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luke-obiwan-peering-into-lightsaber

Review by C.J. Bunce

Roger Christian’s success is a testament to the idea of thinking outside the box.  If you stop in the middle of age-old processes, no matter what you’re doing and what field you’re in, and consider trying a different method, you may trigger something special.  In Roger Christian’s new memoir Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, it is the old Hollywood method of making movies that is the villain of sorts, with Christian coming to the rescue as the hero with a new way of creating movie magic for audiences in 1977.  And it just so happens he came to the rescue of George Lucas and landed a gig making of one of the greatest science fiction fantasy of all time, the original Star Wars, and the greatest sci-fi horror film of all time, Alien.

In Cinema Alchemist you learn Christian’s modern method of set decoration and design perfected in Star Wars, a method copied by many, that he would soon use again for Alien.  Ridley Scott specifically chose Christian to create the same look he came up with for the Millennium Falcon in his new ship the Nostromo and other sets.

Cinema Alchemist

In any memoir you can expect some amount of hyperbole, although Christian likely deserves a pass simply because the Academy Awards endorsed his work as set decorator of Star Wars with an Oscar.  So he is certainly the real deal.  Countless Star Wars fans have spent years re-creating his original design for the lightsaber, tracking down the original camera parts he used, as well as re-creating all the rifles and pistols used in the film.  Christian had his hands in the creation of R2-D2, C-3PO, the landspeeder, the Sandcrawler, Luke’s Tatooine homestead, the Millennium Falcon, the giant dinosaur skeleton in the desert sand, Mos Eisley and the Cantina, and set after set created for the film.

original R2-D2

George Lucas and the R2-D2 prototype Christian helped to create with a light fixture and metal bits and pieces Lucas called “greeblies”.

The value of the book is in Christian’s accounts of prop making, set design, and using found objects like old airplane scrap metal to create a “real world, lived-in” feel on Star Wars and Alien in light of severe time and money constraints, plus Christian’s personal recollections of conversations and observations with George Lucas on Star Wars and Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger, and Moebius on Alien, and his play-by-play of the filming of the Alien chest-buster scene, arguably the most famous horror scene of modern cinema.  After reading Cinema Alchemist, you will absolutely watch Star Wars and Alien differently, and notice details of the film you haven’t seen in your previous 300 viewings of the films.  That is quite a feat.

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Lego Beetle

Everything is awesome when it comes to LEGO building bricks.  When I was a kid the holy grail of toys was the LEGO Technic Expert Builder Chassis set, released in 1980.  If you wanted to understand how cars function, that was the set to learn from.  It sold for more than $125 back then and now on eBay they can fetch more than $1,500.  The best part of the early Technic sets was that they didn’t fudge the basic LEGO pieces for the sake of design.  Which is why the current LEGO Creator line is full of great options.

Probably the most fun is the coming release of the classic Volkswagen Beetle.  Check out the instructions on the LEGO website for the new Volkswagen Beetle here for an idea of the detailed engine design.  And you’ll see that the design is true to the basic LEGO building blocks, meaning you get to learn to hone your creativity by adapting to the basic LEGO building pieces.  You can pre-order the VW Beetle now here from Amazon, expected to ship around the first of the year.

But if you can’t wait that long, don’t fret.  LEGO has already released some other cool car building sets as well as some nifty buildings.  If you’re not in the market for LEGO sets right now, they are still fun to gawk at.  Like this earlier Volkswagen release, the camper van:

Volkswagen camper van

Our band director had one of these and this design is dead on.  You can order the Volkswagen van now here from Amazon.

Or how about this Mini Cooper?

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Skybourne Baltimore variant cover Frank Cho     Motor Girl 1 Terry Moore

Two of the big five comic book writer/artists known particularly for their renderings of women are each launching creator-owned series this year.  Eisner and Harvey Award winner Frank Cho, probably the #1 cover artist known for his fantastic women as well as his humor and storytelling, is launching his own mini-series through BOOM! Studios in September, and Eisner and Harvey award-winning Terry Moore, known for his smart and quirky women-focused stories, is publishing a new series through his Abstract Studios imprint.  Both titles will feature strong women characters.

Frank Cho, first recognized for his humor and pin-up art in University² and Liberty Meadows, has gone on to create some of the finest mix of superheroes and classical artwork of any living artist.  As recently as this summer he provided the most beautiful Wonder Woman cover art in years for DC Comics.  We’ve raved about his cover art here five years ago, but he’s created a lifetime of great work since then.  We wait with bated breath for more projects like his cover to cover work on Savage Wolverine, Mighty Avengers, Shanna the She-Devil, and his X-Men Schism arc.  This may be that next series.

His new project, Skybourne, a project we first heard about in early 2015, follows two immortals, Grace Skybourne and her brother Thomas, and their battle against the legendary Merlin of medieval lore.  Here is the description from the publisher:

Skybourne Midtown variant cover Frank Cho     Skybourne cover Frank Cho

* Full of fast-paced action, Skybourne is James Bond with fantasy elements thrown in and is unlike anything Frank Cho has ever done before.
* The legend of King Arthur is alive and well in the modern day world.  Only one man, Skybourne, can stop the evil Merlin from destroying the world.

But we ask again each year:  Whatever happened to the very cool and promising Guns & Dinos, which we first previewed five years ago here at borg.com Skybourne, Issue #1 of 5, written and drawn by Cho, is scheduled for release in comic book stores September 7, 2016.  Check out a preview below.

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Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-3D-Blu-ray-Cover

Certain to provide some last-minute marketing funds for its December release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Disney/Lucasfilm is dipping once again into fans’ pockets in November as it finally releases the 3D Blu-ray 4-disc edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  For those fans who don’t have a 3D TV configuration, the set offers some new features that may prompt you to buy whether you plan to view the 3D cut or not.

So other than what promises to be an exceptional 3D version of the film on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, Digital HD, and DVD, why might fans go for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector’s Edition?

How about an audio commentary by J.J. Abrams?  The most sought after director of today will no doubt share insight into this incredible directing opportunity, why he made the story choices he did and a behind the scenes view of the cast.  Not enough for you?  Then how about some more deleted scenes–scenes that were rumored to exist but where held back from this April’s standard Blu-ray, DVD, and digital releases.

Star Wars Force Awakens Blu-ray 3D collectors edition

A 3D version, an Abrams commentary and more deleted scenes cinches it for us.  But if you want any more how about five new behind the scenes features?  Check them out:

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Hobbit lord Rings box set

It’s the best theatrical fantasy series ever released.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy.

So how much would you pay for a 30-disc edition of all six extended cuts of the Peter Jackson Middle-earth movies on Blu-ray?  Assuming you haven’t already purchased each film individually, you could buy the Blu-ray extended edition of the first trilogy–The Lord of the Rings trilogy–for less than $60 from Amazon here, and the second trilogy–The Hobbit trilogy–for less than $65 from Amazon here.  That’s about $125.

What kinds of extras would prompt you to pay $799.99 for a single release set of all six movies?  For the first time ever, such a set is coming your way soon in The Middle-earth Six-Film Collection–A Limited Collector’s Edition.  In addition to the extended edition release of all six films, the collection also includes all previously released bonus content from both the theatrical and extended editions.  So what new comes with the set if all the bonus content is on the previous releases?  Here’s what you get:

– The 30 discs are housed in six stunning faux leather books and a collectible Hobbit-style wood shelf.  The one-of-a-kind wood shelf is crafted from solid wood with design selected by Peter Jackson.
 
– Exclusive premiums designed for the collection include: · Spectacular 100-page sketch-style book with replica The Red Book of Westmarch, filled with original film sketches and new artwork · Original reproductions of exquisite watercolor paintings by acclaimed conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, framable and wall-ready

Hobbit Lord of the Rings Boxed set

The bottom line?  If you value these extras at approximately $600 or more, this boxed set is for you.  If not, you can steer back to the current individual trilogy boxed sets linked above.  Here’s more about the content of the new 30-disc boxed set from the press information for previously released content:

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jean claude van johnson

Review by C.J. Bunce

So much good television, so little time.  iZombie, Killjoys, Galavant, Thirteen, Mr. Robot, Angie Tribeca–so many new television series are trying new things and stretching the boundaries of what makes fresh entertainment.  While premium cable channels and innovative networks like Amazon Studios and Netflix keep trying, usually via tired formulas and weak attempts to shock viewers over providing any substance, nothing from those sources in the past few years has stood out as a truly great series.  Could it be content overload?  Would Daredevil and Jessica Jones have fared better if we watched them in small doses over a normal season?  In a flat era of television these might take off as great shows, but seem to be easy to pass over for something else.

Amazon Studios keeps trying and may finally have a winner.  Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle started off well and was rewarded with a second season beginning this December.  Now Amazon is launching its own Kickstarter of sorts, letting we the audience influence what series is made next, based on three pilots, including a drama with Kevin Bacon, and another superhero series featuring The Tick.  But it’s difficult to resist the third entry–a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, then you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action vehicle, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  And he’s done it again.

Van Damme Kat Foster

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  Like all those great real and fictional characters interspersed in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series of novels, Van Damme is both real and unreal.  He is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 38-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 55).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s answer to James Bond.  And he’s back.  But audiences must make it happen.

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Huntsman

Review by C.J. Bunce

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is now available on Digital HD and coming to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand this week from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.  The Huntsman: Winter’s War on Blu-ray and DVD includes an all-new extended edition of the action-adventure, plus exclusive bonus features that show the depth and skill required to produce an epic fantasy film on par with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series.  Not since Godfather 2 has any filmmaker been able to so successfully stitch a prequel and a sequel into one film, as the story of Winter’s War takes place both before and after 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman.  Winter’s War also remains our lead contender for best fantasy of 2016.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury RoadAeon Flux, Prometheus, Kubo and the Two Strings) as the evil Queen Ravenna, who betrays her sister Freya (Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, The Adjustment Bureau), causing Freya’s evil, icy powers to emerge.  Retreating to a snowbound fortress, Freya raises an army of children into Huntsmen, banishing love in her realm.  Freya’s most elite Huntsmen, Eric (Chris Hemsworth, ThorStar Trek 2009) and Sara (Jessica Chastain, Crimson Peak) are caught breaking the one law and forced to face off against the other Huntsmen.  Seven years after the events in Snow White and the Huntsmen, we meet the long-exiled Eric, now tasked to retrieve the legendary “mirror mirror” that set off the battle of that film.  He is joined by four dwarf warriors and propelled into a battle with Freya, who manages to acquire the mirror and unleash the dark power within it.  Be sure to check out our review of the theatrical release of the film from this past April here at borg.com.

Blu-ray Winters War Huntsman

Less than ten new minutes are added for the extended edition that accompanies the theatrical edition on this week’s release.  The added scenes alone won’t justify the purchase of the Blu-ray, but you’ll want to watch this new release as the spectacular features and beautiful transfer quality make The Huntsman: Winter’s War a feast for the eyes and the best home release so far this year.

So what are the features you get?

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Five Man Midget Death Squad

The title and cover of Five Man Midget Death Squad makes for an easy purchase decision (midgets! death squad! Gatling guns and a skull!), but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Nicholas Forrestal’s 2014 novel isn’t about midgets wielding machine guns as I initially expected, but a warrior tribe in the British Isles on a parallel Earth as told from a historian in the year 2201.  The “midgets” of the title are a famed band of dwarves of the Tolkien tradition, who we meet along with goblins, giants, and humans.  If you like the noble tribe of Orcs in Warcraft, you’ll find Forrestal’s fantasy world races familiar.

Beginning with the legend of Gith of the Tundri clan we meet one-by-one those influential leaders of the dwarves recounted to the best of the chronicler’s ability from stories passed down through the generations–this is not so much the “historical truth” as a tribute to carry on the noble dwarf culture in good Old World oral tradition.  Via separate vignettes about the history of the Tundri we learn about their culture, religion, and politics, Gith, the goblin race, the next great dwarven leader Kaiden, the giant Balor the Evil Eye and the deal he made with Cora the dwarf to protect all dwarves that resulted in the formation of the famed Death Squad, and lastly the contributions of Ethne and Caleb, and the story of M and the Leper Kahn.

Five Man Midget Death Squad in Lerwick

Death Squad is full of deep world building–characters here make appearances throughout Forrestal’s Chronicles of M series of novels–and his prose is similar to the writing of real-life ancient chroniclers.  Early chapters read like a recollection of Herodotus, and later chapters like Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars, Plutarch’s Lives, and primary writings of Augustus in his Res Gestae and Julius Caesar in his The Gallic War.  Forrestal has developed plenty of classic fantasyscapes here to expand into future novels.

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Star Trek blu-rays 50th anniversary box set

If you don’t already own Star Trek’s original series, animated series and movie series, a new boxed set coming next month may be the thing for you.  As part of its 50th anniversary celebration of the original series, CBS and Paramount are partnering to release a high-end compilation of Blu-ray editions of some of the franchise’s best productions.

Every movie featuring the original Enterprise crew of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig, except Star Trek Generations–Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country–can be yours on Blu-ray.  The original series is also included, and the director’s cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan released earlier this year.

ST disc 30 collection

For those who already have invested in the above content on Blu-ray, the additional material in the new boxed set that may draw you in is a first-time release of Star Trek: The Animated Series in high-definition on Blu-ray, as well as a multi-part documentary: Star Trek: The Journey to the Silver Screen—New 50th Anniversary.  CBS/Paramount promises two hours of features with new content, covering The New Frontier: Resurrecting Star Trek, Maiden Voyage: Making Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan, The Dream is Alive: The Continuing Mission, and End of an Era: Charting the Undiscovered Country.

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athomewithdeltoro-cover

An unusual art exhibition premiered this month in Los Angeles at the L.A. County Museum of Art, and it is being expanded into a book available later this month.  Director Guillermo del Toro is known for his visions of fantasy horror as seen in his Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Crimson Peak, and even the beginnings of The Hobbit trilogy.  Many are unaware of his creepy home full of fantasy and horror relics that he calls Bleak House.  Think of the beginning of an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater or Friday the 13th TV series or that shop where an old man found a Mogwai for his son in Gremlins and you’ll have an idea of the oddities to be found.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is a companion to the exhibition of artworks purchased by del Toro and featured in his strange home.  The book includes photographs, pages from his journals, and interviews with the director and other art connoisseurs.  The book promises to provide an engrossing look into the mind of one of the truly unique storytellers of today.

athomewithdeltoro4

Below, after the break, is a preview of pages from At Home With Monsters.  It is available now for pre-order here from Amazon.com.

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