Tag Archive: Tron


Review by C.J. Bunce

Sony Pictures Animation, the studio that made Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse and the LEGO movies brought its latest and greatest animated film to Netflix earlier this month with The Mitchells vs. The Machines–a sci-fi, apocalypse, coming of age story (reviewed here) about a normal but weird family that tries to dodge a planet-wide extermination resulting from the very technologies humans are so addicted to.  Much of the action takes place during a cross-country trip, and it’s that imagery that is underplayed on the big screen, but really comes to life as incredible art in The Art of The Mitchells vs. The Machines, a behind the scenes book of exploration coming to Amazon here and a bookstore near you next week.  Gravity Falls creators Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe wrote and directed the film, a visually stunning spectacle, with contributions by the Academy Award winning duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (both known for the LEGO movies and Into the Spider-verse).  Author Ramin Zahed interviews those creators and more and shares hundreds of concept art images for this next look into the development of cutting edge animation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Surprisingly great, surprisingly real, and surprisingly… current?  Sony Pictures Animation, the studio that brought you Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse brings its latest and greatest animated film to Netflix this weekend.  It’s The Mitchells vs. The Machines–a sci-fi, apocalypse, coming of age, story about a weird family that ends up being the last family on the planet to be exterminated from the planet by the very technologies humans are so addicted to.  Gravity Falls creators Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe wrote and directed this story, a visually stunning spectacle reflecting life as we knew it in 2020… and may know it again, with contributions by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (both known for the LEGO movies and Into the Spider-verse).  The themes are influenced by Tron and Tron: Legacy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and the Terminator movies, leaning hard on the plot of Terminator: Genisys.  It’s loud, colorful, crazy, and it gets family relationships just right, at least of the 21st century variety.  It’s also the movie I was hoping for with The Incredibles 2.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Two episodes in, and you’ll probably get drawn into at least three of the characters in the story.  Four episodes in, you’re thinking about who is going to to make it to the second season and how quick they can get that filmed and released.  Directed by Shinsuke Sato, Haro Aso’s popular manga series comes alive in Alice in Borderland, the live-action dystopian, Japanese noir-meets-steampunk thrill ride streaming now on Netflix.  Doomsday, Tokyo-style, is surprisingly violent, surprisingly thought-provoking, as a city finds itself mostly vacated (as in The Quiet Earth and 28 Days Later) and the remaining citizens must fight for their lives The Running Man-style or they’ll get zapped and killed The War of the Worlds-style.  Clever casting of characters introduces looks of action heroes from all sorts of Japanese video games, manga, and anime, all living (many briefly) in a world loosely pulled from Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland.  A gamer-themed series on the heels of the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, the result is a very different story allowing the audience to try to solve clues along with the players on the screen–what I was hoping for when I first heard about the book Ready Player One.

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It’s already been adapted into a video animation in 2014, and now the popular serialized Japanese manga is making its way to a live-action series coming to Netflix next month.  Haro Aso’s manga Alice in Borderland is directed by Shinsuke Sato, and follows three friends who get sucked into a video game, Jumanji-style more than Tron or Ready Player One.  Spinning out of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland, look for new takes including “Hatter” and “Cheshire,” in a strange wasteland parallel universe Tokyo and a journey of survival.

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Just because San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean some of the convention exclusives won’t still be available, for those who know where to look.  One of the best ideas we’ve seen from exclusives previewed so far is from Diamond Select and Entertainment Earth, and it hails from one of our favorite retro fixes: the groundbreaking 1982 sci-fi classic Tron What says 1982 and Tron more than a VHS clamshell?  Wait, it’s not just a clamshell…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In brief, it’s the best adventure, fantasy, and comedy in theaters in 2019 and a great way to begin your new year.  Jumanji: The Next Level is still packing-in theaters a little more than two weeks into its run–an alternative to the other holiday releases and guaranteed to leave you smiling at the end.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat in their return, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game are perfectly matched to tell a new tale.  Two films down and Jumanji: The Next Level is now the new major adventure fantasy franchise, up there with Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones.  Put this sequel at the top of the best of those franchises.

The studio didn’t hold back on new action sequences–inside the movie again Jumanji is the same video game of curious origin.  The new levels introduced this time increase the stakes in bigger and better ways.   A bridge-crossing scene with swarming apes and a geometric, Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong-like element is now going to be the adventure film standard to try to beat.  Sure, there are throwbacks to jungle adventures of the past, but it’s not derivative, all presented in fresh ways.  As another tour inside a video game (like Tron and Ready Player One), you’ll have the added fun of spotting video game influences (like Pitfall and Q-Bert), including a new, more difficult gauntlet.

The movie does double duty as an epic quest and rollicking comedy.  Comedians turned comedic actors Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon and Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar again are comedy gold.  Even the small bits are a scream–Hart riding and getting off a camel is a lesson in physical comedy.  They make the movie loads of fun, but straight man roles performed by Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan as in-game characters Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse share the credit for the laughs, too.  If you’ve seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, you’d expect big comedy from the sequel.  And that’s where the writing genius comes into play, thanks to a script by writer/director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg.  How do you bring back the hour movie stars, the four young actors who played the original players (Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, and Ser’Darius Blain), the rescued Alex played by Colin Hanks, and in-game characters played by Nick Jonas, and Rhys Darby without re-hashing the first movie?  You’ll have to see it to find out.  Just be prepared for some great twists and surprises.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The biggest action film of the summer is easily the most enjoyable film of the year.  That’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a movie that gets so many genre formulas right it just can’t miss.  Certainly one of the better entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, it knows what works and uses it.  That’s a sure-bet cast of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, Mission: Impossible–Fallout’s Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba in the ultimate badass role as a James Bond spy gone bad with Superman powers, lots of futuristic cyborg tech, and an understanding of why audiences come to the movie theater in the first place.  Hobbs & Shaw is a movie for people who like movies.

The trailers gave audiences a glimpse at what to expect, and they delivered on all promises: laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, nonstop action, road races and camera angles that the franchise is known for, and lots of surprises and callbacks, and a script that doesn’t take itself seriously.  There’s something for everyone here.  If you’re after only the fast cars, action, and speed of the franchise, this entry measures up.  And that family drama that the regular franchise leads Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster built the franchise on is here, too.  This time that includes digging into the past between Statham’s Deckard Shaw and sister Hattie, played by Kirby, and Helen Mirren back again as their mother (Luke Evans’ brother Owen from the last film may or may not be mentioned this time), and Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is pals with his young daughter at home and returns to the family he left behind years ago in the Samoan Islands.

But stuntman-turned-director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, John Wick) and script writers Chris Morgan (writer of five prior Fast & Furious films) and Drew Pearce (Hotel Artemis, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) know why audiences are really buying tickets, and you just need to drift over their previous film credits to see why they were tapped for Hobbs & Shaw.  Hattie is a badass equal to Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde (Theron also co-starred in the most recent sequel), any of the four lead characters could give Leitch’s John Wick a run for his money, and moviegoers will hardly remember last year’s much-lauded Mission Impossible: Fallout’s action scenes after they see this.  (A few casting spoilers follow).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A behind the scenes book for a 2019 movie, which consists of a third or more of its images from 2005?  As fascinating as the special effects developed for the film, the history of the movie merits its own book, and it gets it in Abbie Bernstein‘s Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie, now out from Titan Books.  It turns out executive producer James Cameron and artists were working on the pre-production of Alita: Battle Angel during the development of his film Avatar.  According to interviews with Cameron and Alita director Robert Rodriguez, in the early 2000s the technology was not yet advanced to deliver what they wanted for their adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga novel.  But now that it’s arrived, fans of the film can trace its development over the past 15 years.

Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie is filled with concept art, split between 2005 digital ideas in advance of knowing what actors might be cast and final characters developed, and a renewed look at the project as it began to get fully underway only a few years ago.  Key interviews with Rodriguez, Cameron, producer Jon Landau, production designers Caylah Eddleblute and Steve Joyner, art director Todd Holland, visual effects supervisors Richard Hollander and Eric Saindon, costume designer Nina Proctor, Weta Digital’s Joe Letteri, and others tell the story–a marriage of practical effects and CGI.  In fact the commenters almost seem to have a battle between those responsible between the practical effects and CGI–all with an eye toward realism.  The most interesting aspects of the discussion are the incorporation of Alita star Rosa Salazar’s motion capture (or per Rodriguez, “performance capture” since motion doesn’t include the “emotion” element required to make a story come together) with Proctor’s real-world costumes, and the CGI layering that ends up as the final image that made it to the screen.

No doubt a highlight of the film and of the book are detailed images of Alita’s cyborg body shell, as created by the character of Dr. Ido in the film.  In real life it looks incredibly porcelain, but the artists discuss how the body and all the components of the film were actually fabricated.  The commenters don’t reference their inspirations for the look of the Iron City in the film or its cyborg inhabitants, but fans of the genre will no doubt see the influences–from the borg designs to story elements–from films including Chappie, Elysium, District 9, Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell, Mad Max: Fury Road, Cameron’s The Terminator, and even the light cycles of Tron.  Readers will learn more about the science behind the cyborgs in the film–how Cameron and others estimated weights of body parts, including Alita’s removable metal heart, as an example–all needed for 3D and CGI work and viewer believability.

Take a look inside Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie courtesy of the publisher:

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Anyone who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy also grew up with the Kenner line of action figures and other toys.  Eagerly awaiting kids learned about each new figure and each new ship and playset via commercials during Saturday morning cartoons.  They also learned about them in the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs and mini-catalogs that accompanied certain ships, games and playsets–making checklists from the catalog for Santa was a key component of being a kid.  Over the next two days an auction house in Valencia, California is selling off a Star Wars fan’s ultimate dream collection.  At its Vintage Toys and Collectibles Live Auction, auction house Prop Store is auctioning off a spectacular collection of the Star Wars toys most kids from the era are familiar with, plus many of the rarer toys and prototypes that were known for decades to exist only through rumor and occasional obscure references.  Among the collection is a high-quality collection of nearly 100 pieces from Lucasfilm executive Howard Kazanjian.

Long before the latest Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill mentioned in interviews that certain Lucasfilm professionals received the line of new tie-in toy products as they were rolled out.  He mentioned that his kids enjoyed most of them, and he’s joked about wishing he’d saved some in the original boxes because of the sale prices some achieve today.  Kazanjian was also on that distribution list, and he maintained the toys he received in the mail for 40 years, some boxes were never opened and remain in near mint condition.  Prop Store’s auction catalog is incredible, a full color book of photographs and descriptive information almost as exciting as the auction itself–an extraordinary trip back through time even if you’re not able to drop $5,000–minimum–on a rare vinyl-caped Jawa or Yak Face variant action figure.

Bop bags, a Luke headset radio, Give-a-Show projectors, all the ships and action figures you remember, and trading cards are just the beginning,  The auction is featuring the rare Cloud City cardboard playset kids first saw in the Sears catalog–the only early playset that included four action figures (currently bidding at $400).  There’s the radio-controlled Sandcrawler (currently at $2,500), rare plush toys each starting at bids in the thousands of dollars, and all but the rare IG-88 figure in the large-sized version that was created for the key characters to match up with G.I. Joe and The Six Million Dollar Man.

But the 3.75-inch action figures make up the bulk of the toys hitting the auction block today.  The rare vinyl-caped Jawa even before the auction starts is already bid up to $6,000 (all bidders must pay the strike price plus more than 20% of the price for now-standard auction house fees).  An original R2-D2 is at $4,000, and if you want one of the rare “Power of the Force” Yak Face figures, it’s going to cost you more than $8,000.  At the end of the initial run of The Empire Strikes Back, I remember an entire wall of Yoda figures at my Target store being sold on clearance at fifty cents apiece.  That action figure type in this auction has already been bid up to $1,000.  In hindsight the figures on that clearance display were worth a small fortune.

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borg Hall of Fame 2018

It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2018, it’s time for the sixth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2018 films and television, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future – 40 in all.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology.  Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify a new member.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was an inaugural honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive.  The new Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but as far as we can tell it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.  Similarly Peni Parker, seen outside her high-tech SP//dr suit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Black Manta from Aquaman (and decades of comics before), seem to be merely wearing tech suits.  We’d love a reason for a Mandalorian to make the cut, like Boba Fett, or Jango Fett, since nobody has more intriguing armor.  Maybe Jon Favreau’s new television series will give us something new to ponder next year.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids, we take their word for it.  Westworld continues to define its own characters as androids (like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lt. Commander Data throughout the TV series), and not cyborgs (going back to Michael Crichton’s original story), so we continue this year to hold off on their admittance unless something changes, like the incorporation of living biological (blood, cells, etc.) materials.  Are we closing in on admitting individuals solely based on a breathing apparatus that may allow them to breathe to in non-native atmospheres?  Only if integrated (surgically).  Darth Vader has more borg parts than his breathing filter.  We assume new honoree Saw Gerrera does as well.  With more biological enhancements we’d allow Tusken Raiders, Moloch, and Two Tubes from the Star Wars universe, and Mordock the Benzite from Star Trek, but wouldn’t that also mean anyone in a deep sea suit or space suit is a cyborg?  Again, integration is key.  Ready Player One has humans interacting with a cyber-world with virtual reality goggles and other equipment, but like the Programs (as opposed to the Users) in the movie Tron, this doesn’t qualify as borg either, but we’re making an exception this year for the in-world Aech, who is a cyborg orc character, and two Tron universe characters.

Already admitted in 2017 were advance honorees that didn’t actually make it to the screen until 2018.  This included Josh Brolin’s new take on Cable in Deadpool 2 and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight after her acquisition of a borg arm in Marvel’s Luke Cage.  New versions of Robotman and Cyborg are coming in 2019 in the Doom Patrol series, but they are already members of the revered Hall of Fame.  Above are the new looks for these two earlier honorees.

So who’s in for 2018?

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