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Archive for March, 2017


2001: A Space Odyssey.  Star Wars.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Blade Runner.  The Fifth Element.  Each one of these movies stretched our imaginations in new directions, providing us with new visions of what the future could look like.  Luc Besson, the director who gave us the spectacular worlds of The Fifth Element, is back this summer with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  His latest trailer provides a look at some stunning cityscapes and space views, reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking world in Blade Runner and Besson’s own work on The Fifth Element.

Then there are the alien costumes and make-ups, the real and digitally-created characters.  Again, only The Fifth Element had so much diversity in its creativity and vision.  The only odd choice is the focus in the trailers on Valerian as “Based on the groundbreaking novel that inspired a generation.”  This makes sense for a European trailer, but U.S. audiences will be puzzled seeing this statement learning about the graphic novel even the most diehard of comic book aficionados have never heard of.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on Valerian and Laureline, the French science fiction comic book series from the 1960s, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.  Get an advance look at the original source material before the movie comes out here.

valerian-comics-and-movie

The 1967 comics and the 2017 movie.

In October 2015 we reported here at borg.com that director Luc Besson was looking for a few good outfits to feature in a dinner party scene to take place in a city of millions and a myriad of humanoid alien races.  So he hosted a costume design contest.  The diverse and futuristic winning designs from the contest can be found here.

Besson, who also directed La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and Lucy, made a long-lasting statement in sci-fi fashion with his characters from The Fifth Element.  From Milla Jovovich’s body-taped Leeloo, to Bruce Willis’s orange-clad, understated everyman Korben Dallas, to the over-the-top Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod, from the striking opera singer Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn), to Gary Oldman’s creepy and villainous Zorg–the movie is a visual spectacle.

We now have the next trailer for Valerian, and it keeps looking better and better:

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The International Space Station’s Expedition 50, discussed previously here at borg.com, is readying for the 199th spacewalk in support of ISS activities this morning, to be televised at 7 a.m. Central.  It will be the eighth spacewalk for Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson, who will surpass NASA astronaut Suni Williams for completing the most spacewalks by a woman in the history of space travel.  At age 56, Whitson is the oldest woman to fly in space.  Stacking up some impressive space travel records, she is scheduled to command Expedition 51 later this year, which will make her the first woman to command two ISS expeditions.  By the end of her stint on ISS this year, Whitson will have spent more time in space than any other U.S. Astronaut–male or female–to surpass the record of 534 days set by Astronaut Jeff Williams.  Whitson is a biochemist from Mt. Ayr, Iowa.

This past weekend the ISS robotically moved the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3)–a pressurized interface between the station modules and the docking adapter–between modules.  In what is scheduled as a 6 hour and 30 minutes spacewalk Whitson and Expedition Commander Shane Kimbrough will manually reconnect cables and electronics and install the second of two upgraded computer relay boxes on the ISS’s truss and install shields and covers on PMA-3 and the unused module port.

NASA’s most experienced female astronaut, Whitson has been onboard ISS since November 2016.  This is her third space flight.  Her first flight was in 2002 as a member of the crew of Expedition 5.  In 2007 on her second flight she became the first woman flight commander, leading Expedition 16.  Whitson had previously been tied with Suni Williams for an earlier spacewalk record that Whitson had also surpassed.  Whitson continues to expand extravehicular activity (EVA) duration records.

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It’s not the suit that makes the man.

Marvel Studios released a new, longer trailer this week for Spider-man: Homecoming, including the introduction of Michael Keaton as the villain, Vulture.  Despite five prior big budget Spider-man films, Kevin Feige and Marvel have managed to make a completely new, fantastic, and refreshingly fun superhero trailer that looks like a images from a comic book.  We’d already seen the great banter between new Peter Parker Tom Holland and Tony Stark’s Robert Downey, Jr. in Captain America: Civil War and earlier Spider-man: Homecoming previews.  The addition of Keaton really ups the street cred for what could be “just another Spidey flick.”  The gravitas of this generation’s original big-screen Batman playing an over-the-top villain that looks like evil Batman in Michael Turner’s batgear is everything fanboys and fangirls could hope for–the ultimate retro fix.  When was the last time we saw a great comic book villain on the screen?

So what makes a great superhero movie trailer?  The timing of this trailer’s release to this weekend’s release of the Justice League trailer begs a comparison.  Justice League is in your face, full of loud, arrogant and cocky heroes, with an indecipherable story, loud explosions, and pop music drowning out dialogue that looks like a sequel to Suicide Squad.  It is clear from the Spider-man: Homecoming trailer that the movie has a story.  The cockiness comes only with Downey’s established mentor, and the hero is shown via self-deprecating situations and coming-of-age humor, a hero that is an underdog at the core of the character who never seems to have his day.  It’s not the explosions that matter (although they may to young kids), it’s how the superhero deals with the threat.

Alas, critiquing a movie trailer too far is a bit like judging a book by its cover.  But with so many movies this year that look good, it’s all audiences have to go by.  As a character Spider-man has something other superheroes don’t.  Spider-man was a comic strip in daily newspapers for decades.  Many more comic book readers exist today than probably ever before, but many more had access to and read the exploits of Spider-man nearly every day.  Many still do, as The Amazing Spider-man is still a syndicated comic.

Check out this fantastic trailer for Spider-man: Homecoming:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’ve reviewed dozens of books here at borg.com about the filmmaking process.  Great books like Special Effects: The History and Technique, and movie-specific, behind the scenes masterpieces like Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars Limited Edition and Star Wars Frames.  More books have been written about Star Wars than most films, and accounts like Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien really take fans back to 1976 and 1977 to learn how such an important series of films began.  With this week’s announcement from Disney that we can look forward to Star Wars spinoffs into the 2030s, the franchise has never had greater worldwide appeal.  One superb account of the Star Wars filmmaking process we have not yet discussed is Lorne Peterson’s Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop Limited Edition, originally published in 2005, still available from Insight Editions in both its standard and deluxe format.

Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop is the ultimate look at the making of Star Wars models by Lorne Peterson (shown above), about the fantasy worldbuilding work of Peterson and his peers at Industrial Light & Magic from Star Wars: A New Hope through the prequel trilogy.  More than half of this deluxe hardcover book features ships and other vehicles–large, full color photographs (more than 300), and many gatefolds, with sections on each major ship and nearly every minor ship and vehicle created in both 1:1 and small scale for the original trilogy and early prequels, plus those creations digitally rendered by ILM for the later prequel films.  ILM co-founder Peterson provides the creative vision behind each ship–like the fact the Rebel Blockade Runner was originally designed as the Millennium Falcon and why it was changed into its now famous form.  Many of the final models were the product of kitbashing–using parts from model kits of the day like car engines and World War II German tank components to create a look of tangible reality to the construction of the Star Wars galaxy, similar to the method of using “found” items for production used by Roger Christian to create sets and props for the original film.

 

Peterson also looks at set models created for many environments needed for the six films, plus those creatures and robots ILM worked on for the series.  Diehard fans will appreciate references to paint colors used, and sources for components for various ILM creations, including blood for the Tatooine Cantina scene and full views of the escape pod that R2-D2 and C-3PO used to get there.  Anecdotes like the fact that ILM used modifed Six Million Dollar Man action figures in the seats of many vehicles make this book a fun read.  (Guess who really drove the Landspeeder in its original trip to Mos Eisley!).  Those who may not be fans of the prequels will no doubt appreciate the artistry behind creating the vehicles and sets for the film, shown scattered throughout the pages of the original trilogy in a way that creates its own comprehensive history.  Boba Fett’s Slave 1, the Imperial Probe Droid, AT-ATs, extensive coverage of the Millennium Falcon, the Death Stars, the Star Destroyers (including the unused prototype), the Naboo Rebel Starship, X-Wings, A-Wings, B-Wings, TIE Fighters, and the Landspeeder–all the models fans want to see can be found here.

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With the big reveal this weekend of DC Entertainment’s first full-length trailer for Justice League, Marvel Entertainment promoted one of its own movies, releasing three new posters that seem to appeal to pretty much everyone.  In a year full of new superhero movies–Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and, yes, Justice League, what if the come-from-behind underdog triumph of the year is Spider-man: Homecoming?

Marvel saturated audiences with Spider-man, first with Tobey Maguire’s webspinner in 2002’s Spider-man, then with similar sequels in 2004 and 2007.  After a brief break Andrew Garfield was rebooted as Spidey in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-man followed by a sequel in 2014.  Neither version of Spider-man was integrated into Kevin Feige’s new world of Avengers movies.

Only two years later–2016–in Captain America: Civil War were we introduced to Tom Holland’s new Spider-man within the context of the grand Marvel Cinematic Universe.  His banter with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, and his scenes in the main fight sequence of the film, were the best parts of that movie.  It’s impossible not to draw a comparison to Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne meeting Ezra Miller’s new Barry Allen in this weekend’s Justice League trailer.  The chemistry and charisma of the DC duo is just not the same.  Superhero movies with heart are the ones we remember.  Spider-man: Homecoming may be next in line.

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Although it still has that same look and feel of the recent Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–it actually looks more like last year’s Suicide Squad–at last DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. revealed the first full-length, team-up trailer for Justice League this weekend.  We’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Batman, with his best work probably his cameos in Suicide Squad, and we’ve seen Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman previewed in Batman v. Superman.  Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash have had some screen time in various images from Warner Bros. promoting this film.  So what’s new is this preview really gives us a better look at Ray Fisher’s Cyborg.

Justice League is another Zack Snyder creation, hitting theaters this year along with Wonder Woman, and from the opposing brand Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and Spider-man: Homecoming.  Will Justice League deliver enough punch to equal The Avengers?  Is there enough “wow” factor to take on all the superhero movies hitting theaters this year?

This Justice League (dropping the “America”) is consistent with the more recent incarnations of the DC squad, but it’s definitely not the Superfriends most older fanboys and fangirls are familiar with.  Cyborg is definitely the new kid on the block.  Former J. Jonah Jameson actor JK Simmons (who voiced the character as recently as 2015) will take some getting used to as the new Commissioner Gordon.  But the biggest challenge will be viewing DC Entertainment’s opposing Barry Allens.  The Flash rose to become the best superhero series on television last year, with the lovable Grant Gustin as the great speedster.  It’s hard to explain a need for two actors in the same role in the same year from the same studio–it’s not like the dueling Quicksilvers over at Marvel in The Avengers and The X-Men films emerging from separate studios.

Check it out for yourself–here’s the latest trailer for Justice League:

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x-men-apocalypse-quicksilver-rescue-scene

Superheroes in movies and television.  It’s the entertainment explosion of the past ten years, beginning with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008.  Yet after only ten years, after so many Marvel lookalikes and too many dark Dark Knights, what superhero shows rise above the rest?  All fanboys and fangirls have an opinion.  The best part is that there truly is something for everyone.  Maybe you like Netflix’s cool and gritty Luke Cage.  Or maybe the CW parade of DC series is your thing.  If you’re like us, you love Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy over all the Marvel and DC team-up movies.  Maybe you like it all.  Director Bryan Singer created another X-Men entry that was released last summer, overlooked by many, but a solid entry in the X-Men cinema archive: X-Men: Apocalypse.  It’s streaming now on Amazon Prime, and it’s not to be missed, especially for Logan fans collecting all of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine appearances and everyone looking for a great superhero assemblage.

How often do superhero movies, or any other drama, sci-fi, fantasy, or action franchise movie, threaten stakes as great as the end of the world?  How many actually take you through an apocalypse?  X-Men: Apocalypse delivers the rampage and destruction you read about as a kid inside the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  If you enjoy seeing great superhero powers on the big screen, as with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver remains the defending champion.  He gets even more character development and screen time in X-Men: Apocalypse.

X-men plane

As kids we debated over what power would allow you to triumph over your superhero peers, and Singer must have done the same thing and landed with the same answer.  Speed.  Despite giving us the best superhero TV series of the 1980s and today with its two looks at Barry Allen/The Flash, DC Entertainment has not yet shown us all a speedster could do.  Will that happen in Justice League this year?  Any speedster work will be compared to Quicksilver.  Until that film hits theaters, X-Men: Apocalypse is worth a second look for Quicksilver’s big scene alone.  But there’s more.

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Marvel Studios has released much awesomeness in the past few days for Guardians of the Galaxy fans.  We’ve seen two bright, loud, vibrant, and colorful movie posters (above) plus ten character posters, including the first great look at Elizabeth Debicki (Man from UNCLE) as golden girl Ayesha.  Still no look at Nathan Fillion or Sylvester Stallone yet. Are they even going to be in the movie?

Yesterday the main cast each released and promoted their respective posters on social media.  Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Dave Bautista’s Drax, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Michael Rooker’s Yondu, and Vin Diesel’s Baby Groot are each featured on individual posters, with newcomer Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Kurt Russell as Ego, Dad to Star-Lord, also getting the spotlight along with Debicki.

   

The posters really look like mock-ups for a superb Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, trading card series.  Collect ’em all.  Topps, please take note.  Take a look at the rest of the posters after the break:

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Next week Quirk Books is releasing its follow-up look at the obscure side of comic books with The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains, a companion book to its 2015 release The League of Regrettable Superheroes (reviewed previously here at borg.com).  Cartoonist and graphic designer Jon Morris has again researched the archives of Digital Comic Museum and Comic Book Plus to locate oddities from the Golden Age of comics to more recent series.

Morris collected more than 100 of these antagonists of the comic page, many only serving their plot in a single issue of a long forgotten publication.  These are villains that today seem laughable as bad guys, like Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Bloor (The Dictator of Uranus), The Horrible Hand (a giant hand), and The Human Flying Fish.  The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is a great excuse to look back to the roots of comicdom, its creators, and the publications that have come and gone.  Morris’s overview of the far recesses of the Golden Age of comics may remind readers of the changing times–the changing audiences–for comic books, and how the industry has grown.  Creators of the obscure are mentioned in the book when known, and sidebars list plenty of humorous weaknesses of these vile fellows.  The Balloon Maker is particularly nefarious, and a baddie before his time–he’s something out of House of Wax or Silence of the Lambs.  As much as some entries are obscure, others, like MODOK, are better known–but still strange.

   

You’ll see plenty of examples of full color covers and interior art from the characters represented, as well as characters created by legends in comics like Dick Sprang, Frank Frazetta, Gill Fox, Jack Cole, Otto Binder, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Simon, Neal Adams, and John Romita.

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Last seen in the theater 62 years ago, author Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel is returning to theaters next week in a new adaptation.  Although the title may sound like a somber, pastoral story you might see from the likes of Jane Austen, get ready for a psychological thriller that could only come from the pen of the author of Rebecca and The Birds.  Film adaptations of both of those films would become thriller classics for director Alfred Hitchcock, with Rebecca as the 1941 Best Picture Academy Award winner.  The original 1952 adaptation of My Cousin Rachel starred multiple Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Rachel, a beautiful Englishwoman believed to have murdered a man under her care.  de Havilland’s sister, Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, had been nominated for an Oscar for Rebecca.

This time around Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill) wrote a new adaptation of du Maurier’s novel and directs the film.  He cleverly cast an Oscar-winning Rachel for the role of Rachel–Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Mummy)–whose performance looks quite convincing in the first trailer released for the film.  Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) plays Rachel’s cousin, the role originally played by Richard Burton.

The overall look and feel from the film’s trailer is similar to other Gothic novels made into movies: dark, creepy, and mysterious, particularly in the romance between the two lead actors, like that found in Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and more recently, Crimson Peak.  Check out this trailer for My Cousin Rachel:

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