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Tag Archive: Tomorrowland


Review by C.J. Bunce

Bradley W. Schenck’s sci-fi-meets-retro novel Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, was our favorite read of 2017.  Schenck created a unique story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom handled science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same imagination and fun, Schenck is back again in Retropolis with a new book of short stories, Patently Absurd: The Files of the Retropolis Registry of PatentsAll but one of the stories were originally published in 2016 and 2017 in Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, and the new story ties together the other stories in the volume, which all really read like a single narrative with clever titles to the chapters.  As with last year’s novel, it’s all great fun and smartly written.

Readers again revisit Retropolis’s day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary, but this time Schenck hones in on one segment of the city, the Registry of Patents and new heroes of the office: Ben Bowman, investigator of patents, and secretary to the Registrar, Violet the humanoid robot.  Ben does not have aspirations of greatness, he’s content to do his job, but Violet is a robot who knows she was built to be an investigator.  The problem is that she’s gone through more than 14 bosses now–the Registrars–and still hasn’t been promoted.  Is it because they leave each other notes in the locked safe in the Registrar’s office about Violet?  And is it possible the office keeps losing Registrars because Violet is working her way through them?  Nah.

Big, bright, and detailed, like Tron, Logan’s Run, Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland, a bit Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, a larger dose of Metropolis, and an equal dose of Office Space and The Office–readers won’t find anything like Scheck’s world elsewhere.  The final story in the volume, “The Enigma of the Unseen Doctor,” is as compelling, rich, and poignant as any other master of science fiction’s take on what it’s like to be a robot.  Scheck turns the tables as we meet a robot with compassion for what it’s like to be human.  Patently Absurd provides the next step in science fiction’s investigation of the soul.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Syd Mead, the famed “artist who illustrates the future,” is an icon of visionary design and illustration.  No other creator has shown the world a utopian vision of a possible future in so many ways.  At the same time he has created a world we want to see develop that lies ahead, we have seen his future begin to be realized.  His aerodynamic designs have influenced auto design in recent decades from car makers including Chrysler, Ford, and GM.  He has created the look of space technology that we all accept as believable thanks to his concept art–art that has influenced the art direction of films for four decades.  A new book published this month provides an in-depth intellectual review of Mead’s style, influences, and impact on the history of design.  The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist is a college level, art design course book of sorts that takes movie concept art to an entirely new level, a serious look at his style that will appeal to serious artists in any field, and a popular work for fans of the films he has inspired.

“What makes Syd’s vision so compelling,” says the book’s author, architect/designer and professor Craig Hodgetts, “is not only the means he employs to convey it, but the acute physical and environmental awareness: the endless curiosity about how the world works; the precise level of detail and the practical engineering knowledge that he brings to even the most fantastic devices.”  Beginning with the look of the both geometric and organic mechanical villain V’ger from the year 2273 in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture to a mid-21st century casino and hotel in this year’s Blade Runner 2049, Mead’s sketches, drawings, illustrations, and paintings have inspired and influenced the art design of dozens of movie productions.

   

Mead’s most groundbreaking and memorable cinematic visionary creations came in the 1980s with four films.  Returning to our theme of celebrating 1982 films, for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner Mead was influenced by Edward Hopper’s desolate cityscapes.  To translate author Phillip K. Dick’s writings into visual form, Mead and Scott took an idea of sculpture artists Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Stankewicz and author William Gibson.  The filmmakers lay claim to be the first to use their ideas of “retro-fitting” on film–the process of creating a unique object by means of a strategic assemblage of allied components; by harvesting parts from abandoned or obsolescent “donors” and re-assembling them, a new entity is created.  In the same year as Blade Runner, Mead saw his designs realized in the very different world of Tron, modelling a convincing digital world by extrapolating from the patterns of computer motherboards and other now obsolete technology of the era.  The giant screen-filling image of Master Control, the labyrinthine pathways for the lightcycles, and Sark’s hefty transport vessel all hailed from the mind and pen of Mead.  Taking the look of James Cameron’s original Alien film and modifying it significantly, Mead skipped the “slick shapes of Star Trek” and the “greeblies of Star Wars” to create what he envisioned as a “highly-engineered, purposeful vessel” where each feature could have a function, in the 1986 sequel Aliens In the same year, Mead created what would become an iconic image of the 1980s, Number Five the robot, the friendly star of the film Short Circuit.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A great imagination is a rare thing.  Science fiction has always been, at its core, an avenue for writers to express the endless breadth of their imaginations.  In Bradley W. Schenck’s new novel from Tor Books, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Schenck creates a story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom deftly handles science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same awe and amazement that readers flocked to the future worlds created by Philip K. Dick in his myriad short stories, readers will be glued to the visuals Schenck introduces here.  Painted with shiny blue enamel and chrome, his details are filled with answers to questions from yesteryear.  Answers to questions about the handling of the day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary.  After all they have ray guns and rockets and use slide rules like we use smart phones.

We’re introduced to Retropolis, its immense size and cities inspired by an Art Deco-era mindset and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, yet a world not at all dark or dreary.  This world is new, big, and bright, as detailed, and as big as the original world audiences discovered in Tron in 1982, but far more developed than the future world we met earlier in Logan’s Run.  Closer to anything else, this is Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland.  The hero is everyman, like Korben Dallas, a Plumber-Adventurer, with all the dash and dazzle of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, whose nemesis is a Bondian villain pulled right out of Moonraker, with an equally vile plan to destroy the world as we know it–or at least as our grandparents might have dreamed it.

Like Metropolis, Schenck delves into the trials of human nature at the personal level in an industrialized world, as he follows a crew of switchboard operators whose jobs appear to have been displaced by robots.  But even the robots of Retropolis are like nothing you’ve seen before.  They are several steps before Replicants, but they are People in an early climb up the ladder toward autonomy.  It’s a 1930s vision, with a 1950s shine, bogged down with 21st century problems.  But don’t think this is a political book–the plight of the humans and the robots merely give credibility and gravity to this exciting and fun reality as a small band of average Retropolitans attempt to save the world from certain doom.  And there’s more–Schenck is not only the author of the novel, but the artist supplying futuristic illustrations of his world, complete with end pages featuring a useful guide to each of the story’s main characters.  With so many books written to drive you to the happening at the end, it’s the whirlwind fun of the ride that will prompt you to slow down and enjoy every word–and not want to finish the book so quickly.  It’s great fun.  Even each chapter has a classic, grand, Saturday morning serial title.

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midnight-special-cast

Review by C.J. Bunce

Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial.  The Green Mile. Escape to Witch Mountain.  Watcher in the Woods.  Maggie.  Super 8.  The Omen.  D.A.R.Y.L.  A Perfect World.  Starman.  Michael.  Tomorrowland.  The Day the Earth Stood Still.  The Blues Brothers.  The Twilight Zone Movie.  What could these all possibly have in common?  Somehow they are all conjured up together into this year’s release, Midnight Special.

Let’s get the only problem with Midnight Special out of the way first.  It had an inexplicable limited release this past March.  And its theatrical and television trailer was creepy cool, but too cryptic to draw in the masses.  If you don’t tell people what your movie is about, they won’t always take the time to learn more and decide to see it.  And what a loss!  Midnight Special is not only one of the year’s best films, it’s one of the best films of the decade.

You will think about The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life,” but it’s nothing like it.  You will think about Haven and Grimm, but it’s not like that either.  And you may even accuse Stranger Things of being a knockoff of this film.  But it’s very, very different.

adam-driver-in-midnight-special

A father and his old friend kidnap his son from a religious cult, with the government in hot pursuit for very different reasons, drawn in by the son’s mysterious abilities.  Is some messianic end looming ahead?  Why is the government justified in tracking the father down for treason?  Replace the enchantment and wonder you’d find in Spielberg’s Close Encounters and E.T. with a combination of mystery, curiosity, and heart-pounding dread.  Gripping, personal, riveting–Midnight Special will keep you guessing until the end.  What happened to this kid?  Why does he have these powers?  What ends will his father and his friend go to protect him from what seems like the entire world crashing down on them? 

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borg-label hall-of-fame-label

After climbing over our 1.4 millionth site visit at borg.com this month, it’s time to update the borg.com Hall of Fame, with borg in genre fiction from past, present, and future, and from all media.  Click here for our “About” page if you need a refresher on what makes a borg a borg.

These new inductees are primarily new additions to the world of fiction this year, but many were borgs we overlooked in prior years.  A few may or may not be borg, depending on your point of view.  Robots or androids that look perfectly human, for example, that have organic looking material but may not have actual living tissue are not technically cyborgs.

So here is Round 3, the 2015 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order:

Ex Machina Kyoko and Ava

Alicia Vikander’s Ava and Sonoya Mizumo’s Kyoko from this year’s critically acclaimed movie Ex Machina were stunning additions to the world of borg.  Clearly robots with artificial intelligence but they make our list with what appeared to us to be some kind of replicated organic skin.

Humans

AMC’s new TV series Humans introduced the “synths,” robotic servants that permeated the modern world.  Five of these had something more than the others, the best of these being Gemma Chan’s synth Anita, and whether you count only these five or all of them as borg, we think they fit right into our Hall of Fame.

Furiosa

Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the year’s biggest hits, with Furiosa on many critic’s lists of kick-ass heroines in 2015.  Her mechanical prosthetic arm provides her entry ticket into our list of 2015 borgs.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Athena (Raffey Cassidy) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

In this year’s Disney adventure movie Tomorrowland, the girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy)reveals herself o be an “audio-animatronic robot,” but she looks entirely borg to us.  Plenty more borg are featured in the film, including the proprietors of the toy shop who are out to keep the secrets of Tomorrowland from humanity.

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Tomorrowland still

Review by C.J. Bunce

There is plenty to like about The Incredibles’ director Brad Bird’s 2015 release, Tomorrowland, now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital media.  Tomorrowland has a great, positive message about the potential of thinkers and dreamers, and it showcases a beautiful future world, but somehow it just doesn’t dazzle like it could.  Still, enough positive vibes and ideas are steeped into this film that the right person watching this movie will find it to be inspirational.

One of the best features is a decommissioned robot named Athena (that we’d label an excellent borg except we’re not sure biological elements or living matter may be part of her) played by young actress Raffey Cassidy (Cassidy played the daughter Beatrice in Season One of Mr. Selfridge).  In every scene she is so perfect in her role that her diction and appearance might convince you she will be shown later as an adult played by Emily Blunt (that doesn’t happen, but she’s a dead ringer).

Sadly Tomorrowland struggles with what kind of movie it wants to be.  Is this a fantasy or science fiction movie, or both?  Visually the Tomorrowland parallel world scenes feel much like the mix of sci-fi and fantasy from classic Flash Gordon–a great component of the movie watching experience.  But you must watch more than two-thirds of the film before being able to grasp a clear plot, and get fully immersed in that other world.  To get where the story is trying to get plenty of world building is apparently required.  It’s unfortunate because Tomorrowland couldn’t address a more interesting subject:  Why didn’t the future we envisioned 60 years ago come to pass? (Where are our jet packs?!)

Raffey Cassidy Tomorrowland

It’s a question science fiction writers wrestle with all the time: If I am going to predict a future technology or development, how many years from now should I say it will be achieved?  And will it come about at all at any time?  If you peg the breakthrough in your own lifetime, you may be left to face criticism when that date finally arrives.  See Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, James Cameron’s Terminator series, all of those Philip K. Dick novel adaptations, and more recently, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future II predictions–many got elements of the future right, but many didn’t.

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Tomorrowland clip

We’ve already seen two previews for Disney’s Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie.  The first, previewed here at borg.com, made the film look intriguing but wasn’t enough alone to get us to the theater.  The second, previewed here, gave us a bit more to go on.  But the latest trailer, released this past week, is enough for us to line up tickets for the opening weekend right away.

In fact, if you want to see an example of just what to put in a trailer, this third trailer released would be a good guide.  It’s got some key features that make for great entertainment:

  • humor
  • sci-fi an fantasy elements
  • well-known (and reliable) actors
  • jet packs
  • a reclusive genius (remember Dr. Stephen Falken?)
  • a vision of the future
  • cyborg bad guys
  • a talisman (that nifty little pin)
  • special effects showing us something entirely new
  • inter-dimensional portals
  • did we mention jet packs?

After the break, check out this nifty new trailer for Tomorrowland:

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chrome T1000 ReAction Funko Terminator 2 Entertainment Earth exclusive   exclusive T1000 chrome bullets T1000 Entertainment Earth Terminator 2

Back in February we revealed here at borg.com the latest in Funko’s more than 20 licensed films and TV series in its 2015 ReAction action figure line first discussed at borg.com here and here, and now we have images of the carded figures and sculpts for many more new figures.  We also have links to allow readers to be among the first to pre-order them all from online collectibles store Entertainment Earth.  We’re still waiting for final images for Jaws, Gremlins, Scarface, and Fight Club, but we have pre-order information plus images and links to pre-order the new ReAction line for CW’s The Flash, The Karate Kid, Disney’s Tomorrowland, and the second wave of original series Star Trek figures We shared links for the first figures in the new Star Trek original series line last month here.

Better yet, you can now pre-order two new exclusive Funko ReAction figures, available only from Entertainment Earth.  Order the two exclusive liquid chrome “metallic” T1000 Terminator 2 figures (above, top) by clicking on the above images.

Word from Funko’s blog is that Phoebe Cates is not authorizing a likeness for the Gremlins line.  Here’s the prototype from Toy Fair 2015:

Gremlins prototypes Funko ReAction

This may mean both the Gremlins and Fast Times at Ridgemont High lines will be hindered by missing her key characters from these films.  Even though her figure looked nothing like the actress (as with most figures in the retro line) she apparently has some control of over not only her image but reproductions based on her characters.

Click on the images below to see full-sized images of figures and cards and to pre-order each from Entertainment Earth.

Flash Funko ReAction  Mr Miyagi Karate Kid Funko ReAction

Still yet to be revealed are figures from The Dark Crystal, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Big Lebowski, Scarface (although Al Pacino’s figure was previewed at Toy Fair 2015), V for Vendetta, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, The A-Team, The Munsters, and Aliens.

Second Wave of Star Trek, the original series

Captain Kirk Funko ReAction Scotty Funko ReAction Star Trek Gorn Star Trek ReAction Funko Vina Star Trek ReAction Funko

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Hugh Laurie in Tomorrowland

Last month’s teaser trailer for Disney’s Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, didn’t give us much to go on.  If you missed it, check it out here.  It seemed like another gimmick to get people into a theme park.  Then they released the new full-length trailer for the summer 2015 release.

And they had us at Hugh Laurie.

How did we miss that Hugh Laurie was going to be in this, as some apparent high-level ruler of the futuristic Tomorrowland, accessible by a small push-button pin?

Hugh Laurie Tomorrowland

It appears like it could have some good sci-fi/fantasy elements:  An unexpected package like Ben Affleck found in Paycheck.  Or a useful totem like those found in the great short-lived sci-fi series, The Lost Room.

After the break, check out the new trailer for Tomorrowland:

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Hayden Christensen in Outcast

Sure it was brief but even more interesting than the movie trailers at the big game today (except for Terminator Genisys, previewed at borg.com here earlier) is the teaser for Heroes Reborn.  Not only do we get Jack Coleman, the horned-rimmed glasses man, back, but our first look at Zachary Levi on an NBC series since the end of season five of Chuck:

Heroes Reborn does not yet have a release date.

The latest of the trailers for Jurassic World finally makes the movie look pretty good.  Earlier trailers seemed a bit thin, but the prospect of Chris Pratt as a circus lion tamer for raptors seems like a great idea:

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