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Category: Behind the Scenes


Art of the Films Planet of the Apes cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

We all know the apes win and rule the Earth from the original novel and film Planet of the Apes.  But how do they get there?

Not intended as a post-apocalyptic story as much as a chronicle of the birth of an ape civilization, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its July 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are films that manage to have no villains–by design–where the viewer can empathize with both the human and ape characters equally based on the characters’ histories and individual viewpoints.  Writers Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell have created a deluxe volume documenting the art and design of both movies with the newly released Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes.

The Planet of the Apes reboot was an outgrowth of the technologies emerging from Weta New Zealand’s work on The Lord of the Rings franchise, coupled with Andy Serkis’s experience playing Gollum as a motion capture character, and later the giant gorilla King Kong, Serkis was uniquely suited for the role of the sci-fi classic character Caesar from the original novel and film.  The crew credits the acting and chemistry of Serkis and co-star James Franco in part with the success of the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Andy-Serkis-Dawn-Planet-Apes

The challenge for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?  For the first time in film history, digital characters finalized in a post-production process would be realized by total performance motion capture of actors initially, and not on a separate green screen soundstage, but alongside live-action characters on a standard movie set as well as on location.

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orphan black season 2 blu-ray cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

In her 1995 view of the future, RemakeConnie Willis predicted a future where anything could be digitally created on film, where modern-day actors could be digitally stitched into scenes with long dead actors in films like Singing in the Rain or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the living and the dead could intermingle effortlessly.  But it’s the “effortlessly” that she got wrong, as becomes very clear from the special features on the DVD and Blu-ray release of Orphan Black Season Two, which will be released today across the U.S.

It’s rare when the best television series stands so far apart from the rest of the crowd, but Orphan Black is that series.  Ignore the Emmy nominations.  If you only could watch one series from 2014, this is that series.  Playing nine characters* and counting, star Tatiana Maslany has scored Golden Globe and People’s Choice Award nominations, a Canadian Screen Actor Award for Best Performance in a Dramatic Role, a TCA Award for Individual Achievement, a Critics’ Choice Best Dramatic Actress Award, and the Young Hollywood Award for breakthrough performance, all for her work on Orphan Black.

Maslany and Maslany in Orphan Black Season two

Even more than Season One, which we reviewed here at borg.com last year, in Season Two creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson delved deeply behind the several characters that populate the world of Orphan Black, most played by Tatiana Maslany (or just “Tat” according to the other actors on the show).  In addition to Maslany’s always on-the-run Sarah, suburban mom Alison, free-wheeling scientist Cosima, and crazy but strangely innocent Helena, Season Two showed us the dark side of the sestra with the cold-as-ice Rachel, and the far side with transgendered Tony.

The season also featured the return of Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s foster brother Felix, Dylan Bruce as the dubious Paul, Matt Frewer as the Dyad experiment scientist Dr. Aldous Leekey, Evelyne Brochu as Cosima’s partner Delphine, Kristian Bruun as Alison’s husband Donnie, and Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell.  It also introduced Michiel Huisman as Kira’s father Cal, and Michelle Forbes as Marion Bowles, a new player sure to play a key role in Season Three.

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comic-con-logo-image

It’s less than two weeks until 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International will host more than 150,000 fans of sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes and other pop culture, and SDCC has now released the entire panel schedule for this year’s big show.  If you haven’t been to the modern-day Greatest Show on Earth, it should at least be on your bucket list, but beware:  if you attend the show once you’ll want to keep going back.

Tickets as usual were sold out months ago, but for those attending this year’s show, we have some quick links to the event list so you can start planning your days now.

This year’s panels prove yet again that you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers who claim SDCC doesn’t focus on comic book artists and writers.  Even more events are occurring this year focused on the comic book medium, including benchmarks like Batman’s 75th anniversary.  Yet there are also all of those big panels planned full of this summer’s movie blockbusters and big-name casts and the casts and creators of your favorite television series.

Comic-Con image b

First and most importantly you’ll want to download to your smart phone the SDCC handy My Schedule app here.  We’ve used it before and it’s a great help when you’re in the crowd and can’t get into one panel but you want to try the dash for another one or you just get tired of walking the main hall with Artists’ Alley and the dealer booths and you want to sit down and see something new for an hour.

Having trouble choosing from all the panels?  We think the biggest event and best bang for your buck will be the Warner Bros. panel we previewed a few days ago here with pilots and previews of DC Entertainment series The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and Arrow.  After the break we pulled some other panels you might like if you follow borg.com regularly.

Here are the quick links to each day’s panel events for SDCC 2014:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Preview Night

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2014 Panel Schedule

Saturday, July 26, 2014 Panel Schedule

Sunday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

SDCC 2014 banner

Here are some panels to consider (after the break):

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Ryan Sook Futures End cover 1    Ryan Sook Futures End 14 cover August 2014 release

We’ve delved into some great cover artists at borg.com in the past three years, from Alex Ross to Mauro Cascioli to Frank Cho and Mike Mayhew.  With his cover run on the DC Comics New 52 series Futures End, Ryan Sook is the artist you just can’t miss these days.  His cover for Issue #14 (above right) of Futures End is being solicited for August 2014 already, and it showcases several styles.  If you take a look back over the past few years you can see one of the best artists around developing his style and craft, putting his mark on the covers of some great comic book series.

You can see Sook as the cover artist of choice to start up several new series with the number one issue out of the gates, for series including Robotika (2005), Giant-Size Hulk (2006), Friday the 13th (2007), Batman and the Outsiders (2007), Death of the New Gods (2007), Countdown Specials, Countdown Presents and DC Universe Specials (2008 and 2011), Broken Trinity: Aftermath (2009), Blackest Night: Wonder Woman (2010), JSA All Stars (2010), The Magdalena (2010), B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth series (2011-2013), Victorian Undead II (2011), DC Universe Online: Legends (2011), Kirby: Genesis (2011), Justice League Dark (2011), Lord of the Jungle (2011), Rose & Thorn (2012), Sword of Sorcery (2012), and The New 52 Futures End (2014).

Sook is able to render men and women superheroes equally well, yet his women really stand out.  Here’s his Wonder Woman, showcased in the Blackest Night series:

Ryan Sook  Blackest Night Wonder Woman 1 cover    Ryan Sook Blackest Night Wonder Woman 2 cover

Less stylized than Cliff Chiang’s current angular Wonder Woman look, Sook may have created a modern twist on the definitive look of the classic character for other artists to emulate.

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major crimes season 2 dvd cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re keeping up with the third season of Major Crimes on TNT, you’ll have seen last night’s episode, “Frozen Assets.”  Set up with a preposterous plot–a multi-millionaire who has her head frozen and a poisoning that is foiled by returning detective wannabe Dick Tracy (Andrew Daly) from a 2009 episode of The Closer–Major Crimes yet again proves the show knows no bounds as to what the ensemble cast can get sucked into (and suck viewers into).  Like Season Two’s episode with a comedy twist “There’s No Place Like Home,” which featured Marion Ross, Tim Conway, Ron Glass, Paul Dooley, and Doris Roberts in a plot to murder their landlord, “Frozen Assets” shows the lighter side of a series that usually reflects the violent world of L.A. crime.  If you missed Season Two, the DVD release from Warner Bros. is here, and it’s full of plenty of extras for Major Crimes fans.

Creator and executive producer James Duff delves deep into the story development for Season Two in the special feature “Major Crimes: Personal Conviction,” revealing his vision of a season split between stories about “identity” as a theme–who the characters are and who the culprits of the crimes are and how they all got to where they are–and “character,” growth of the main cast members and learning more about these characters we thought we already knew from the prior eight years on television.  Each cast member discusses their view of the characters they play (except the strangely absent Raymond Cruz).  The crew seems to agree that Graham Patrick Martin’s Rusty Beck became the lynchpin and glue holding together the series for the second season, especially his relationship with series lead Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor.

Major Crimes Season 2 cast

The series begins with the opener “Final Cut,” directed by Roxann Dawson, who sci-fi fans will know as Lt. B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek Voyager, and who also played Detective Ortega in a 2011 episode of The Closer.  This episode introduced D.D.A. Emma Rios, played by Nadine Velazquez, the prosecutor who constantly clashes with the Major Crimes squad (interspersed with a season full of hilarious flirtations by Detective Sanchez).  Duff acknowledges why viewers proclaim how much they hate the character, and also why she fits perfectly into the dynamic of the show.

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Drew Man Behind the Poster poster

The best of the new documentary on the life and career of Drew Struzan is not what you might think.  You’d expect Drew—The Man Behind the Poster, now available on video and digital release, to include images of the best of Struzan’s stylized movie posters.  What you might not know is the variety of artwork he produced before and after his two decades of poster work.  He’s well known for unique designs and more than 150 memorable movie posters that defined the movies for audiences before they stepped into the theaters, creating his last movie poster before retiring in 2008 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Probably his best work includes a six-poster series for the two Star Wars trilogies, which begs the question: Can Disney get Struzan to come back from retirement for the next three films?  Will Disney understand the nostalgia factor?  In recent weeks Struzan seems open to the idea, but seems to be waiting for Disney to call.  Unfortunately Episode VII plans came after the documentary so you won’t find answers to those questions in the film.

Drew-Struzan-Star-Wars-Posters

Will he or won’t he?

For the most part Drew—The Man Behind the Poster is a straightforward success story about a struggling and very amiable artist that found his audience.  You won’t see an abundance of critical awards coming for the filmmaking–it’s something like an episode from the old Biography channel with Peter Graves.  But it’s worth watching for the explanations behind his process for the most well-known posters, including the Muppet movies and the quickly designed yet successful poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing. 

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1000000 hits

Just a quick thanks to YOU, regular and new readers, for coming back and making the borg.com odometer tip over the 1 million benchmark today!

Every day since June 10, 2011, this site has been about what I want to read and watch and talk about, and I’ve hoped others would jump on board as I went along.  Thanks for coming on over.

Raquel Welch One Million Years BC

Special thanks to Elizabeth, Art, Jason, J.A.B., the Elite Comics flight crew, my 4-legged support staff, and my other pals for your friendship and prompting new ideas throughout the year.

And how about a shout-out to Joss Whedon.  He and the production crew of the new online release In Your Eyes secretly mailed out gifts (some substantial) worldwide to the first people who paid $5 to download his new film.  Press coverage of Whedon this weekend pointed hundreds of viewers to my 2012 San Diego Comic-Con article about Whedon (one of my favorite posts to write).  And that’s what pushed us over the 1 million mark today.  Very cool.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Green Goblin armor creation by Weta Workshop

Although The Amazing Spider-man 2 has received mixed reviews, as with last year’s sci-fi flick Elysium, the Weta Workshop was one of the special effects companies that added another dimension to the look of the film.  Weta continues to establish itself as the creative team coming up with cutting edge costumes and props that often surpass the story being told.

Weta created the make-up and Green Goblin suit worn by actor Dane DeHaan, the Electro suspension rig worn by Jamie Foxx, and several other props for this latest Spidey flick.

printed props by Weta Workshop

This week Weta released this montage video of the creators and creations behind The Amazing Spider-man 2.  Check it out:

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These_are_the_voyages_TOS_season_two_first_edition_cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Marc Cushman’s second volume of These Are the Voyages, his unprecedented treatise on Star Trek, the original series, is an improvement on his first volume, reviewed last year here at borg.com, which was a thorough history of the landmark series’ first season.  But where Volume 1 was a good read–an assemblage of facts from multiple sources not easily obtainable otherwise and an accounting of television history from 1966–Volume 2 qualifies a great read.  With more in-depth stories, anecdotes and interviews, from original sources as well as recent reminiscences from actors and production staff, Volume 2 provides a superb history of the production of Season Two and the world of American TV studios in 1967-68.

Highlights of Season Two recounted by Cushman include key changes to the show, such as the introduction of Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, which often led to the reduction in the roles of Sulu and Uhura.  James Doohan’s Scotty was made third in command in Season Two, based on the writers’ efforts to keep Spock and Kirk together and expand the show to strange new worlds away from the Enterprise.  The book includes modern accounts from the actors as they reflect back on their interpersonal relationships during production–everyone from George Takei to William Shatner seems surprised in retrospect by each other’s reported dismay during the series.

Shatner on set

Volume 2 reveals Star Trek in its prime form—after a year of world-building in Season One, the first half of Season Two includes some of the best Star Trek episodes the series had to offer.  Much of this was thanks to writer Gene L. Coon, whose selection of material lightened up the tone of the show, broadening appeal to viewers.  Coon created the Klingons and the Prime Directive and the humorous relationship of Spock and McCoy.  His influence can be seen in Season One’s “Space Seed” as well as Season Two’s classics “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  Sadly his mid-season departure led to more campy elements seeping into the series toward the end of the season.

Many components spice up what could otherwise have been a bland, encyclopedic offering.  The seemingly endless writing process during production that is recounted by Cushman is simply… fascinating.  Robert Justman’s hilarious (but always spot-on) script notes alone make the book worth reading.  The often eloquent and usually contentious back and forth battle on paper between Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana and Gene Coon and Robert Justman and Gene Roddenberry would make modern email battles seem lightweight.

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grimm below the surface

Last week’s episode of Grimm may have been one of the best on TV this year, bringing together threads formed since the beginning of the show.  The result proved the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and pitted the “good” guys together with the “bad” guys against the “even worse” guys.  The most unlikely of pairings occurred in nearly every scene.  It was brilliant TV, and we can likely expect even more fun on this Friday’s episode.

Previously we reviewed The Official Companion to Supernatural Season Seven, a well-formatted look-back for fans of the series, with previous editions released annually.  The Official Companion serves as both a souvenir book and behind the scenes look at the creators of the show.  Many series have released works that were similar.  Doctor Who has done this in magazine form, for example.  Movies like The Hobbit released different variations of behind the scenes books, with different price points and trade or hardbound editions targeted at different audiences.  The first behind the scenes look at NBC’s hit TV series Grimm is now at bookstores, and it follows a format similar to the Official Companion concept Supernatural uses, except it contains glossy, full color images, which will be a plus for diehard fans of the show.

Looking back from the end of Season Two of NBC’s hit series, Grimm: Below the Surface–The Insider’s Guide to the Show provides plenty of information not available elsewhere.  It includes stories and interviews from the series executive producers and showrunner, each of the actors playing main characters (Nick, Monroe, Juliette, Hank, Rosalee, Renard, Adalind, and Sergeant Wu), writers, production designers, the make-up and special effects team, casting, the stunt team, and the props and costume creators.

Grimm - Season 2

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