Category: Behind the Scenes


Daniel Craig is James Bond in SPECTRE

The next James Bond film, SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes, is well into production, as shown in two short features released by the studio.  The new main cast will return, Daniel Craig of course as Bond, Ralph Fiennes in his first full stint as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Ben Whishaw as Q.

In one new video we see the first look at villain Mr. Hinx–Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista filming on snow-covered mountains along with the newest Bond girl Madeleine Swann, played by French actress Léa Seydoux.

Spectre clip

In the biggest year of franchise blockbusters probably ever, with a new Avengers, a new Mad Max, a new Jurassic Park, a new Ted, a new Fantastic Four, a new National Lampoon’s Vacation, a new Guillermo del Toro movie, a new Star Wars, a new Mission Impossible, and a new Quentin Tarentino movie all on their way, a new Bond will help keep our theater calendars full all year long.

After the break, see two new behind the scenes looks at the making of the latest Bond:

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Feast Oscar winner Disney Osborne

Strange how you can be completely in sync each year with the supporting acting categories and the “other” categories at the annual Academy Awards ceremony, and walk away from the Oscars scratching your head over the rest of the wins.  Highlights of the night were those TV-actors-turned-movie-actors-turned-Oscar-winners J.K. Simmons (Skoda!  Chief Pope!) and Patricia Arquette (Alison Dubois!) getting their wins, long-time working actors who have paid their dues and finally got recognized for it.  And I admit I love not being in sync with the Academy each year, and never as much so to their selection of Birdman as winner for this year’s Best Picture, a positively abysmal, unwatchable flick that rested on the acting of Michael Keaton, who the Academy snubbed.  Go figure.  But Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back for its own idiosyncracies so it’s no surprise they did it again (full disclosure: I hated A Chorus Line, too).  You can see how I really feel in my earlier review at borg.com here.

It was another ceremony of young presenters you’ve never heard of all showing their deer-in-the-headlights inexperience with public speaking, making you wonder just how many takes directors had to slog through this year to get anything out of them worth putting onscreen.  (More polished presenters next year like Zoe Saldana, Dwayne Johnson, and Eddie Murphy, please).  When was the last good year of Oscars anyway?  2013.  Contrast this year’s films with the films of 2012 and the corresponding winners at the 2013 Oscars ceremony (Argo, Brave, Skyfall, Django Unchained, Les Miserables all took home at least one statue) and this year seemed pretty shabby by comparison.

Feast poster 2015 Disney

But all is not lost.  Take a look at the winner for Best Animated Short Film, Feast.  It’s from Disney, which can be good or bad, but this time their short film harkened back to some of the best of the classic cartoons produced by the studio.  It’s a love triangle about a little dog, his love of food, and his owner.  It’s full of solid artistry, great animation, humor, action, and best of all–heart.  And you can (and should) watch it now via Amazon Prime or the link below, after the break, via YouTube (a deal at only $1.99).

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Hobbit Art & Design cover fifth volume

Review by C.J. Bunce

A wealth of concept art for The Hobbit can be found in the fifth volume of Weta’s Chronicles series: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Art & Design.  Writer and Weta artist and designer Daniel Falconer again delivers a stunning hardcover account of the behind-the-scenes artistry that forged the last of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth series.

Including much more pencil sketchwork and inspirations for the cities of The Hobbit than prior volumes, this edition showcases many designs that made it into the final film but also many that did not.  It’s those pieces that did not make it to the final cut of the film that form a rare treasure trove here.  As costume designer Bob Buck writes in he book, “The designs that were never realized are as important as the ones that were, being part of the process and representing the elimination or germination of an idea that grew into the visuals as seen on the screen.”  Buck provides valuable insight into the ideas behind many of the costumes in the film along with many other Weta designers and special effects artists, including concept art director John Howe.

HobbitBotFAChroniclesArtandDesigng4

Highlights of this volume give a detailed look at concept sketchs and paintings from Weta Digital, 3Foot7, and Weta Workshop of Galadriel’s Maxfield Parrish-esque costume design development from her descent into Dol Guldur, and the ghostly dead Ringwraith kings and the Necromancer, who at many times appeared as if he could have been designed by Bernie Wrightson or Frank Frazetta.  Costume designs featured include the elegant Thranduil, Elven soldiers, Bard, an unused but brilliant set of armor for Stephen Fry’s mayor of Lake-town, and every angle and type of Dwarf you could imagine.  Not surprisingly, it is the culture and artistry of Dwarves that fill the bulk of the pages here.

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Lost Themes cd Carpenter

Forty seconds into “Vortex,” the opening track on John Carpenter’s new album Lost Themes, and you’re already caught up in a 1980s thriller.  You don’t know for certain who is doing the chasing and who is being chased, but you get the feeling you are the one running.  Are you Roddy Piper in They Live?  Stevie Wayne in The Fog?  Jack Crow in Vampires?

Carpenter, known for composing 16 of the soundtracks for major films he directed, has released his first solo album, on the Sacred Bones Records label, full of tracks that could be scores for future–or lost–films, films only Carpenter could make.

You’re dropped into what could only be the aftermath of Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness with the second track, “Obsidian.”  There, behind the old tenement.  Jameson Parker’s Brian Marsh awakens from a dream in the alley.  His girlfriend is back and this time she made her way through the portal of green goo into our time.  Again, it’s time to run.  And then there’s a shift.  In fact, in 8 minutes an entire story plays out.  Carpenter’s trademark pulsating synthesizer rampage and unapologetic steely trumpet solo is cheering on our hero in an honest to goodness rock ‘n’ roll hero anthem.

Prince of Darkness clip

We get some relief in “Fallen.”  Maybe Karen Allen’s Jenny Hayden is helping our lost friend as he returns from afar in a lost soundtrack to Starman?  Maybe it’s the return of The Thing or the theme of the ice cream man in Assault on Precinct 13.  Whichever, Carpenter knows the soundtrack of someone strange amongst us.  Think classic 1950s sci-fi meets the 1980s.

Halloween screencap

You can’t help but get that hollow feeling at the opening of the next track, “Domain.”  Uncertainty?  Maybe.  But it’s a trick, juxtaposed against something.  Someone hopeful, someone optimistic leads the way this time, almost in a Sam Jones Flash Gordon sci-fi/fantasy montage, replacing Eddie Mercury with our eminent director composer.  The themes here are new for Carpenter, no Snake Plissken, no Jack Burton.  This is an entirely new sound and perhaps the unmade movie he makes us want to see the most.

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Westley The Princess Bride Cary Elwes

Oliver Queen, Supergirl, Firestorm, Captain Jack Harkness, Amy Pond, and Princess Buttercup’s Westley all set to appear

For more than a decade Planet Comicon has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  Last year’s show featured William Shatner and the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and this year Planet Comicon is bringing in some of today’s biggest names from TV and movies featuring fan-favorite superheroes.

Stephen Amell Oliver Queen

The star of the CW’s Arrow, Stephen Amell will be attending the event along with cousin Robbie, who starred in Tomorrow People and is the new Firestorm on the CW’s The Flash.  Genre mega-star John Barrowman, Doctor Who and Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness, will also headline the Con this year.  Barrowman played Arrow’s key villain from seasons 1 and 2, the Dark Archer.

Amy Pond

Most famous for playing the Doctor Who companion Amelia Pond opposite Matt Smith, Karen Gillan will make a rare convention appearance this year in Kansas City.  Gillan starred most recently in 2014’s blockbuster hit Guardians of the Galaxy as Nebula. Also appearing from Guardians of the Galaxy is Michael Rooker, who played the blue-faced mentor to Star-Lord, Yondu, along with Sean Gunn, who was the physical on-set actor as Rocket.

Guardians Michael Rooker

Rooker appeared on The Walking Dead, and also appearing from that series will be Scott Wilson, known to fans for his role as Hershel Greene.  Wilson has starred in plenty of TV shows and movies, including The X-Files, CSI, The Last Samurai, The Twilight Zone, and the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth.

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Kings Comics Star Wars variant #1    GameStop variant #1 Star Wars

It’s what Star Wars fans have been hearing about for months.  This week Marvel Comics is releasing its first Star Wars comic book since it lost the license back in 1986.  We discussed the history of the licensing a few weeks ago here.  Three new monthly series are on their way: a main title beginning Wednesday, followed by Darth Vader and Princess Leia-focused titles discussed back in July here.  Unlike past series the new stories are going to be considered “canon”–officially part of the Star Wars movie universe unlike past Star Wars tie-ins and tie-ins from most other sci-fi and fantasy franchises.  We’ve previewed Issue #1 and agree it’s going to be a pretty good year for Star Wars.

Tidewater Star Wars Issue 1 variant    Alex Ross art store Issue 1 variant

Launch parties are planned for Wednesday across the country for the release of writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday’s new Star Wars #1, which already has orders totaling more than one million copies–likely to be the bestselling comic book of 2015.

Rebel variant Star Wars 1 cover    B&W launch party variant Star Wars 1

But there’s only one comic book store where you can celebrate the release with writer Jason Aaron and get one of the several new variants autographed, and that’s Elite Comics in Overland Park, Kansas.  Check out a preview of Issue #1 after the break.

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Tims Vermeer poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

Whether learned or innate, the skill of a master artist is like nothing else.  That is true no less for the understanding of color, light, and shadow exhibited by 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. His work is lifelike, so much so that a Texas-based inventor devoted years of his life to try to understand why Vermeer painted in a style so much different from his peers.  The result is Tim’s Vermeer, a masterful documentary by director Teller of Las Vegas magic act duo Penn and Teller fame, in limited theatrical release last year and now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Video On Demand.

Scientists and artists for hundreds of years have speculated what tools Vermeer might have used to achieve his mastery, other than his sheer artistic genius.  He left no notes to this effect to assist scholars.  Tim Jenison, a successful businessman with time to devote to an immense intellectual pursuit, spent years speculating, then he created his own optical device involving a simple mirror that would allow anyone to replicate perfectly any image.  This is an even bigger feat than one might expect, because Jenison is not, and never was, an artist.  Friends Penn & Teller accompanied Jenison on his research, meeting with experts and artists, and ultimately the magic duo decided to film Jenison’s journey of discovery.  Teller directs (and co-produces with Jellette) and Jellette narrates this unusual and enlightening story.

Vermeer and Jenison compared

Which is which? Tim Jenison learns what may be Vermeer’s technique in Penn & Teller’s documentary.

Does Jenison get it right or not?  Penn leaves that question to the viewer, but he and Jenison give an abundance of reasons to support Jenison’s study.  The mission was simple:  Can a layman paint something as well as Vermeer with tools that would have been available to Vermeer in the 17th century?

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Agent Carter image

If you like modern noir or pulp throwback stories, as we did with last year’s The X-Files: Year Zero comic book series, ABC’s new Marvel Universe series Agent Carter is pretty much going to be a sure win.

Actors take note:  When you take on a supporting character role in your next film or TV series and do better-than-expected job at it, make sure you love the part as you may just end up living with the role for a while.  Along with a first film and franchise that also was taking off to parts unknown thanks to it success, Hayley Atwell’s tough 1940s British Secret Intelligence agent Peggy Carter pulled off that rare chance at a second life.  Tomorrow night she gets her own spotlight as her own weekly series beginsAside from the brief return of Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark (father to Tony aka Iron Man), Atwell’s Carter will be forging ahead on her own.

Some of TV’s best characters were the results of a spin-off from one of those supporting characters who, because of great acting and great writing, popped with viewers beyond any expectation of the show’s creators.  Going back to the 1970s whether unintended surprises or gambled backdoor spin-offs, we wouldn’t have seen more Jeffersons or Maude, or J.J. Evans and his family from Good Times, but for their standout performances spun out of All in the Family.  We wouldn’t know Buddy Epsen’s seven years of sleuthing as Barnaby Jones without his guest role on Cannon, a decade of the kids in Facts of Life if not for Diff’rent Strokes, or spend primetime with the cops and firefighters on Adam-12 or Emergency! if not for some cool guest spots on Dragnet.

Agent Carter

What would our TV night fun have been like without years of Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy resulting from guest star bits on Happy Days, or, let’s not forget, our fave Lindsay Wagner’s Bionic Woman took on her own series from the episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man?  Modern genre fans’ reactions helped propel John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who into multiple Torchwood series.  Other coming spin-offs are Breaking Bad’s Better Call Saul and Walking Dead’s in-the-works spin-off (with the working title Cobalt), and we’re still hoping for a Special Operations Bureau spin-off from The Closer’s own spinoff, Major Crimes.

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Phil Noto Black Widow

The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.

We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image.  We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle.  And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics.  This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best.  So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.

Black-Widow-5

Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics.  We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix.  It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way.  It was a standout in a great year of comics.  Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once.  Full of action, espionage, and intrigue.  A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition.  See our reviews of the series here and here.

AfterlifeWithArchie_07-0

Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics.  Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s?  And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale?  Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other.  Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release.  See our earlier raves about the series here.

Wilds End issue 1

Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios.  Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise.  An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios.  Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart.  A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival.  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series.  Check out our earlier review here.

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emily-blunt-edge-of-tomorrow

What a busy year!  We took in more content this year than ever before, reading more books, watching more TV series, and reviewing more movies.  Wading through all that Hollywood had to offer, we try to hone in on the genre films and TV series we think are worth our time.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual “Best of the Best” list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on movies.  Come back for more of our picks tomorrow.  If you missed any of these films this year, check them out when they arrive on video or digital release.

Edge of Tomorrow Omaha Beach scene

Edge of TomorrowBest Film of the Year, Best Science Fiction Fix, Best Action Fix, Best Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton).  The benefit of Blu-rays/DVDs is the ability to go back and verify whether a movie was as good as you remembered it in the theater.  Of all the top genre films of the year, including Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it was Edge of Tomorrow that became an addictive re-watch, to see all those great, funny scenes, like Tom Cruise’s demoted soldier rolling under the jeep, and Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski destroying all those aliens.  Rita was the best character we saw this year–anywhere–and Blunt provided the best performance.  Superb sci-fi components?  Check.  Superb action sequences?  Check.  With top-notch acting by Blunt and Bill Paxton.  This will be the movie of 2014 that we one day will re-watch just like we re-watch Aliens and Predator today.

Guardians in prison

Guardians of the GalaxyBest Superhero Fix, Best Actor Runner-up (Dave Bautista), Best Supporting Actress (Zoe Saldana), Best Villain (Lee Pace), Best Soundtrack, Best Rock Album.  It was the perfect blend of B-level superheroes and a space fantasy like we hadn’t seen since the original Star Wars.  A surprisingly fun ride.  Guardians introduced the world to Dave Bautista, who will likely get more and more popular in 2015 and beyond.  His serious but comedic Drax may have been the best part of a great cast of new characters.  Zoe Saldana created her best genre role so far and Lee Pace’s Ronan was a perfect comic book villain.  And those tunes on Starlord’s Walkman!  What was more fun this year than Rocket and Groot?

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