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Archive for February, 2013


Ray Park as Darth Maul

Kansas City’s Planet Comicon announced today that actor and stuntman Ray Park will be one of the headliners of this year’s event April 6-7, 2013 at the Kansas City Convention Center downtown at Bartle Hall.  In his short career as actor he has amassed some key, iconic roles across major franchises.  And because some of his roles are behind a mask or make-up you might not recognize him at first.  But when he moves and performs has trademark wushu spin you just know this Glasgow, Scotland-born second degree black belt martial artist is behind the performance.  He’s been a lead contender to play Iron Fist in a future Marvel Comics project and on March 28, 2013 he will reprise his role as Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Let’s check out his major acting and stunt roles so far.

Ray Park in Mortal Kombat Annihilation Continue reading

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Batman Inc logo

On the heels of the wind up of the “Death of the Family” story arc in Issue #17 of the monthly Batman comic book series a few days ago, it’s ironic that Grant Morrison is making news today with his own Batman series creation Batman, Incorporated.  The Batman “Death of the Family” story had some readers thinking one of the key Batman related characters was going to meet his end–probably not Batman, Catwoman, Batgirl, or Dick Grayson/Nightwing, but maybe Alfred or Batman’s son Damian Wayne (the current Robin) or even the original Robin killed off in the comics, Jason Todd, since resurrected into the Red Hood.  Some readers were disappointed in the finale issue of the “Death of the Family” story even after re-reading the story title which never actual implied a death “in” the family.  No one died but the family was left in turmoil.  And that was that.

Today a major shift occurs in the DC Universe with the release of Batman, Incorporated Issue #8.  Below is a five-page preview followed by spoilers, including the telling cover, after the break.  Don’t read on if you haven’t already seen the content in other press but make sure you grab today’s issue.  It’s a sure bet Batman, Incorporated Issue #8 will be sold out everywhere early today as this will be one of those issues that makes the mainstream press, causing the masses to flock to stores to buy up extra collecting copies.

Batman Inc Issue 8 preview page 1

Batman Inc Issue 8 preview pages 2 and 3

Batman Inc Issue 8 preview pages 4

Batman Inc Issue 8 preview page 5

Read on for more, including spoilers.

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Hobbit book Chronicles from Weta

We have reviewed many incredible books about movies here at borg.com.  Beginning with Special Effects: The History and Technique and its master class in film study to the book on movie posters The Art of Drew Struzan, to the recent Syfy Channel Book of Sci-fi, we have discussed a variety of the very best books on films and filmmaking, but also the best books on specific productions that the market has to offer.  If you missed them, here are links to some of the best books out there:

Each of these books had great content and a great way of sharing it with the reader, making for an immersive experience for the true fan.  And there are even more great books in our review pile, from Raiders of the Lost Ark and even more from Star Wars.  Then we laid our hands on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design, thanks to the folks at Weta.  In my view Weta is the best magic and fantasy shop in the world.  Where we once were dazzled by the spectacles created by Industrial Light and Magic as the coolest, newest cutting edge movie factory, since The Lord of the Rings trilogy ILM has been replaced by the artists, the painters, designers, sculptors, modelers, costumers and builders at Weta studios in New Zealand.  Their elaborate sets, props, costumes, make-up–you name it–in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made for the most incredible fantasy world put on film.  Ever.  So it’s awesome that Weta put together a book that not only highlights The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s wondrous creations, but the actual artists that made it all happen.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design was compiled by Weta Workshop senior concept designer Daniel Falconer.  In itself it has the look and feel of a prop from the film, from its finely tooled cover to its pull-out, glow in the dark Thorin’s map inside the front cover to the three page fold-out of Bilbo’s contract.  It’s the first book in a series to cover different artistic aspects of The Hobbit movies.  Containing 1,000 images of concept art, sketches, a cross-section of the 9,000 paintings created for The Hobbit, props, costumes, hair designs, and sets, it reveals the vision behind the Weta departments that created them.  Unlike any book I have seen before, it has a key code that credits each department, designer, or artist that developed what you see in the photos.  Some of these are tried and discarded face applications and wigs, like this one for the dwarf Oin:

Hobbit chronicles Oin spread

Other pages focus on characters’ props, including pencil designs, paintings, and detail that any cosplayer would love to delve into for his or her favorite character, like these hand props for the dwarf Ori:

Hobbit Chronicles props

Other pages show the elaborate costume designs.  And all include commentary by the artists who came up with concepts and designs.  Production designer and Academy Award winner Dan Hennah sums up why this focus on the artists make so much sense: “Film is a collaborative medium and requires the complete attention of every person involved to find the images that will make the final cut.  Each artist is encouraged to bring their individual vision to the project and work it in with others to make a cohesive part of the big picture…. For a fantasy movie to succeed, it must transport the viewer into a totally believable world where Dwarves, Dragons, Wizards, Elves, Goblins, Orcs, Trolls and hobbits all exist in a seamless mix of complimentary environments.”

Chroniclesspreads2b2

The book begins with views of Hobbiton, which had to be re-created from The Lord of the Rings in exacting detail and fleshed out for expanded use in The Hobbit.  We find Bilbo and his costume designs and concept art for Bag End.  It moves on to Thorin and his band of dwarves in comparison art showing final designs down to each dwarf’s boots.  Dwarf by dwarf we’re given access to trial shots of each dwarf, all used to develop the final look for the film.  Each belt, purse, sword and shield is shown for each character, again, with explanations why one design was chosen over others from Dan Hennah, “3 foot 7″ Costume Designer Ann Maskrey, Academy Award Winners Peter King, and “3 foot 7″ Make-up and Hair Designer and Weta Workshop’s Design and Special Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor.

Hobbit contract in Weta Chronicles

The book then turns to the flashback scenes of historic dwarves, of ancient battles and armor designs.  We get an introduction to Radagast the Brown, the new wizard we meet in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Two chapters turn to environments chosen, from real life cliffs modified digitally for scene use to a revisit to the elf town of Rivendell.  And we get to see up close trolls, stone giants, and goblins, including the thoughts behind the development of the hideous Great Goblin, and a look at the familiar Gollum.

hobbit-chronicles-book

The book showcases the art of concept art directors Alan Lee and John Howe, and work from the several artists of the film’s “3 foot 7″ Art Department, Costume Department and Weta Workshop–dozens of creative filmmakers who live and work in Wellington, New Zealand.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design  can be purchased from Weta at their website here.  Their second volume, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Creatures and Characters will be published in April 2013 and we will preview it here at borg.com.  It can be pre-ordered now here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Vikings banner

Several great pieces of episodic historical fiction have made it to the small screen, including Band of Brothers, Winds of War, Hatfields & McCoys, Roots, From the Earth to the Moon, and Horatio Hornblower.  But we haven’t seen much by way of Vikings in TV or movies other than the BBC’s Ivanhoe, various Beowulf adaptations, the 1958 movie The Vikings with Tony Curtis or Brian’s Song (OK, the last one doesn’t count).  Now the History Channel has produced a new TV series called simply Vikings.

Vikings image A

Vikings follows Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) in a story pulled from the characters and events in the Nordic epic Ragnar’s Saga.  On his path to ruler, Ragnar and his Viking band of brothers face battles with opposing tribes as well as his own lord Jarl Haraldson, played by Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Assault on Precinct 13, Excaliber, Christopher Columbus, Lionheart, Shipwrecked, A Simple Twist of Fate). 

Vikings image B

This series pretty much sneaked up on us–we haven’t seen much by way of promotion but once we did the production values appear to be right up there with similar epic historical works like Braveheart, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Rob Roy, Last of the Mohicans, Beowulf, 300, Dances with Wolves or even Henry V.  And the History Channel is the same creative team that put out all the great A&E mini-series like Pride and Prejudice so it brings with it high expectations.

Vikings on History Channel warship

And what great ships and costumes!  Check out these previews for the new series, Vikings:

Episode 1 of Vikings airs March 3, 2013 on the History Channel.  More information on the series can be found at the History Channel website.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

borg.com–700,000 and counting

borg-dot-com-logo

Just a quick note to say “thanks” to our readers for tipping us over the 700,000 mark in just over 600 days.

Readers put us over that benchmark while we were watching our best picture pick Argo take the big award at the 85th Academy Awards presentation tonight. We were also happy to see our picks Brave win best animated film and Quentin Tarentino win best original screenplay and Christoph Waltz win best supporting actor both for Django Unchained.

If you missed our update last week, you can now follow our daily updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for your continued support!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Batman Night of the Owls hardcover cover

As someone who bailed a few issues into Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: The Court of Owls story arc in the monthly Batman comic book which spanned the bulk of the first year of the New 52, I found that I really enjoyed the crossover follow-on story as compiled in the late February hardcover release, Batman: Night of the Owls.  While you are either left scratching your head or enjoying the ride as the Batman “Death of the Family” story arc wrapped last week with Batman Issue #17, this new trade edition is one way to check out some other New 52 titles you might not otherwise try.  And it’s fun watching how several writers can make a crossover take place in one night over 14 issues.

It’s the first crossover of the New 52.  Batman: Night of the Owls collects 360 pages, including Batman Issues #8-9, plus the tie-ins from Batman Annual #1, Nightwing Issues #8-9, and Issue #9 of All-Star Western, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Detective Comics and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

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Shadow Year One Alex Ross cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Ever since the success of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, everyone has climbed aboard to use the Year One tag to sell copies.  Many times the Year One is not an origin story but a random early story that fails to satisfy readers’ expectations.  A successful twist on the Year One was Andy Diggle and Jock’s Green Arrow: Year One, but there’s also been Teen Titans: Year One, Batgirl: Year One and Huntress: Year One, Nightwing: Year One and Robin: Year One, and even Batman: Two-Face/Scarecrow Year One.  It’s not only DC Comics who has cornered the market on Year One titles.  We reviewed Howard Chaykin’s well done Die Hard: Year One here last year, and if you look around you’ll even find a Judge Dredd Year One and a Punisher: Year One.  This week Matt Wagner, writer of Dynamite Comics’s Green Hornet: Year One , takes on the 1920s-1930s masked crimefighter The Shadow in The Shadow: Year One.  The first issue of Wagner’s Year One creation kicks off the better side of Year One stories.

Wagner and artist Wilfredo Torres begin their Year One with a mysterious force referred to as the “Shadow of Doom” in 1929 Cambodia, where we first meet The Shadow’s alter ego Lamont Cranston.  He is in pursuit of a criminal called the White Tiger and this pursuit returns him to New York City, a city brewing with criminals for The Shadow to bring to justice.

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Downton Abbey

For you genre TV and film fans that got sucked into the BBC/PBS series Downton Abbey, now that the series is on hiatus are you ready to entirely re-immerse yourself back into sci-fi and fantasy?  Or do you still need a bit of the British manor fix now and then?  A great feature of British manor series and movies is the overlap of actors back and forth into the best of sci-fi and fantasy.  So if 12 inches of snowfall has stranded you inside and you want to further investigate your favorite performers on Netflix or other streaming media as they stretch their acting chops, here’s an excuse to dive into some films and TV series you may not have otherwise tried, featuring the best of the world of sci-fi and fantasy.

Remains of the Day Dyrham Hall

Christopher Reeve plays an American who buys this estate in Remains of the Day.

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Serenity Better Days Adam Hughes Triptych Dark Horse Comics

If all you have watched are the 13 episodes of Firefly and the movie Serenity and you want more, thanks to Dark Horse Comics you can catch up on even more stories of the Serenity and its crew with three trade editions.  And just like Dark Horse has had great success with the Star Wars and Buffy the Vampire franchises, you will find equally good handling of your favorite characters in its Serenity books.

Serenity Better Days excerpt Dark Horse Comics

In all three books you’ll find the settings, both on ship and offworld, familiar and true to the series.  Thanks to scripts by Joss Whedon himself, as well as writers Brett Mathews and Zack Whedon and artists Will Conrad and Chris Samnee.  The second novel features some top-level art cover work by Adam Hughes including three original covers that form the beautiful triptych at the top of this article.  Each trade edition reprints three issues of a limited series, and standalone stories were included in the second trade.

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JLA 1 cover by Finch courtesy of DC Entertainment

Review by C.J. Bunce

It was way back in August that we first previewed the very first images of the new Justice League of America here at borg.com.  DC Comics has had a big month with big changes–first we reviewed Jeff Lemire beginning a new Green Arrow story in the monthly series, then we were introduced last week to Tatsu, a new recruit in a new Justice League whose superhero name is that of her sword, Katana.  And if you’re not keeping up we chatted a few days ago about DC Comics’ two trade editions available for the plain ol’ Justice League of the New 52.  And that’s not even getting into the cancelled Justice League International monthly title and the awesome Justice League Dark we’ve raved about here earlier.

Today DC Comics put the America back in the Justice League.  Sure, the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg)–the League with all the egos–will continue as a monthly series, but the rest of the original JLA superheroes we all know and love are back in their own separate league.  They may not be the World’s Finest but writer Geoff Johns and artist David Finch have launched a new story, “World’s Most Dangerous.”  And if Issue #1 is any indication I think we’re in for a better league with the new JLA.

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