopp (lead concept artist on ROGUE ONE) for creating these images for us.”  He later added, “People seemed excited by the first tweet so here’s a tiny bit more of Matt’s concept art. Can’t show anything more after this, it’s all too spoilery [smile] #GreetingsStarfighter”.

Lance Guest as Alex Rogan, as he is about to take his first step into a larger world, from 1984’s The Last Starfighter.

Our hope?  How about bringing in original director Nick Castle, and if he’s not interested, what is Rogue One director Gareth Edwards up to these days?  It seems like an obvious target release for the second half of 2019–the 35th anniversary of the original.  It would also seem obvious to include actors Lance Guest, who played Alex, and Catherine Mary Stewart, who played Maggie.  Both well-known The Music Man star Robert Preston and prolific TV and film actor Dan O’Herlihy, who played Centauri and Grig, respectively, passed away several years ago.  In addition to the top photo above, check out seven more images of Matt Allsopp’s gorgeous, futuristic, and evocative concept art below:

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borg-label hall-of-fame-label

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

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

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

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

So who’s in?

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

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

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

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

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Max Steel got his own movie in 2016:

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

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

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

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More of our inductees, after the cut…

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