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Tag Archive: J.W. Rinzler


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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With the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s Alien in full swing, yesterday for Alien Day 2019 we only scratched the surface of what is coming your way this year by way of non-fiction and fiction offerings about the film and franchise.  But before we get to previews, you’re not going to want to miss Alien returning to the theaters October 13, 15, and 16, 2019.  Fathom Events is again partnering with TCM Big Screen Classics for this big event.

 

The biggest news from the publishing front arrives this fall.  Titan Books is releasing Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists, an artistic tribute to the sci-fi horror masterpiece Alien.  Forty artists, filmmakers, and fans have been invited to contribute a piece of original art to commemorate the 40th anniversary.  Pieces range from alternative posters to gothic interpretations of key scenes.  Sketches, process pieces, and interview text accompany each new and unique nightmare.  In addition to cover artist Dane Hallett—an Alien: Covenant concept artist—the contributors include Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, Sam Hudecki, Tanya Lapointe, Star Wars concept artist and creature designer Terryl Whitlatch, Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and Jon Wilcox.

Tim Waggoner, one of the best tie-in writers of fiction is back with Alien: Prototype, where we find corporate spy Tamar Prather stealing a Xenomorph egg from Weyland-Yutani, taking it to a lab facility run by Venture, a Weyland-Yutani competitor.  Former Colonial Marine Zula Hendricks—now allied with the underground resistance—infiltrates Venture’s security team.  When a human test subject is impregnated, the result is a Xenomorph that, unless it’s stopped, will kill every human being on the planet.  You can pre-order Alien: Prototype now here at Amazon.

Three more new Alien books are in the works for this year.  Below we have your first look at Alien: The Blueprints.

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With the exception of the vast expanded universe of Star Wars and Star Trek, probably no other sci-fi property has branched out in as many exciting ways as the Alien universe.  Every new tie-in novel consistently has been packed with suspense and innovative takes on Weyland-Yutani and its influence years before, during, and after the events of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie.  Each year fans of Alien celebrate April 26 as Alien Day, reflecting not a specific day inside the Alien universe, but the designation of the moon in the film Aliens: LV426.  There’s even more reason to look back this year, as 20th Century Fox is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ridley Scott film.  Check out the Fox contest (expires tonight) here.  The recognizable Reebok stomper worn by Ellen Ripley in Aliens is coming back, too–part of the contest, and expected to be for sale soon here.

Next week for the first time U.S. audiences can access a documentary on legendary Alien concept artist and designer H.R. Giger streaming on OVID.tv, and we’ll be reviewing it soon here at borgDark Star: H.R. Giger’s World is a documentary on the artist’s unique vision, available May 3.

An eagerly awaited book for Alien fans is coming.  You’ll want to pre-order the new J.W. Rinzler guide to the 1979 film, The Making of Alien, here (we’ll be reviewing it in July).

No book or film has portrayed the people behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as more vile and despicable as author Alex White envisioned them in his novel released for Alien Day 2018, Alien: The Cold Forge, a sequel to the second film in the franchise, James Cameron’s Aliens.  The Company is proceeding to fulfill one of its initial ideas, to weaponize the Xenomorphs for military use.  Alien: The Cold Forge is Aliens as if written by Michael Crichton, a blend of Congo and Jurassic Park with aspects of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy tie-ins and Project X.

Last year we reviewed Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings by Dane Hallett & Matt Hatton (check out our review here).  This boxed edition contains two books, providing readers an insight into the most intriguing character from the Alien prequels.  The in-universe sketchbook contains more than 200 illustrations from the set and will take you inside the mind of David.  Plus Developing the Art of an Android provides an interview with Hallett and Hatton, the artists behind the sketchwork.

And there’s Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey (reviewed here), which reminds us: In space, no one can hear you meow.  Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents. Until one day his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted.  The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house trained.  This full-color illustrated book offers a cat’s eye view of all the action from the movie Alien.

Not enough?  You say you want a full-on fix of Alien today?  Check out any of these Alien tie-ins and films previously reviewed here at borg:

The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, by Owen Williams

Alien Covenant: Origins, by Alan Dean Foster

The Art and Making of Alien Covenant, by Simon Ward

Aliens: Bug Hunt, anthology

Alien: The Coloring Book

Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, by S.D. Perry

Aliens: The 30th Anniversary Edition

Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, by Roger Christian

Aliens: The Set Photography, by Simon Ward

The borg interview with Alien universe author Tim Lebbon

And yep, there’s more…

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In the summer of 1979, Ridley Scott revealed the next evolution in science fiction and horror with his landmark creation Alien Thanks to Star Wars art director Roger Christian, audiences saw the first lived-in look into our future, a sci-fi world that felt more realistic than nearly any sci-fi movie before it (space fantasy Star Wars excluded).  Dismissing the brand new, antiseptic look of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was Christian’s realism and H.R. Giger‘s creepy creations that made the scares of Alien that much more jolting.  Arriving for the 40th anniversary of Alien, go-to behind-the-scenes movie book writer J.W. Rinzler is back after last year’s The Making of the Planet of the Apes (reviewed here at borg), with his next book, The Making of Alien.

Emerging first from the mind of writer Dan O’Bannon, Alien would become one of the most memorable sci-fi/horror thrillers of all time.  The film brought us Academy Award-winning concept art, new alien monsters, gore, ships, and other spectacular effects thanks to Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, and Dennis Ayling, and groundbreaking set work by Christian, Michael Seymour, Leslie Dilley, and Ian Whittaker.  Including new interviews with Ridley Scott and other key staff from the original production crew and featuring many never-before-seen photographs and artworks from the Fox archives, The Making of Alien promises to be the definitive work on this masterpiece of sci-fi/horror.

Above and following are some preview pages from The Making of Alien Pre-order The Making of Alien now here at Amazon, and come back this summer for our review here at borg:

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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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Phil Noto Black Widow

The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.

We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image.  We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle.  And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics.  This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best.  So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.

Black-Widow-5

Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics.  We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix.  It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way.  It was a standout in a great year of comics.  Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once.  Full of action, espionage, and intrigue.  A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition.  See our reviews of the series here and here.

AfterlifeWithArchie_07-0

Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics.  Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s?  And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale?  Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other.  Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release.  See our earlier raves about the series here.

Wilds End issue 1

Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios.  Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise.  An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios.  Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart.  A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival.  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series.  Check out our earlier review here.

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The Star Wars hardcover version Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse bestseller

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week Dark Horse Comics released the trade paperback and hardcover of The Star Wars—the eight-issue comic book series adapting George Lucas’s original screenplay for Star Wars from 1973, including its original three-word title.  Writer J.W. Rinzler, artist Mike Mayhew, and colorist Rain Beredo created a parallel universe for Star Wars that stands by itself as the single best Star Wars universe graphic novel ever produced.  It’s now hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Paperback Graphic Books and #3 for Hardcover Graphic Books.  If you dodge Times bestsellers because they are usually trite, banal and over-hyped, The Star Wars is certainly commercial, but it’s the exception to the rule.  You will not have read a Star Wars comic book this much fun and so brilliantly and vividly illustrated since the classic Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back

Lucas’s giant story, fleshed out over six movies via his Episodes I-VI, was concise in its infancy, and greatly right-sized and polished by Rinzler for this adaptation.  Its genius is in its essential Kurosawa-inspired story elements: last of their breed wizard-warriors versus a suffocating empire led by heartless dictators, a broken royal family saved by a band of rogues, a mix of disparate races and conflicts, and an unlikely pair of androids.

The planets and systems are not the same, yet they are entirely familiar: the desert planet Aquilae for Tatooine, a wookie battle on Yavin for Ewoks on Endor.  Some of the occupants of the story are familiar, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  Yet here they are very different.  Annikin (not Anakin) Starkiller and brother Deak would later become the impetuous Luke Skywalker.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was far more energetic and a hands-on warrior when he was the bearded and military garbed Jedi-Bendu General Luke Skywalker.  Han Solo by every appearance was a cousin of Swamp Thing.  Princess Leia would become more dynamic and tough in the movies, but was originally more like Padme Amidala in her infatuation with her young love, Annikin Starkiller.

Deluxe The Star Wars Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse Bestseller

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Star Wars Storyboards The Original Trilogy book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new collection of artwork upon which the original Star Wars trilogy was built will have fans who have seen the films hundreds of times delving back in again, this time to match memory to history.  Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy is the second archive of selected storyboards edited by J.W. Rinzler revealing the works of a variety of artists hand selected by George Lucas and his visual design team to share ideas about what the movies would become.  The first was Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy, released last year.

Rinzler, known for several books on Lucasfilm, including his work on The Making of the Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Frames, reviewed previously at borg.com, also partnered with artist Mike Mayhew and colorist Rain Beredo this year to write The Star Wars–an eight-issue mini-series based on Lucas’s original draft screenplay of Star Wars.  Now that fans can examine the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, The Star Wars, and Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, they can have a complete view of what is, what was, and what might have been, for the Force, the characters, the Rebellion, and the Empire.

SW Storyboards excerpt 2

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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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