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Tag Archive: J.J. Abrams


Smuggler.  Gambler.  Rogue.  Pilot.

Han Solo.

The hero of the Rebellion and the Resistance and rescuer of the galaxy more than once, one of fandom’s favorites is featured in his own book in November.  Insight Editions announced Star Wars Icons: Han Solo will be a comprehensive look at the creation and legacy of one of Star Wars’ most beloved characters.  Covering the Han Solo’s journey from his genesis in George Lucas’s first Star Wars drafts to his portrayal by Harrison Ford in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens to his rebirth in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and beyond the films to his role in the Star Wars expanded universe: novels, comics, video games, and more–Insight promises this will be the definitive book for every Han Solo fan.

Illustrated with rare and previously unpublished images, including on-set photography and concept art, the deluxe 224-page volume will feature new interviews by author Gina McIntyre with Harrison Ford, Alden Ehrenreich, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan, and more.  This is especially noteworthy since Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard has not given many interviews about Solo: A Star Wars Story.

You can pre-order what we expect to be the first of several Star Wars Icons books, Star Wars Icons: Han Solo now here at Amazon (at a discount off the cover price).  And don’t forget to lock-in the pre-order price for Solo: A Star Wars Story on DVD, Digital HD, and Blu-ray here.

This is the smuggler you’re looking for.  Check out this preview of Star Wars Icons: Han Solo:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At long last Star Wars fans have a single volume of behind-the-scenes gold that includes more than the original trilogy and the prequels.  Writer Mark Salisbury returns with his next pop culture book, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures & Aliens.  This is the first book to include coverage of all ten Star Wars films, and it’s the first book that digs into the creature makers and makeup artistry of all the Star Wars movies–a creature effects companion to those comprehensive books reviewed previously here at borg.com chronicling the costume and prop sides of Star Wars productions: Dressing a Galaxy, Sculpting a Galaxy, and Star Wars Costumes.

How many movie franchises can claim visual effects over four decades incorporating all levels of monster making: animatronics, puppetry, practical effects, costuming, CGI, sculpts, animal actors, prosthetics and makeups, stop-motion animation, and motion capture creations–sometimes all in a single film?  The book spans it all: Jawas, Tauntauns, Jabba the Hutt, Yoda, Chewbacca, the Rancor, Ewoks, Watto, Jar Jar, Darth Maul, Rathtars, Maz Kanata, Porgs, Crystal Foxes, Proxima, Rio Durrant, and so many background aliens from the Tatooine cantina, Jabba’s palace, Maz’s castle, the Pod Race, Kamino, Geonosia, and Scarif.  More complex characters from the franchise get the most coverage, with less coverage from Revenge of the Sith and Solo.

Readers will learn about and meet a variety of artists and creators of these creatures and aliens, with interviews and examples of the work of Stuart Freeborn, Rick Baker, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Jon Berg, Ben Burtt, Fred Pearl, Frank Oz, Kathryn Mullen, Lorne Peterson, Nick Dudman, Rob Coleman, John Coppinger, Tom St. Amand, Richard Edlund, Ken Ralston, Kit West, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Doug Chiang, Dave Elsey, Neal Scanlan, Luke Fisher, Ben Morris, Darek Arnold, some of the actors who performed costumes characters, and visionaries George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, and Gareth Edwards.  Select concept art is included from Ralph McQuarrie, John Mollo, Iain McCaig, Terryl Whitlatch, Jake Lunt Davies, and others, and readers will learn Doug Chiang’s five rules of concept design.

Keeping with the fun new trend of incorporating three-dimensional, interactive elements into non-fiction books, Abrams has included foldout flaps, accordion pages, and color tipped-in booklets of sketches, photographs, and stages of the creative process.  The book comes from Abrams’ Young Readers imprint, however, the in-depth information and rare or never-before-published photographs and sketches will appeal to all ages of Star Wars fans.

Take a look inside some preview pages of The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures & Aliens:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How far back has this latest chapter in J.J. Abrams mash-up of science fiction and giant monsters been brewing?  Back to his 2011 summer coming of age release Super 8?  Like M. Night Shyamalan, all of Abrams’ projects, whether as executive producer or director or even writer-director, may not be successful, but they both take exciting risks with their projects.  Cloverfield was a well-crafted homage to Godzilla pictures.  10 Cloverfield Lane was a genre surprise, a mix of straight dramatic horror that ended up as a sci-fi monster movie.  And this week Netflix released a theatrical worthy next installment, The Cloverfield Paradox, this time providing that relentless sci-fi horror fix perfected with James Cameron’s Aliens.  And like Shyamalan’s recent thriller Split, a cool surprise is in store for viewers.

The Cloverfield Paradox is easily comparable to one of the best Doctor Who space station-based episodes (think The Waters of Mars).  In fact absent Matt Smith or David Tennant you might forget you’re not watching Doctor Who as so many tropes from Whovian space disaster episodes are weaved into the film.  And that’s a good thing for fans of the type of science fiction stories that Doctor Who tends to attract.  The cast of The Cloverfield Paradox forms a crew you wish would be around for a TV series.  Led by David Oyelowo (Star Wars: Rebels, Jack Reacher) as Commander Kiel, with physicists played by Daniel Brühl (Rush, Goodbye Lenin, Captain America: Civil War) as Schmidt and Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2) as Tam, and other crewmembers played by John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island, Alien vs. Predator), Aksel Hennie (The Martian), and Chris O’Dowd (Thor: The Dark World), the space station Cloverfield has a legitimate international crew.  But the focus is on crewmember Hamilton played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast, Jupiter Ascending), who leaves her husband (Roger Davies) back on Earth after her children die in a fire to help the scientists test a particle accelerator.  The success or failure of that test could mean a leap ahead for the planet or certain doom.

Anyone who has ever read an issue of DC Comics can understand the multi-verse science here.  Dabbling in quantum physics comes with uncertain risks, and after nearly a year of failed trials, when the station finally creates a stable particle beam, something has changed.  Leaving the audience always wondering whether this is going to be another Aliens episode or something else, the effect of the anomaly creates the stuff of The Philadelphia Experiment, smashing one reality into another.  One of the results is the appearance from another parallel universe of a Cloverfield physicist played by Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  Only Debicki’s character was not on the mission in the universe the film started out in, and as radio signals reflect an apparently altered Earth below, the loyalties of the crewmembers come into question.  It’s all great fun, and the production quality is good enough–with bonuses like crew costumes from Academy Award-winning designer Colleen Atwood–that it’s a shame audiences can’t watch this play out on a big movie theater screen.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As you will no doubt hear as moviegoers walk out of theaters this holiday season, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very “different” Star Wars movie.  That said, despite writer/director Rian Johnson’s assertions to the contrary, it is very much an echo of the second film of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, with several parallel elements you’ll encounter along the way.  Picking up where director J.J. Abrams left off two years ago in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Johnson seems to take the bits and pieces of questions raised in Abrams’ film, answers a few, dismisses a few, and ignores the rest, perhaps for Abrams to pick them up again as he re-takes the reins in two years for the final film in the Skywalker family saga.  So many questions seem to have been definitively tied up by the end of The Last Jedi, moviegoers are now left to ponder for the next two years, “What could Episode IX possibly be about?”

The Last Jedi is most intriguing when it emulates some of the surprises and emotional impact of last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–a bold, unique film that falls outside the three trilogies of franchise films, but provided a fantastically gritty, nostalgic, and heart-pounding story that put the “war” back in Star Wars.  An opening scene in The Last Jedi featuring the heroic death of a new character made me sit up thinking another gritty war movie was coming (only swap a guerilla land war for World War II-inspired bombing runs).  Heroism is the theme of The Last Jedi, and every character gets a chance to be a hero, but the damage is not as gut-wrenching as Rogue One.  Yet, depending on who your favorite character was in The Force Awakens, every fan should find something in The Last Jedi to be happy about.  Even if it might not offer up the excitement of the original trilogy, the third of the new annual holiday Star Wars adventures will be a great excuse to get together with family and friends for the event itself–annual Star Wars movies are becoming what the annual Christmas Special has become for Doctor Who fans, an event that for many will be bigger than whatever you think of the film.

The actors are top-notch in The Last Jedi, including Carrie Fisher in her final performance as General Leia Organa, although Hamill’s work stands out and could easily merit an Oscar nomination.  Alec Guinness’s genius as the similar Jedi wizard Obi-Wan Kenobi of the original Star Wars was in his reserved performance and iconic utterances of wisdom.  Here Hamill shows that Hollywood has missed the boat for 40 years by not featuring him regularly in mainstream films, bringing a powerful and emotional performance from beginning to end.  And gone are the days of Star Wars’ clunky dialogue–Johnson’s success is pulling out the stilted exchanges Star Wars had began to become known for.

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John Williams conducting Star Wars

Few individuals have stood apart from their peers in their professional endeavors as much as maestro John Williams.  Last week the American Film Institute presented Williams with its life achievement award, the 44th awarded and first for a composer.  It’s certainly about time.  With five Academy Award wins and 50 nominations, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar nominations of any living person.  Three of his scores, for Star Wars, Jaws, and E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, are on AFI’s list of the top 25 scores of all time.  This Wednesday night the AFI award event will be televised, and guests honoring Williams include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg–both who owe the most to Williams for their individual successes–as well as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Drew Barrymore, Tom Hanks, Itzhak Perlman, J.J. Abrams, Bryce Dallas Howard, Will Farrell, Steve Martin, Seth McFarlane, and Daisy Ridley.

You may not remember the first time you heard a familiar tune from Williams, but for those more than 40 years old it was no doubt the theme from television’s Lost in Space series, featuring an end credit to “Johnny” Williams.  He also provided the piano music for the Academy Award winning, and AFI recognized comedy Some Like it Hot.  For everyone since then you can define your generation by your earliest familiarity with his music, whether it’s the Main Title to Star Wars, the Jurassic Park theme, or the theme to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Those whose introduction to Williams was Star Wars: The Force Awakens have plenty of great music to discover.

Williams is of a rare breed of American composer whose songs stick with you forever.  He’s in an elite club with the likes of musicians Aaron Copland, John Philip Sousa, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin.  For more than 60 years Williams has set the bar for–and defined worldwide for moviegoers’ ears–our expectation for modern programmatic movie music.

John Williams

Stepping aside from his success at major memorable themes, one of his greatest skills is his juxtaposition of opposites.  Just listen in the Jaws soundtrack to the busy streets of Amity in the “Montage” and the cheery adventure theme from “The Great Shark Chase” among his well-known bass horror cues.  Some of his most brilliant compositions are tucked away behind giant, epic scores, like “The Asteroid Field” from The Empire Strikes Back and “Escape from Venice” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  And would modern audiences even know a march beyond nationalistic music if not for “The Superman March,” “The Raiders of the Lost Ark March,” “The March from 1941,” and “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back? 

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10 Cloverfield Lane clip

J.J. Abrams has managed to monopolize entertainment news for months now because of his directing gig on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Now there is this very strange conversation going on about the first trailer out of the gates for J.J. Abrams’ next release, 10 Cloverfield Lane.  Is it a sequel to his 2008 surprise sci-fi horror hit Cloverfield?  Is it part of an anthology?  Does it matter?  Abrams is cagey as usual in responding.  What if the title itself is the sleight of hand and the surprise is completely different?

Abrams seems to be set on making one of every possible major genre film type.  With Cloverfield Abrams made his Godzilla-monster movie.  He’s made his Star Trek, Mission Impossible and Star Wars interpretations.  In Super 8 he made his Spielberg coming of age picture.  He’s making his cyborg movie with his Westworld series.  He’s done spies (Alias), rom com (Felicity), and survival (Lost) series.

But this first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane looks like a different type of creepy thriller.  Maybe a bit of The Happening, The Village, Signs, or The Lady in Water?  Those special creepy sci-fi/horror flicks that don’t fit neatly into a sub-genre that before we thought only M. Night Shyamalan had cornered the market on?

10 Cloverfield Lane poster

Check it out for yourself.  It’s a great, creepy trailer for Abrams’ 10 Cloverfield Lane:

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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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Apocalypse Star Wars

For a guy who doesn’t want anyone knowing the secrets of Star Wars: The Force Awakens before its release next month, J.J. Abrams sure keeps releasing more and more footage of the film.  This time he released a trailer of scenes previously not released in the United States, lending much credence to story plotlines fans have guessed about since the release of the last and supposedly final American trailer.

The trouble is, spoilers or not, we just can’t stop watching whatever Disney and Lucasfilm throw at us.  Nobody wants to watch the movie before we see it in theaters, but they just keeping baiting us, don’t they?

Who is Daisy Ridley’s character Rey and where does she fit into the greater Star Wars saga story?  Why are she and Darth Vader-inspired villain Kylo Ren the focal point of the next trilogy?  Is Captain Phasma really the next Boba Fett–the next coolest customer in the galaxy?  And will Chewbacca be the real hero of Episode VII?

Chewie

And is this just Abrams making his take on Apocalypse Now?  It’s impossible that Episode VII will fare as well as the original Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but we’ve already seen enough to make us think Episode VII has the potential to be better than Return of the Jedi.

Check out–or don’t–this international trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

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Almost Human future cop

With the new RoboCop movie coming in 2014 and the new series Almost Human coming November 17, you’re about to get a good dose of cyborg cops.  J.J. Abrams and Fringe’s J.H. Wyman are bringing the Vancouver production of Almost Human our way with mega-sci-fi star Karl Urban, and documentary filmmaker José Padilha is helming a big cast of classic sci-fi stars in RoboCop.

RoboCop armor

The latest trailer is now out for the new RoboCop.  Every movie is better with Samuel L. Jackson, and his speech shown in this preview is a great way to reel us all in.  And Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman?  What more could you want?  Check it out:

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star-wars-episode-vii ad hoc banner

Lucasfilm announced big news this week: the top level slate of creative talent behind the first film of the next Star Wars trilogy.  Moving away from screenwriter Michael Arndt, Lucasfilm handed over writing duties to Lawrence Kasdan and director J.J. Abrams.  Kasdan had served as consultant during the pre-production phase, and they couldn’t have selected a better choice than the screenplay writer for Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Silverado (not to mention Body Heat, The Big Chill, and The Accidental Tourist) to bring his experience writing great movies to this project.

It’s a mix of young and old, with the established Kasdan working with relative newcomer J.J. Abrams, whose credits include the last two Star Trek films, along with top duties on Super 8, Mission: Impossible III, Fringe, and Lost.  Yes, he’s young, but he’s no slouch.

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