Category: Backstage Pass


Review by C.J. Bunce

No photographer is more synonymous with U.S. national parks than John Muir, and the world has marveled at his look at the precious national wonders of America for more than 125 years.  Lesser known are 19th century photographers who crossed the country snapping stereographic–three-dimensional–images of these magical places.  3D Disneyland author David A. Bossert has amassed a collection of vintage stereoscope images spanning several U.S. National Parks, and as with his previous book (reviewed here), he’s converted, cleaned-up, and enlarged those stereoscope cards into 3D anaglyph format.  Now they can be viewed by a new generation via those 1950s movie theater-style 3D red/cyan blue glasses in the former Disney Imagineer’s latest book, 3D National Parks, available for pre-order now here at The Old Mill Press.

Teddy Roosevelt in 3D?  You are going to love the result.  You can almost smell the sulfur burbling from the mudpots or hear the deafening sound of the waterfalls at Yellowstone, as these images of the past snap to life before your eyes.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Six years after it arrived in theaters, the 2016 eight-time Oscar nominee Arrival is getting a behind-the-scenes book in this month’s The Art and Science of Arrival.  In my review here at borg I remarked that a diehard science fiction moviegoer probably would find nothing new in the film–nearly every minute could be seen in countless episodes of science fiction television.  Arrival was in a line of many dramas cloaked in science fiction dress, like Interstellar and Gravity. Following the Michael Crichton stylebook, Arrival gave us a problem (terrifying, giant squid-like, alien monsters referred to as heptapods in derivative 2001: A Space Odyssey monoliths) and brought in a team of experts to work to solve that problem.  In my view the success of the movie was due entirely to lead actor Amy Adams, who seemed to have the Midas touch, having clocked five acting Oscar nominations at that point.  For fans of the movie, The Art and Science of Arrival provides insight into how it made the journey from the short story “The Story of Your Life” to movie, to Oscar nominee, ultimately only taking the sound editing Oscar that year.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Some concept artists light the spark for the visuals of a film or television project.  A few create something truly novel, something that endures.  The late artist and designer Ron Cobb has something of both.  Fans of pop culture know his work even if they don’t know his name.  Now he’s the centerpiece of the next look at the greatest artists and artisans behind the scenes of cinema.  With Titan Books’ new work The Art of Ron Cobb, the publisher adds to the film enthusiast’s bookshelf of sci-fi designers like Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, The Artistry of Dan Curry, Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron, and a stack of books on John Eaves, including Star Trek: The Art of John EavesThe Art of Ron Cobb is available for pre-order now here at Amazon.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Stagecoach, Lost Horizon, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, High Noon, The Seven Year Itch, Giant, Rio Bravo, Batman, Chinatown, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  What do these films have in common?  They each featured significant contributions by Latinx and Hispanic creators.  Next week Turner Classic Movies/TCM and Running Press continue their long-running master class in cinema with the latest volume of the TCM Film Library.  For it they tapped the biggest expert in Latinx and Hispanic cinema, Luis I. Reyes, author of the authoritative 550-page treatise on the subject, Hispanics in Hollywood. 

In TCM’s Viva Hollywood, Reyes updates and highlights pieces from his earlier work, pulling back the veil into a world of actors in front of the camera as well as filmmakers behind the scenes.  Since the heyday of silent film, Latin and Hispanic performers have provided audiences some of their most memorable movies.  From Antonio Moreno’s first film appearance in 1912 to modern entertainers Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriquez, Ana de Armas and Oscar Isaac, they all come together in TCM’s Viva Hollywood, available for pre-order now here at Amazon and arriving in bookstores next week.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Director/producer Tim Miller’s dark genre anthology showcase Love Death+Robots has netted 11 Emmy Awards so far.  The series plucks short stories from science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and adapts them using a director and creative team from across the entire industry of animation.  Bring them altogether with visual effects house Blur Studios and the broad variety of artwork behind all three seasons of the show are an introduction to the myriad methods of expression available to the 21st century animator.  Landing in bookstores everywhere tomorrow, The Art of Love Death+Robots is writer Ramin Zahed’s latest behind the scenes tour of a TV series, and for Love Death+Robots, it’s all about concept art and futuristic style.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you love history and the idea of time travel, scientists and writers have provided mankind with several options to bridge the two.  Maybe you don’t think of it as time travel, but written history for millennia has allowed humans to see the past through the eyes of our ancestors.  Since the 1840s, early photography has allowed us to literally see the past.  Early cinema came in the subsequent decades, and both photography and cinema made it possible for we future beings to see the past in color.  With Victorian ingenuity, we could see the past in three dimensions.  Almost from the inception of photography, stereoscopic viewers brought three dimensions to audiences by 1840, thanks to Charles Wheatstone.  Cinema followed, thanks to a stereoscope release of George Méliès’ 1902 movie A Trip to the Moon.  By the 1950s anyone could preserve life in the moment for future generations via stereo cameras, and every kid marveled at easy to view View-Master reels documenting life across time and space, even via 3D images taken from the actual Apollo missions to the Moon.  We’ve come a long way from old fashioned stereoscope viewers, but the same awe can be found in the new book 3D Disneyland: Like You’ve Never Seen It Before (available now here at Amazon), a decades past look inside a beloved theme park, including its Tomorrowland and its mid-century modern art movement-inspired world.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last month I reviewed Alien: Colony War, a novel in the Alien universe that finds hated corporation Weyland-Yutani weaponizing Xenomorphs for an all-out interplanetary war.  Xenomorphs are weaponized in an entirely new way in Philippa Ballentine and Clara Čarij’s next Alien novel, Alien: Inferno’s Fall, and this time nobody knows who is behind it.  This is not another political story unpacking and unraveling Earth’s future, but a gritty and down in the dirt tale of survival from the vantage of three interesting heroines.  One you know, one you sort of know, and the other is all new.  The Colonial Marines battalion known as the Jackals are in prime form in this sci-fi blend of elements from Armageddon, Aliens, and Blade Runner.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

The best documentaries tend to be about a subject you had no interest in before watching it.  I count Michael Apted’s 7-Up documentary series as the best of all time, with the rest of the best to include the World War II story Ghost Plane of the Desert: Lady Be Good, Nova’s biography of Andrew Wiles searching for Fermat’s Last Theorem The Proof, Penn & Teller’s Tim’s Vermeer, Bruce Brown’s Endless Summer, the Bruce Lee biography Be Water, Thor Heyerdahl’s Oscar-winning Kon-Tiki, Stephen Fry’s fandom journey Wagner and Me, Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, PBS’s The Farthest: Voyager in Space, the FBI scandal story 1971, Kurt Russell family’s The Battered Basterds of Baseball, and one from everyone’s top 10 list, Harlan County USA

But how about a documentary about a subject you know you like?  Lawrence Kasdan’s Light & Magic fits the bill, a docu-series about the making of Star Wars… and more.  It probably won’t get an Oscar nod next year, but sure it has the most nostalgia per minute.  You may think you have seen it all, then Kasdan, Ron Howard, and their friends show up and find this incredible footage and get most of the original creators of Star Wars, Lucasfilm, and Industrial Light & Magic to walk fans through how it all happened.  The six-part docu-series is now streaming on Disney+.  Like ILM’s myriad contributions to movies, the result feels like magic.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Were I to offer a college course in film, my textbooks would include TCM’s 20th Century Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio, TCM’s Forbidden Hollywood, Special Effects: The History and Technique, TCM’s Essential Directors, American Visions: The Films of Frank Capra, Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist, and Aardman’s A Grand Success, and I’d have students watch Paramount’s The Offer, Prime Video’s The Last Tycoon, and Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s WorldAdd to that the new English translation of French writer José-Luis Bocquet and artist Catel Muller’s new 400-page graphic novel, Alice Guy: First Lady of Film, available this month here at Amazon, a rich, densely layered look at one of the world’s first movie directors, the first woman director (1896), an early movie producer, and the creator of the first film with an all-black cast of actors–way back in 1912.  Her life is a chronology of the first decades of the invention of cinema, and she helped mold modern film-making in France and the U.S. as she rubbed elbows with the likes of Gustave Eiffel, Georges Méliès, the Lumière brothers, Rose Pastor Stokes–subject of one of her films–and American film pioneers Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

The Alien universe makes a major shift in storytelling in its latest novel, Alien: Colony War, realizing the long-standing promise of Weyland-Yutani, the most hated corporation in sci-fi, finally weaponizing Xenomorphs for an all-out interplanetary war.  In the running for the most action-packed story in the series, it also covers a lot of territory, merging political intrigue with personal trials and one of the best examinations of its cybernetic Synthetic characters yet.  Writer David Barnett taps into surprising tropes as he weaves into the bigger Alien narrative stories from the comics and video games.  It has the suspense of Into Thin Air, the pacing of Jurassic Park, the layered plight of cyborgs from the Humans TV series, and dips back into science fiction’s past with a dose of Forbidden Planet.  That’s a pretty good mix for an Alien adventure.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: