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Tag Archive: Ron Howard


The most infamous, notorious, and maybe even most beloved of toymakers, Marty Abrams is back in the toy biz years after a stint in prison for fraud and the bankruptcy of his famous toy company (get the whole story on Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us).  The company he made famous–MEGO–gave kids the ultimate 1970s line of licensed 8-inch (1:9 scale) action figures, and it returned to stores with a vengeance this year.  Not to toy stores–since they seem to be a thing of the past after the bankruptcy of Toys R Us this year–but to the end cap at your neighborhood Target store.  Replaced in recent years by the 3 3/4-inch line of licensed small-scale action figured from Super 7, Funko, and Biff! Bam! Pow!, the classic MEGO figures are making a comeback.  Abrams has pulled in a bizarre cross-section of licensed properties to get his foot back in the door with kids, collectors, and anyone able to be sidetracked on their way to pick up school supplies and shampoo.  Abrams was a groundbreaking importer, manufacturer, marketing maven, inventor, and brand developer who founded MEGO Corporation, the first company to license action figures based on TV shows and comic book superheroes, and the first to sell dolls in clear bubbles on cards that hung on pegs instead of in boxes stacked on store shelves.  If you were a kid in the 1970s, you probably had at least one of his figures (I’m pretty sure we still called them dolls back then).  My three-year-old self was not excluded:

The first wave of figures are already on the discount shelves at Target.  Look around and you’ll find an eclectic mix of pop culture nostalgia, some figures resembling sculpts and costumes from the original MEGO figures, others representing characters that may leave you scratching your head, wondering who has been eagerly waiting to see this show in an action figure line.  So Wave One includes Sulu and Chekov from the original Star Trek series, Charlie’s Angels’ Kelly Garrett (complete with ’70s hairdo), Peg Bundy from Married with Children, Action Jackson (not the movie version) sporting a jumpsuit, NORM! Peterson from Cheers, Piper Halliwell from the original TV series Charmed, Dracula (sculpted after Bela Lugosi’s version), Alice the housekeeper and center square from The Brady Bunch, Tootie the youngest girl from Facts of Life, Jimi Hendrix in his Woodstock outfit, and probably the best of all (OK, besides Jim Hendrix): Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (aka Fonzie) looking like the original Mego figure from Happy DaysTwo dual figure sets feature Jeannie and Tony from I Dream of Jeannie and a Mirror Universe figure set of Kirk and Spock from Star Trek.  Mego also has a 14-inch (1:5 scale) DC Comics line, including Wonder Woman from the TV series, General Zod from the two original Superman movies, a classic style Harley Quinn, and a Golden Age Batman.

Wave Two, arriving this month at Target stores nationwide, includes Frankenstein, Greg from The Brady Bunch, John Ratzenberger’s Cliff Clavin from Cheers, Starchild from the band KISS, Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe from Charmed, Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, Cheryl Ladd’s Kris Munroe from Charlie’s Angels, Spock and the Gorn from Star Trek, Samantha from Bewitched, Kelly Bundy from Married with Children, Jo from Facts of Life, and dual sets featuring Dorothy, Toto, and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, DJ and Stephanie Tanner from Full House.  In the 14-inch DC Comics line look for Superman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, and Poison Ivy.

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That Miller and Lord cut of Solo you were hoping for?  You already saw it.

I was always sold on his father, Lawrence Kasdan for writing The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and writing and directing Silverado (and his superb work on non-blockbuster films like Continental Divide and Mumford), but Jonathan Kasdan (who co-wrote the screenplay to Solo: A Star Wars Story with his father) has filled in the remaining gap in what is probably the year’s best home video special features package.  That would be the extra features that accompany the home release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, available now.  The included features have key deleted scenes, most of which would have served the movie well were they included in the theatrical release (like Han’s fall from the Imperial Navy), and the least of which is plain fun that every Star Wars fan should love (like a snowball fight between Han and Chewbacca)–eight deleted scenes in all.  The home release also contains insightful featurettes that demonstrate the love for the saga and the vision, skill, and craftmanship that came together to create the film.  But it’s missing an audio commentary.  More on that in a minute.

Director Ron Howard, production designer Neil Lamont, special creature effects designer Neal Scanlan, director of photography Bradford Young, and the Kasdans, along with other members of the crew, provide fantastic insight into the influences and experience of creating the movie.  The best features include Team Chewie, with interviews and footage of Joonas Suotamo in and out of costume, and Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso, where we see the historical art influence on the Sabacc card game scene, and Solo: The Director and Cast Roundtable, a a refreshing and eye-opening look at how Howard and the key actors came together.  Also included are short featurettes Kasdan on Kasdan, Remaking the Millennium Falcon, Escape From Corellia, The Train Heist, Becoming a Droid: L3-37, and Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel RunAcross all these, keep an eye out for Tim Nielsen, supervising sound editor and sound designer for Skywalker Sound, whose creativity is the kind of effort that caused Ben Burtt to get the Oscar for his work on the original Star Wars.  Watch these features and see why Nielsen and his team should be in the running for Oscar for his work on Solo: A Star Wars Story this year.

Director Ron Howard on the Millennium Falcon set of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Director Ron Howard, who replaced Christopher Miller and Phil Lord late in production of the film, bent over backwards to treat the departure of the two prior directors with grace and respect, which means he hasn’t discussed much detail about his work on the film.  We never thought we’d learn “who contributed what” to the film, but that is where Kasdan’s notes come into play.  Released in advance of the home video release this past week, they shed some light on what went on behind the scenes, what could easily be Kasdan’s personal, unrecorded, audio commentary notes–had Lucasfilm included one in the features.  From a certain point of view, the inclusion of so many scenes developed by the initial director duo reflect the theme of the saga: Miller and Lord–seemingly two rebels against Lucasfilm/Disney who had a vision for Star Wars and for whatever reason were sidelined–were able to have much of their vision survive in the final cut of the film.  Howard’s role seems to have been both Fixer and Closer, in addition to giving his personal touch to certain scenes, something addressed well in the features.  Kasdan’s notes (not included with the home release but reproduced below) are the ultimate backstage pass into all the creative minds behind what must have been a difficult film to make (Star Wars plus Star Wars fandom sometimes reflects the Dark Side of the movies all too well).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Queen Elizabeth I, Prince Harry, Winston Churchill, Ron Howard, Ginger Spice, Agent Scully, Chuck Norris, Vincent Van Gogh.

What do they all have in common?  Plenty.

Truly–this latest look at a segment of the Earthling population should have been part of the Hidden Universe travel guides.  It’s Ginger Pride: A Red-Headed History of the World, called “a rallying call and calling card for gingers,” it’s a mix of facts, history, and humor about redheads in society.  Compiling everything you’d ever need or want to know about redheads, this quick guide seizes the day and tackles the segment of the population born with a red coif.  More redheads are around than you might think.  Actually 140 million redheads worldwide, 18 million in the United States alone, and two percent of the world population is born with red hair, with ten percent of the population of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

Writer Tobias Anthony (a redhead) dives into the history and truths of red hair, with whimsical artwork by Melbourne artist Carla McRae (not a redhead).  He has come up with 20 variants of color of redheads, from auburn to aubergine.  If you don’t know any redheads personally, well, Anthony has a solution for that–a spotter’s guide–where you are apt to find redheads “in the wild” and how to spot a fake redhead or “daywalker.”  (Spoiler: He reports Amy Adams is a fake, Isla Fisher is 100% real redhead).  Anthony even argues why fake redheads should be praised for complimenting the ginger community by trying to join in.  According to the author, if they’re carrying around a lot of emotional baggage, they’re probably a redhead.  And he spotlights the most ostracized of the ginger community is “the Traitor”–what he calls that redhead who dyes his hair another color to hide his gingerness.  Red hair dye amounts to $200 million in sales per year in the U.S., more than any other color.  Surprised “bottled” redheads he has identified in his book include Molly Ringwald, Rita Hayworth, and Lucille Ball.  Why go red?  It looks like it’s the attitude and reputation of redheads that celebrities– and everyone else–is trying to imitate by dying their hair red.

Most useful in the book is the section on etiquette for getting along with gingers.  Key takeaway?  Don’t actually call them “ginger”!  Or carrot top, freckles, or anything else–except their name.  In that way the book successfully uses humor to look at its subject, while also carefully illustrating why singling out anyone for how they look is just wrong.  The author notes there are days of the year dedicated to both kicking (don’t kick anyone, it’s an in-joke) and kissing (get their permission first) gingers.  (Err, wait, don’t we mean redheads?).

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Smuggler.  Gambler.  Rogue.  Pilot.

Han Solo.

The hero of the Rebellion and the Resistance and rescuer of the galaxy more than once, one of fandom’s favorites is featured in his own book in November.  Insight Editions announced Star Wars Icons: Han Solo will be a comprehensive look at the creation and legacy of one of Star Wars’ most beloved characters.  Covering the Han Solo’s journey from his genesis in George Lucas’s first Star Wars drafts to his portrayal by Harrison Ford in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens to his rebirth in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and beyond the films to his role in the Star Wars expanded universe: novels, comics, video games, and more–Insight promises this will be the definitive book for every Han Solo fan.

Illustrated with rare and previously unpublished images, including on-set photography and concept art, the deluxe 224-page volume will feature new interviews by author Gina McIntyre with Harrison Ford, Alden Ehrenreich, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan, and more.  This is especially noteworthy since Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard has not given many interviews about Solo: A Star Wars Story.

You can pre-order what we expect to be the first of several Star Wars Icons books, Star Wars Icons: Han Solo now here at Amazon (at a discount off the cover price).  And don’t forget to lock-in the pre-order price for Solo: A Star Wars Story on DVD, Digital HD, and Blu-ray here.

This is the smuggler you’re looking for.  Check out this preview of Star Wars Icons: Han Solo:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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Now that you’re all recovering from your Star Wars Day activities and readying for Free Comic Book Day today, let’s look at the latest from Solo: A Star Wars Story.  We seem to be transitioning from the high of the Avengers: Infinity War in April and heading toward the premier of Solo on May 25.  And there seems to be no stopping the marketing folks at Lucasfilm.  If you’ve been a fan of Star Wars since the beginning, you may find a new Lucasfilm video the greatest thing since blue milk.  It’s the beginning of the scene where Lando and Han play cards, and Han offers up ships as the stakes.  Is this the exact scene we’ll see in theaters, or one pretty close to it?  It seems pretty likely, although don’t rule out last-minute edits as was done with Rogue One–the other awesome Star Wars Story–where much of the trailer footage ended up on the editing room floor.  Check it out below, unless you want to wait to see it in the theater, but you’re not going to see it in this “virtual reality” 360 degree way in the theater.

Does this sneak peek hint at the future of the theatrical experience?  We’ve seen the 360 degree clips before for other films, and some home video formats do allow the viewer to take control and move around during a film to some extent.  How will that translate to the theaters years from now?  Something like you’d find in a high-end theme park ride?  Never before could moviegoers have such a detailed look at a film, in advance of release.  Take a look at those aliens, like the two-headed fellow to Lando’s right, or the arthropoid with chelipeds to his left (that’s Therm Scissorpunch).  These aliens are exquisite, instantly evoking the original Star Wars cantina where most of us first met Han and Chewbacca.  We’re in for a great ride.

But there’s more: a new clip featuring the first scene with Chewbacca and Han flying together, backed by some of John Williams’ best music: sweeping, evocative cues from his “The Asteroid Field” music from The Empire Strikes Back.  And another clip from director Ron Howard features some new looks at Chewbacca in front of and behind the camera.  It just gets better and better.

  

In case you missed it yesterday, we have two highlights of this year’s Star Wars Day, both out of the UK.  First up is the latest Abbey Road album cover homage.  The Beatles albums have been parodied and honored in thousands of ways over the decades, but we love the above image of the original four cantina action figures from Kenner incorporated into the famous zebra crossing (if you know the source, let us know and we’ll credit it).  And Heathrow airport went above and beyond for May the Fourth, with this fantastic flight schedule.  Bravo!  (But Alderaan?  Too soon!).

Our new Lando, Donald Glover is hosting Saturday Night Live tonight.  The show released a revised Solo poster for him.  Take a look at it, plus a dozen new Solo posters and marketing image updates below (glasses, collectible tickets, buttons, and three trading card sets of 28 cards, too!), and the latest great clips, and don’t forget it’s Free Comic Book Day!  Glover recently provided a tour of the Millennium Falcon (we’ve included that below, too):

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A few hours ago Lucasfilm released a new, very long trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story.  If you’re not already all-in for this next Star Wars adventure, this may get you there.  Lucasfilm also released a new, retro style movie poster.  But be forewarned:  We’re getting to the point in the cycle of a coming summer blockbuster where Hollywood starts showing audiences too much of the film.  So if you have the patience, you may want to move along.  It’s doubtful any major spoilers are given away in this trailer, but it seems likely we’ve had a peek at at least 90% of the key environments in the film already.

What?  You’re still here?

If you’re like us, you can soak in all the Star Wars goodness as Disney & Co. is willing to serve it up, spoilers be damned.  The most exciting bit from this new look is Chewbacca.  We hoped and expected he would be key to this film, and so far it seems director Ron Howard is going to deliver on that expectation.  The other bit of note is Donald Glover’s assimilation of Billy Dee Williams’ performance from The Empire Strikes Back as Lando Calrissian, his summoning of all that cool from the actor now frequenting conventions across the country, his transmografication into the suave character we want to see.  Everyone else looks great, too, including new Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich.  If you don’t think he evokes Harrison Ford, so what?  Consider if you’d seen this Solo movie in chronological order, before 1977.  From the trailers Ehrenreich’s entry into the franchise seems more like Mark Hamill’s back in 1977.  We hadn’t heard of Hamill either, yet the unknown actor jumped in nicely to lead the way in the new galaxy, far, far away.

So get ready, if you dare, for the next dive into the past world of Star Wars in this new trailer from Solo: A Star Wars Story:

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Unlike yesterday’s sneak peek, everyone gets coverage in this trailer, and it definitely has a Blade Runner feel with its music, and the story clip seems like an “assemble the team,” Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven story concept (the very first expanded story concept for Star Wars, originally published in the 1978 Marvel Comics), or maybe a Firefly ship crew-focused story.

We have first looks at a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and Lando (Donald Glover).  More Millennium Falcon.  New characters played by Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra pronounced Kira) and Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett).  The droid that looks like Qi’ra or Lando’s partner is called L3-37, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  And that’s Thandie Newton as a new character named Val.

Solo shot 2

And, in case you missed them, trailers for Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are all below.

Check out the exciting new trailer for Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story:

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At last Star Wars fans finally have their first look at Ron Howard’s prequel movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, and there’s plenty to see.

We have first looks at a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and Lando (Donald Glover).  And even a younger Millennium Falcon!

And new characters played by Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra pronounced Kira) and Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett).

And lots of Imperials…

Check out the teaser trailer for Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, with the full trailer to follow tomorrow:

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