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Tag Archive: George Lucas


The 3D movie is here to stay and it’s as big as it’s ever been.  Not only new movies continue to hit the big screen and impress us with newer ways to turn a movie visit into an amusement park ride, whether in 3D or IMAX 3D.  Old films continue to get the 3D treatment, too.  An entire branch of films and home video releases are devoted to this category, with films that weren’t originally filmed in 3D like Titanic, Jurassic Park, Top Gun, I, Robot, and Beauty and the Beast among the films getting the upgrade–the best results coming from the incredible 3D work done to The Wizard of Oz (reviewed here) and Predator (reviewed here).  But a music video getting a 3D upgrade?  That’s new.

This year the 1980s are coming back in a big way.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller knocked our socks off as part of the latest trailer for Stranger Things season 2 last month.  The powerhouse music video (which even made the National Film Registry) has been given a complete 3D and sound upgrade for a premiere at the Venice Film Festival this summer followed by a return to the theaters for the first time since a limited run in Los Angeles when it debuted back in 1983.  Thriller is truly a one-of-a-kind film, directed by John Landis (The Twilight Zone, The Blue Brothers, Animal House, Trading Places) and co-written by Landis and Michael Jackson, the film was a dream project for Jackson, who was a fan of Landis’s fang-filled An American Werewolf in London.  Jackson spared no expense, pulling in monster maker Rick Baker for prosthetics and Michael Peters for choreography input.  It’s a little bit meta–Vincent Price’s Thriller was the (fake) monster movie Michael and his girlfriend watched in the theater in the video, with a great shot of the marquee as they emerge from the theater.  Fans of a new generation will be able to see Thriller in real life on their local theater marquee.

A fan of 3D, Michael Jackson pioneered the re-launch of 3D films in 1986, starring in his sci-fi film Captain EO, a 3D musical with executive producer George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, scored by James Horner and co-starring Dick Shawn (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Producers, The Year Without a Santa Claus) and Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor, The Addams Family, The Grifters, The Watcher in the Woods) as an incredibly designed borg villain (an inspiration for Star Trek First Contact’s Borg Queen).  John Napier (Broadway’s Cats) created the costumes, Rick Baker returned for makeup and monster creations, and Tom Burman (Planet of the Apes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Goonies, Dead Again) created Huston’s makeup.  A Disney theme park exclusive, Captain EO was shown up until 2015 in the parks’ 3D theaters, but has not been released in a home version.  The Captain EO 3D comic book is regularly still available here at Amazon.

Michael Jackson’s first (and then, presumably only) 3D film featured Anjelica Huston as this spectacular borg creation, the Supreme Leader.

Michael Landis returned to lead the 3D, music, and sound effects upgrades for the new 3D release of Jackson’s film/video Thriller, saying, “I am so happy to have had the chance not only to restore but enhance Michael Jackson’s Thriller!  We took full advantage of the remarkable advances in technology to add new dimensions to both the visual and the audio bringing it to a whole new level.  Even though Thriller was shot traditionally, I was able to use the 3D creatively.  Let me just warn you, there is a rather shocking surprise in there!”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’ve reviewed dozens of books here at borg.com about the filmmaking process.  Great books like Special Effects: The History and Technique, and movie-specific, behind the scenes masterpieces like Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars Limited Edition and Star Wars Frames.  More books have been written about Star Wars than most films, and accounts like Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien really take fans back to 1976 and 1977 to learn how such an important series of films began.  With this week’s announcement from Disney that we can look forward to Star Wars spinoffs into the 2030s, the franchise has never had greater worldwide appeal.  One superb account of the Star Wars filmmaking process we have not yet discussed is Lorne Peterson’s Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop Limited Edition, originally published in 2005, still available from Insight Editions in both its standard and deluxe format.

Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop is the ultimate look at the making of Star Wars models by Lorne Peterson (shown above), about the fantasy worldbuilding work of Peterson and his peers at Industrial Light & Magic from Star Wars: A New Hope through the prequel trilogy.  More than half of this deluxe hardcover book features ships and other vehicles–large, full color photographs (more than 300), and many gatefolds, with sections on each major ship and nearly every minor ship and vehicle created in both 1:1 and small scale for the original trilogy and early prequels, plus those creations digitally rendered by ILM for the later prequel films.  ILM co-founder Peterson provides the creative vision behind each ship–like the fact the Rebel Blockade Runner was originally designed as the Millennium Falcon and why it was changed into its now famous form.  Many of the final models were the product of kitbashing–using parts from model kits of the day like car engines and World War II German tank components to create a look of tangible reality to the construction of the Star Wars galaxy, similar to the method of using “found” items for production used by Roger Christian to create sets and props for the original film.

 

Peterson also looks at set models created for many environments needed for the six films, plus those creatures and robots ILM worked on for the series.  Diehard fans will appreciate references to paint colors used, and sources for components for various ILM creations, including blood for the Tatooine Cantina scene and full views of the escape pod that R2-D2 and C-3PO used to get there.  Anecdotes like the fact that ILM used modifed Six Million Dollar Man action figures in the seats of many vehicles make this book a fun read.  (Guess who really drove the Landspeeder in its original trip to Mos Eisley!).  Those who may not be fans of the prequels will no doubt appreciate the artistry behind creating the vehicles and sets for the film, shown scattered throughout the pages of the original trilogy in a way that creates its own comprehensive history.  Boba Fett’s Slave 1, the Imperial Probe Droid, AT-ATs, extensive coverage of the Millennium Falcon, the Death Stars, the Star Destroyers (including the unused prototype), the Naboo Rebel Starship, X-Wings, A-Wings, B-Wings, TIE Fighters, and the Landspeeder–all the models fans want to see can be found here.

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labyrinth-the-ultimate-visual-history

Fans of Jim Henson are always waiting for the next pebble of gold about the beloved creator of the Muppets and other fantastical creations on the big and small screen. Whether via a retrospective image or a story from someone who worked with him, it’s as if we need to make up for the time stolen from us by his untimely death by seeking out every snippet of his life we can find.  The latest treasure chest of Henson memorabilia is Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann’s beautiful hardcover, 30th anniversary celebration Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History, published by Insight Editions.  Labyrinth, the 1986 fantasy classic that starred rock star David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly decades before she’d be awarded an Oscar, is in a small class of cult classic fantasies that came out of the 1980s that included The Princess Bride, Willow, and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. 

Like so many of those “vault” books published for big genre franchises, Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is not simply a book of high quality photographs of behind-the-scenes views of the cast, creatures, and crew and images of concept art, it’s all that plus more. Like more than 20 inserts reproducing treasures from the Henson Archives, including a pull-out of the full-color, theatrical one-sheet movie poster created for the film by Ted CoConis.  You’ll find classic style tipped-in concept art, draft script pages, and memos from Henson, with many items showing his hand-written notes.  

bowie-connelly

I streamed the digital edition of Labyrinth (available here) to re-familiarize myself with the film before reading this new work, and was pleased to see every human character, every creature (all those goblins!), every scene, and every magical effect discussed in detail in this volume.  Three key images came to mind from viewing the film years ago: Bowie walking the M.C. Escher room in the show’s climax with a crazy upward, almost Michael Jackson-inspired move (turns out a stuntman worked the scene), Bowie’s flawless contact juggling of crystal balls (we learnit was a professional juggler’s arm actually doing the trick), and the masked ball (a pre-Star Trek Gates McFadden helped coordinate the scene).  Each of the scenes and production steps are described through contemporary or recent interviews with Jim Henson, Brian Henson and his siblings, Brian Froud (whose incredible concept art is sprinkled through the book and incorporated into its layout design), Toby (the striped baby) Froud, creature makers and players Kevin Clash and Dave Goelz, executive producer George Lucas, and actors Connelly and Bowie, among many others.

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Troopers in the hall

Written and directed by Jon Spira and funded via Kickstarter, a documentary about the making of the original Star Wars is now available in the U.S. via Netflix after a release last year in the UK and limited-city U.S. theatrical release this summer.  Elstree 1976 is a time travel trip to visit some of the more obscure actors who portrayed characters and, except for Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse, would not make either the poster credits or, for some, even the movie’s end credits.

Yet each of the characters they portrayed became known by diehard Star Wars fans because of its historic success.  Spira’s documentary asserts 2 billion people on Earth have seen Star Wars–something like 25% of the planet’s population.  Perhaps even a fleeting image of an actor in such a universally acknowledged work justifies our fascination with even the most obscure bit player (see George Lucas’s Frames, reviewed here and here at borg.com, for instance).  Remember the Stormtrooper who uttered the line “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for… move along”?  What about Luke’s friends from the deleted Tatooine scenes?  Or one of the actors who claims to be the Stormtrooper who cracked his head on the door aboard the Death Star?

Elstree 1976 poster

Spira selected ten actors to be featured in his film.   Hundreds more could be seen in a similar documentary or documentaries made tomorrow.  But what fascinates is that just as Star Trek actors will tell you about how you never leave Star Trek once you play any part in the franchise, the same holds true for Star Wars.  The convention circuit has breathed new life into careers and new opportunities to make money.  Unlike many films about fans of big franchises, this documentary is quite respectful of the fans, not showing them as oddities.  Most of the actors interviewed are respectful and grateful to the fanbase, too.  The only downside is the uncomfortable politics of the convention circuit among these actors–a few see themselves as a higher status of guest and believe others should not be going to conventions, which sort of misses the point of conventions altogether.

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luke-obiwan-peering-into-lightsaber

Review by C.J. Bunce

Roger Christian’s success is a testament to the idea of thinking outside the box.  If you stop in the middle of age-old processes, no matter what you’re doing and what field you’re in, and consider trying a different method, you may trigger something special.  In Roger Christian’s new memoir Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, it is the old Hollywood method of making movies that is the villain of sorts, with Christian coming to the rescue as the hero with a new way of creating movie magic for audiences in 1977.  And it just so happens he came to the rescue of George Lucas and landed a gig making of one of the greatest science fiction fantasy of all time, the original Star Wars, and the greatest sci-fi horror film of all time, Alien.

In Cinema Alchemist you learn Christian’s modern method of set decoration and design perfected in Star Wars, a method copied by many, that he would soon use again for Alien.  Ridley Scott specifically chose Christian to create the same look he came up with for the Millennium Falcon in his new ship the Nostromo and other sets.

Cinema Alchemist

In any memoir you can expect some amount of hyperbole, although Christian likely deserves a pass simply because the Academy Awards endorsed his work as set decorator of Star Wars with an Oscar.  So he is certainly the real deal.  Countless Star Wars fans have spent years re-creating his original design for the lightsaber, tracking down the original camera parts he used, as well as re-creating all the rifles and pistols used in the film.  Christian had his hands in the creation of R2-D2, C-3PO, the landspeeder, the Sandcrawler, Luke’s Tatooine homestead, the Millennium Falcon, the giant dinosaur skeleton in the desert sand, Mos Eisley and the Cantina, and set after set created for the film.

original R2-D2

George Lucas and the R2-D2 prototype Christian helped to create with a light fixture and metal bits and pieces Lucas called “greeblies”.

The value of the book is in Christian’s accounts of prop making, set design, and using found objects like old airplane scrap metal to create a “real world, lived-in” feel on Star Wars and Alien in light of severe time and money constraints, plus Christian’s personal recollections of conversations and observations with George Lucas on Star Wars and Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger, and Moebius on Alien, and his play-by-play of the filming of the Alien chest-buster scene, arguably the most famous horror scene of modern cinema.  After reading Cinema Alchemist, you will absolutely watch Star Wars and Alien differently, and notice details of the film you haven’t seen in your previous 300 viewings of the films.  That is quite a feat.

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Troopers in the hall

Written and directed by Jon Spira and funded via Kickstarter, a new documentary about the making of the original Star Wars is coming your way, and it’s not anything you will find in the special features of your twelve editions of the original trilogy in your home video collection.  Elstree 1976 is a time travel trip to visit some of the more obscure actors who portrayed characters who, except for one, would not make either the poster credits or, for some, even the movie’s end credits.

Yet each of the characters they portrayed became famous because of the historic success of Star Wars, and the fact that so many have seen the film so many times that every frame of the film has taken on its own life in the annals of sci-fi/fantasy cinema history.  Remember the stormtrooper who uttered the line “these aren’t the droids we’re looking for… move along”?  What about Luke’s friends from the deleted Tatooine scenes?

Elstree 1976 poster

Spira selected ten actors to be featured in his film.  The documentary includes interviews with actors who filmed scenes at Elstree Studios in England in 1976.  The most well-known are David Prowse (Darth Vader), Jeremy Bulloch (The Empire Strikes Back’s Boba Fett), and Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter), whose scenes were cut by director George Lucas, only to be re-inserted into the Special Edition in the 1990s.

Comic Con with Boba Fett Jeremy Bulloch Bunce

Your Editor with Jeremy Bulloch and the character he made famous a long, long, time ago.

Other actors included are Paul Blake (Greedo), Anthony Forrest (Luke’s friend Fixer and the Jedi-tricked Sandtrooper), Laurie Goode (Stormtrooper and cantina patron Saurin), Derek Lyons (temple guard/medal bearer), Angus MacInnes (Gold Leader), Pam Rose (cantina patron Leesub Sirln) and John Chapman (X-Wing pilot Red 12).

Here’s the trailer for the documentary Elstree 1976:

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han-solo-passes-the-torch-in-new-star-wars-the-force-awakens

Review by C.J. Bunce

Did J.J. Abrams earn or reject his Jar Jar badge?  Did we drown in re-hashed lines from the original trilogy?  Did Disney make the same mistakes as George Lucas made with his prequels?

When you get right down to it, we all had a pretty low threshold by which we were going to judge the success of the highly anticipated, overly over-marketed Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We knew it couldn’t match the original Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but it was Abrams’s challenge to see how high he could position the result of his efforts among the other four films.

So how did he fare?

Is the movie better than the prequels?

Is the dialogue better than George Lucas’s in the past films?

Did he hand off the story from the old guard to the new guard successfully?

Is The Force Awakens a modern sci-fi fantasy classic, or among the best films ever made?

Boyega and Isaac

After the jump, I’ll walk though my spoiler-light reaction to what is going to go down as the biggest money-making film of all time.

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abrams-star-wars-comics

Review by C.J. Bunce

With three new Star Wars comic book series beginning this year as the license returns to Marvel Comics, we’re taking a look at the second book in Abrams Books’ series of hardcover art house books on the franchise, Star Wars Art: Comics.  From the series that also brought us Star Wars Art: Posters, Star Wars Art: Concept, Star Wars Art: Illustration, and Star Wars Storyboards, Star Wars Art: Comics hones in on sequential art found in the comic book medium.

Star Wars and comic books have been in lock-step since Star Wars first hit theaters, thanks to George Lucas and an early meeting with writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin.  The transcript of that meeting is included as an appendix to the book.  Beginning with the first comic book adaptation from Marvel and running through the Dark Horse years, Abrams has compiled a solid overview of thirty years of interpretations of the myth and magic of the Force.

Star Wars original cover art to Star Wars Howard Chaykin

Plates from cover and interior artwork were hand-picked for the book by George Lucas.  Star Wars Art: Comics is worth its price alone simply for the clear photos of Howard Chaykin and Tom Palmer’s original cover art for Marvel’s Star Wars Issue #1 and Dave Cockrum and Rick Hoberg’s original artwork to the oversized edition, both also featured on the book’s binding under the jacket.  Al Williamson’s stunningly rendered imagery from his adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back pepper the volume as well.

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The Star Wars cover art 1

If you really want to see the best of popular comic book publishing titles in 2013, you need look no further than Dark Horse Comics’ series The Star Wars.  You have a great independent publishing house with the enviable license to the greatest genre franchise, add in an original script by a young, pre-fame George Lucas, an adaptation by Star Wars expert J.W. Rinzler, and the best interior art panel work in the industry, and you have the first four issues of a sci-fi classic in the making.

Regular comic book readers, and diehard Star Wars fans already know about The Star Wars, first a 1974 script that is the stuff of sci-fi legend that has sat in a file drawer for nearly four decades–Lucas’s first draft of Star Wars, before editing, when all the big fantasy ideas first danced around his mind, and now a limited edition monthly series.  What is amazing is that your average passing Star Wars fans may not be aware of this new comic book series that is bringing the original source material to the public for the first time in dense, colorful, action-packed pages.  We’re no doubt that the hardcover edition that will ultimately bring together the eight-issue series and a director’s edition due out next week (“The Official Guide to a Different Galaxy”) will be a mainstream bestseller.  Dark Horse Comics just needs to get this series in readers’ hands.

the-star-wars-1 cover

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Yoda and Luke

Review by C.J. Bunce

After the completion of the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas sat down and went frame by frame through all six Star Wars movies, examining literally hundreds of thousands of images and selecting about 250 screen grabs from each film, frames that he believed showed particular artistry, each in its own right.  The result was 2011’s limited edition of 1,138 boxed sets called Star Wars: Frames, sold for $3,000, and now only rarely available with one set being sold at Amazon.com for a whopping $11,500.  Thanks to Abrams Books, Star Wars: Frames is being re-released this month in a far less expensive but complete edition, collecting 1,472 stills from all six films in the Star Wars saga.  It is without a doubt the definitive visual work on Star Wars, in a rare league of deluxe book editions along with long out-of-print Dressing a Galaxy: The Costume of Star Wars and Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop as the best Star Wars books ever released.

Star Wars Frames

This more affordable, unabridged version of Star Wars: Frames includes two hardcover books, each covering one of the two movie trilogies in 368 pages, housed in a hefty Death Star-themed silver box.  Listing at a published price of $150, you can buy it for less than $100 at Amazon.com.  The only difference between the $3,000 version and this version is the original was issued in a six-book set (one book for each film instead of one for each trilogy), with each image taking up a full page, packaged in a wooden crate instead of cardboard.   The content is the same.  Star Wars: Frames will be released November 5, 2013, but we received an early review copy this week.  The book lives up to its promise, in surprising ways.

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