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Category: Movies


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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Audiences don’t know what exactly Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye was up to during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, but the first trailer for the next installment in the Marvel Studios saga shows that he–not surprisingly–is making his return.  The big news is Marvel taking a reference from one of the last lines of Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange for the title of the April 2019 release, revealing Avengers: Endgame as the title of the final chapter of Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And despite the loss of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang aka Ant-Man at the post-credits scene in Ant-Man and The Wasp, somehow he’s back, too, as revealed in the trailer.

Marvel isn’t showing much–a good thing–about the next film, but they begin by teasing the death of Iron Man.  The big question for fans of the franchise will be “who lives and who dies?” at the end of Avengers: Endgame, since the studio already released information about future film releases with the cast of Spider-Man back next summer in Spider-Man: Far From Home and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 planned for 2020.

This comes on the heels of the television version of the Marvel universe closing its doors at Netflix, as Disney/Marvel announced it is pulling the plug on fan-favorite series Luke Cage and Daredevil, plus Iron Fist and more expected to be announced after the release of final seasons of Jessica Jones and The Punisher, which were already in production when the announcements started to roll out.

Check out this first trailer for Avengers: Endgame:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

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Marvel Studios just released the second trailer for Captain Marvel, the final solo film before the Marvel Cinematic Universe formally winds up its first decade of films based on the Marvel Comics superheroes (called Phase III) with its second part of the Avengers: Infinity War storyline coming in May 2019.  The new trailer arrives with a new movie poster featuring star Brie Larson (below).

Not many comic book events topped Infinity War discussions in 2018, with audiences left asking, “Wait–where did everyone go?” and “Are they coming back?”  Before we learn the answers to those questions, for those who stayed after the credits, you’ll recall Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury sent a last-minute pager message to someone with a strange new symbol, right before he disappeared into dust.  That was the symbol for Marvel’s Captain Marvel.

A big roster of acting talent will appear in this movie–Jackson joins Brie, and in this trailer we first see Annette Bening educating Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, on her past.  The film also stars Lee Pace as Ronan, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, and Djimon Hounsou as Korath, with Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Talos, Gemma Chan (Humans) as Minn-Erva, and Jude Law (Gattaca, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows).

Check out the new trailer:

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This October one of the trailers in front of the 40th anniversary screening of Halloween received some surprising positive audience responses.  The trailer was for Happy Death Day 2U, the sequel to the mildly well-received horror movie ($50 million+ profits and better than average reviews), director Christopher Landon‘s October 2017 release, Happy Death Day.

We couldn’t wait to preview the trailer here at borg.com.  But we waited.  And waited.

At last Universal Pictures has released the October trailer online.  As with the original movie, Happy Death Day 2U deals with one of our favorite sci-fi tropes, the time loop.  The sequel appears to shift from a Tru Calling type time loop story to more of a full-on Final Destination vibe, as star Jessica Rothe‘s put-upon college student Tree Gelbman must save not only herself from those freakish masked fiends, this time she must save all of her friends.

We think the trailer is hilarious and Rothe delivers a particularly funny performance.  Take a look at the trailer:

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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

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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