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Category: Backstage Pass


You may have gulped it down in one sitting or maybe you think it’s so good you’re (like us) enjoying this new series slowly, but there’s no doubt Netflix′s original series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will be a contender for the best series of the year in any category.  Lisa Henson and The Jim Henson Company have created something special here, and we’re now seeing some of the first tie-ins from this reboot of The Dark Crystal franchise, which began only two years ago with Caseen Gaines’ authoritative look at Henson, his inspiration, and his original Thra creations in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History (reviewed here at borg).  If you’re enjoying the new series, you’ll want to dive in to learn about the Hensons and how they created the world of Thra from the very beginning.

Funko has six 3 3/4-inch action figures to add to its earlier The Dark Crystal collection (first discussed here in 2016, these figures sell for top dollar on the aftermarket, with a few still on Amazon like Jen, Kira & Fizzgig, Chamberlain, Aughra, Landstrider, Garthim, and UrSol).  For the new TV series Funko’s first wave of figures have better sculpts and paint work than the prior series.  They feature gelflings Deet and Rian, Hup the podling, Aughra the Oracle, the Hunter Skeksis, and a Silk Spitter (see larger images below, and click on the names to learn more and order these at Amazon, currently about $10 each).

 

The tie-in books to choose from truly have something for all ages.  Look for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra, Heroes of the Resistance: A Guide to the Characters of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and Aughra’s Wisdom of Thra.  Below, check out a 10-page preview of the beautifully detailed behind the scenes art book The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra Each book is now available for pre-order from Amazon, and the publisher descriptions of each book is included below:

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Fans of director Yimou Zhang′s international mega-production The Great Wall didn’t need to go all the way to the Great Wall of China to have a chance at obtaining a piece of the 2016 film this past week.  Auction house Prop Store′s Los Angeles location joined with Legendary Entertainment to offer 477 lots of both key and background costumes, armor, prop weaponry, and set pieces from the first partnering of the United States and China on a giant blockbuster film.  The Great Wall is a Chinese dynasty fantasy set at the famous landmark, merging giant battles and action with the mega-sized monster genre, pairing China’s biggest stars with an international cast, backed by a crew from 100 countries.  Although the movie received mixed reviews from critics, what can’t be denied are the visual concepts and craftsmanship of New Zealand’s Weta Workshop and Mexican costume designer Mayes Rubeo, who designed imagery for the film never seen before.  Check out our review of the movie here at borg back in 2016, along with Abbie Bernstein’s ground-breaking book The Great Wall: The Art of the Film (reviewed here).

Weta Workshop kitted out the armies of The Great Wall with an arsenal of color.  The workshop design studio rendered more than a thousand concepts for the film, with 6,000 final weapons used by the key cast and 600 extras, including shields, spears, axes, daggers, crossbows, swords, and arrows featured in the auction.  Mayes Rubeo, known for her designs in Thor: Ragnarok and Avatar (and she created costumes for both the original Total Recall and the halted Mouse Guard live-action movie), utilized historic Chinese fabrics, textiles, techniques, hand embroidery and applique, and leathers in each costume with about 18 components per person, all featuring an animal and unique color combination: the blue crane corps, red eagle corps, gold tiger corps, black bear corps, and purple deer corps.

 

It should be no surprise that the top costume sales went for the two stunning, blue, armored costumes worn by the film’s Chinese star Tian Jing as Commander Lin Mae.  Featuring sheathed swords, helmets, leg daggers, feathered suit and hard armor, they sold for slightly more than $9,000 and $17,500 each.  Other hero costumes that sold included Matt Damon as William costume variants ($1,687, $2,625, $4,375 and $5,125), The Mandalorian actor Pedro Pascal′s character Tovar’s costumes ($937, $1,625, and $1,687), Willem Dafoe′s character Ballard ($344, $531, $875, and $1,437), General Shao’s (Zhang Hanyu) black armor ($2,187 and $4,500), Commander Wu’s (Eddie Peng) gold armor ($2,750 and $4,250), Commander Chen’s (Kenny Lin) red armor ($2,250 and $3,875), Commander Deng’s (Xuan Huang) purple armor ($1,625 and $3,875), and Strategist Wang’s (Andy Lau) costumes ($1,000 and $2,500).  A variety of historically-inspired, ornate hero (lead actor-used) swords ranged from $400 to $3,875 for one of the swords unique to Tian Jing.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For most people making a hamburger, all you need to do is look to the McDonald’s basic menu to see what they’re probably grilling at home.  Bun, burger, ketchup, mustard or mayo, onions and/or pickles, lettuce and cheese.  The folks behind the Emmy Award-winning animated series Bob’s Burgers are trying to kick your routine up a notch with a new set of recipe cards spinning out of their successful book, The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers.  Series creator and producer Loren Bouchard has joined Cole Bowden, the guy behind the fansite The Bob’s Burger Experiment, to pull together a box set of burger recipes highlighting several of the joke burgers featured in the series in, The Bob’s Burgers Recipe Box: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers.

The box includes 35 recipes, each featuring a comedy burger variety Bob Belcher has featured as a “Burger of the Day” on the series, reference to the episode it was used in, a detailed recipe, and that familiar art style from the show.  The surprise?  The combinations of flavors throughout the recipe cards are legitimate–these are kind of ingredient combinations you’d find an iron chef putting together on the Food Network.  They’ve also included five bonus cards with Bob’s Burgers animation artwork on one-side and a blank side to catalog your own recipes for yourself or future generations of eaters.

Recipes include the “The Six Scallion Dollar Man Burger,” the “Onion-tended Consequences Burger,” “Chèvre Which Way But Loose Burger,” “Onion Ring Around the Rosemary Burger,” the “It’s Fun to Eat at the Rye MCA Burger,” and dozens more.   And for those who really don’t know what they’re doing, Bowden has included a starter card on how to begin.

So which burger did I try first?

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At Disney’s annual “D23” Expo this weekend, attendees can expect to get another big fix of Disney, and that includes costumes.  The costumes are from the more recent Disney years, with one display showcasing the new Mary Poppins Returns outfits, Time from Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa’s costumes from the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  Another wing featured Disney’s recent animated-turned-live action movies, and another focused on the villainy of the live-action films, all within a gallery of dozens of costumes foreshadowing a new book coming next month, The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between, available now for pre-order here at Amazon.  Check out a 16-page preview of the new 176-page hardcover volume below.

The book isn’t about Star Wars costumes (for that, we recommend Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, reviewed previously here at borg, and Trisha Biggar’s Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, reviewed here).  But that didn’t keep Disney and Lucasfilm from showcasing a dozen costumes of Star Wars armor tracing back a design history of Star Wars stormtroopers.  Check those out below.

Lucasfilm also previewed the new hero cast costumes from The Mandalorian streaming series from Disney+ (previewed here yesterday).  And note: Ewan McGregor confirmed he will be reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a forthcoming Disney+ series.

 

Check out this preview of The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between and some Star Wars franchise costumes on display at D23 this weekend:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Like most things about baseball, The Battered Bastards of Baseball reflects as much about an era of American culture, economics, and politics as it tells a wonderfully engrossing story about a brief history of the sport.   Independent baseball–privately-owned teams unaffiliated with the Major League Baseball conglomerate–was a thing of the past when Portland, Oregon’s minor league baseball team the Portland Beavers left town.  It was the early 1970s and Portlanders weren’t spending their time or money on minor league games.  Then enters the well-known TV actor Bing Russell, stepping off his last of 14 seasons on Bonanza where he played a deputy sheriff.  Russell appeared in everything back then, from Westerns from Wagon Train to Rawhide, and modern fare like The Munsters, The Rockford Files, and The Twilight Zone.  There begins an underdog story, a mix of The Bad News Bears, Necessary Roughness, and Moneyball.

If you’re lucky enough to trip into the Netflix documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball, you’ll wonder where this story is headed.  It’s a brief history of 1970s Portland and national baseball, and then actor/movie star Kurt Russell and his mother Louise Russell begin discussing his father in a typical documentary format.  It turns out father Bing had a life-long affinity for the game, even being part of a significant piece of baseball history as mascot for the New York Yankees, befriending Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, and Lou Gehrig, who gave Bing the bat he used in his last game before retiring.  That love for the game apparently never left Bing, who concocted an idea to bring baseball right back to Portland by taking the entrepreneurial route–forming a pure upstart baseball team to play minor league ball.  Resurrecting the independent team model he would hold an open tryout for the new Portland Mavericks–if you build it they will come.  And they did.  Players rejected from the big leagues, some retired, many with paunches, and pre-movie star Kurt on the team, too, some players older than most teams would favor, and a bunch of hairy-faced guys decades before it became the “in” thing–all would come together to form a motley band of brothers that would earn a crack at the pennant.  With a 30-man roster, and Bing’s personal brand of fun, fans packed the stadium again, the team setting a record for the highest attendance in minor league history, blazing the trail in other ways, naming the first woman general manager in baseball, Lanny Moss.  But like all good things it seems, a villain would enter the picture to wreck it all.

The real deal: Kurt Russell playing in the Minor Leagues with the Portland Mavericks.

With that nostalgic, cheery vibe of Ivan Reitman’s 1970s movie Meatballs or a dialed-back Slap Shot, Bing’s grandsons Chapman Way and Maclain Way splice together both baseball, Hollywood, and Portland nostalgia to assemble a completely engaging, crowd-pleasing story of underdogs and misfits and the pied piper who led them.  If you remember that every baseball stadium in 1970s America–and every grade school–had kids chomping on Big League Chew–you’ll learn that connection to the Mavericks, too.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Actor Vic Mignogna, who has played Star Trek’s Captain Kirk on the fan-made series Star Trek Continues, has taken on an enormous task in his latest project, narrating the mammoth behind-the-scenes look at classic television and creator/producer Gene Roddenberry in an audio play adaptation of the Saturn Award-winning These Are the Voyages–ST: TOS Season One–nearly 29 hours in all.  Master researcher and TV historian Marc Cushman has meticulously crafted several volumes detailing the Golden Age of Television, including four volumes (and fifth on the way) of Star Trek history.  With the new audiobook, Cushman has assembled nearly 100 voice actors, including several Star Trek insiders quoted in the book, who returned to voice their contributions from Cushman’s first book in his series.  Among the voices you’ll hear writer Dorothy Fontana, writer Ronald D. Moore, actor Clint Howard, casting director Joe D’Agosta, actor Sean Kenney, and director Ralph Senensky, plus sons of Leonard Nimoy (Adam) and James Doohan (Chris) voicing their fathers’ quoted material, and other surprises, like Mythbusters co-host and Star Trek Continues actor Grant Imahara as the voice of George Takei.  The result is a fantastic way to kick back and enjoy the long-lost past and inner-workings of your favorite 1960s sci-fi series.

Marc Cushman’s adaptation of his own work, with Susan Osborn, smartly distills his lengthy first volume into the key narrative elements–Gene Roddenberry’s arrival in Hollywood, the development of Star Trek, Roddenberry’s assemblage of creators, directors, producers, writers, and actors for his series, and the episode by episode chronicle of the ups and downs of season one.  Mignogna is a fantastic choice to walk the audience along, a mix of 1930s radioplay storyteller and Ken Burns’ award-winning series of documentaries.  For anyone afraid of embarking on a lengthy 658-page non-fiction book, this is your answer.

Actor Vic Mignogna with Star Trek repeat guest actor Clint Howard.

Voice actor Ralph Miller really nails the talkative and often irritable Gene Roddenberry.  The less-known players in the story often provide the most interesting performances, men and women reproducing 1960s inflections and accents in a myriad of types believably well.  The dialogue in the book has a more lively feel and effect when spoken.  As an example, Gene Roddenberry and Matt Jefferies’ discussions (originally via written correspondence) over details of military components to be incorporated into the series sets provides for some humor in the drama.  Listeners will really get a good picture of these two negotiating over who was better able to sign-off on the look of the practical, visual bits of the series.  And the production values are spot on–These Are the Voyages–ST: TOS Season One is a well-produced, entertaining work full of trivia for Star Trek fans and classic TV buffs, presented in an unusual, unexpected way.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not an overstatement to say Francesco Francavilla is the artist who brought Archie Comics back to life.  At the very least he has turned a new generation of readers onto one of comicdom’s longest lasting titles.  Along with Jon Goldwater and Alex Segura behind the scenes and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and later artist Robert Hack in the pages of the monthly books, it was Francavilla’s haunting, brand new look at Riverdale and its teen characters that kick-started reader interest in new titles and take another look at the classic stories, the ones with the traditional Dan DeCarlo look that 70 years of readers were familiar with.  Francavilla, the Eisner Award-winning cover artist, is the focus of a new hardcover book Archie Comics is premiering this Wednesday.  Featuring all of his Archie Comics standard covers and variants, plus selected interior artwork and cover artwork for books outside the Archie universe, The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla is a must for collectors of his books and neo-pulp styled art prints.

In part because of his use of fantastic colors for his imagery, his designs seem to pop on every page.  You’ll find his several covers for Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vampironica, Jughead the Hunger, Archie Meets Batman, Archie vs Sharknado, Archie vs Predator, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Riverdale, Life with Archie, Archie, Jughead, Betty & Veronica, and Josie and the Pussycats.  Other pages highlight Francavilla’s style on the covers of New Crusaders, The Black Hood, and The Hangman.  The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla also includes some cover and page roughs–preliminary sketches used for approval and story breaking, all shown along with the final versions.  You’ll also find exclusive cover art from convention-only covers and other variants.

Woule we have a Riverdale television series if not for Francavilla’s darker look at Archie?  Probably not.  Here is a first look at some advance preview pages of The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla for borg readers courtesy of Archie Comics:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

So many books that go behind the scenes of films take a similar approach, skimming the surface with interviews of only top production heads, providing diehard fans of the property who have read all the fanzines little that is new.  So when you get an immersive treatise like The Making of Alien, you must take a few weeks to digest every story, quote and anecdote found inside.  Maybe it’s because so much of the inception of the other classics J.W. Rinzler has written about is the stuff of sci-fi movie legend, but Rinzler’s research this time around is completely enthralling.  Writer Dan O’Bannon, writer and initial director Walter Hill, concept artist H.R. Giger, director and storyboard artist Ridley Scott, actors Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, and Ian Holm–Rinzler’s chronology is framed by the entry of these people into the project and their key roles.  The account of their intersected careers and efforts resulting in the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic provide a detailed understanding of studio productions in the 1970s.  For fans of the film and the franchise, you couldn’t ask for more for this year’s 40th anniversary of Alien.

Rinzler, who has also created similar deep dives behind the scenes of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, the Indiana Jones films, and last year’s The Making of Planet of the Apes, has established the best format for giving sci-fi fans the ultimate immersive experience.  In many ways The Making of Alien is an account of the necessary vetting process behind any major creative endeavor.  The first draft of any story is never the best, and sometimes neither is the 100th draft.  But the best books and the best movies get reviewed by other people, usually producers, editors, studios, departments, some with prestige and money backing them, sometimes over and over, with changes made to every chapter, with creators and ideas that are tried on for size, dismissed, re-introduced, and sometimes brought back again.  By the end of many a film, the contributors are exhausted and disenchanted, some even devastated.  Only sometimes this is alleviated by a resulting success.  It was even more difficult working on a project like Alien–a mash-up of science fiction and horror pulled together in the 1970s, when drama was in, and science fiction meant either the cold drama of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the roller coaster spectacle of Star Wars.  Behind the scenes there would be overlaps in creative types, like famed set “graffiti artist” Roger Christian and sound expert Ben Burtt.  But ultimately Alien had to be something different to get noticed.

The stories of O’Bannon and Giger’s contributions and conflicts are the most intriguing of the bunch, and if you’ve read everything available on the film you’ll be surprised there is far more to their stories you haven’t read.  The influence of John Carpenter was paramount to getting the idea of the film past the first step, particularly his films Dark Star and The Thing.  Along the journey other creators would intersect with the project–people like Steven Spielberg, Alan Ladd, Jr., John Dykstra, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, Ron Cobb, Jerry Goldsmith, and even Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

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Netflix and The Jim Henson Company previewed even more from the forthcoming sequel series to Jim Henson’s fantasy masterpiece, The Dark Crystal this week at San Diego Comic-Con.  We previewed The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance back here at borg in May, including all the voice cast playing characters both familiar and new.

The new footage shows a little more of what is coming next month, plus it offers some behind the scenes imagery, with brief commentary from creators, including director Louis Leterrier, executive producer Lisa Henson, production designer Gavin Bocquet, creature and costume designer Brian Froud, assistant costume designer Wendy Froud, and actor Simon Pegg, the new voice of Chamberlain.  What is clear is that Jim Henson would likely have approved of their method.  We’ll have to wait to see it to confirm whether it also has the heart, the wonder, and the fear of the original.

The Muppet-like characters so far look as good as anything The Jim Henson Company has created.  Aughra, the Skeksis, the new Fizzgig, and new Gelflings also appear to be faithful updates to the originals.  At SDCC the director announced a behind-the-scenes documentary is also in the works.

Take a look at the new footage and behind the scenes glimpses at The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance:

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It seems like something big is going to happen Saturday, right?  With CBS providing stream re-broadcasting in real-time the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969–heading 234,000 miles to the Moon, until Neil Armstrong’s foot first hit the dust of the Moon’s surface four days later on July 20, 1969–a viewer glued to their computer or streaming TV could convince himself/herself that it’s all happening right now.

Most Earthlings today, and certainly Americans of the past few generations now only know of Walter Cronkite from his inclusion as himself with historical CBS footage spliced by Ron Howard into his film Apollo 13.  Cronkite, long thought one of the best broadcast journalists of all time, was a staple in homes for decades, and as anyone new to the Apollo 11 project will find, was the key hand-holder of the public as they first witnessed humanity’s greatest adventure.  Spliced between news coverage for new viewers and fans of all things retro may appreciate the vintage TV commercials all just as they originally aired.  Astronaut Wally Schirra accompanied Cronkite for the broadcast.  U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew spoke after the launch, which was also attended by then-former President Lyndon Johnson.

Check here and your local news for events nationwide this week celebrating the 50th anniversary event–every city and science center has some kind of commemoration.  Twenty-five years ago I worked at the Smithsonian Institution at the Milestones of Flight display at site of the Apollo 11 capsule for the countdown to the Moonshot, which was accompanied by speeches from Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, the Vice President Dan Quayle and other dignitaries, and I was able to see the Armstrong spacesuit as a worker behind the scenes firsthand.  Twenty-five years later the capsule, the Command Module Columbia, is still on display across from the Wright Brothers Flyer and the Spirit of St. Louis at the National Air and Space Museum.  Armstrong’s spacesuit has been restored this year and was unveiled in a new display yesterday at the museum, unveiled by Vice President Mike Pence and members of Armstrong’s family.  The suit remains one of the most important objects in the history of humans.

You can find the complete official NASA-sponsored events at the NASA website here, with many opportunities in Washington, DC, and via the Internet for those at home.  Today’s #1 astronaut, the recently retired Peggy Whitson, holder of several Earth records for her space travels, can be found as part of the television coverage of the week.  Cronkite’s account of the moon landing and moonwalk will stream again on July 20 at 3:17 p.m. and 9:56 p.m. Central.  Re-live, again, or view for the first time, the lift-off coverage by CBS here:

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