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Archive for June, 2018


Review by C.J. Bunce

Only a few Hollywood movie stars have reached icon status as Clint Eastwood has, from TV actor and film star in Westerns to street-smart leading man and pop culture idol, playing against type and then back again, and onward to award-winning director.  Eastwood has made his mark, and it makes sense that enough movie posters have featured his image and films to justify a book focused exclusively on the subject of the artwork instead of spotlighting any specific artist.  Not so much a survey of artwork as much as a comprehensive guide to movie posters featuring the star, Clint Eastwood: Icon–The Essential Film Art Collection is available this month in a revised and expanded edition for the first time in a decade.

In many ways Clint Eastwood: Icon would make for the ultimate auction catalog were all the items pictured for sale.  But it’s more than that.  Writer and compiler David Frangioni’s approach to collecting and his details about key posters will educate and inform even the passing film fan and collector.  Film expert and professor Thomas Schatz provides commentary on the context of Eastwood and his films within each decade.  Every area of collecting should be so lucky to have such a presentation in this format for its fans to admire.  Frangioni and Schatz include references to the artists when known, which is rare over the course of these hundreds of images.  The collection of work from these artists provides another niche study area for the history movie posters, including an international array of artists like Michelangelo Papuzza, Renato Casaro, Sanford Kossin, Peter Max, Jack Davis, Hans Braun, Lutz Peltzer, Lorenzo and Giuliano Nistri, Ron Lesser, John Alvin, Frank Frazetta, Bob Peak, Birney Lettick, Roger Huyssen, and Gerard Huerta.  Definitely a few names movie poster and pop art fans will recognize.

The posters represented aren’t only those styles seen by audiences entering American movie theaters.  These include many variations that appeared in theaters across the globe, some by artists whose names are lost to time, with decade-appropriate type styles and language to match.  As time marched on, more and more posters featured photographic images of Eastwood from the films, or other marketing photos of the actor inserted with or without additional artwork and text.  Why use a painting of Eastwood to advertise a Dirty Harry film when a photograph is most likely to reel in filmgoers?

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Last weekend Julien’s Auctions sold an original Star Wars prop at a price that puts it among the highest prices ever for the public sale of a Star Wars movie prop, and it’s not going to be the last time you see it, like you’d find with most auction sales.  We have covered previous auctions here at borg.com for higher selling items (like the original Robby the Robot last November that sold for $5.375 million), and this latest prop didn’t catch up with the pieced together R2-D2 that sold at Profiles in History’s auction last June for $2.76 million, but it’s still impressive.  This time it was a Han Solo non-firing prop blaster from Return of the Jedi that resulted in the auction’s big win.  It sold at $550,000, which included the auction house “kicker” or buyer’s premium of a hefty $100,000.  The winning bidder?  Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which added this to their Star Wars collection that already included a Luke Skywalker lightsaber said to have been used in The Empire Strikes Back, purchased last year at auction for $450,000.  With most auction lots landing in private hands never to see daylight again, this is a rare instance where fans may get a chance to see this on display in person.

No other franchise touches Star Wars when it comes to auction prices paid for screen-used memorabilia, and the cream of the crop has been props associated with named characters.  Pieces of Star Wars costumes, some associated with the bankrupt Planet Hollywood chain, have sold at auction over the years, mostly incomplete, including a Chewbacca mask (for $120,000 in 2007 at Profiles in History), Darth Vader components (like a mask, for $115,000 plus premium, at Profiles in History in 2003), C-3PO parts (like his head, for $120,000 in a 2008 profiles in history auction), multiple Imperial troopers, Princess Leia’s slave outfit from Return of the Jedi (for $96,000 at Profiles in History in 2015), and the aforementioned R2-D2.  Screen-used models also have fetched a hefty sum, including the filming miniature model of the Rebel Blockade Runner spaceship from the opening scene of the original Star Wars that sold for $465,000, and a miniature filming model of a TIE Fighter that sold for more than $400,000.

Another Han Solo blaster, a prop weapon that fired blanks unlike the Julien’s prop but was also from Return of the Jedi, sold as part of the Stembridge Armory Collection back in 2007 for $201,600.  The Julien’s blaster had the distinction of being owned by Return of the Jedi art director James Schoppe, the kind of provenance high-end collectors flock toward.  Another Luke Skywalker lightsaber, from the original Star Wars, authenticated by producer Gary Kurtz, sold in 2005 at Profiles in History for $200,600.

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Last night the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films held the 44th annual Saturn Awards, honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres, held in Burbank, California.  Coming into last night’s presentation, Black Panther was nominated in 14 categories, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was nominated in 13 categories, and Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water were each nominated in nine categories.  In television, The Walking Dead led the nominations with seven, followed by Star Trek: Discovery with five.  You can never predict who and what will win at the Saturn Awards, but you can be sure they will be very fandom-centric picks.

Black Panther led the night with four wins, for Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release, Best Director (Ryan Coogler), Best Supporting Actress (Danai Gurira), and Best Make-up.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi followed with three wins, for Best Actor (Mark Hamill), Best Writing, and Best Editing.  In television, because of the Awards’ split between traditional TV shows and streaming shows, the expected suspects came out on top: The Flash and Marvel’s The Punisher as best superhero shows, and The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery each winning awards.  But the most wins was a tie, with three awards each for Better Call Saul and Twin Peaks: The Return.

Here are all the winners and nominees:

Movie Awards

Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release
Winner:  Black Panther
Nominees:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Logan
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Wonder Woman

Best Science Fiction Film Release
Winner:  Blade Runner 2049
Nominees:
Alien: Covenant
Life
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Fantasy Film Release
Winner:  The Shape of Water
Nominees:
Beauty and the Beast
Downsizing
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Kong: Skull Island
Paddington 2

Best Horror Film Release
Winner: Get Out
Nominees:
47 Meters Down
Annabelle: Creation
Better Watch Out
It
Mother!

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Less than one month away, San Diego Comic-Con returns to the San Diego Convention Center full of writers, artists, publishers, TV and movie studios, and vendors with representation from every major property and franchise.   Legos, Sideshow, Super 7, Mattel, Funko, Mondo, and more.  Already distributors have begun previewing convention exclusives–those sought-after rare collectibles usually available only at the show, but sometimes available afterward in small quantities if all of the inventory from the show isn’t pre-ordered or purchased on-site.

We think it’s time to share some of the best exclusives scheduled to be available at San Diego Comic-Con this year for those of you who are attending or have friends attending that can pick up items for you.  Just can’t decide what to spend your money on?  Check out the SDCC 2018 website for even more information from the vendors and more collectibles.  There’s too much for anyone to be able to see everything at the big Con, so we’ve listed booth numbers so you can make sure you don’t miss out on those toys, posters, and comic books that you simply must have.

These aren’t all the exclusives you’ll find at SDCC 2018–we’ve selected a sampling of some of the best items from popular vendors who have previewed their items with still three weeks until the convention.

Now on to the exclusives.

Gentle Giant is releasing a variety of exclusive mini-busts, plus this large-scale version of the classic Kenner Star Wars action figure.  You’ve seen Boba Fett from Gentle Giant here before–the original was borg.com‘s favorite toy of 2012 and one of the best action figure re-creations we’ve seen.

This exclusive provides one more chance to get this figure, this time reflecting original packaging from Return of the Jedi (sorry, no firing backpack).

From Alex Ross Art (Booth #2415) pick up limited prints and comics, including these new variant covers for Amazing Spider-man, Issue #1:

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The world first met Ian Fleming’s James Bond with the release of the novel Casino Royale in 1953.  That first Bond story would be adapted into a newspaper comic strip in the UK in 1958, followed by a film–a satirical comedy version–in 1967 starring David Niven, followed by a dramatic film version in 2006 starring Daniel Craig.  But it’s the print comic version, the newspaper adaptation, that received a new retooling of sorts this year.  Dynamite Comics tapped writer Van Jensen (Flash, The Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man), artist Dennis Calero (Masks, Kolchak), colorist Chris O’Halloran (Lockjaw, Black Panther), letterer Simon Bowland (Red Sonja, Judge Dredd), and vintage cover artist Fay Dalton (Worlds of Tomorrow) to deliver a 2018 update to Casino Royale for a new generation of readers.  The result is a rich and elegant new look at Fleming’s first Bond adventure.

From the look of Bond’s classic 1933 Bentley to the French casino where much of the story happens, the tone, mood, and style is fresh while also nostalgic.  Jensen balances the extensive dialogue from the original novel to avoid a graphic novel that is merely talking heads.  He is most successful at having Bond explain the rules of Baccarat to the reader via a conversation at dinner with M’s assigned companion for him, Vesper Lynd.  Calero’s Bond has the steely eyes of Michael Fassbender.  At the card table we meet some doppelgangers in this reader’s eyes: Grace Kelly as the American film star, Barbara Bel Geddes as the rich American, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the DuPont heir, Emma Thompson as Mrs. DuPont, Julian Glover as the Belgian, Nigel Green as Lord Danvers, Pete Postlethwaite or Titos Vandis as the Greek.  And in Le Chiffre we see a bit of Aleister Crowley (Fleming’s inspiration for the character) mixed with Orson Welles (who played him in the 1967 film), and a little JFK meets Brad Pitt for American CIA agent Felix Leiter.

O’Halloran’s minimalist use of color and Calero’s lack of background detail helps keep the reader engaged, and Calero’s work is particularly interesting visualizing Bond’s thoughts in a way that evokes a Bill Sienkiewicz style.  The characters are not reminiscent of actors who have portrayed them previously, leaving readers to experience this version of Casino Royale without any preconceptions, although this version may make fans of the original films wonder how Sean Connery would have played Bond in this tale.  The various lettering styles required of the text give more significance to Bowland’s part in telling the story, and O’Halloran’s colors definitely evoke a 1950s world.

Here are some pages from Dynamite’s Casino Royale:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At long last Star Wars fans have a single volume of behind-the-scenes gold that includes more than the original trilogy and the prequels.  Writer Mark Salisbury returns with his next pop culture book, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures & Aliens.  This is the first book to include coverage of all ten Star Wars films, and it’s the first book that digs into the creature makers and makeup artistry of all the Star Wars movies–a creature effects companion to those comprehensive books reviewed previously here at borg.com chronicling the costume and prop sides of Star Wars productions: Dressing a Galaxy, Sculpting a Galaxy, and Star Wars Costumes.

How many movie franchises can claim visual effects over four decades incorporating all levels of monster making: animatronics, puppetry, practical effects, costuming, CGI, sculpts, animal actors, prosthetics and makeups, stop-motion animation, and motion capture creations–sometimes all in a single film?  The book spans it all: Jawas, Tauntauns, Jabba the Hutt, Yoda, Chewbacca, the Rancor, Ewoks, Watto, Jar Jar, Darth Maul, Rathtars, Maz Kanata, Porgs, Crystal Foxes, Proxima, Rio Durrant, and so many background aliens from the Tatooine cantina, Jabba’s palace, Maz’s castle, the Pod Race, Kamino, Geonosia, and Scarif.  More complex characters from the franchise get the most coverage, with less coverage from Revenge of the Sith and Solo.

Readers will learn about and meet a variety of artists and creators of these creatures and aliens, with interviews and examples of the work of Stuart Freeborn, Rick Baker, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Jon Berg, Ben Burtt, Fred Pearl, Frank Oz, Kathryn Mullen, Lorne Peterson, Nick Dudman, Rob Coleman, John Coppinger, Tom St. Amand, Richard Edlund, Ken Ralston, Kit West, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Doug Chiang, Dave Elsey, Neal Scanlan, Luke Fisher, Ben Morris, Darek Arnold, some of the actors who performed costumes characters, and visionaries George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, and Gareth Edwards.  Select concept art is included from Ralph McQuarrie, John Mollo, Iain McCaig, Terryl Whitlatch, Jake Lunt Davies, and others, and readers will learn Doug Chiang’s five rules of concept design.

Keeping with the fun new trend of incorporating three-dimensional, interactive elements into non-fiction books, Abrams has included foldout flaps, accordion pages, and color tipped-in booklets of sketches, photographs, and stages of the creative process.  The book comes from Abrams’ Young Readers imprint, however, the in-depth information and rare or never-before-published photographs and sketches will appeal to all ages of Star Wars fans.

Take a look inside some preview pages of The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures & Aliens:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s truly a rare summer when a new Star Wars movie is in theaters–the last time was in 2005 with the release of Revenge of the Sith.  As with the past three post-Disney acquisition Star Wars films, several publishers have released tie-in books for the latest Star Wars chapter, Solo: A Star Wars Story.  Some books provide fans with a behind-the-scenes tour, others provide novelized backstories, and still others provide an in-universe look at the story.  For a behind the scenes view you’ll want Abrams’ coverage of the concept art in The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story (reviewed at borg.com here).  For an in-galaxy view of the characters and places, the book you’ll want to get your hands on is DK’s next chapter in their Star Wars book series, Solo: A Star Wars Story–The Official Guide, by Pablo Hidalgo.

The Official Guide is written like the magazines in the 1970s and 1980s that would follow on the heels of a blockbuster film, a “souvenir” type book that would highlight anything everything fans of the film would want to know more about.  The key feature of this full-color hardcover volume is the high-quality, detailed photographs, particularly of the characters, costumes, and props–perfect for cosplay reference.  It also includes some great detail in its several images of the re-imagined early Millennium Falcon.  Especially in a film of the Star Wars universe, where one of the trademarks is inclusion of enormous crowd scenes with varying peoples of different backgrounds, races, species–and names–moviegoers often miss most of the background characters.  When a costume can cost thousands of dollars to design and construct, it’d be a shame to simply leave the characters in the background.  So that’s where The Official Guide becomes a unique resource.

In no other book will you find all of these new characters from this latest Star Wars film.  They have names and backgrounds, and their cultural objects they carry say something about them.  But this is Star Wars, so you can expect to see the latest stormtrooper variant (like patrol trooper, fleet trooper, mudtrooper, and range trooper), as well as denizens of the most recent hives of scum and villainy (like the Grindalid Moloch, the Corellian Rebolt, shipping magnate Crev Bombaasa, and, hey, that’s Ron Howard’s brother Clint as Ralakili, running the droid fights).  A great two-page spread features the new many incarnations of mechanical fellows from Lucasfilm’s droid shop.

Here are some pages from the book, courtesy of the publisher:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ve seen the late-night art school advertisements on TV.  Have you ever tried to draw a picture but never knew where to start?  Or you tried an art textbook but never could get your pen to connect with the paper?  Maybe the last time you tried to draw anything was back in grade school.  If you have the desire, but don’t know how to get there from here, a new book from artist John Bigwood may be able to help.

How to Draw Characters for the Artistically Challenged is not the next art school textbook.  It only has one page of words, so it’s also not really going to realistically be able to teach you how to draw.  It is, however, a book for budding artists to hone their skills and learn to draw character portraits.  It includes more than forty illustrations and drawing prompts to help complete them.  But you really don’t need any skill to give it a try, and you may find it is simpler than you think to create basic cartoon characters.  All the sample works seem to be of a beginner skill set, interspersed with slightly more difficult projects, leading to a prompt to draw an image of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (with or without Gene Simmons from KISS swapping out one of The Beatles).

Each two-page spread includes a 7-inch by 7-inch square page to the left with possible finished designs, plus hand-drawn components of the drawing so you can focus on details of the drawing.  To the right is a mostly blank page with one or more colored splotches of watercolors.  It looks like a Rorschach test.  I tried it and quickly had a Marilyn Monroe-inspired picture to show for my effort followed by three more completed pieces.  These aren’t likely to result in frameable or professionally rendered works, but they do provide the spark to get the pen onto the paper.  And it is fun.

Here are a few sample pages from the book courtesy of publisher Harper Design:

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Just shy of her 47th birthday, Koko the gorilla passed away Tuesday in her sleep at the Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in Woodside, California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Koko represents a giant leap in the future of humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom–she could sign more than a thousand of words of American Sign Language and understood 2,000 words of spoken English, she liked to rhyme words, she could read and paint (painting not only real objects but expressions of her thoughts and emotions, even naming her paintings), and could play a musical instrument–the recorder.  She proved years of human scientists wrong, conveying clearly to the world that she had complex thoughts and feelings, sharing compassion, laughter, love, and care for others.  And she became famous for all she showed the world, and had well-known friendships with the likes of Mr. Rogers and Robin Williams.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, the western lowland gorilla was named Hanabi-ko, which is Japanese for “fireworks child.”  Koko’s ability to communicate with humans via American Sign Language put her twice on the cover of National Geographic, one photo featuring her own selfie (long before selfie was a term).  That was thanks to her long-time friend and researcher Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson, who began teaching Koko in 1974 when she was three years old.  Over the course of her incredible life she proved that gorillas could communicate about objects that weren’t present, had the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, and further, they could convey personal memories.  Koko invented new sign-language words for things she didn’t know the word for, she knew the meaning of what she was communicating, and she was even a teacher–another primate learned sign language by watching videos of Koko signing.

Her relationship with her first cat was covered by the mainstream press.  For her twelfth Christmas she wanted a pet cat, and for her following birthday she was allowed to select one from a litter of abandoned kittens, which she named All Ball, reflecting the roundness of the cat and her own fondness for alliteration.  All Ball died when she sneaked out of her room and was hit by a car that year, and Koko reacted like any human would, with profound grief, which she conveyed in words via signing.  Koko adopted several more cats over the next 30 years, adopting two most recently in 2015 that she named Miss Black and Miss Grey.  Koko was preceded in death by her friend Michael, her gorilla friend who also could sign, who passed away in 2000.  She was living with her friend Ndume, a male gorilla, when she passed away.

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We know Sylvester Stallone more for his action movies than any acting prowess.  Yet he is Oscar material.  Rocky, the movie and role that made him a household name, earned him Academy Award nominations for both acting and his screenplay.  The latest Rocky movie, Creed, was his seventh film as boxer–now retired boxer–Rocky Balboa.  His performance in that film and the first trailer for the eighth film in the franchise, Creed II, proves he still has the acting chops, and can give as emotional a performance as ever, and maybe one that could garner him another Oscar nod for the same role he created more than 40 years ago in 1976.  And after his success in Black Panther, everyone is watching the career of star Michael B. Jordan, too.  Has there been a bad Rocky movie?  The first garnered ten Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.  Stallone wrote each of Rocky II, III, IV, V, and Rocky Balboa in 2006.  That changed with Creed, and the film proved the change-up was just fine with contributions from writers Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington (check out our borg.com review here).

Like the first Creed film, Creed II looks more like a character-driven drama than just another boxing movie.  This time Creed director Ryan Coogler hands the directing duties over to Steven Caple, Jr. with a script by Luke Cage’s Cheo Hodari Coker.  Will this be as good as the last film without Black Panther director Coogler at the helm?  An intriguing plus for this film is the re-emergence of the name Drago.  The original Drago played by Dolph Lundgren killed Adonis Creed’s father Apollo in Rocky IV.   Now his son, played by Florian Munteanu, seems to be back for a repeat performance.

The Rocky universe has turned into a “Who’s Who of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” with Black Panther co-lead Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger) back as Creed, Thor: Ragnarok co-star Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) as his new wife, and Guardians of the Galaxy II’s Stallone (Stakar Ogord) back as Rocky.  Check out the first official poster for the film (above), and here’s the first trailer for Creed II:

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