Category: Movies


Surprisingly for a Star Trek series, we haven’t seen much by way of tie-ins for this year’s newest small-screen incarnation, Star Trek Picard.  We at borg enjoyed the series, the Star Trek version of the Old Man trope that actor Patrick Stewart contributed to so well with Hugh Jackman in the Old Man Logan movie, Logan.  We especially liked the new Romulan characters the series introduced, and Jonathan Frakes’ Will Riker back in the captain’s chair was hard to beat.  Patrick Stewart has taken his beloved Jean-Luc Picard there and back again many times, so maybe we haven’t seen a lot more because it’s already been done before.  But out now for holiday gift-giving is a new look back at the good captain and his memorable commentary across seven seasons of The Next Generation, four feature films, and the first season of his new series.  It’s The Wisdom of Picard, a book full of his most memorable utterances.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We previewed Dan Curry’s new look back at his work on Star Trek in September.  The nicely designed full color hardcover, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry is designed and reads like a true sequel to Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens landmark 1995 book The Art of Star Trek, once the only definitive look at the artwork behind the franchise (we’ve covered nearly all the Star Trek art books since then here at borg).  Like any professional in the art and design fields for a television or feature film crew, Dan Curry had a variety of projects he handled.  This book digs into Curry’s work from 1987 to 2005, basically Star Trek: The Next Generation through Enterprise, where he served as visual effects supervisor/producer, second-unit director, title designer, and concept designer, winning seven Emmys for his effort.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This week Star Trek: The Next Generation observes its 30th anniversary of airing its pilot episode.  For this anniversary Titan Books released this week an over-sized hardcover book collecting artist Juan Ortiz’s poster art that he designed for a 2015 trading card series by Rittenhouse called the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series (previewed here at borg.com two years ago).  Like the trading card series, the new book The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation features all 177 episodes of the series, as interpreted by the celebrated illustrator and designer for firms that include Disney and Warner Bros.  You might recall Ortiz’s breakout work, his 2013 poster art for Star Trek’s original series, an eye-popping re-imagining of each episode of the classic show as if each episode had its own movie-style poster (reviewed here at borg.com).  For Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ortiz takes a similar approach–each poster an homage to an episode–but his style and focus are entirely different.  The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation requires the individual to take a bit of an intellectual journey.  If you were a fan of Ortiz’s original Star Trek series designs, you might approach this expecting something similar.  It’s not.  A flip through his book is more like attending a new gallery show of a modern artist you’ve seen before but he’s debuting an exhibition of new work.

As with any artwork the interpretation is in the eyes of the viewer, sometimes–and perhaps even usually–requiring the viewer to take an active approach to the viewing experience.  The viewer must participate in a review of Ortiz’s posters.  With Ortiz’s original series, they all rang with a similar nostalgia factor, applying mid-century retro imagery from advertising, movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  Some of his Next Generation posters follow the rules he created with his first series.  His poster for The Big Goodbye features a pulp noir cover with glimpses at the crew in the Dixon Hill holonovel.  The Dauphin poster features a stylized silhouette of the scene where Wesley introduces Salia to another world.  His look at A Fistful of Datas is an homage to classic spaghetti Western posters.  And his image for The Neutral Zone (as seen on the book cover) captures the Romulan warbird reaching out for the Enterprise-D, similar to stylized imagery from his first series.  Ortiz mostly forgoes the more expected nods this time.  He also forgoes 1980s design tropes–something a viewer might expect for a 1980s series homage–and opts instead for inspiration from indie film posters, black-light posters, rock/punk, and comic books generally.  The result is a bit refreshing while also unexpected and even jarring.  The artist clearly takes the viewer on a new journey–an intriguing one that tells the viewer as much about our own knowledge of the series as about Ortiz’s views of the series–while he explores a new and different way to look at Star Trek.  

Ortiz acknowledges in the notes that his favorite character is Brent Spiner’s Data, and Data seems to be his default subject matter for many of the images, while he also employs Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard frequently and appears to use Denise Crosby as a focus whenever possible.  As much as he focuses an image on the grand theme of an episode, he just as often pulls the most obscure–while still memorable–detail for the eye to focus on.  Take for instance his response to Parallels, an episode that showcases Michael Dorn’s Worf, who has crossed over from a parallel universe.  Ortiz instead uses as his focus Riker, featured captaining the ship and later destroyed among an infinite universe of Enterprise-Ds.  His view of Timespace takes a 1960s mod approach, and focuses on the humorous fleeting image where Picard draws a smiley-face in a cloud of gas.  With every image he seems to request the viewer to ask the question:  What part of the episode is being conveyed here?  With that query he causes interaction between the viewer and the art.  And the viewer may not always grasp the message of every poster, which may prompt repeat viewings.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new in-universe book finds Star Trek: The Next Generation captain of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E, Jean-Luc Picard, providing a first-hand account of his family roots, his Starfleet Academy days, and his career as one of the franchise’s greatest leaders.  The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard: The Story of One of Starfleet’s Most Inspirational Captains is edited by (actually written by) David A. Goldman, a Fall release published by Titan Books.  Goldman’s portrayal of the inner monologue of Picard paints a picture of the famous captain that most fans will recognize, a man who would acknowledge his roots in France, his ambition to join Starfleet, his valued friendships in people like Marta Batanides and Jack and Beverly Crusher, Boothby the groundskeeper, Professor Galen, and many more figures that he would encounter throughout his life.

Most of the book is the backstory that fans have only glimpsed of Picard via episodes of the series including Family, Conspiracy, Tapestry, The Best of Both Worlds, Yesterday’s Enterprise, The Chase, All Good Things…, many more episodes, and Star Trek Generations, but here many blanks are filled in.  Key to the series and the character of Picard was his long relationship with Guinan, and the Autobiography recounts their first meeting.  Readers will also find Picard’s surprising personal ties to the crew of the original starship Enterprise, via James T. Kirk’s nephew Peter, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter Admiral Demora Sulu, Admiral Pavel Chekov, and even Dr. Leonard McCoy and President Uhura at one of Spock’s weddings, where Picard served as member of the honor guard.  Of course, McCoy, Scotty, and Spock would all appear in Picard’s life in his Enterprise-D years (seen in Encounter at Farpoint, Relics, and Unification) and Enterprise-E years (seen in the prequel book to the Star Trek 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek: Countdown).  The Autobiography shows Picard in his own primary timeline fans know from the series (not his Q-guided revisitations of the past), all the way to his encounter with Spock before Spock returned to the past after the destruction of the planet Romulus, and ending at Picard’s retirement to his family’s vineyard in France, where we encounter Picard during the finale of the television series, and see an image of him with beard in his portrait gallery.

In many of these in-universe books, readers familiar with the character whose voice is being emulated may find it difficult to embrace the characterization.  Writer David A. Goodman handles that risk well here, interspersing some believable stories to bridge gaps from Picard’s past as told in the television series, and stitching together key pieces of his life toward the final quarter of the book into a complete and honest view of the character that many fans would call their favorite of all the Star Trek series.  Goodman also peppers his narrative with some Easter eggs via subtle throwbacks to not just Star Trek: The Next Generation but to other Star Trek series and movies, plus he also throws in some Star Wars references for good measure.  Are all the inner thoughts just as Picard would think and say them?  So much of the character of the Picard is in the British accent of actor Patrick Stewart, making both seem so much one and the same.  Stewart would add his own inflections, words, and phrases, supplementing the scripts.  The character in the Autobiography does not adhere to that same British voice, but the thoughts are still believably very “Picard.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid Star Wars blew me away and when I think back it was the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”–specifically the creature cantina at Mos Eisley spaceport–that first introduced me to the idea of a wide, wide universe of alien beings.  Countless characters–makeups and costumes designed by movie artists in the real world–all milled about in one place and it was about as cool a thing as anyone could put on film.  My next great appreciation for aliens came from the Star Trek films, in particular the delegation of members of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home–this bizarre assemblage of leaders, all wearing the common United Federation of Planets maroon officer uniforms, but each representing some far off world with all sorts of strange and exotic denizens.  Much of my excitement for aliens would come from Michael Westmore’s wonderful “aliens of the week” in the various television incarnations of Star Trek–I am a fan and self-proclaimed expert in the aliens of Star Trek more than any other corner of that great franchise.  Later I would be dazzled by the unique alien designs of Doctor Who’s 21st century Renaissance, where the British series really upped the ante of how unique and complex a weekly show could illustrate the potential of who is “out there.”  The updated Mos Eisley for science fiction fans would reach its zenith for me in two great ways in 2016 and 2017:  In the diverse cultures of the Yorktown space station in Star Trek Beyond and in the immensely populated Big Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  As much as the original Mos Eisley still stands strong on film, these two modern updates of “strange new worlds… new life and new civilizations” represent the best modern creativity in the world of cinema.  Makeup artist Joel Harlow, who won an Academy Award for his makeup work for Star Trek (2009), returned to the franchise for Star Trek Beyond, and in honor of the Trek’s 50th anniversary his team created 50 new alien races for the film.  A new book just released, Joe Nazzaro’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow documents in photographs and descriptions the development and creative ideas behind each new race for the film.  As a fan of aliens and Star Trek and this fabulous film, I haven’t anticipated a new publication as much, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.

Journalist Joe Nazzaro assembled Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow unlike most behind the scenes accounts that only punctuate descriptions with the odd quote from a creator, instead providing his narrative as a reporter would–interviewing and sharing Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups.  We hear about Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond from Harlow and creators behind the scenes including concept artists Neville Page, Allen Williams, and Carlos Huante, sculptor/makeup artist Richie Alonzo, and designer/sculptors Don Lanning, Joey Orosco, Lennie MacDonald, Norman Cabrera, and Mike Rotella.  This is the kind of access to the minds of movie creators that fanboys and fangirls dream about.

Let’s start with Jaylah.  By my count, in the vast world of great Star Trek female characters Jaylah (portrayed by Sofia Boutella) is the most developed, most intriguing, best badass heroine of them all.  Harlow, Neville Page, and Richie Alonzo really flesh out for readers the idea to application method of the unique makeup for this lead character from the film.  Although it may not be the most complex makeup design at first look, it required elaborate and surgical artistry to replicate it each day, and balanced many requirements to allow the actor to move freely through action sequences and stand out as the driving force behind the plot of the film.  Equally important to the film was the villain Krall (portrayed by Idris Elba) a character made up of all the alien races he had absorbed (which included callbacks to Star Trek’s Jem’Hadar) requiring additional complexity in design and style via its character’s backstory.  Creators Harlow and Joey Orosco delve into the creation of the four phases of Krall’s design made for the movie.

The most brilliant makeup is no doubt the alien Natalia (who appears on the book cover), the fabulous, spectacular nautilus-headed design by Allen Williams and Don Lanning and sculpted by Joey Orosco with contributions from Werner Pretorius, Lennie MacDonald, Steve Buscaino, Cristina Patterson, and Toby Lindala.  The head, bust, and arms for Natalia must reflect one of the best creature designs to ever emerge from Hollywood, and yet, like many of the 50 new aliens designed for the film (technically 56 according to Harlow) the character did not get much screentime.  In fact many of the aliens were for background shots and astonishingly a few did not make it into the final cut of the film.  The artists in the book also confirm the H.R. Giger influence on some of their designs for Star Trek Beyond–his designs also influenced alien creations of earlier Trek incarnations.  One of my favorite footnotes to the Star Trek franchise, and certainly one of the most obscure references in classic Star Trek is an intercom on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation paging Dr. Selar to the Null-G ward–which we never actually get to see–but the Abe Sapien-meets They Live alien called Satine (designed by Allen Williams and sculpted by Matt Rose) is exactly the type of alien I envisioned you’d find there.

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Luckily for fans of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of the franchise coincided with last year’s release of Star Trek Beyond, one of the most exciting films in the movie series.  That was thanks in part to makeup artist Joel Harlow taking the new alien creatures where no one had gone before.  Nominated for an Academy Award for his work on Star Trek Beyond, Harlow took on the daunting challenge of creating more than 50 new alien races for the film–one in honor of each year since the first episode aired on television back in 1966.  Those designs will be featured in a giant chronicle published this week by Titan Books.  Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow by Joe Nazzaro is surprisingly the first book to focus exclusively on the makeup artistry for Star Trek.

The closest prior work on creating makeup for aliens from beyond the Final Frontier, Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts by Michael Westmore and Alan Sims (still available at Amazon here) was a shorter, trade paperback overview of Star Trek makeup and props, and Westmore’s recent book, Makeup Man by Michael Westmore (reviewed here at borg.com) focuses more on the pre-Star Trek work of Westmore.  Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow author Joe Nazzaro also co-wrote a magazine-length overview of Westmore’s makeup work for Starlog, still available from time to time here.

Sofia Boutella shown with Joel Harlow’s makeup for Star Trek Beyond’s new heroine Jaylah.

Together with a staff of artists, Harlow embarked on the unprecedented scope of the project, while documenting the entire creative process for each of the 50 new alien types in exhaustive detail, from preliminary sketches to final make-up application.  Below is a preview of Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow courtesy of the publisher.  The new hardcover book is available for pre-order here at Amazon for only two more days at more than $15 off the cover price (price listed as of October 1).

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Fans of the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine have a new chronicle of the show to look forward to, a guide book in the style of the Rick Sternbach’s classic technical manual book and the layouts in decades of Star Trek fan magazines.  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Illustrated Handbook is an in-universe guide detailing the inside and outside of the former Cardassian space station led by Captain Benjamin Sisko, as well as the USS Defiant and the runabouts.  The book is available this month here at Amazon.  Take a look at the preview below.  

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Along with the hundreds of concept artists and designers that have created the look of Star Trek over the years, including Matt Jeffries, Andrew Probert, Richard Delgado, Ken Adams, Rick Sternbach, Mike Okuda, Greg Jein, Neville Page, Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, and John Eaves (whose book we reviewed here at borg), you need to include Dan Curry.  From The Next Generation to Enterprise, Dan’s variety of Star Trek work has resulted in some of the series’ most memorable moments.  Coming soon from Titan Books, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry (available for pre-order now here at Amazon) chronicles decades of those key creations, and we have a 12-page look inside below for borg readers, courtesy of the publisher. 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

TV historian and Star Trek expert Marc Cushman is back to continue his second trilogy of books about the development, production, and struggles behind the first two decades of Star Trek.  In These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 2 (1975-77), at last we get to delve into the biggest Star Trek project never delivered: The 1970s Star Trek: Phase II series that would be parted out and become Star Trek: The Motion Picture and later Star Trek: The Next Generation.  And that’s not all–ideas and early scripts for Phase II continue to be tapped in the 21st century Star Trek series and films.  Even better, Cushman digs into the ever-developing Star Trek novels, conventions, and more, which became the practice grounds for the wider, broad world of pop culture fandom as a whole.  How did Star Trek finally movie forward from the original series to become what it is today?  How did the fans play a major role in making that happen?   Continue reading

Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 here, and the Best in Television here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best New Edition of Previous Published WorkThe Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, David Petersen (IDW Publishing).  David Petersen’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful classic The Wind in the Willows into the hands of new readers.  The new edition from IDW Publishing was the perfect storybook, and Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard series, showed his understanding of these characters and their natural world full of wonder through his fantasy images.

Best Read, Best Retro Read – Forever and a Death, Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).  Not every good idea comes to fruition.  Not every excellent project gets off the ground.  Not every great book gets published.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books came through again, seizing the opportunity to take a lost, never before published work of Donald E. Westlake--Forever and a Death--and brought it to life.  And what a great adventure!  Originally the story commissioned to be the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the projected was shelved, and only now do we get fantastic characters (like environmental activist and diver Kim Baldur) in a very Bondian situation–destroying Hong Kong as payback for China taking it back from Great Britain.  Honorable mention for Best Retro Read: Turn on the Heat, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton.

Best Sci-Fi Read – Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Bradley W. Schenck (Tor Books).  Imaginative, new, and fun, Schenck took us into a timeless world full of nostalgia and classic science fiction.  Great tech, and a sprawling story.  Interesting characters and great world-building, this novel will be a great surprise for sci-fi readers.  Honorable mention: War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Greg Keyes.

Best Fantasy Read – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).  The plot of this debut novel is labyrinthine and action-packed, full of assassination attempts from all quarters, courtly intrigue galore, grandiose philosophies, and a cast of characters anchored by the strong, smart, resourceful, and eminently likeable heroes.  Supporting everything is Craddock’s strong, confident, often-funny, and sharply observant writing that goes from heart-wrenching to hilarious on a single page without missing a beat.  A dazzling debut.

Best Genre Non-fiction – Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Daniel Falconer (Harper Design).  We wish every genre franchise had such a magnificent, thorough, monumental guide.  Falconer’s guide to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies is full of interviews at all levels of the creative process, and supported by concept art, photographs, maps, and so much more.  Worthy of the six films it covers, it’s the ultimate fan book and a model for any franchise attempting to put everything fans could want into a single volume.

There’s much more of our selections for 2017’s Best in Print and more, after the jump…

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