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Tag Archive: Joss Whedon


Review by C.J. Bunce

Following up on its successful look behind the entire Star Wars saga in The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures and Aliens (reviewed earlier here at borg), Abrams Books is bringing home the characters of Avengers: Endgame and the Marvel Studios long journey to get there in its new release The Moviemaking Magic of Marvel Studios: Heroes and Villains Incorporating its trademark interactive Cinemagic features, including booklets, interactive flaps, and accordion fold-out images of the concept art behind every major Marvel Studios superhero, Abrams has nicely timed this book for fans of the franchise who can’t get enough of the latest MCU film.  Full of color photographs and interviews with the producers, directors, art designers, costume and prop makers, and special effects magic makers behind the 21 films leading up to Avengers: Endgame, writer Eleni Roussos (The Art of Black Panther, The Art of Thor: Ragnarok) has pulled together behind the scenes insights that offer something new for even the most diehard fan.

Which characters wore practical, real-life costumes and armor, and which required motion capture and/or CGI effects?  What was the key element included in Marvel’s Avengers that Joss Whedon required to be added before he agreed to direct the film?  What do the contributors agree was the smartest strategic decision made for the Marvel films?  How did each artist convert the character from the comic book page to the finally constructed costume that appeared on the big screen?  What effects were the most challenging for each film?

Altogether The Moviemaking Magic of Marvel Studios: Heroes and Villains spotlights more than 100 individual superheroes, on-screen support crew, and the most colorful and memorable villains from the series, with significant creative and visionary contributions from Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, directors Anthony Russo, Joss Whedon, and Peyton Reed, visual development executive Ryan Meinerding and artist Andy Park, and costume designers Rebecca Gregg, Laura Jean Shannon, Mayes Rubeo, Alexandra Byrne, Anna B. Sheppard, Judianna Makovsky, Sheldon Differ, Louise Frogley, and Ruth Carter.

Take a look at this giant preview of The Moviemaking Magic of Marvel Studios: Heroes and Villains below, courtesy of Abrams Books:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In his new novel Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, author James Lovegrove embarks on his next journey with the crew of Serenity following his highly successful launch point for the first ever novel series for the franchise, last year’s Firefly: Big Damn Hero (reviewed here at borg).  It’s been thirteen years since we last saw a Firefly story like these two novels, which each contain the contents of about an entire movie.  Along the way creator Joss Whedon has authorized some shorter tales via the comic books (discussed here).  Firefly: Big Damn Hero was the Firefly event of last year, and this year we’ll have two novels competing for that honor, with Tim Lebbon′s contribution to the series of novels coming this fall in Firefly: Generations So how did Lovegrove’s Firefly: The Magnificent Nine compare to his Firefly: Big Damn Hero?

As with Firefly: Big Damn Hero, Lovegrove writes the voices of the entire crew perfectly.  This is another space Western, the core of the original series, and both books feel like natural progressions following the original 14 episodes (Firefly: The Magnificent Nine fits between the last episode and the 2005 film Serenity, allowing the inclusion of two fan-favorite characters–and they’re all fan-favorite characters–Hoban “Wash” Washburne and Shepherd Book).  In a significant way the challenge of writing new Firefly stories is that writers only have 15 “canon” stories to build from, along with any notes from Whedon’s story development.  The potential pitfall is mining the original episodes too much for throwback references.  At 336 pages that’s not anything to worry about for Lovegrove.  Yes, fans will appreciate the Easter Eggs throughout the tale: Jayne Cobb’s famous hat (“a giant piece of candy corn gone wrong”) does not get ignored here, and neither does his weapon of choice, Vera.  But the framework of the story allows for plenty of opportunities for Lovegrove to do more with the characters.  It’s hard to beat his ability to get inside the head of River in Firefly: Big Damn Hero–a difficult character who didn’t get enough time to get fleshed out in the series.  But this time River takes a backseat and Jayne gets the spotlight.  As a completely original story Firefly: Big Damn Hero wins, but not by a lot.

As the title should indicate, Firefly: The Magnificent Nine is an homage to the classic, epic Western The Magnificent Seven, its source Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and countless adaptations since.  It’s notable and important that this isn’t another actual adaptation or full retelling of the story, as Lovegrove takes his own tangent from the story after setting up the novel’s first act.  But he peppers the story with familiar references, like using actors’ names and Kurosawa himself for new characters in his story.  He also has plenty of Louis L’Amour tropes and references.  One thing this novel makes clear is there are at least as many opportunities for new novels in the series as there are Kurosawa movies and L’Amour novels to pull good ideas from.  So this isn’t merely another take on The Magnificent Seven so much as establishing that the nine heroes of the Serenity are worthy of that title.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the holidays you may have received a gift, an item you will look back to fondly one day, or maybe something that will even survive that your descendants may keep and treasure a century from now.  If you were asked to participate in an old-fashioned show and tell, what physical object has meaning for you that you would talk about?  That’s in essence the question asked of hundreds of people interviewed by writers Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax in the book What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings Them Joy, Magic, Meaning.  Many people have many such objects–after all, humans are by their very nature collectors of things.  Narrowing it down to one object is difficult, yet for others it may be simple.

For movie director and writer Joss Whedon, it’s a straw hat from his school days in England.  For author James Patterson, it’s a photograph of President Clinton holding one of the books he had written, read for pleasure by the President in the middle of his carrying out of government business, carried as he walked down the stairway from a helicopter at Camp David.  For a former money counterfeit artist, it’s the paint brush she used to paint with in prison.  For another, it was a paper bill with a holes ripped through it from being shot years ago.

The objects are often obscure, many ugly, but all hold some kind of unique meaning to their owners.  The intrinsic value of most of the items highlighted is nothing or next to nothing.  Yet their owners value these things not for their monetary worth.  A rock, an awl, a document, a watch.  Most inspired (and still inspire) their owners, and remind them of how they were at their very best, like a flute carried into space by astronaut Ellen Ochoa.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new encyclopedic view of Firefly rounds out a big year for Firefly fans.  First there was the release of two in-universe books, The Serenity Handbook followed by the Hidden Universe Travel Guide, then more recently we saw the first novel in the series, Big Damn Hero Rounding out a year of great books for Browncoats is Firefly Encyclopedia, by Monica Valentinelli.  Fans of past books for Firefly and the Firefly Loot Crate magazine will be familiar with the tone and design of this series overview.  From the cover to the layout of Polaroid-inspired snips, the book is part scrapbook, part in-depth look into the story in an in-universe style, part behind the scenes photographic essay.  You’re likely to find new images of the ship and crew, even if you’ve amassed all the previous Firefly books.

If this isn’t the biggest assemblage of ships, weapons, props, and sets, it comes close, plus the large photographs makes this the best designed look at the production so far.  The concept artwork for several characters is something we haven’t seen before, and here many designs for each character are showcased.  And at long last, fans have a Chinese-English translator tailored to the extensive use of the Chinese language in the series.

Part one of Firefly Encyclopedia presents the Firefly story, the complete in-world tale seen in the series, as you may find in an encyclopedia.  Next is a look at the characters, each crew member–both in-universe and the actors behind the character, followed by a brief look at secondary characters.  The next section is a geography of the ‘verse, comparative looks at planets, tables, astronomy, and ships along with an interview with artist Ben Mund.  A table looks at the technobabble of the show, followed by a treatment of futuristic medicine in the series.  A wider chapter looks at even more costume designs.  A final chapter digs into the scripts for the series, including analysis and commentary.

Here is a brief view inside the Firefly Encyclopedia:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s an event to make a Browncoat teary-eyed.  Firefly fans have not seen a story that rivaled the original series episodes, until now.  Tomorrow a new era in the Firefly universe begins as the first novel arrives in bookstores, carrying on from those revered 14 original episodes.  Firefly: Big Damn Hero is the big, bold story fans have been waiting for, and it’s even better than the Serenity movie or any other tie-in since the last episode first aired 15 years ago.  Fans will find here a story that would make a great roadmap for a movie, a great radio drama, or a new episode.  That’s probably not going to happen, but put on the soundtrack as you read it and you’ll feel like you’re right back with the crew again.

In Firefly: Big Damn Hero, author James Lovegrove found his way into the core of each character, their motivations, and most importantly their voice, to create a novel set in the years the series takes place, well before the movie Serenity killed off two key characters.  Joss Whedon served as consulting editor of the book, which was written from a story concept by Nancy Holder.  Lovegrove brings readers back to what made the series great–the interaction of the crew of the Serenity–and then he splits them off on a couple of missions that go sideways.  One by one he focuses on each of the nine as Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Kaylee, Book, River, Simon, Inara, and Wash each get a focal subplot that hits the spot for fans who have their favorite or love them all.  But best of all is Lovegrove’s treatment of River, the erratic and seemingly confused young genius who always seems a step ahead of everyone.  Here she practically speaks through the story and across the other characters directly to the reader.  We know what she’s up to even if her friends don’t.

The story itself is part science fiction, part war novel, part Louis L’Amour Western, all rolled up together as one rip-roaring space Western story, just like the series was known for.  Fans who know the ‘verse well, particularly its warring factions that were fleshed out in the series and tie-in comic books, will feel right at home in this story that spans the era before the series, with callbacks to events in the series, and right afterward as if it were a 15th episode.

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First announced earlier this year, the Firefly universe is going to expand beyond the television series, the film, and the comics, with a new series of novels expanding the story of the Serenity crew, headed up by creator Joss Whedon.  Three novels are on their way:  Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder, Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove, and Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon.  Titan Books has released the first two cover images.  Shiny.  Man walks down the street carrying a book like that, people know he’s not afraid of anything.

The first two original novels of the ‘Verse tying into the critically acclaimed and much-missed Firefly series are now available for pre-order at Amazon.  You can pre-order Big Damn Hero here and Magnificent Nine here, with Amazon’s Pre-Order Price Guarantee.  Firefly: Generations has not yet been listed for ordering just yet.

In Big Damn Hero we’ll see an early Mal and Zoe story: The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance.  Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms.  Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.”  But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true… While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war.  As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago.  As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

The second novel, Magnificent Nine, hones in on Jayne Cobb: An old flame of Jayne’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help.  She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin.  Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favorite gun, as collateral that Mal realizes he’s serious.  When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up.  A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…

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After almost a week of rumor, the showrunner of a series that will continue the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer confirmed the series isn’t merely a rumor today.  Monica Owusu-Breen, a writer on popular genre series including Charmed, Fringe, Lost, Alias, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been working with Buffy creator Joss Whedon on a new story, and she has been tapped as showrunner for the new series.  Today Owusu-Breen confirmed the project is real, while also clarifying a new slayer is on her way, but not Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy from the original seven-year series.  Whedon will again serve as executive producer of the series, with returning producers going back to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Gail Berman, Joe Earley, Fran Kazui, and Kaz Kazui.  “For some genre writers, it’s Star Wars.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my Star Wars,” Osuwu-Breen posted on Twitter today.  “Before I became a writer, I was a fan.  For seven seasons, I watched Buffy Summers grow up, find love, kill that love.  I watched her fight, and struggle and slay.  There is only one Buffy.  One Xander, one Willow, Giles, Cordelia, Oz, Tara, Kendra, Faith, Spike, Angel … They can’t be replaced.  Joss Whedon’s brilliant and beautiful series can’t be replicated.  I wouldn’t try to.  But here we are, 20 years later … and the world seems a lot scarier. So maybe, it could be time to meet a new Slayer … And that’s all I can say.”

Fans will recall that a new Slayer took the place of a Slayer that had been killed–at least in the early seasons of the show.  Kendra, a fantastic and charismatic killing machine played by Bianca Lawson, was a Jamaican potential slayer who replaced Buffy Summers’s Slayer for three episodes after Buffy’s first death on the show (Buffy was quickly revived with CPR).  Early word from the production is that the slayer to lead the new show will also be played by a black actress.  Upon Kendra’s death, we were introduced to her Slayer replacement Faith, played by Eliza Dushku, who would co-star in the series for 20 episodes.  At least sixteen other Slayers of various backgrounds were portrayed in the series following the episode “Chosen,” including one played by Felicia Day.  At least 1,800 new Slayers were discussed in the series, 500 of whom worked for Buffy Summers’ organization which deployed Slayers globally into ten separate squads.  Countless others were featured in Seasons 8-12 of the comic book series.

The idea of taking the Buffy-verse forward was discussed more upon the show’s 20th anniversary in 2016, and with so many series getting reboots it was inevitable Buffy’s time was coming.  Unlike all those other shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is in many fans’ list of top 10 television series of all time, so the producers will no doubt take careful steps with the franchise.  The brilliance of the Slayer storyline is actually perfect for continuation.  Like the five decades of Doctor Who, Buffy always has had a built-in mechanism to allow the transfer of lead actors over time, while keeping the series fresh and surviving as a long-term franchise.  As with the Doctor Who regeneration that has allowed for the latest new thirteenth lead actor to take over that series after some five decades, the replacement mechanism of a new Slayer for each dying Slayer has always been a make-ready key to ensure a going-forward show.  Few would disagree that Buffy, Kendra, and Faith were fantastic characters, fantastic Slayers.  No doubt the next in line can be just as exciting.

Here is Owusu-Breen’s Twitter post today clarifying the vision behind the new show:

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Good news for fans of Avengers: Infinity War (and who isn’t?):The movie will be available on digital, Movies Anywhere/Vudu, and 4K UHD on July 31, with the Blu-ray release arriving two weeks later on August 14.  Marvel announced yesterday that digital copies will include a bonus feature, a 30-minute discussion with Marvel Cinematic Universe directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler, Peyton Reed, and Taika Waititi.  Amazon is now taking pre-orders for the HD and 4K/UHD streaming editions, as is Vudu.  Vudu is also releasing a bundle with the first Avengers film and Age of Ultron.  (Am I the only one who sees Captain America: Civil War as a key missing piece to this set?)

And just in case you missed them, Marvel Studios celebrated the 10th anniversary with a release of 33 character posters.  You can probably expect that if the superhero isn’t in this line-up they won’t be key to the sequel next year–except for the lead superheroine of the one movie yet to be released, Captain Marvel, coming March 8, 2019.  Check out all the posters below.  The 32 characters include both those who lived and some who died under Thanos’s power, plus others who didn’t make it into Infinity War at all, like Valkyrie, Korg, Wong, and Hawkeye–really all but the Avengers support team members Happy and Agents Hill and Coulson.  Marvel seems to recognize that fans still want to see more of the characters that made the posters.

     

Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman posted this trailer advertising the home release yesterday, and all the details known so far follow:

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Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers is an ageless heroine.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one series you can revisit, find something new, and marvel at the dialogue of Joss Whedon’s greatest character, greatest writing, and greatest production, over and over.  And yet somehow Buffy, the series, turned 20 this year.  Twentieth Century Fox is rewarding fans of the series by releasing a new boxed set of all seven seasons of the series next month.  The 39-disc DVD set contains all 144 episodes of one of the smartest, funniest, and action-filled series, featuring arguably the greatest heroine of all.  Unfortunately, no Blu-ray release appears to be in the works yet.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series 20th Anniversary Edition DVD Boxed Set will include some extra features, which might entice fans who have purchased previous editions of the series.  It includes a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book from Dark Horse Comics featuring an exclusive variant cover and “coloring sheet.”  Seasons 1-7 also include special features material from prior releases.

But Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not the only series from Joss Whedon celebrating an anniversary this year and getting a new boxed set.  Firefly turned 15 this year, and Twentieth Century Fox is issuing a Blu-ray anniversary edition for Browncoats everywhere.  This boxed set will also be released next month and it features some new inserts, including a Firefly poster and collectible character cards.

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Although it still has that same look and feel of the recent Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–it actually looks more like last year’s Suicide Squad–Warner Bros. revealed the latest team-up trailer for Justice League today at Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center.  This time the studio is smartly leaning on the success of Wonder Woman to reveal the inclusion of Themiscyra in the movie.  We’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Batman, with his best work probably his cameos in Suicide Squad, and we’ve seen Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman this year in the first solo Wonder Woman title film.  Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash have had some screen time in various images from Warner Bros. promoting this film, and the last trailer (here) highlighted Ray Fisher’s Cyborg.  Now, in this nearly four-minute long trailer, they all get to be seen.

Justice League, another Zack Snyder creation handed off for last-minute clean-up work to Joss Whedon, arrives in theaters later this year along with Wonder Woman, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and Spider-man: Homecoming.  Will Justice League deliver enough punch to equal The Avengers?  Can Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment ever stand a chance at catching up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This is the best look at the League in trailers for the film so far.  This looks more like the work of Whedon than Snyder, or are we just hopeful?  Check it out for yourself–here’s the latest trailer for Justice League:

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