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Tag Archive: Star Wars


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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If you love comics and especially if you haven’t read a comic book in years then this Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day is all about you.  See what you have been missing at comic book stores across the United States as shops hand out free issues of new comic books from your favorite franchises and publishers: Marvel, DC Comics, IDW, Archie Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Titan Comics, BOOM!, Oni Press, Aftershock, and more.

Marvel fans won’t want to miss out on the lead-in to the new Avengers comic book series discussed here at borg.com earlier this week.  Doctor Who fans will find all-new stories featuring the 7th, 10th, and 11th Doctors and the first appearance of the 13th Doctor!  Today is May the Fourth–the annual Star Wars Day, and tomorrow Star Wars fans can find Han Solo and Chewbacca facing off against Zuckuss and 4-LOM from The Empire Strikes Back in Star Wars Adventures.  Riverdale features a story with Betty and Pop at the Chock-lit Shop.  In all, 52 new FCBD stories will be available. Keep in mind not all stores will have every title available and most stores limit each person to five issues to meet demand.

While you’re there, take a look around at the shop and purchase a comic or graphic novel or two.  Don’t know which one?  How about New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, or Wonder Woman: The True AmazonIf you liked Avengers: Infinity War, ask to see the shelf of Thanos and Avengers titles.  Getting ready for Ant-Man and The Wasp coming to theaters?  Ask about all the available related titles.  You don’t know who this Venom character is that Tom Hardy is playing in the new movie?  Your comic shop can get you caught up for Venom.  Do you like Batman, Miss Fury, the Bionic Man, Squirrel Girl, Spider-man, The Eternals, Ghost Rider, Ghost, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Moon Knight, Liberty Meadows, classic Archie Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy, Green Arrow, the Shadow, Star Trek, Valerian and Laureline, or Katy Keene?  Just ask, and someone will point you in the right direction.  Giant trade paperback editions are much less expensive than you might think, and they can get you caught up quickly on years of content.

 

If you’re in the Kansas City area check out Elite Comics between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., where you’ll also find lots of deals, get your Avengers issue signed by writer Jason Aaron, and meet other creators–and there’s cake.  Or use this comic book store locator to find your nearest participating shop.  Here’s an advance look at all 52 covers from the FCBD 2018 comic books you will find Saturday, a look inside the pages at some artwork from the Avengers issue, plus a video about the event:

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Happy Star Wars Day 2018! 

It’s May the Fourth again, and this year we’re taking a look back to 1977, but not to the movie itself.  Back then, before home video, you watched the movie and that was that.  Someday if the movie was a classic it might end up on one of the three networks on a Sunday night at the movies special.  Otherwise you relied on books like The Star Wars Storybook, which was released through Scholastic book orders in grade schools.  Books like this featured key photographs from the film.  The Star Wars Storybook sold so well it seems it will always be available if you want to track down a copy.

But it wasn’t the Storybook that kept the excitement of Star Wars in the minds of moviegoers after the film left theaters.  The film actually stayed in the theaters from May 1977 and played in at least 60 theaters in the U.S. for more than a year.  It returned nationally in 1978, 1979, 1981, and 1982.   So if you weren’t around then, but hear about fans who saw the film ten or more times, know there were plenty of opportunities to catch it again and again.  But they also had another way to revisit the film, only from home.  And that’s where The Story of Star Wars LP comes in to play.

To this day when thousands of fans see the words “Along time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” they hear in their mind those words spoken in a distinctive voice, and they hear the rest of that sentence as if that is the way it aired in theaters: “Along time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a great adventure took place.”  The words are from the opening line from Emmy Award-winning actor Roscoe Lee Browne, narrator of an LP album called The Story of Star Wars The LP was a benchmark for movie fans, released along with the movie and in advance of all the action figures and playsets that would change how we think of tie-in products from 1978 forward, the record album was produced by George Lucas himself (along with record producer Alan Livingston).  Incorporating the actual soundtrack, dialogue, sound effects, and John Williams’ score, plus several pages of photographs, it was an abridged version of Star Wars, but close enough to provide a near-theater experience when a visual version wasn’t yet in the cards.  Browne filled in the blanks as narrator, and the result was a major success, reaching Gold Record status as it eclipsed the 500,000 sales mark.  It was also released on cassette, 8-track, and 4-track reel-to-reel audio tape.

If you want a trip back to 1977, have a listen to The Story of Star Wars, long out-of-print, it’s available online from several locations on YouTube, including here:

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Although we’ve seen the end of Star Wars Rebels with its finale airing just last month, DisneyXD is revving up its Star Wars animated universe again this Fall with an all-new adventure.  Star Wars Resistance will look backward in time once again, but instead of looking to the period before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as with Star Wars Rebels, this time we’ll see an as-yet unseen period before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  This time the show will also have a new look–Star Wars Resistance will be inspired by anime series, and it will also air on the Disney Channel in addition to DisneyXD.

Familiar Lucasfilm Animation creator Dave Filoni will be leading the series, which will feature a new Resistance pilot named Kazuda Xiono, who will be spying on the First Order with the help of BB-8 and Poe Dameron.  In addition to Oscar Isaac returning as the voice of Poe, Gwendoline Christie will voice Captain Phasma.  Actors set to co-star in the series in as-yet undisclosed roles include Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live), Christopher Sean (Hawaii Five-0), Suzie McGrath (Law & Order: UK), Scott Lawrence (Legion, Star Trek Into Darkness), Myrna Velasco (Elena of Avalor), Josh Brener (Star Wars Rebels), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Jim Rash (Community), and Rachel Butera (Family Guy).

The only official art released for the series so far is the logo above featuring BB-8 and a yellow-trimmed X-Wing Fighter.

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Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner previewed the near future for Hasbro licenses and products at New York Toy Fair 2018 this weekend, including the creation of a new initiative called HasLab.  According to the company, HasLab will be an avenue to bring “dream projects” to fans.  In essence HasLab is a financing vehicle whereby fans willing to prepay for an item can do so via Hasbro’s new online crowdfunding.  As with other Kickstarter or Indiegogo platforms, if the presales don’t meet the demand target, buyers won’t be billed for the product.  But if the target is met, buyers will be charged and the production will proceed.  First up?  Apparently Star Wars fans have been clamoring for a classic Kenner 3 3/4 scale version of Jabba’s Sail Barge from Return of the Jedi.  

Although diehard fans have been building scale versions for their action figures for years, including most recently via 3D printing, Hasbro displayed its mock-up at the show this weekend.  On the design side, to create the Sail Barge (called The Khetanna in the books), Hasbro tapped Mark Boudreaux, principal designer on Star Wars for Hasbro and one of the creators of the original Kenner Millennium Falcon, and designer on other toy vehicles from the Star Wars line including the AT-AT, X-Wing fighter, and Boba Fett’s Slave 1.  Modeled using Lucasfilm digital archives and set photos, the final toy is expected to be a little more than four feet long.  It will feature classic Kenner style packaging, a 3 3/4 scale Jabba the Hutt figure, and lots of features.  The required target to proceed is 5,000 units, and the base purchase price is $499.99.  As of this morning 611 backers have contributed, with 44 days left before the program is closed.  Check out the details at the new HasLab website here.

The mock-up of the ship definitely has echoes of the original Star Wars Death Star playset. And it has the historical feel of an early clipper ship, including a brig in the lower deck.  Here is a video preview of the Sail Barge playset:

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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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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new book takes a look behind the scenes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Abrams Books’ The Art of Star Wars: The Last JediAs with the prior entries in its series: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it reflects fascinating and interesting images from the film, plus commentary and interviews from director Rian Johnson and his staff of creative professionals.  Most of the concept art provides a look at ideas left behind, with some exceptions, like the exotic new animals and beasts that could be seen throughout the film, like the sea cow, the porgs, fathier horse-like animals, and the crystalline shard foxes.  Johnson notes in the book’s foreword the challenges and hopes of making his new movie “Star Wars-y.”  Browsing this new book, it will be up to each reader and moviegoer to determine if he was successful.

As with past books in the series, the book was created parallel with the final post-production and film release, so a few key spoiler scenes are not included in the film.  Handily, this edition includes a follow-up section including the death of Han Solo that was omitted from The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  So a few elements are not addressed in this book many fans will want to know about, but perhaps those areas will be included in the behind the scenes volume for Episode IX.  But you will find plenty here to interest any fan–plenty of ship designs and concept art for the film’s new environments and sets.

The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi tells two separate stories, one in the text explaining the decisions made by director Rian Johnson and the visual artists and staff, and the second via the concept artwork that was translated to the screen and the artwork left behind.  The book lists 77 creators behind the backgrounds, landscapes, sets, vehicles, props, and costume designs.  It will take the reader who has seen the film five minutes of flipping through the book to realize it is Jock’s final character rendering work that is seen in the final cut of the film that landed in theaters: Old Luke’s fantastic island garb, Rey’s updated costumes, Rose’s and the Resistance’s uniforms, DJ and Leia’s costumes.  Really all the great, final designs that made it to the screen for the main cast came from the pen and paint of Jock.  But for whatever reason Jock was not interviewed for the book.  What were his influences?  Why this or that design?  It’s unfortunate because it really looks like Jock’s designs for Oliver Queen in his Green Arrow: Year One series directly influenced his designs for Old Jedi Master Luke and that would have been great to learn.

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Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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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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