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Tag Archive: Justin Lin


Review by C.J. Bunce

Magnum, p.i. was no doubt one of the best television series to come out of the 1980s, thanks to star Tom Selleck, the late John Hillerman, the beauty of Hawaii and good writing by Donald P. Bellisario.  The series ran for eight seasons and continues to be broadcast in reruns on cable channels any hour of the day, every day.  For years talk of a sequel movie or series sounded pretty exciting, but as the actors got older that became less and less likely, and that was only solidified with the death of John Hillerman last year.  The idea of a reboot may make many flinch, but what really is the harm in taking any past series, film, or franchise forward?  CBS is taking a chance with such a revered show, and Monday night it aired episode one of its new Magnum p.i. (changing only the comma), first previewed here at borg back in May).  So how did they do?

About ten minutes into the pilot for the series and viewers will know the creators of this reboot loved the original series, and that translates to the conscientious, careful effort taken with the update to the characters so many know and love.  In some ways Jay Hernandez (Suicide Squad) is even cockier than Selleck’s Thomas Magnum.  He also plays his Magnum as completely genuine, the guy you can see having friends like Rick (now played by Zachary Knighton) and T.C. (now played by Stephen Hill).  At its worst the new Magnum p.i. plays like a sequel to another reboot series, Hawaii Five-O (thanks in part to both an appearance by new series regular Sung Kang, who had a brief stint on Hawaii Five-O, and the show’s location).  But a sequel to Hawaii Five-O would be no bad thing, and it’s the same way the original Magnum, p.i. began.  (Thank goodness this is not another prequel!)  At its best, it has that blend of expensive cars, high-octane chase scenes, and good old-fashioned fun that the Fast and the Furious film series is known for, and that’s thanks to that film series’ director/actor Justin Lin taking the reins and directing this pilot episode.

Along with a likeable supporting team of new actors playing Magnum’s fiercely loyal war buddies, the smartest move taken by the production is not replacing Higgins with a caricature of John Hillerman.  The new Higgins is Ready Player One’s Perdita Weeks as Juliet Higgins–yes, she’s British, complete with the Hillerman poise and accent, but unlike the original Higgins her MI6 background is let loose right away, as she holds her own in hand-to-hand combat against two former Marines with weapons attempting to kill her.  And of course the location is again Honolulu, Oahu, and the surrounding Hawaiian islands we’ll no doubt get to visit again over the next season.  And Mike Post and Pete Carpenter’s memorable theme song.  And the two female Dobermans as the lads, Zeus and Apollo.  And seemingly disposable $250,000 Ferraris–we watched two destroyed in just the first episode.

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1988.  That was the last year you could turn on your television and watch three things: Magnum, p.i., Murphy Brown, and a crime drama written by Dick Wolf.  1988 becomes 2018 this Fall as thirty years later CBS launches three new shows, a reboot of Magnum, p.i. (with a title changed a little to Magnum P.I.), a continuation 20 years later of the original Murphy Brown, and FBI, the latest gritty drama from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.  See trailers for all these new series below.

Director Justin Lin created a TV movie for the pilot of his Magnum P.I.  Lin, famous for his Fast & Furious movies, but also his direction of one of the best Star Trek films, Star Trek Beyond, plus acclaimed television series True Detective and Community, provides a preview about as big and expensive as you’re ever going to see, proving Lin is probably the right guy for the job.  Fast cars and action reflect the feel of the original series, with an obvious update to a modern production concept, but the show also includes the key characters: Suicide Squad and Bright’s Jay Hernandez is Thomas Magnum, ex-Navy SEAL, working for Robin Masters, wearing his Detroit Tigers hat, same ring, same watch, same Old Dusseldorf beer, and driving Robin’s Ferraris.  This time Magnum is the inspiration for Masters’ novels.  Jonathan Higgins is now Juliet (ex-MI6) Higgins (or is she really Robin Masters?), played by Perdita Weeks (Ready Player One, Penny Dreadful) tending to the lads and annoyed by Thomas.  And Thomas’s war buddies are back, with T.C. played by Stephen Hill (Luke Cage), and Rick played by Zachary Knighton (LA to Vegas).  And Oahu doesn’t look like it has changed in 30 years, with the borrowed universe of the Hawaii Five-O series thanks in part to production designer Keith Neely (and that’s Five-O actor Sung Kang in the preview).  Oddly enough the original Magnum, p.i. was relocated from California to Hawaii because CBS did not want to close down its Hawaii offices after the wind-down of the original Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980), and here again is Magnum riding on the coattails of Steve McGarrett.  The fan base is already going to be divided up for this one: reject it because the original is a classic, or put aside the past, embrace the new, and see what Lin can do.

The preview for Season 11 of Murphy Brown feels more like an improv character study performed by each actor from the original show, sharing what the character has been up to for the past 20 years since the series went off the air.  Candice Bergen is back as Brown, Faith Ford is Corky Sherwood, Joe Regalbuto is Frank Fontana, Grant Shaud is Miles, Tyne Daly takes over Phil’s Bar and Grill (original Phil actor Pat Corley died in 2006), and Lady Bird’s Jake McDorman debuts as Murphy’s son Avery.  81-year-old actor Charles Kimbrough, the first actor to say “that sucks!” on television and Murphy Brown’s Jim Dial, might have a guest role in the show’s planned 13 episodes.  Unfortunately one of the series’ best loved characters, Eldin Bernecky, won’t be back, as actor Robert Pastorelli died in 2004.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For Star Trek fans, since the 1990s the first place to look to dig into the artistry of the sets, props, and costumes was the book The Art of Star Trek, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, the ultimate art reference for decades of Star Trek productions.  It explored the concept art and creative works from the original Trek series through the seventh film in the series, Star Trek Generations.  Herbert Solow’s Star Trek Sketchbook and John Eaves’ Star Trek The Movies Sketchbook supplemented these books further and in 2016 Terry Erdmann and Paula M. Block’s Star Trek Costumes honed in on an end-to-end look at costumes spanning the franchise up to that date.  In 2016 CBS re-branded the three most recent films “the Kelvin Timeline,” since the storyline splintered from the original series events beginning with the destruction of the USS Kelvin in the 2009 Star Trek film (formerly the “alternate reality” or J.J. Abrams trilogy).  Separate and different from typical “behind the scenes” books, the volume of Star Trek reference material (and the large fanbase) allowed for these many, detailed looks into the creative process.  Many of these books and much more can be found in our 2011 survey of Trek books found here and here.  Bringing us closer to the present, the first look into the artwork of the Kelvin timeline was Mark Cotta Vaz’s Star Trek: The Art of the Film and last year’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow, but fans now have access to a broader look at the artwork behind all three Kelvin timeline movies: Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond, in Jeff Bond’s new book, The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline.

Star Trek fans will find The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline a must-read and a natural extension, or sequel of sorts, to Reeves-Stevens’ original art overview.  With chapters on each of the three films, expanding on the material from Cotta Vaz’s book, this new volume provides insight into the reboot and updates to the starship Enterprise, the bridge set, and Starfleet and alien costumes, and great attention is given to the concept art that resulted in the strange new worlds in these films.  Best of all is access to interviews with concept artists John Eaves, Ryan Church, James Clyne, John Goodson, Sean Hargreaves, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, visual effects art director Alex Jaeger, makeup supervisor Joel Harlow, production designer Scott Chambliss, supervising art director Ramsey Avery, creature designer Neville Page, art director Yanick Dusseault, production designer Thomas A. Sanders, visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang, Star Trek Beyond costume designer Sanja Hays, actors Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin.  The artists’ environmental, planetary, and geological concept work in many instances is the quality of final production matte paintings.

Those who already have read Cotta Vaz’s book on the art of the 2009 film will be happy to see this book provides photographs and discussion of ideas not covered before.  Fans of Sanja Hays’ costume designs in Star Trek Insurrection get to see how Hays approached returning to the concepts of both Starfleet and aliens of new civilizations in Star Trek Beyond.  And although he is not interviewed for the book, costume designer Michael Kaplan’s costume designs can be found across the book’s coverage of the first two films.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid Star Wars blew me away and when I think back it was the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”–specifically the creature cantina at Mos Eisley spaceport–that first introduced me to the idea of a wide, wide universe of alien beings.  Countless characters–makeups and costumes designed by movie artists in the real world–all milled about in one place and it was about as cool a thing as anyone could put on film.  My next great appreciation for aliens came from the Star Trek films, in particular the delegation of members of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home–this bizarre assemblage of leaders, all wearing the common United Federation of Planets maroon officer uniforms, but each representing some far off world with all sorts of strange and exotic denizens.  Much of my excitement for aliens would come from Michael Westmore’s wonderful “aliens of the week” in the various television incarnations of Star Trek–I am a fan and self-proclaimed expert in the aliens of Star Trek more than any other corner of that great franchise.  Later I would be dazzled by the unique alien designs of Doctor Who’s 21st century Renaissance, where the British series really upped the ante of how unique and complex a weekly show could illustrate the potential of who is “out there.”  The updated Mos Eisley for science fiction fans would reach its zenith for me in two great ways in 2016 and 2017:  In the diverse cultures of the Yorktown space station in Star Trek Beyond and in the immensely populated Big Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  As much as the original Mos Eisley still stands strong on film, these two modern updates of “strange new worlds… new life and new civilizations” represent the best modern creativity in the world of cinema.  Makeup artist Joel Harlow, who won an Academy Award for his makeup work for Star Trek (2009), returned to the franchise for Star Trek Beyond, and in honor of the Trek’s 50th anniversary his team created 50 new alien races for the film.  A new book just released, Joe Nazzaro’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow documents in photographs and descriptions the development and creative ideas behind each new race for the film.  As a fan of aliens and Star Trek and this fabulous film, I haven’t anticipated a new publication as much, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.

Journalist Joe Nazzaro assembled Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow unlike most behind the scenes accounts that only punctuate descriptions with the odd quote from a creator, instead providing his narrative as a reporter would–interviewing and sharing Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups.  We hear about Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond from Harlow and creators behind the scenes including concept artists Neville Page, Allen Williams, and Carlos Huante, sculptor/makeup artist Richie Alonzo, and designer/sculptors Don Lanning, Joey Orosco, Lennie MacDonald, Norman Cabrera, and Mike Rotella.  This is the kind of access to the minds of movie creators that fanboys and fangirls dream about.

Let’s start with Jaylah.  By my count, in the vast world of great Star Trek female characters Jaylah (portrayed by Sofia Boutella) is the most developed, most intriguing, best badass heroine of them all.  Harlow, Neville Page, and Richie Alonzo really flesh out for readers the idea to application method of the unique makeup for this lead character from the film.  Although it may not be the most complex makeup design at first look, it required elaborate and surgical artistry to replicate it each day, and balanced many requirements to allow the actor to move freely through action sequences and stand out as the driving force behind the plot of the film.  Equally important to the film was the villain Krall (portrayed by Idris Elba) a character made up of all the alien races he had absorbed (which included callbacks to Star Trek’s Jem’Hadar) requiring additional complexity in design and style via its character’s backstory.  Creators Harlow and Joey Orosco delve into the creation of the four phases of Krall’s design made for the movie.

The most brilliant makeup is no doubt the alien Natalia (who appears on the book cover), the fabulous, spectacular nautilus-headed design by Allen Williams and Don Lanning and sculpted by Joey Orosco with contributions from Werner Pretorius, Lennie MacDonald, Steve Buscaino, Cristina Patterson, and Toby Lindala.  The head, bust, and arms for Natalia must reflect one of the best creature designs to ever emerge from Hollywood, and yet, like many of the 50 new aliens designed for the film (technically 56 according to Harlow) the character did not get much screentime.  In fact many of the aliens were for background shots and astonishingly a few did not make it into the final cut of the film.  The artists in the book also confirm the H.R. Giger influence on some of their designs for Star Trek Beyond–his designs also influenced alien creations of earlier Trek incarnations.  One of my favorite footnotes to the Star Trek franchise, and certainly one of the most obscure references in classic Star Trek is an intercom on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation paging Dr. Selar to the Null-G ward–which we never actually get to see–but the Abe Sapien-meets They Live alien called Satine (designed by Allen Williams and sculpted by Matt Rose) is exactly the type of alien I envisioned you’d find there.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Star Trek Beyond is available this month on Digital HD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD.  Consistent with the trend in big franchise releases, Star Trek Beyond is available in a variety of formats.  Fortunately one version makes the selection easy: Target has included an entire bonus disc of behind the scenes content in one its Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo edition.  The bonus disc accompanying the Blu-ray combo has so much interesting content you’ll want this edition for your Star Trek collection, but unfortunately 3D fans will also need to pick up the 3D Blu-ray separately, a failing of this type of scattered release.

The bonus disc includes more than 45 minutes of extra content, the best taking us into the workrooms for the prop and costume departments at Paramount.  “The Battle of Yorktown” shows how Lin and production crew created the action scenes involving the movie’s climax at the Yorktown space station.  “Properly Outfitted” gives great insight, including visuals, of concept artwork and prop design, including original series inspiration for the new phaser rifles and John Eaves designs.  “Set Phasers to Stunning” joins costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays, who was also designer for Star Trek Insurrection, as she discusses the movie’s incredible variety and expanse of alien fashion and updates to Starfleet garb.  “Spliced” takes us through the editing process, “Beats and Shouting” provides a discussion with composer Michael Giacchino and his son, “Small World” provides a great look at the very classic feeling introduction of the film and a new alien race, and “Visually Effective” takes us through the work behind the show’s special effects creations.

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The behind the scenes extras that are included with the other versions also feature great content that illustrates the care and attention taken by this production team to improve upon past Star Trek films.  Where the extras are deficient is with the deleted scenes.  Included are only two, and they are so brief and irrelevant that you’re left thinking there must be more to be released later.  The gag reel, however, is full of fun, showing the camaraderie of the crew, including Zoe Saldana (Uhura) cutting a scene short to chide Chris Pine (Kirk) for sliding too far into a William Shatner impression.

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Star Trek Beyond Fly spot USS Enterprise inside Starbase Yorktown

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the fiftieth year of Star Trek, fanboy Simon Pegg proved that the franchise has never been stronger.  Probably more so than any prior entry in the now 13-movie catalog, Star Trek Beyond found a way to be the most loyal to the original series, with the writers weaving a story you could also find comfortably set within Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager.  And director Justin Lin showed that an action heavy film can also tell a good story.

Get ready.  Star Trek Beyond, opening this weekend in theaters everywhere, is also the most fun of the Star Trek movies since Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, thanks to clever and witty dialogue and circumstances that put the Bones and Spock relationship at center stage.  By movie’s end, diehard Star Trek fans will find themselves trying to categorize the latest big budget blockbuster against the past even-numbered films, generally regarded as the cream of the crop.  That consideration alone elevates the movie into the top echelon of all Trekdom, a welcome jolt for the franchise.

Better than the admittedly good Abrams contributions Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond taps more subtlely into throwbacks we love, like a look at the Enterprise itself and spacedock in a way we haven’t seen since Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock.  And speaking of the original Star Trek III, this third reboot mirrors many key moments from that film, despite having an entirely different plot.

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What does it mean to serve on a ship on a long voyage?  What toll does it take on the captain and his or her crew?  Beginning with a humanitarian mission that we think Jean-Luc Picard would have appreciated, including an in-world guest actress (Sofia Boutella) like none other we’ve seen in Star Trek, featuring a strong actor–Idris Elba–as a brilliantly conceived unique–yet also familiar–villain, and dividing up the crew in twos to highlight the strengths of the characters–Star Trek Beyond is practically flawless.  Star Trek Beyond is not just good Star Trek, it’s great Star Trek.

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Pine KIrk

It’s an unusual thing.  We’ve seen plenty of unusual with the Star Trek reboot universe–also called the JJ Abrams Star Trek, and now the Kelvin Timeline because of the ship that as destroyed when Nero came back in time to alter the past.  Whatever it is, it’s a different kind of Star Trek than what fans were used to for 40 years.  Now with a 50th anniversary upon us, Star Trek joins James Bond and Doctor Who in the elite club of 50-year genre classic franchises.

Comparing Star Trek to James Bond would be unusual, too.  One is science fiction, the other, spy and action movie.  Star Trek isn’t a spy story, but it has traditionally been dosed with a bit of action here and there, while always taking a back seat to dramatic story telling.  James Bond has a few trademark notables, like a single James Bond theme and a pop song that highlights each new release.  Star Trek, over its entire 50 years, does not have a single theme, instead opting for new scores and thematic cues for each new series and movie.  But now for the first time, Star Trek is getting its own pop song for the next iteration of the franchise.

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Call it a Justin Lin thing, something you’d expect for a director known for Fast and The Furious movies.  The final trailer to drop from Paramount for Star Trek Beyond landed this week, and it features the new song “Sledgehammer” by Rihanna.  Check it out:

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