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Tag Archive: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Never been to a comic book or pop culture convention?  Always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con but you don’t have the vacation time available or the funds?  Planet Comicon is next weekend in Kansas City and it’s the sixth year of the show at downtown Kansas City’s giant convention center at Bartle Hall.  Planet Comicon is a great way to get a complete three-day convention experience centrally located in the Midwest, ideal for a last-minute road trip for the family or a car full of friends.  Kansas City is less than 8 hours by car from Dallas, less than 7 hours from Minneapolis, a little more than 7 hours from Indianapolis, and a little more than 8 hours from Denver.  And you don’t need to buy advance tickets–you can purchase them at the door.

So why make the trip?  How about meeting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Firefly star Alan Tudyk?   Also from Firefly, as well as Doctor Who, Supernatural, Chuck, Leverage, Star Trek Voyager (and one of borg.com‘s actors we can’t get enough of), Mark Sheppard?  Want to get a photo with Michael Rooker (“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” Yondu) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis), stars of last year’s biggest superhero hit Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2?  Are modern classics your thing?  How about seeing the star of fan-favorite movies like Say Anything, High Fidelity, and Eight Men Out?  Yep, John Cusack is returning to the Midwest for this year’s show (you can even bring your prized Rooker and Cusack Eight Men Out baseball cards for autographs).

Do you want to compare notes on The Walking Dead with stars Khary Payton, Rooker, and  Sonequa Martin-Green (also star of Star Trek Discovery)?  Maybe you’re a Game of Thrones fan.  You can meet both Jerome Flynn and Jason Momoa (also Aquaman in the DC Universe movies).  And speaking of fantasy, Planet Comicon is featuring a rare appearance by Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis, who played the beloved hero Neville Longbottom.  Want to meet the actor who has played the toughest badass characters you’ve ever seen?  Sling TV barista and Machete himself, Danny Trejo will be in the house.

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When we created last year’s preview of 2017 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining. We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our borg.com annual Best Movies of 2017.

As always, we’re after the best genre content of 2017–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each genre, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, and our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our picks for 2017:

Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Costume DesignValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  The Valerian and Laureline comic books turned 50 and brought a big-screen adaptation to theaters.  Director Luc Besson handled the material as a labor of love, and that could be marveled at in every scene, and each nook and cranny of the gigantic visual spectacle he created.  More new wonders, more futuristic ideas that had never been seen on film before, bold otherworldly costumes, and incredible special effects made this film a masterpiece science fiction fans will stumble upon in the future and wonder how it was so overlooked by audiences this summer.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology, while all the other science fiction of the year kept to their familiar territories.  A gripping story about a team just doing their job, but that job is saving an entire race of a doomed planet.  Besson was going for something like Avatar, but he far surpassed it.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was everything a sci-fi fan could want.

Best Fantasy Fix, Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieThor: Ragnarok.  As much as Thor: Ragnarok was a natural progression for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, it was amazing how much the film busted genres, becoming more of a Flash Gordon space fantasy like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the rest of the Avengers series.   Just like watching classic Flash Gordon and Conan movies, we saw superheroes on a legendary hero’s journey rise and encounter obstacles and make sacrifices, across a landscape of fabulous worlds and colorful characters, and scenes that looked like they were ripped out of your favorite Jack Kirby comic pages.  Another film about family, it incorporated that always fun plot device of having good guy and bad guy join forces, as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki redeemed himself with his brother and their people, if only temporarily.  We met one of the fiercest warriors in Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and they all faced off against a trio of well-developed villains.  A great superhero story, too, this was the ultimate fantasy fix.

Best Superhero Fix, Best Superhero Movie, Best Easter EggsThe LEGO Batman Movie.  Even as a spoof of superhero movies and the DC Universe, The LEGO Batman Movie created a genuine story full of heart that any fan of comic books could love.  Will Arnett became our second favorite Batman actor this year behind Michael Keaton, and his Batman reminded us why we can’t wait for the DC Universe to get fun and exciting again.  Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny with a smart script, full of derring-do and super-powered heroics, and better than this year’s and the last decade of live-action DC at the movies, the animated The LEGO Batman Movie proved more good DC movies are out there just waiting to be made.  Honorable mention: Spider-man: Homecoming.

Best Retro Fix Classic Genre Films Return to Theaters.  With all the new releases in 2017 we were lucky enough to witness the 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, while Disney’s The Jungle Book, The Dirty Dozen, and the original Casino Royale turned 50.  Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind turned 40.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Dark Crystal turned 35.  Predator, The Princess Bride, and Robocop turned 30.  Many of these made it back into theaters this year, giving us the best Retro Fix we could hope for all year long.  But E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (we even interviewed the best Star Trek director of them all here this year), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Princess Bride, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, on the big screen over only a few weeks?  We can only hope for more in 2018!

Check out the rest of the year’s Best Film and the rest of our picks for the year’s best movies, after the cut…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

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

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

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

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The final season of Star Wars Rebels begins this month with the fourth season premiere on DisneyXD.  Star Wars Rebels is set 14 years after the Star Wars prequels and leads up to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and just as a few Rogue One elements were shuffled into last season’s story, a new trailer hints at even more from Rogue One coming.  Notably Star Wars Rebels’ R2-D2-like orange astromech droid C1-10P (aka Chopper) appeared in Rogue One, as did a loudspeaker mention of Rebels series lead Hera Syndulla, and its ship, the Ghost, can be found at the battle of Scarif.   So one question from fans is how far Star Wars Rebels will be stretched into the future of the Star Wars timeline.  Will it have any actual overlap with Rogue One?

Returning from the Empire from last season is Grand Admiral Thrawn, but so is Grand Moff Tarkin, and he’s seen in a new trailer discussing Director Krennic–the white garbed villain of Rogue One, and he mentions Krennic’s “Stardust” project, which we learned was both Galen Erso’s nickname for his daughter Jyn and the code name of the Death Star weapon file at the Imperial archive at Scarif.   Deathtroopers and X-Wing fighters appear in the animated series–and the Star Wars timeline–for the first time, plus the Rebel mercenary Two-Tubes.  Saw Gerrera is back, too, with Mon Mothma, Rex, Bail Organa, and General Dodonna.

Star Wars Rebels is at its best when it sticks to following the tightly-knit team on a single rogue ship flying mission after mission, a formula that Joss Whedon built so well with his Firefly series.  Last season’s best episodes were the standalone episodes outside the ongoing narrative.  All the crewmembers of the Ghost are returning this season, Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper, but the crew is fair game to meet their ends for the writers, except for Hera, Chopper, and the ship itself, since we already know they appear later.  Thrawn could potentially be written out of the Star Wars timeline this season, too, since he makes no appearance in Rogue One or A New Hope.   It’s been speculated that the Imperial conference room on the Death Star had an unoccupied seat in A New Hope that belonged to Krennic.  Could it have belonged to Thrawn instead?  Maybe we’ll learn that and more this season.

Check out this trailer for Season 4 of Star Wars Rebels:

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This week the Saturn Awards crowned the best of genre film and television, selecting the best works on the screen for the 43rd year.  As with last year’s selections, although the start and end dates vary from our own calendar year list, this year’s winners aligned in the major categories with our own borg.com picks of the Best of 2016 from film and television.  If the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other award recognitions leave you wanting, you can always depend on the Saturn Awards to come through for genre fans.

So we’re happy to see the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films name Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction in a Film (Gareth Edwards) and Best Film Visual/Special Effects (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, Neil Corbould), Doctor Strange as Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress in a Film, and Star Trek Beyond for Best Film Make-up (Monica Huppert and Joel Harlow) Star of our favorite superhero sequence of 2016, Spider-man Tom Holland was awarded Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Captain America: Civil War.  In the television categories, Riverdale was named Best Action/Thriller TV Series and star KJ Apa won The Breakthrough Performance Award for his work as the iconic comic book character Archie Andrews.*  The Best New Media TV Series was a tie, shared between Stranger Things and Marvel’s Luke Cageand Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was named Best Younger Actor on Television.  Even a borg.com Hall of Famer won major kudos this year, Six Million Dollar Man actor Lee Majors was awarded The Life Career Award.  We couldn’t agree more with all these selections.

Other works we liked last year that won honors included 10 Cloverfield Lane for Best Thriller Film, Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman), Deadpool for Best Actor (Ryan Reynolds), Arrival for Best Film Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Best Film Costume (Colleen Atwood).

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We got a taste of the rampaging Darth Vader we always wanted to see in the finale of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  In all of the movies Darth Vader seemed to be more shadow and talk than the wrath and ferocity his enemies feared in the films and stories.  So when do we get to see Darth Vader at his peak?  Marvel Comics writer Charles Soule (Poe Dameron, Astonishing X-Men) and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli (Amazing Spider-man) will give us the first look at that side of Darth Vader this month in the newest series titled Darth Vader.

Darth Vader takes place immediately after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  So this is the Vader new to his cybernetic form, new to the armor, the breathing apparatus, and he’s alone–his wife and to his knowledge an unborn child is dead.  His only “friend” is the Emperor himself.  Vader’s first steps in the Dark Side as a Sith Lord, the acquisition of his red light saber, and his rise to power into the Imperial command structure are all ahead for readers of the series.  Check out a preview of Issue #1 below, after the break.

   

The first issue will feature several covers.  The main cover is by Jim Cheung.  Other covers will be provided by artists Adi Granov, Skottie Young, Phil Noto, an action figure variant by John Tyler Christopher, a blank sketch cover, a movie film cover, and an incredible homage to Dave Cockrum’s cover to Uncanny X-Men, Issue #145, by Mark Brooks–one of this year’s candidates for best comic book cover art.

Here’s Cockrum’s original cover and the pre-color, and pre-weathered version of the image by Brooks:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How can a movie get better on repeated viewings?  What makes that possible?  After three viewings of the home release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–the Digital HD edition, the Blu-ray, and the 3D Blu-ray–it’s apparent the film on repeated viewings is indeed as good as the initial theatrical viewing if not better, a rare feat in any genre.  Naysayers who didn’t like the CGI effects of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia–the primary criticism of the December theatrical release–should find even a home theater big screen television will mask any distractions seen on a 30-foot theater screen.  The Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray provide the best, clearest picture and sound of any prior Star Wars release.  The 3D transfer is as good as any 3D Blu-ray release to-date, and the special effects, clothing details like stitches and seams are clear and vivid, as is the weathering (or lack thereof, when logical) on props.  As with most 3D movies, outdoor scenes, like the Scarif ground battle, are even more vivid with sharp foregrounds and backgrounds.  Check out the complete review of the film from December here.

The special features disc includes a version of the bonus features viewable together as an entire documentary and also viewable by chapter.  The extra disc available through Target stores only includes two short extra chapters, and although the creature shop feature is excellent the two extras wouldn’t normally be enough to tilt a buyer toward the Target edition–costs being the same–and some may instead opt for packaging, like Steelbook boxes (Best Buy only) or Connexions cards (available only in the Wal-Mart edition).  Fun bits in the features to look for include Bodhi actor Riz Ahmed’s audition tapes for Edwards, a feature documenting many Easter eggs from the show even the best eye likely never identified, and interviews with motion capture actors Guy Henry (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Ingvild Daila (Princess Leia), both who look little like Peter Cushing or Carrie Fisher, proving that simply using lookalikes or prosthetics would not have been a realistic option for re-creating these characters.  The standard bonus features included with the bundles are K-2SO: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & the Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One, The Princess & the Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues, and Rogue Connections (the Easter eggs list).

Rogue One easily merits ranking as the third best film in the series after Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back–but truly in a league with those two films.  One of the best war movie stories put to film, the best prequel or prequel that is also a sequel (yes, even considering the great Godfather II), the best space battle, the best use of spaceship filming (director Gareth Edwards avoids 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture-era overly-long ship takes and instead uses his imagery only as necessary to drive the story forward), while featuring one of the all-time best heist movies.

It really has it all.

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For those millions of Star Wars fans that purchased their Blu-ray and DVD copies of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story this week and were disappointed that the special features did not include the many missing scenes that appeared in the bulk of the movie’s trailers, have no fear:  Today, Marvel Comics is releasing the first of a six-issue adaptation of the film, and it will include many scenes not in the final theatrical version of the movie, woven into the film for the first time.  Check out a preview below of Issue #1.

The adaptation is written by Jody Houser (Max Ride), with interior art by Emilio Laiso (Star Wars Annual) and Oscar Bazaldua Nava with colorist Rachelle Rosenberg.  Phil Noto is the cover artist for the series with variant covers by Mike Mayhew and several other artists, plus a movie poster cover, action figure cover, and blank sketch cover.  You’ll find all the look and feel of the movie here.  Here is a preview of Phil Noto’s cover art for Issues #2 and #3:

   

Each of the eight Star Wars films have now been adapted to comic book form.  Back before videos, these were many fans’ only way to revisit the film.  They are also a great way to introduce kids to reading.  All of the adaptations are still available at Amazon at these links: The Phantom MenaceAttack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens.

Check out a preview of Issue #1 below and many of the variant covers available.

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Speaking of Mark Hamill’s performance in this year’s December release Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams said this past week, “I think we are all going to be very upset if he does not win an Oscar.”  It’s a great thought, and certainly hits on what must be a significant role in this year’s eagerly awaited Episode XIII.  But it’s pretty unlikely if the ghost of Oscars past has anything to say about it.  This year is like most years when it comes to Academy Award nominations.  Dramas monopolize the nominee categories yet again.  When a genre is represented–also as usual–the representations are dramas in genre dress (like Passengers).  The usual representation of biopics (like Jackie), movies about Hollywood (like La La Land) and historical dramas (like Hacksaw Ridge) are back as well, sure to take home some of the coveted trophies tonight.  But nine nominees for best picture and no Midnight Special?

The best animated film category provides a little relief, with Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, and Zootopia as nominees.  Oscar winner Colleen Atwood is back as a costume design nominee with one of the year’s fantasy releases, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which also garnered a nod for production design.  But why Fantastic Beasts?  Compare Atwood’s reserved designs for Fantastic Beasts with her elaborate designs for The Huntsman: Winter’s War.  Alas, Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon’s landmark costume designs for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were completely ignored, as were the hundreds of new, stunning, alien wardrobe designs and Starfleet retro-design uniforms created by Sanja Milkovic Hays for Star Trek Beyond.

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As usual you need to look for the technical categories for the genre works.  Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad, along with A Man Called Ove are the makeup and hairstyling contenders.  Considering the fifty unique makeups designed for Star Trek Beyond in the franchise’s fiftieth year, this would be a triumph for the franchise.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story landed multiple nominations this year, including a deserved nod for sound mixing.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What many don’t realize about movie concept art books is that, from the best of them, you can learn more about the filmmaking design process from the accompanying text than from the images selected.  Make no mistake–The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is chock full of many stages of concept artwork.  But what unfolds over its more than 250 pages is a rare peek behind the scenes at director Gareth Edwards, Lucasfilm executives, and the art design team as they figured out what story to tell in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

We learned last year in Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien (reviewed here at borg.com), that George Lucas knew immediately he wanted to create the look of Star Wars as a sort of documentary, a historical account of a long ago event.  To that end he tapped Christian to create environments made from real world components.  As explained in The Art of Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards knew he needed to emulate that style of filmmaking and overall look, and his route was using a readily available team of concept artists to create the visuals of Rogue One from day one, even partnering with artists to create the ideas for the film’s story elements in advance of a completed story.  These elements included featuring a female lead, a rebel strike squad like that in Force 10 from Navarone, a key droid team member, a battle reflective of Vietnam, a battle reflective of Paris during World War II, and a dark planet for the home of Darth Vader.  Edwards wanted to create an echo of Luke Skywalker’s hero–who wished he could join the far away war–with Jyn Erso, a heroine raised in a life of war who only wished to escape it.  The proof of the efficacy of Edwards’ process is in the result.  Has Edwards begun a new way of making movies, and will future filmmakers take this tack?

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“I look at Star Wars as a real historical event that took place in the universe, and George Lucas was there with his crew to capture it.  And now we’re there with our cameras and our crew, filming as it passed through us,” Edwards says in Abrams Books’ latest film art book, The Art of Rogue One.  “When you look like you’ve come in with a plan, it can feel too prescribed and a bit false–but when it looks like you’re capturing the images, like you’re watching them unfold in real time, it just feels more real.  I’m always trying to find that little thing that knocks you off your path–the idea or the ingredient that we didn’t come in trying to create, the curveball that makes the story feel unique.” Edwards directive was similarly unique:  How the artists remembered the images of seeing Star Wars for the first time became a more important focus than copying the look of the environments exactly from the original Star Wars source material.

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