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Category: Backstage Pass


Review by C.J. Bunce

For a film inside the giant, magical world of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald seemed to come and go from theaters with little fanfare.  J.K. Rowling‘s newest world is a bleak one full of darkness, and without her trademark happier, lovable, wonderful bits to echo the Harry Potter universe that draws its fans to this new series.  The spin-off series may suffer from prequel-itis.  Does it indicate that, like George Lucas and his prequels, the bestselling living author might benefit from letting someone else step in to edit these screenplays into a more accessible story for her fans?  The original screenplay to Grindelwald clocks in at a whopping 304 pages, nearly three times the standard, and it may have been simply too difficult for the production to whittle it all down into a cohesive story.  Regardless of what you think of the finished film, it is difficult to deny the amazing level of work that went into the production design.  We’re featuring some great behind-the-scenes books that spotlight the artistry behind the film over the next few days, beginning today with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, by concept artist Dermot Power, who also penned the predecessor book The Art of the Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald showcases the work of fifty-five artists, with notations provided by each creator, including what they were commissioned to draw, what inspired the look, and where the piece belonged in the story.  Art Nouveau inspired much of the film, coupled with a very steampunk industrial look that did not appear in the Harry Potter films.  Highlights include blueprints for stage sets, concept art that influenced the various Paris scenes, the design for Grindelwald’s vial, circus images that didn’t make it into the film, and Newt’s half-flooded basement zoo.

Best of all, Power’s new book gets to the heart of what is missing on the big screen from both Fantastic Beasts films: more images of the elaborate, intricately stylized, fantastic animal creations.  Unlike many “art of” books, the author pulls out far more fully rendered drawings, paintings, sculptures, instruments, 3D set builds, character designs, and visual effects try-ons–concept artwork that didn’t make it into the final film.  He also provides clearer images of the creatures that did make it into the film but were lost in the shadows because of the dimly lit cinematography used in the film, like the ethereal half-animal, half-vegetable Kelpie.

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In addition to Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves, reviewed here last month at borg.com, we have three additional, affordably priced gift ideas for your favorite Star Trek fan this holiday season, two books, and an attractive light-up, replica desk prop.  First up–Chip Carter is back with an update to his 2011 big book of Star Trek trivia in the expanded and updated Obsessed With Star Trek Carter added 200 new questions to cover the Kelvin timeline (the three reboot films) for this edition for a 2,700 question volume (sorry, no questions yet from Star Trek Discovery).  Questions are divided into sections covering each series through Enterprise, with a section on the movies through Star Trek Nemesis.  Readers will find a section each on cast, crew, and characters, aliens, ships and technology, and a section on concepts inside the Trek universe across the series.  As with the original, the book is entirely multiple choice questions, so use it how you will–incorporate it into a trivia game or just challenge yourself.  Those familiar with the last edition will note this version does not have the built-in digital game component, bringing its price down significantly compared to the previous edition.  Obsessed With Star Trek, the new edition, is available now from Titan Books here at Amazon.

Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will want to check out a replica display item from a fan-favorite episode, available from Running Press.  It’s Patrick Stewart’s Locutus prosthetic headpiece from the two-part story The Best of Both Worlds.  Unlike the original, the headpiece (referred to as a mask on the product) is made of die-cast metal and designed based on the look of Locutus in the second episode of the story.  It’s smaller than true-scale, close to 1:4 scale (3.5″ x 3.5″ x 5.5″) with LED laser light and audio featuring Locutus’s key dialogue, including his familiar line “resistance is futile.”  A die-cast metal base with removable plastic display cover (also included) makes for a nice office display.  The Locutus of Borg Collectible Mask includes a 48-page mini-hardcover book with photographs and remarks about the character also written by Chip Carter.  It’s available now at more than half off the release price here at Amazon.

Finally, the folks at Titan and its publication Star Trek Magazine have pulled together several previously published articles focused specifically on Star Trek the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation for the new compilation book Star Trek: Epic Episodes This latest release includes cast and crew interviews, plus hundreds of color photographs from the shows as well as behind-the-scenes images.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new encyclopedic view of Firefly rounds out a big year for Firefly fans.  First there was the release of two in-universe books, The Serenity Handbook followed by the Hidden Universe Travel Guide, then more recently we saw the first novel in the series, Big Damn Hero Rounding out a year of great books for Browncoats is Firefly Encyclopedia, by Monica Valentinelli.  Fans of past books for Firefly and the Firefly Loot Crate magazine will be familiar with the tone and design of this series overview.  From the cover to the layout of Polaroid-inspired snips, the book is part scrapbook, part in-depth look into the story in an in-universe style, part behind the scenes photographic essay.  You’re likely to find new images of the ship and crew, even if you’ve amassed all the previous Firefly books.

If this isn’t the biggest assemblage of ships, weapons, props, and sets, it comes close, plus the large photographs makes this the best designed look at the production so far.  The concept artwork for several characters is something we haven’t seen before, and here many designs for each character are showcased.  And at long last, fans have a Chinese-English translator tailored to the extensive use of the Chinese language in the series.

Part one of Firefly Encyclopedia presents the Firefly story, the complete in-world tale seen in the series, as you may find in an encyclopedia.  Next is a look at the characters, each crew member–both in-universe and the actors behind the character, followed by a brief look at secondary characters.  The next section is a geography of the ‘verse, comparative looks at planets, tables, astronomy, and ships along with an interview with artist Ben Mund.  A table looks at the technobabble of the show, followed by a treatment of futuristic medicine in the series.  A wider chapter looks at even more costume designs.  A final chapter digs into the scripts for the series, including analysis and commentary.

Here is a brief view inside the Firefly Encyclopedia:

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The sale of a rare, screen-used television prop continued the upward trend in values of Star Trek props at an auction this weekend held in California and online.  Auction house Prop Store offered nearly 400 props, costumes, set pieces, models, and other memorabilia from the collection of television prop private collector James Comisar.  Many of the lots did not receive bids that met the reserve price set by the seller, but a key, rare, Klingon disruptor from the 1960s Star Trek series sold strong, at $40,000 plus buyer’s premium, for a total sale price of $48,800.  One of the pieces that did not git a bidder to meet the reserve price was the tunic worn by William Shatner as Captain Kirk in one of television and pop culture’s most significant milestones, the first interracial kiss, between Shatner’s Kirk and Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which aired 50 years ago.  That tunic had a minimum reserve price set at $40,000, but only received $20,000 in bids.

Referred to in the series as “phaser” and “disruptor,” and used as a weapon by both Klingons and Romulans in the series, the Klingon disruptor hand prop that sold this weekend joins a small list of significant pieces sold at public auction, but it isn’t the highest price paid for a Star Trek hand prop.  That was $231,000, for the 2013 sale of a phaser rifle famously held in marketing images by William Shatner as Captain Kirk for the original Star Trek series, produced specifically for the retooled pilot episode, but never used afterward in the series.

The Klingon disruptor, also used by Romulans in the series, which sold this weekend at Prop Store’s auction.

Other key sales past sales of Star Trek hand props include the 2011 sale of an original series Starfleet phaser for $78,000, and a 2001 sale of a Starfleet phaser from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where the winning bidder paid $57,500.

Find out more about the Klingon disruptor at this detailed look at the prop here.

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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

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

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

For the fifth time, writer, editor, and researcher J.W. Rinzler has gone behind the scenes of pop culture’s biggest films for an in-depth look at the creative process.  Following his “Making of” books for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Indiana Jones films, Rinzler has tackled one of the most iconic of all science fiction franchises in The Making of Planet of the Apes, released this month from Harper Design books.  At last fans of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, have a definitive, exhaustive look at the film from interviews with the cast, creators, and everyone else involved with the movie from its source in a Pierre Boulle novel to film idea to Rod Serling draft script to casting Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson in lead roles, then switching to Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall.  Readers will get an immersive, inside account of studio politics and deal making leading to the ultimate production of the film, and from marketing the film to its enduring legacy.  We’ve included a 16-page preview of the book below, courtesy of the publisher.

Planet of the Apes is best known for its surprise ending and the groundbreaking makeup work by John Chambers.  Both topics are thoroughly covered in Rinzler’s account.  Through initial sketches, concept designs, storyboards, and rare photographs, readers will see the building of the climactic finale from the ground up, as executives, producers, and cast struggled to determine what would be the final scenes of the film.  Heston’s character Taylor did not survive in many of the draft screenplays (and he wasn’t called Taylor).  And Rinzler reaches back to film archives to trace the steps that led to John Chambers’ final designs for the chimps, the orangutans, and the gorillas–and why baboons were ruled out.  Beginning with techniques used to create the animated facial characteristics for the Cowardly Lion in MGM’s 1939 epic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz, Chambers expanded his own methods and created several iterations of the prosthetic masks and makeups before arriving at the designs we saw on film.

The Making of Planet of the Apes includes a spectacular two-page, detailed image of the specifications for the “ANSA” spacecraft that the three astronauts crash at the beginning of the film.  Perhaps the most eye-opening information about the film came from the late Charlton Heston’s personal archives.  He made detailed diary entries that reflect events during the filming process including scenes, discussions, concepts and people that he approved of and those he didn’t.  His entries, contemporary and recent interviews, and information from Fox and Warner Brothers’ studio archives, and records at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fill-in the blanks, building a meticulously complete account of the production.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This month Marvel is celebrating the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a look back at the first three phases of the films in a new hardcover book, Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years With the March 2019 release of Captain Marvel the official fourth phase of the MCU will begin.  With that shift to a new era quickly approaching, as well as an uncertain future thanks to the imminent completion of the acquisition of the X-Men characters, and the 10-year benchmark, it’s a good time to assess all Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was able to pull together beginning way back when we first saw Robert Downey, Jr. don the Iron Man armor for the first time.  This nostalgic trip back over the past decade will be published by Titan in conjunction with Marvel.

Readers will find interviews with Feige, co-president Louis D’Esposito, Stan Lee, Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Anthony and Joe Russo, James Gunn, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Chadwick Boseman, Evangeline Lilly, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, and Josh Brolin.  Multi-page sections focus on each of the 22 films in the series.  High-quality color photographs accompany the discussion of each film in chronological order, most with behind-the-scenes images, like a great image of all the parts to Ant-Man’s helmet laid out on a table.

Fascinating discussion points include D’Esposito pointing out how the produces intentionally made each new film a different genre, not just a superhero movie.  He also indicates that casting Robert Downey, Jr. was the most important casting decision of the franchise.  Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn talks about using the soundtracks on set for everyone to get the feel of the two Guardians movies.  The book even provides some preview information for next year’s Captain Marvel movie.  And there are several Easter eggs that most fans will have never read about anywhere else, often 10 or more for each film (the Collector and the Grandmaster are brothers?).  Here are a few pages from Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years:

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