Advertisements

Tag Archive: Jr.


Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the benefits of behind-the-scenes and making of/art books for major studio movies is that anyone diving into the production process for the first time can usually learn plenty about the stages of filmmaking from pre-production to final product.  Just pick a film you like and jump right in.  Abbie Bernstein′s The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is no exception, but it will be particularly fun for anyone who is a fan of concept art and mega-monsters.  It’s also weighted toward pre-production and the pre-visualization process.  Readers wouldn’t expect a film with giant creatures to be filmed with practical sets, but with a modern studio Godzilla movie filmed in the U.S., you automatically expect a predominantly CGI movie.  The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is filled with trial pieces from artists showcasing the process of turning the classic Japanese kaiju characters into something new and different.

Fans of Scott Chambliss will want to read what guided him to make the choices and decisions for the look of the film.  Chambliss has his own style, and when watching the film my reaction was how many sets, and specifically the color and lighting choices, felt like Star Trek 2009, a film in which Chambliss also served as production designer.  Chambliss discusses the visual tricks he used to make Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorra appear to have immense scale, but also appear real.  Several effects companies worked on components of this film, each trying to make their creations the best of the pack without competing against each other–the goal being to create the best final product they could.  Some artists worked on familiar software programs, combining photographs and 3D imaging of locations like San Francisco’s Union Square to combine with actors in Atlanta.   Others made sculptures of each creature–in a variety of materials–and then those sculptures were scanned and manipulated into what the audience sees on screen by others, after even more creators contributed their colors, texture, lighting, and other touches.

The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a great companion book to Mark Cotta Vaz’s Godzilla: The Art of Destruction, the behind the scenes look at Gareth Edward’s 2014 Godzilla film that was the starting point for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Simon Ward’s The Art of Kong: Skull IslandAll of these massive monsters will come together soon in Godzilla vs. King, so it’s a good time to be a fan of kaiju.  For fans of the new Legendary Pictures movie, it’s a good opportunity to understand the characters better from those who created them, and learn more from actors about their experiences on set, including Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Elizabeth Ludlow, Thomas Middleditch, Anthony Ramos, and Bradley Whitford.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of a book about the popularity of Fawcett Comics‘ original Captain Marvel, the world’s mightiest mortal–the superhero renamed Shazam and featured in a new movie this month starring Zachary Levi–will be the perfect trip through time for fans who have enjoyed the character in his many stories going back to his debut in 1939.  My personal favorite Captain Marvel stories can be found in the original Whiz Comics (all in the public domain and available to read online now here) and as drawn by Alex Ross in his landmark graphic novel with Mark Waid, Kingdom Come.  For the first time in a softcover edition, Chip Kidd’s Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal has been reprinted by Abrams ComicArts just in time for the release of the film, Shazam!

For those not in-the-know, this is the Captain Marvel who now goes by Shazam (the word that causes him to bring forth his powers)–the one owned by DC Comics today, and not the one owned by Marvel Comics and also in theaters now in the movie Captain Marvel (reviewed here at borg).  Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal is a historical work, and it doesn’t hesitate to use the name he’s always been known as by his fans.  As told by writer Chip Kidd, the Captain Marvel fan club had 400,000 people in it in its best year in the 1940s, and Fawcett projected 40 million followers of the character in books and film.  Captain Marvel books sold 1.3 million copies per month, not a common feat even today.  Does anything approach that kind of fan club status today?  At the height of the character it was more popular than Superman and Batman, and so of course the character had hundreds of tie-in products.

Readers will marvel over a reprint of the entire story from Captain Marvel Adventures, Issue #1–created by two then unknowns: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and reprints of several colorful covers from Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel Comics, WOW Comics, Master Comics, America’s Greatest Comics, Spy Smasher, and even Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, plus pages of scans of original comic pages from ex-Fawcett staff.

The book uses photographs from a collection of some of the scarcest superhero collectibles known, including images of books, toys, and paper ephemera for Captain Marvel and the entire Marvel Family–superhero kids like Billy Batson–the boy who turns into Captain Marvel–and his friends who use the Shazam powers but remain as kids.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s cut to the chase:  Daniel Godfrey’s new novel The Synapse Sequence is not just the leading contender for the best science fiction novel of 2018, it’s the most absorbing, riveting, and thrilling science fiction novel I’ve read since I was first blown away by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in 1990.  Hyperbole?  Maybe just a little, but when you are reading a new book and you’re taken aback by the twists, turns, and surprises as this book provides, it’s a bit like walking out of a big rock concert, wanting everyone else to witness what you just experienced.  Godfrey is relatively new to the genre, with two solid sci-fi books behind him, New Pompeii (reviewed here) and Empire of Time (reviewed here).  But this story is a completely different take on science fiction, and so deftly written, smartly paced, and completely believable in its speculative reach, Godfrey is worth comparison to some of the greats in the genre for it.

Anna Glover is an investigator with an unfortunately troubled and public past for her conclusions in investigating an airplane crash.  She lives in the somewhat distant future–bots serve man, taking on so many functions that personal freedom is limited.  As told from the alternating viewpoint of Glover in the present and looking back on her life, future London is very familiar and steeped in the world that technology is building right now with so much of life absorbed into the digital world.  When we meet our protagonist she is attempting to lie low conducting trials for a company with an emerging technology, a “synapse sequencer,” which allows a person to be tapped into the mind of another, like a witness to a crime, to experience vivid, shared memories as an observer.  She meets with her boss inside this world, where he lives out most of his life, a life better than he would experience in the real world.  The process requires the help of a monitor, and hers sees that she gets in and out of submersion safely.  But we learn there are risks for anyone who participates in this intermingling of brain activity.  If you’ve seen the 1980s sci-fi classic Dreamscape, the modern classic Source Code, the television series Stitchers, or the shared visions of iZombie, you’ll find no suspension of disbelief issue with the wild ride that awaits you.  The method for the journey isn’t as elaborate (or glitch-filled) as Connie Willis’s elaborate time travel tech, but Godfrey provides enough to submerge us into the stress and angst of Glover as she takes journey after journey to learn the who and why of a case involving a boy in a coma and a missing girl.

You can’t predict where Godfrey will take Glover from chapter to chapter in The Synapse Sequence Godfrey has been likened to an emerging Crichton, but Crichton rarely could craft as satisfying an ending as found here.  The story embraces that speculative futurism like many a Philip K. Dick story (Paycheck, Total Recall/We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and Minority Report for starters), while weaving in a plausible future from the seeds of new tech today.  He combines the audacious duplicity of Vincent and Jerome in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca with the foreboding and despair of The Man’s story in Chris Marker’s Le Jetée and Cole’s in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. 

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two and a half years since we first met Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones in Marvel’s television universe.  Although we saw her as just one of the many super-powered characters packed into Marvel’s The Defenders last year, despite all she’s been through not much has changed with the private investigator.  That same angry, tough, bitter, and unhappy anti-hero is the same person we meet at the beginning and at the end of the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, now appearing on Netflix.  For fans of the fringe of the Marvel superhero world where little fun is to be had, Ritter’s gritty heroine stands alongside The Punisher (our favorite superhero series last year).  Yet despite its heavy dramatic component, it’s very much a superhero show, providing a complete picture of the downside of possessing superhero powers created by chemicals in a lab–a key fact of life for so many Marvel creations, including The Hulk, Deadpool, Luke Cage, the Fantastic Four, the Winter Soldier, etc.  For those viewers that thought Jessica Jones’s first season was the best TV had to offer, good luck comparing which is best after watching the second season.

But it’s not really Jessica who shines in Season 2 as much as the supporting characters, and the series doesn’t really reach its stride until Episode 7.  The real standout for Season 2 is a new super-powered character created by the same mad scientists that created Jessica Jones, actor Janet McTeer’s new complex antagonist Alisa.  Alisa is a driven, unstoppable human machine attached to a fantastic, layered core.  Alisa is older and wiser and far more powerful than Jessica or anyone else we’ve seen from the Netflix Marvel realm.  Two scenes with Alisa playing the piano really reveal what viewers are in for (and the cast of characters is up against).  Unfortunately for Alisa and everyone that she touches, she’s been pushed to the extremes, resulting in a decisively volatile foe.  As with Marvel’s Killmonger in this season’s big screen movie Black Panther, calling Alisa the villain of the show omits much about the character.  A cold-blooded killer?  Sure.  But even the worst can still have hope for redemption, especially if what made them bad in the first place was never their fault.  Or can it?

Right along with Alisa, Jessica’s step-sister Trish “Patsy” Walker–Jessica’s rather bland supporter and confidante in Season 1–really leaps into action in a breakaway performance that aims toward Linda Hamilton’s tough-as-nails heroine in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  Credit the acting range required of actor Rachael Taylor this time around and a stellar character arc created for her by the writing team of Melissa Rosenberg, Jack Kenny, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Gabe Fonseca, Lisa Randolph, Jamie King, Raelle Tucker, Hillie Hicks, Jr., Jenny Klein, and Jesse Harris.  Viewers may want to strangle Trish by the halfway mark in the season, but just wait–she only gets in deeper as the series progresses.

Continue reading

When the Rat Pack (you know, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop) first made the heist comedy Ocean’s 11 about a group of WWII pals in Las Vegas, do you think they had any idea they were establishing a brand that would be continuing with a new film 58 years later?  In the latest entry, Ocean’s 8, Warner Bros. has Frank’s daughter Nancy serenade us in the first trailer, which features a nicely cast crowd of actors.  In case you haven’t been keeping count, this will be the fifth film featuring an Ocean family member leading a group on a major con.  Sinatra was the original Danny Ocean, and in the reboot Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen, George Clooney took over the role and led a cast including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts.

Next year we’ll see Sandra Bullock lead the way as Debbie Ocean, fresh out of jail and enlisting a group of varying skill sets to steel valuable jewels at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Her co-stars include Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Armitage, Olivia Munn, Rihanna, Katie Holmes, Mindy Kaling, and Dakota Fanning.

Check out Warner Bros.’ first trailer for Ocean’s 8:

Continue reading

So long as you have a compelling story to tell, sometimes having all the right people on the big screen is enough of a reason to sit through a movie.  But Agathie Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is like watching a play by Shakespeare.  You already know the story is excellent, and the challenge is how creatively the latest director will manipulate the strings and how deftly the actors will portray the characters.

The latest adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express has all the right components for a movie-lover’s two hours of bliss.  How will Kenneth Branagh orchestrate his next opus?  Like the magnificent Henry V or Much Ado About Nothing?  We can hope.  How will this room full of master thespians of the British and American schools play off each other?  Aren’t you inkling to find out?

This latest trailer for the film (see the first here if you missed it) expands the reach of the first, giving us a good look at Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Branagh directing Branagh as Inspector Poirot.  Other stars include Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom, Jr., Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, and Olivia Colman.  And don’t forget, publicity for the film has indicated that the clues of the crime are everywhere, including in posters and the trailers for the film.

Here is the second trailer for Murder on the Orient Express:

Continue reading

It’s a member of the exclusive clubhouse of the greatest year of movies–1982.  In a summer that gave us E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Poltergeist, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, Disney’s groundbreaking Tron is a great movie, and it stands the test of time as a unique science fiction classic.  For a movie fan, if you were stuck in a time warp you could hardly find a better place to be than 1982.  Getting noticed in a year of movies like Conan the Barbarian, Rocky III, First Blood, Tootsie, The Secret of NIMH, The Last Unicorn, Night Shift, The Man from Snowy River, Tex, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was no small feat.  Tron sees the 35th anniversary of its release this week.  A cinematic milestone?  Of course.  A must-see classic?  Absolutely.  Better still, you can view Tron in a more vibrant and detailed clarity than how you may have viewed it in a local 1982 movie theater thanks to an updated 2011 Blu-ray release.

For those not involved in the computing world in the early 1980s, Tron first introduced audiences to programming terms like the Master Control Program (MCP), random access memory (RAM), and the idea of avatars.   It introduced us to light cycles, an early CG home run–even decades before quality 3D or IMAX–viewers were ducking and dodging in their seats as opponents exploded into the walls of the Grid.  Identity discs brought to life what were only blips on the screen in the “real” world, and we cringed as Flynn took a step too close and almost fell off the game rings.  No other film since looks like Tron, not even its big budget 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy or its 2012 animated series Tron: Uprising.  Its backlight animation worked amazingly well for our first entry into a world we hadn’t seen before.  Video games were just beyond the stage of blip games like Pong.  It was a time before the Atari 2600.  It was in this world that director Steven Lisberger was able to film Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley aka Tron and Jeff Bridges as programmer/hacker/high scorer Flynn in a complex blue-black and white costume and fill in the details in post-production and place them in a brilliantly colored, infinitely tiny, futuristic universe.  The look was both retro to an almost 1940s vision of the future and yet also it pushed ahead, way ahead, to some future we will never really meet.  Just look at this futuristic, visionary image from early in the film where Bridges plays an avatar of his real world character–well before anyone knew what an avatar was:

And the story works.  Tron offers a one-of-a-kind and unreal world where, in the classic sci-fi style of The Fly, you can be teleported to someplace not outside but deep within this world, where Flynn tries to understand his new world of the Users, to fight to survive with identity disk battles and light cycle races, and to get home.  Boxleitner, who would get far less screen time than Jeff Bridges, provided an understated hero for a generation of kids.  David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek V, VI, Star Trek: The Next Generation), the best actor to play a villain in any franchise, also played a dual role as Dillinger and the MCP, giving movies one of its all-time best villains, and adding yet another perfect genre performance to Warner’s portfolio.  Caddyshack’s Cindy Morgan as Lora/Yori, Dan Shor as the ill-fated RAM, and Barnard Hughes as Dumont all created memorable supporting characters (plus master stuntman Vince Deadrick, Jr. (Iron Man, True Grit, Star Trek Enterprise, Fletch, Romancing the Stone) to boot).

Continue reading

lost-in-space-cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

lost-in-space

Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

Continue reading

Westworld second trailer

Westworld was writer/director Michael Crichton’s original high-tech vacation theme park-turned disaster blockbuster film, from 1973.  Twenty years before Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs went on a murderous rampage, it was a sideshow automaton from the Old West pavilion that turned on the tourists.  We showed you the first teaser trailer for the new series Westworld (discussed here at borg.com) and now we have a fuller look at the newest incarnation of borgs Hollywood has created for us in HBO’s latest trailer for the series.

Jonathan Nolan, brother of The Dark Knight series’ Christopher Nolan, is directing the return of the sci-fi classic, also the latest J.J. Abrams production.  The original Westworld starred Yul Brynner as the cool and unflinching Gunslinger, with Richard Benjamin running for his life, along with appearances by James Brolin and Majel Barrett.  The new series stars a great, comparable actor to Brynner as the Gunslinger–Ed Harris, as well as Anthony Hopkins in a role like Richard Attenborough’s mastermind in Jurassic Park, plus a host of genre actors:  X-Men’s James Marsden, Jimmi Simpson (Psych, House of Cards, Zodiac), Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II, The Chronicles of Riddick), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), Star Trek’s Clifton Collins, Jr., Veronica Mars’ Tessa Thompson, Prince Caspian’s Ben Barnes, and James Bond’s Jeffrey Wright.

Westworld cyborg hand

But it’s Evan Rachel Wood’s character Delores who takes center stage in this trailer–and hopefully the entire series, which looks to hone in on what it takes to be human.  It’s a theme we love to see in the best borg shows, from the mind of Philip K. Dick in Blade Runner to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data to Terminator Genisys, and the BBC series Humans last year.  We ask the question all the time here.  Are the creations in the new Westworld just updated automatons?  Merely androids?  Or will the biological meet high-tech to give us something else?

Check out the latest trailer for the series Westworld:

Continue reading

comix movie

We’ve seen plenty of recent efforts trying to get to the heart of what comic books and their fans are all about, including documentaries reviewed here at borg.com like Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle, and With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story.  The latest look at comic books, creators, the industry, and fans is being released tomorrow from filmmaker Michael Valentine.

Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages includes interviews with noted comic book industry veterans, including Stan Lee (Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four) (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Frank Miller (Sin City, 300), Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman, Justice League of America), Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Productions (Hellboy, Sin City, Goon, Concrete), Marc Silvestri of Image Comics and Top Cow Productions (Tomb Raider, Hunter Killer, Witchblade), and Todd McFarlane (Spawn).

Filmed by Valentine over a decade, the documentary includes footage new and old from cosplayers at Comic-Con, WonderCon, Anime Expo and Wizard World.  The documentary provides an overview of the world of comic books, backed by superhero-themed music and montage images of comic book panels.

Here is a preview of the Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages:
Continue reading