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Tag Archive: THX-1138


Review by C.J. Bunce

Any list of 10 or more items these days quickly becomes the stuff of argument.  But in the right context it can become the stuff of discussion and curiosity.  A list of 50 items takes some work to prepare and if that list accompanies a genre that has spanned more than a century, then it really invites discussion. Which brings us to Turner Classic Movies and Running Press’s new look at the science fiction genre in Sloan De Forest’s Must See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World This latest pop culture book to engage science fiction fans may show that, after all these years, the best and most important works of science fiction are not really all that controversial.  Yet it wouldn’t really be worth picking up if it only confirmed readers’ love for epic films.  Must-See Sci-Fi takes that next step and also serves that need of all fans of film to take another look at the classics and be open to those films we may have overlooked.

Consisting of 50 approximately 1,000 word essays on each film across 114 years, from 1902 to 2016, Must-See Sci-Fi covers the significance of each film selected in its 280 pages, including a plot overview, key memorable scenes, plus some good behind-the-scenes trivia, as well as plenty of color and black and white photographs.  From A Trip to the Moon in 1902 to Arrival in 2016, the book has a fairly consistent coverage (but weighted with more selections from the 1970s and 1980s, and the 1940s have no entries).  Most will agree with the films included from George Méliès’s groundbreaking beginning through the 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. But controversial for one person may not be controversial for another.  De Forest presents her case for those films you might not find on other lists–many firsts of sci-fi emphasized instead of the definite look at a sub-genre, like Alphaville, Solaris, Sleeper, The Man Who Fell to Earth, THX 1138, The Brother From Another Planet, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. One great feature is a recommendation of two “watch-alike” films after each section–If you loved a film, you have two more films to track down and compare, and if you missed a film but don’t like the two suggested films, the book may telegraph your level of enjoyment once you screen the entry.  Readers will also see the impact across a century of filmmaking from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of both H.G. Wells and Jules Verne on these selections.

Key to the fun of delving into science fiction film history is understanding the roots of science fiction–how modern science fiction 99% of the time derives (or combines) its story elements from key benchmarks from stories or films of the past.  As the book progresses readers can see author De Forest frequently referring back to those sources, and after 1977’s Star Wars the remaining 16 entries all seem to rely significantly on films of the past–sometimes they even appear to be merely another twist on one of the films in the first half of the book.  And yes, readers will find new discussion topics.  La Jetée may be an incredibly fascinating short film, but is it more of a “must-see” than Terry Gilliam’s update 12 Monkeys?  And how did a Woody Allen movie ever make the cut?

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You can expect to hear a familiar tune at every other instrumental band concert and from keyboard artists and other musical groups this year beginning this Memorial Day weekend.  For the annual anniversary of the release of Star Wars on May 25, 2018, and the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the first time most of us first heard of George Lucas’s sound company, THX Ltd. publicly released its sheet music for its theater ad promo with the theatrical release of Solo: A Star Wars Story.  It’s hard to believe that sound, which appears to most like a twisting, slowly deafening noise, has been around so long.  If you were around in 1983 you probably first heard it along with the movie trailers before screenings of Return of the Jedi starting May 25, 1983.

The music, a “synthesized crescendo that glissandos from a low rumble to a high pitch,” is called Deep Note.  First recorded by Lucasfilm employee Dr. James A. Moorer in 1982, it’s a trademark of the THX brand.  Categorized as a federal sensory trademark first filed in 1992, the original U.S Patent and Trademark Office registration defines Deep Note in more technical terms: “The THX logo theme consists of 30 voices over seven measures, starting in a narrow range, 200 to 400 Hz, and slowly diverting to preselected pitches encompassing three octaves.  The 30 voices begin at pitches between 200 Hz and 400 Hz and arrive at pre-selected pitches spanning three octaves by the fourth measure.  The highest pitch is slightly detuned while there are double the number of voices of the lowest two pitches.”  The sound aired before all movies from June 1, 1983, until August 31, 1996.  Here is the post from THX on social media:

Back in the early 1980s George Lucas created THX (named for sound engineer Tomlinson Holman and an homage to Lucas’s film THX-1138, which was said to have been derived from a Lucas phone number: 849-1138) when attempting to perfect the movie-going experience along with his Skywalker Sound company.  So what’s the difference between THX and Skywalker Sound?  THX is a standards company first created to ensure the vision (err… the ear) of a filmmaker made it to the audience’s final in-theater experience (more recently branching out to car stereos, video games, and home theaters).  Skywalker Sound is a Lucasfilm/Disney company that specializes in the sound effects, sound editing, sound design, sound mixing and music recording for various award-winning projects.  THX was spun-off before Disney acquired Lucasfilm.

Here is a brief YouTube history of the THX Deep Note recording and trailer:

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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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Escape from Tomorrow movie poster

“Don’t mess with the Mouse,” is a maxim in American intellectual property law.  Ask any law professor.  Those who challenge Disney in court usually lose.  But the view that Disney can’t be beaten is part of the myth Disney has created itself, and the success of the critically acclaimed independent film Escape from Tomorrow is throwing movie watchers’ pre-conceived notions of Disney as sacrosanct out the window.  Escape from Tomorrow was filmed nearly entirely on location at Disney theme parks without the permission of Disney.  It turns out there’s nothing Disney can do about it.  The result is better than just a stunt project, but it has its misfires as much as it has its triumphs.

The talented Roy Abramsohn, mainly a character actor who has shown up in TV series from Charmed to Medium to Monk and Without a Trace as well as a recurring role on Weeds, takes on the lead role of Jim, a father and husband of the Clark Griswold variety on his last day of vacation at Epcot and Disney World, the celebrated “Happiest Place on Earth.”  Jim just learned he’s lost his job and is having one of those days where everything goes wrong.  But this is no National Lampoon’s comedy.  Jim is living out his own House of Horrors.

Abramsohn in Escape from Tomorrow

Structurally, the film is brilliantly executed for a first effort.  Were you to go back and look at THX-1138 and Duel and predict the future of its directors, no one could have predicted Star Wars or American Graffiti or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Jaws.  Escape from Tomorrow is better than THX-1138, but not as compelling as Duel.  Does that mean we have a future genius on our hands?  Not likely, but it will make viewers take notice of the next projects of writer/director Randy Moore and cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham.

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All You Need is Kill

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Live. Die. Repeat.

One of these lines is in the 2004 Japanese military science fiction novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The other line gives away some of the surprise of what the novel–soon to become a major motion picture–is about.  The movie, renamed the far less interesting title Edge of Tomorrow, stars Tom Cruise as a foot soldier (Kaiji Kiriya in the novel, Lt. Col. Bill Cage in the movie)and Emily Blunt as powerhouse super soldier Rita Vrataski in a future battle with an alien incursion that takes place on Earth not too far from now.  Based on the brief previews we’ve seen, the film appears to be different enough from the novel so that reading the novel will not entirely give away the movie, and it’s full of enough classic sci-fi riffs that you may want to read it first as a separate experience.

Sakuraska’s novel will likely conjure elements from some of the best of classic science fiction.  It’s a great look at day-to-day military encounters, with real world elements from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Richard Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.  It has its own thought-provoking “warning-sign” messages found in classics like Logan’s Run and THX-1138, that adversity in the face of certain doom as in Pacific Rim, and the “what the heck is going on” feel from any number of Philip K. Dick short stories (“Paycheck” and “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” come to mind).  It also borrows a lot from the endless onslaught of future military video games—it helps to know the author’s background is in information technology and he’s an avid gamer.

All You Need is Kill Edge of Tomorrow tie-in novel

As the movie’s tagline reveals, the now iconic Groundhog Day time-loop plays a part in the story.  Searching for what role the time-loop plays is the real quest Sakurazaka takes us through.  Each new year seems to bring a new take on that sci-fi device, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect” best illustrates the physics “causality loop” if you’re not familiar with it and we discussed several other examples here at borg.com back in 2011.  If you’re stuck repeating the events of a single period of time, can you ever hope to break free from it?  What do you do in the meantime?  The time-loop element is pervasive even in the future world of the novel—Keiji loosely recounts once watching Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s time-loop comedy 50 First Dates, which finds Barrymore’s character with amnesia every morning so she must start each day all over again.

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snowpiercer

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re a glutton for punishment and the Polar Vortex is child’s play for you, then Snowpiercer may be in your future.

In the future a bomb destroys the climate.  A luxury train called the Snowpiercer, intended to take passengers on weeks-long travels becomes the only vehicle for survival, taking on lower class cars to become 1,001 total train cars.  It’s the last bastion of civilization.  Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon–call it what you will, the planet is now ice and snow and being outside for even minutes means a certain end from the “White Death.”  Originally written in French as Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob with art by Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer, Volume 1: The Escape is now available in an English translation by Virginie Selavy from Titan Books.

Snowpiercer is also a new sci-fi film, starring Chris Evans (Captain America, the Fantastic Four), John Hurt (V for Vendetta, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Hellboy), Ed Harris (The Truman Show, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff) and Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Constantine), by Korean director Joon-Ho Bong.  A major hit in South Korea, it is yet to be released in the States yet, a result of directorial disputes with distributor The Weinstein Company, including a feud over cutting 20 minutes of footage for U.S. audiences that inexplicably “may not understand” the longer version.  Here is the South Korean trailer for the movie:

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AOS cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

The magical, multimedia, computer-generated art of Archeologists of Shadows is at once both like something you’ve never seen before yet strangely familiar with bits and pieces of so many different influences.  The characters seem to have evolved from the green planet in Avatar and the villains from the Iowa State Patrol borg police of Star Trek 2009.  The compositions have influences in the creepy worlds of both artist Dave McKean and at the same time the otherworldly spaces of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.  The fantasy evokes painted high fantasy pulp cover art and the mystery and old religions and myths of The Dark Crystal.  The colors and lights throughout the book are reminiscent of the work of artist Lee Bermejo.  The industrial architecture conjures the oppressive cityscapes of Fritz Lang, and the surreal buildings of  Antoni Gaudi.

As to the story, we’re introduced to a far off place, maybe Earth’s own future, the world of Terminator if the Connors have failed to save humanity, where humans have degraded to the point where they have only few organic parts.  The protagonists, Alix and Baltimo, are indeed borgs, with elaborate, realistically visualized cybernetics with a definite steampunk vibe.  They are on the brink of a crossroads like the dull citizens of George Lucas’s THX 1138–readying for the final steps of full mechanization.  Like the cast of Waiting for Godot, they wait for something to happen, maybe godlike intervention, until a stranger offers assistance.  Like Neo in The Matrix, do you act or not act, and which action bears the most risk, the doing or not doing?

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