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Archive for November, 2018


Review C.J. Bunce

We have a bundle of holiday gift ideas heading into December, and this next one will bring in the younger set.  It’s an ideal book for kids, especially kids just reading their first books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  And it’s even better if they’ve checked out at least the first films in the movie series.  It’s Insight Editions’ Harry Potter:  Imagining Hogwarts–A Beginner’s Guide to Moviemaking.  It’s a great introduction to the principles of moviemaking, targeted at young grade schoolers through pre-teens.  It also doubles as an activity book.

Imagining Hogwarts is the kind of book that my grade school librarian always kept on the shelves–the kind of book to get kids excited and interested in unique and exciting professions, to create aspirations that could last a lifetime.  The book is a full-color, 64-page hardcover that touches on the key aspects of making movies, all applied to the Harry Potter films.  So readers can expect explanations of directing, camera work, screenplay writing, casting, the visual rule of thirds, storyboards, location scouts, set decoration, props, modelmaking, costumes, miniatures, concept art and design, special effects, and the post-production process.

Readers are taken through these concepts with an eye toward their applications in the movies, to learn more about the making of the wands, building the Hogwarts castle miniature, distressing costumes to look worn, and the use of doubles, as incorporated into the films when “Mad-Eye” Moody caused the members of the Order of the Phoenix to look like Harry.  More advanced concepts include green and blue screens, transitions and dissolves, and wire effects.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you ask for something and it magically appears.  Like the new Dark Horse Comics’ graphic novel Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Once and Future Tarzan I originally reviewed a one-shot initial version of this story here at borg way back in 2012.  I liked the retro adventure vibe and thought that it begged for an expanded story.  At last writer Alan Gordon has taken Tarzan into the distant future in a full 15-part epic, as a 300-year-old survivalist who encounters a future world right out of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, Nolan and Johnson’s Logan’s Run, or Richard Matheson’s I am Legend.  Tarzan and Jane join a tribe of warrior women on their quest–Tarzan is a well-educated leader who communes with the animal kingdom, and Jane brings her own special skill set to this adventure.

Readers will find a densely written graphic novel with many literary references and a thoroughly researched, thoroughly faithful look at Burroughs’ Tarzan, with the building of a great expansion world for the character, loyal to the spirit of the original stories.   It’s a mix of fantasy and James Bond action, as the Tarzan of the past confronts a future world reeling from decades of mishandling.  Tarzan has been secretly protecting animals, species other humans failed to protect, and Tarzan brings them into this future.  It’s a story of the past catching up with mankind, and a glimmer of hope via the legend of Tarzan.  Can the future still be saved for all of life on Earth, before nothing is left of the natural world?  Gordon’s story suggests the possibility and the story itself serves as its own sci-fi warning to take care of what we have before it’s gone.  The story isn’t dark and daunting, but it has that fantasy adventure tone of the age of serial adventures, peppered with humorous dialogue, too (some of the callbacks to Tarzan’s past are particularly funny).

The imagery of artists Thomas Yeates (Prince Valiant, Conan) and Bo Hampton (Viking Glory, Batman) is gorgeous, and it wouldn’t succeed so well without the complimentary color palette used by colorists Steve Oliff and Lori Almeida.  It has the nostalgic look of Illustrated Classics, but with more movement and action, something that will appeal to fans of Matt Kindt’s Dept.H and Black Badge, Phil Noto’s retro styled art, P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Wagner’s The Ring, and the imagery of The Hobbit artist David Wenzel.  Parts feel like a voyage of Captain Nemo, Captain Blood, Conan the Barbarian, or Red Sonja.  All of these fantasies share the common quest, the world outside of a present day reality, stocked with nicely fleshed-out legend and lore.

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“Adult coloring books” are a fairly recent phenomenon.  Over the past few years the adult coloring book has even taken on its own form, like the BBC’s Sherlock coloring book, which is published at just less than ten inches by ten inches square, differentiating its style and contents from the vertical designed books of decades past.  But the new field of books often have design flaws, like publishing an image that spans the fold line (no one since they were little kids have liked that feature in a coloring book, right?) or images that appear to have been drawn quickly, with little attention toward realism, or, for subjects like movie tie-ins, outright failing to match licensed character actor likenesses.  Luckily DC Comics comic book superhero fans won’t find those failings in two coloring books in current release from Insight Editions.

Both DC Comics Coloring Book and DC Comics Wonder Woman Coloring Book rate among the best coloring books you will find for kids or adults, ideal as inexpensive gifts this holiday season.  Both include images of original comic book artwork, used in marketing, for posters or promotions, and both feature original comic book cover artwork.  As an appendix, many of the covers are featured in full glossy color, so anyone who wants to reference the original color work can easily do so.  The only detractor is that neither book references the artists responsible for either the cover artwork or the included page art.  For most, they won’t notice, and this just be a great excuse to color some of the best images of the pantheon of superheroes from DC Comics ever released.

The DC Comics Coloring Book includes 96 pages and the DC Comics Wonder Woman Coloring Book includes 80 pages (both include 15 pages of full-color reference prints).  In the DC Comics book you’ll find covers to classic comic book issues, like Green Lantern 76 and 87, Showcase #4, Flash Comics #1, The New Teen Titans #1, and several All Star Comics and Justice League of America covers.  The Wonder Woman book includes covers from Wonder Woman #1, Justice League of America #12, Comic Cavalcade covers, and several other covers from various Wonder Woman-titled series.

Here are some preview pages from each:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The early 2018 release Alien: Covenant is now streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and other streaming services.  It is the second act of a two-part story focusing in major part on the android* named David, the continuation of non-human humanoids we first encountered in the Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film Alien with Ash, and later Bishop, and others.  Continuing David’s quest from Scott’s follow-up, 2012’s Prometheus (yes, this is that “sequel to a prequel” we discussed here at borg back in 2012), David has embarked on a search for the creation of mankind prompted by his creator, Peter Weyland, played by Guy Pearce.  David’s cold, deliberate calm is disturbing–he is a robot, he is emotionless, despite improvements on earlier models that make him appear kind, even sincere.  Yet, as we learned in Prometheus, David is little, if any, evolved more than the decision-making by HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Is David’s ruthlessness carried forward into Alien: Covenant?  You’ll need to watch the movie to find out.  There you’ll meet an upgraded version of David’s android design.  Also played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, the android Walter replaces David as assistant to the humans in Alien: Covenant as they embark on a mission to settle a colony in deep space, led by James Franco‘s Branson, Billy Crudup‘s Oram, and Katherine Waterston‘s Daniels.  In a great dual performance by Fassbender, Walter encounters David as the story progresses.  And that’s where David’s Drawings come into play.

Disturbing and grotesque.  David, as part of his quest from Weyland, studies, researches, and documents lifeforms he encounters.  Many of these are in the form of sketches, sketches that can be found on the screen in the film, and in the new bound portfolio volume called David’s Drawings, from production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton (see our preview below).  The artwork is meticulous, like something out of Gray’s Anatomy So the drawings are both in-universe props, and a real-world document of the filmmakers.   In more than 200 images, the boxed set (featuring a hardcover of drawings and a second volume including interviews with the artists) features the complete arc of his journey from David’s studies of flora and fauna, to his more sinister experiments on creatures, and the film’s most disturbing, surprise revelation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

No guns, no killing the other patients, and no cops.  The titular Hotel Artemis in Drew Pearce‘s directorial debut film is a secret hospital for criminals, criminals who must be members to utilize its elite services, which consist of high-tech, life-saving medicine.  Services are provided under the direction of a craggy, battle-hardened, and effective nurse known primarily as “the Nurse,” played by Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, in what is probably her most exciting and outside-the-box role so far.  She has hard rules for guests in the same vein as the Continental Hotel in John Wick, and parallels to that movie’s plot device made obvious in the trailers may have been what kept away some of the action movie audience.  Now streaming and available on disc formats, Hotel Artemis is worth giving a second chance, if only because you’re looking for something action-packed that feels like a 1980s “B” action flick.

The year is 2028 with more riots in Los Angeles, heating up worse than ever as police and citizens face off on the downtown streets.  And the battle is approaching the door of the Hotel Artemis.  Enter two brothers played by this year’s rising star Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther, Marshall, The Predator) and Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse), both just shot while robbing a bank.  Everyone takes on city name aliases in the hotel, theirs Waikiki and Honolulu.  They join other guests Acapulco, played by Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Charlie Day, and Nice, played by the decade’s number one female action star, Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Atomic Blonde, Star Trek Beyond).  The humor is all tongue-in-cheek, the kind that makes James Bond movies work so well.  Along with directing, Pearce also wrote the script, and the combination of the best of today’s actors and his banter bouncing between them turns a freshman effort into something better.

The cast gets better, too:  Dave Bautista plays the Nurse’s loyal orderly Everest in a role different from how we’ve seen him in Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049, or Spectre, except for that tardemark tough-guy physicality.  Jeff Goldblum plays both a criminal and the owner of the hotel, which presents a bit of a conflict for the Nurse along the way, Zachary Quinto plays his whiny wannabe son, and rounding out the cast is The Predator’s Jenny Slate, a wounded cop who shares a past with someone inside the hospital

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s face it.  The “turn of the century” was eighteen years ago.  Are you happy with the styles that define this decade?  Why not re-define what the new ‘twenties are going to represent, and why not start with how you want to look?  Timeless, a new book by fashion makeup artist Louise Young and film industry hairstylist Loulia Sheppard, provides readers with a step-by-step guide in photos and instructions to recreate the most memorable styles from the silent screen era forward.  So not only is it an obvious tool for cosplay and theater, it’s a way to bring the golden age of women’s fashion to everyday lifestyles.

Young and Sheppard also recreate actual style icons, and provide the steps for anyone to follow suit.  Readers will find not only how they can recreate styles, but what materials were available for contemporary women to make the look they are after.  Models reflect many memorable looks in Timeless, including Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Ginger Rogers, Myrna Loy, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney, Grace Kelly, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Farrah Fawcett, Julia Roberts, and many more.

Timeless is not your typical makeup and hair book.  The creators have decades of experience in film creating any and every look imaginable.  Louise Young has created makeup designs for celebrities in movies including Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Spectre, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Wonder Woman, Murder on the Orient Express, Pride & Prejudice, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Clash of the Titans, Jack the Giant Slayer, and The Avengers.  Loulia Sheppard has created hairstyles for several award-winning productions, including Gosford Park, The Phantom of the Opera, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Last Samurai, Jane Eyre, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, RED 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Victor Frankenstein, and Murder on the Orient Express–and most recently the looks of Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson.

Take a look at some of the designs featured:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to four Next Generation movies and the J.J. Abrams Kelvin timeline movies, and Deep Space Nine through the Enterprise and Discovery series, concept artist, illustrator, prop designer, and model maker John Eaves has designed ships and objects familiar to any sci-fi fan.  This Tuesday the eagerly anticipated behind-the-scenes book Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves arrives from online retailers and book stores, and we at borg.com previewed a copy.  Just as you would expect, the book is full of hundreds of concept art designs, most of them ultimately used for the final model or CGI renderings seen on film.  John Eaves has developed his own style over the years, so in the past decade when even passing fans saw a ship on the big or small screen, they could usually tell when Eaves designed it.  Take a look at our preview pages from Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves here.

Eaves tells his story, referencing those artists of film that inspired him, some he would work with directly and others he admired from his youth: Joe Alves, Ron Cobb, Greg Jein, Grant McCune, Robert McCall, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Richard Edlund, John Dykstra, Syd Mead, and others.  The shifting look of Star Trek, its ships, and props, began to take on a new look with his designs for the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations, which required a modification to the Excelsior model to accommodate a key scene featuring Captain Kirk.  For the update to the ship Eaves incorporated a design from the World War II Catalina PBY-5A airplane.  Eaves grew up near an airfield, where he was first given a pad and pencil to make his own illustrations, and his understanding of aerodynamics can be found throughout his work.   And as Eaves tells it, Star Trek designer Michael Okuda would often be nearby to point out relevant components to incorporate.

The Eaves design aesthetic is unmistakable, in the elegant Vulcan lander and Phoenix rocket in Star Trek: First Contact, in the arc-shaped Son-a warship concepts in Star Trek Insurrection, in the removal of the “neck” and compact configuration of the Enterprise-E, and in the Reman Scimitar, the Romulan Valdore, and Scorpion fighters for Star Trek Nemesis.  The artist says his Discovery designs were inspired, surprisingly, by the rocket that took Taylor away and back in the original Planet of the Apes.  You can see the inspiration in the view of the ship from below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Although the first chapter in the anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will have you thinking the new straight-to-Netflix movie is more of the same from the Coen Brothers, the subsequent chapters may have you think again.  It just may be the most thought-provoking, subdued, and effective film from the entire catalog of Coen Brothers films, and it may even eclipse Bone Tomahawk and the Coens’ own True Grit as this century’s best Westerns–at least in parts (and it’s a leap ahead of Quentin Tarentino’s past two efforts).  Netflix’s Mudbound was nominated this year in major categories (but didn’t win) and the studio brought in one documentary Oscar, but can this new Coens release bring Oscar home to Netflix for a major, large-scale production?

The common thread of the film is classic Americana: 19th century settlers possessed a kind of unique grit, and they paid a steep price, in unique and unglamorous ways, to build a nation.  The film chronicles six fictional fails and near fails that might have happened (mostly), presented as chapters of an anthology dime novel.  The first chapter follows the title character, a goofy but sure-shootin’ singing cowboy played by Tim Blake Nelson, in a story that will have many thinking this movie is another Western parody like 1985’s Rustler’s Rhapsody (it is not).  The next chapter follows a determined thief (James Franco) unsuccessfully robbing a bank in an era before the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment (in a mash-up inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”).  Another story finds a young woman (Zoe Kazan of the famed film dynasty in a masterful performance) on a frontier wagon train just trying to make it to the next town.  The least of the tales comes off more as a one-note Aesop’s Fable, as Liam Neeson‘s character carts a young limbless orator (played eloquently by well-known Harry Potter actor Harry Melling) from town to town carnival style for money.  To round off the anthology, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, and Tyne Daly star in a John Ford-inspired stagecoach bit that would be good source material for a stage play.

But the best of the chapters is an adaptation of a Jack London story about an old gold prospector, a character study starring Tom Waits.  His performance could be seamlessly spliced into any of the best classic Westerns.  And it’s the kind of acting achievement that should earn Waits a supporting Oscar nod, if the Academy gets in lock-step with Netflix as a legitimate moviemaking studio.  The other performance worth Oscar contention is Chelcie Ross‘s trapper in the stagecoach segment.  His rambling story and delivery is laugh-out-loud funny, and you can almost see in the eyes of Rubinek and Daly a real struggle to hold back laughs.

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WKRP Nessman reporting Thanksgiving stunt

Pull the TV dinner out of the oven.  Throw some butter on those peas.  It’s time again for your annual tryptophan coma.  And another annual tradition.

Yes, it is time again for your annual viewing of one of the two best Thanksgiving episodes that ever graced the small screen.  Finish this phrase: “As God is my witness, I thought…”

What?!?  You don’t know how it ends?

Then watch and enjoy our traditional viewing of the greatest Thanksgiving episode of TV ever (note: no actual turkeys were harmed in the making of the show):

It’s hard to believe for those of us who watched the series when it aired for the first time that this is the fortieth anniversary of the airing of this episode!

And in between your seconds and thirds of tofurkey, this epic roasted cabbage (we tried it, it’s actually good), mashed potatoes, corn casserole, bean casserole, pea casserole–and don’t forget the gravy–and PIE, then check out other Thanksgiving blasts from the past here.

And don’t forget the cranberries.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The BORG Staff

As much as fans of DC Comics see Aquaman and think superhero, his undersea world is very much the stuff of the fantasy genre, much like that of Marvel Comics’ Thor, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther.  Jason Momoa‘s unique take on Aquaman was no doubt the highpoint of last year’s big-screen Justice League, and each new trailer has made the film look more intriguing.  Undersea people riding sharks is a difficult image to top.

The final trailer hints at the advisory role Willem Dafoe as Vulko will play for Momoa’s Arthur Curry aka Aquaman.  It also provides a glimpse at Dolph Lundgren‘s King Nereus, and one of the coolest actors–Jango Fett himself–Temuera Morrison as Arthur’s father.  And David Kane looks straight out of the pages of the comic books as Black Manta.

Check out the final trailer for DC’s next Justice League film, Aquaman:

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