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Tag Archive: Star Wars


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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Leading up to the premiere of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi later this month, this Friday fans of The Empire Strikes Back (and who isn’t?) will have a brief opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream.  What kid in the 1980s didn’t wish he had Han Solo’s parka?  If you were lucky enough to already have your own parka, then you gained a certain higher status with your friends on the playground.  Anyone who wanted to have their own tauntaun and Snowspeeder can have the next best thing this week, their own real-world coat to keep warm this winter, inspired by Commander Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Captain Han Solo’s coats from the Rebel’s Echo Base.  Sorry, no Chewbacca faux fur coat is available.

To commemorate the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Columbia Sportswear worked with Lucasfilm to give buyers a look and feel similar to the real thing, with only 1,980 jackets available for sale for each style.  For the basic collection, the Han Solo parka will be blue, because that is what fans remember and how it appeared to most viewers on the screen (following Rogue One director Gareth Edwards’ philosophy of re-creating what you remember instead of what the originals exactly looked like).  For more discriminating fans, Columbia is releasing an undisclosed but far lesser number of special Han Solo parkas in a dark brown color closer to the original coat in the Lucasfilm archives at Skywalker Ranch.  The standard Luke, Leia, and Han coats will be sold at $400, but the special Han coat will be released at $1,980, and will include a hand-signed (Han signed?) Harrison Ford autograph on the front.  The jackets will be available in limited quantities at the Columbia website here at 12:01 a.m. EST and at store opening in Columbia branded retail locations in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.

This is the second year Columbia is releasing an exclusive line of Star Wars-inspired clothing.  Last year in advance of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Columbia released a $400 Jyn Erso Resistance jacket and a $500 Captain Cassian Andor Resistance parka.  Don’t look for any replicas from Columbia very soon from The Last Jedi, but here are the descriptions of the four styles offered:

   

Leia Organa Echo Base Jacket.  Stand fearless against both the Empire and the ice planet Hoth with the limited-edition Leia Organa Echo Base jacket.  Inspired by Leia’s original costume featured in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, this versatile jacket and vest combination is crafted of a durable, water-resistant, cotton-blend fabric and insulated with Omni-Heat Reflective lining.  With a vintage look, flattering feminine fit, and eye-catching details—including stowable hood, princess seam piping, and gusset sleeves—you’ll stay comfortable and confident whether you’re taking on the elements or staring down a Star Destroyer in a galaxy far, far away.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In her debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma was an enigma, the latest of the uniquely costumed bad guys in the Star Wars universe, following in a line that progressed from Darth Maul to General Grievous, Count Dooku, and Darth Vader in the prequels, and later into Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, and Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels.  In Delilah S. Dawson’s new novel, Star Wars: Phasma, Phasma finally gets the spotlight.  Readers learn about her backstory through an interrogation of a Resistance spy working for General Leia Organa, by yet another aspiring Imperial/First Order warrior, Captain Cardinal.

The spy, Vi Moradi, is pressed to provide Cardinal with damning information to help him bring down Phasma with the current leader, General Armitage Hux, son of General Brendol Hux, the leader who ushered both Cardinal and Phasma from their primitive worlds to train the future warriors of the First Order.  Dawson tells this story as a play on A Thousand and One Nights, where the reader is compelled to wonder whether the information is true or that the end will be of the Keyser Söze variety.  Moradi reveals a story of Phasma’s rise to power among a tribe on the planet Parnassos, and her discovery by Brendol Hux when his ship crashes on the planet and his emergency escape pod leaves him and his Stormtroopers far from the wreckage and any chance to communicate back to the First Order for assistance.

Phasma’s story will be most familiar to readers of the Star Wars universe novel Thrawn (reviewed here earlier at borg.com).  Both Phasma and Thrawn literally battled their way to the top.  Those familiar with the third trilogy novels will find an interesting parallel in the selection of the stories released leading up to the new canon films, including Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel centered on the feud between Krennic, Tarkin, and Galen Erso, and Tarkin, introducing readers to Tarkin’s confrontations with Darth Vader.  Star Wars: Phasma has much in common with the Star Wars Rebels prequel novel A New Dawn, and indeed Vi Moradi would fit in well with the crew of the Ghost.  Dawson pits Cardinal against Phasma like the Emperor pitted Anakin Skywalker against Grievous and Dooku, continuing some consistency from earlier Star Wars stories.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The 800-page, two-volume hardcover book set Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, published last year by Abrams (still in print and available here at Amazon), has been celebrated by fans as one of the best looks behind the scenes of Star Wars ever created.  The exhaustive, comprehensive collection of the concept art Ralph McQuarrie created for the original Star Wars trilogy will enlighten even the biggest fans of the franchise.  You may have known how closely McQuarrie worked with George Lucas to bring Lucas’s story to life visually, but only after stepping scene by scene through these images do you realize that when you close your eyes and think Star Wars, what you’re seeing was drawn or painted by Ralph McQuarrie.

Compiled by Brandon Alinger, Wade Lageose, and David Mandel, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie takes readers chronologically through the films, and tie-in specials, documenting not only the familiar final visual McQuarrie created, but copies of retained interim designs that McQuarrie painted over.  So if your only familiarity is The Illustrated Star Wars Universe or the original portfolio reprints many of us had as kids, then this monumental volume is for you.  But this book set may not be in most readers’ budgets, listing at $250 and even on sale it can be priced at greater than $150.  Star Wars and Ralph McQuarrie fans now have a second opportunity to obtain a more affordable look at McQuarrie’s artwork.

Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie: 100 Postcards is Abrams’ latest bookshelf keepsake in the style of the successful Star Wars: Frames: 100 Postcards series reviewed previously here at borg.com back in 2015.  Selected from Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, these panoramic postcards are a celebration of Star Wars as a masterpiece of design and world-building.  The deluxe full-color package also functions as a display frame: the box features a die-cut window, so fans can rotate their favorite production design paintings into view.

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It’s been three months since the last preview for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, released as part of the Disney convention in Anaheim, California, with no trailers or significant presence at San Diego Comic-Con.  Again bypassing one of the two major comic book and pop culture conventions, Disney passed over New York Comic Con this past weekend to release the next trailer for the eagerly awaited Episode IX late Monday.  Disney included far more visuals and significant story elements in this preview, which tells a story of a young Padawan who is reaching out for someone to help her forge her path ahead.  Who will help her?  Luke Skywalker?  Kylo Ren?  Snoke?

Her future looks bleak.  This definitely carries the hallmarks of a Dark Side-heavy story like that hinted at with the early looks at The Empire Strikes Back, 37 years ago.  Frankly, we’re backing the team with Chewbacca and his Porg co-pilot.

Implied in the trailer are plenty of spoilers, including at least one key character’s death.  Or are they just tricks meant to tease us?  As Luke says, “This is not going to go the way you think.”  Check out the great detail on Luke’s borg hand–Luke was the first character of any major franchise to use the term “borg” for cyborgs, in the original Star Wars 1970s comic book series:

Disney also released another poster for the film Monday (above).  Check out this new trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

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For more than six years we at borg.com have been covering entertainment memorabilia auctions–sales of not merely replicas or mass-produced collectibles, but the real objects seen on film–rare or even one-of-a-kind costumes created by award-winning Hollywood costume designers, detailed props created by production crew, model vehicles created by special effects departments like Industrial Light and Magic, prosthetics created by famous makeup artists, set decoration, concept art, and much more.  Amassing a wide variety of artifacts from classic and more recent film and television history, London and Los Angeles-based Prop Store is hosting its annual auction later this month.  Known for its consignment of some of the most well-known and iconic screen-used props and costumes, Prop Store’s ultimate museum collectibles auction will be open for bidding from anyone, and items will be available at estimates for both beginning collectors and those with deeper pockets.

The Prop Store Live Auction: Treasures from Film and Television will be auctioning off approximately 600 items.  You’ll find the following movies and TV shows represented and more:  3:10 to Yuma (2007), 300, Aliens, Back to the Future films, Blade Runner, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Chronicles of Narnia films, Elysium, Enemy Mine, Excalibur, The Fifth Element, Gladiator, The Goonies, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Jason and the Argonauts, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the Indiana Jones films, Iron Man, the James Bond films, Judge Dredd (1995), the Jurassic Park films, Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman: the Secret Service, Lifeforce, Looper, The Lost Boys, The Martian, The Matrix, Men in Black III, Mission: Impossible (1996), The Mummy (1999), Patton, Pirates of the Caribbean series, Predators, the Rocky films, Saving Private Ryan, Scarface, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead, Shawshank Redemption, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Star Trek franchise, Star Wars franchise, Starship Troopers, Superman films, Terminator films, The Three Musketeers (1993), Tropic Thunder, Troy, True Grit, Underworld: Evolution, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willow, The Wolfman (2010), World War Z, and the X-Men films.

You can flip through the auction house’s hefty 360-page catalog, or start with a look at what we selected as the best 50 of the lots–what we predict as the most sought-after by collectors and those that represent some of fandom’s favorite sci-fi and fantasy classics and modern favorites.

  • Industrial Light and Magic 17 3/4-inch Rebel Y-Wing filming model from Return of the Jedi
  • Sark (David Warner) Grid costume from the original Tron (1982)
  • Julie Newmar’s Catwoman costume and Burgess Meredith Penguin hat from the classic Batman TV series
  • Buttercup (Robin Wright) Fire Swamp red dress from The Princess Bride
  • Chekov (Walter Koenig) “nuclear wessels” costume, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) costume, and Sulu (George Takei) double shirt from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Full crew set of costumes (Malcolm, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Inara, Kaylee, River, Book, and Simon) from Serenity (sold as individual costume lots)
  • Jack Nicholson purple Joker costume, plus separate coat and hat, from Batman (1989)
  • Enterprise-D 48-inch “pyro” model from Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) stunt shotgun from Unforgiven
  • Star-lord helmet from Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Mjolnir hammer from Thor

  • Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II jumpsuits made for Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
  • Witch-king of Angmar crown from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Val Kilmer Batman suit and cowl from Batman Forever
  • Maverick (Tom Cruise) flight suit from Top Gun
  • Geoffrey Rush Captain Barbossa costume from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Curse of the Black Pearl

And there are so many more.  Like…

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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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Tonight is that Black Friday prequel known to Star Wars toy fans as early Christmas.  Only last year it was labeled Force Friday, so this time around it’s called Force Friday II.  Force Friday II is that off-hour store raid where you have the chance to be the first on your block to say that you own the umpteenth variant of a Boba Fett action figure (seriously, another classic Boba Fett is hitting toy stores tonight, and no, that doesn’t mean he is going to be in the new movie).  The first Force Friday was September 4, 2015, with new toys for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but for whatever reason we didn’t have a Force Friday last year for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Those toys were first widely released September 30, 2016.  The same kind of thing happened earlier, including way back with the prequels, and to a less coordinated extent with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Only back then you had to know someone who knew someone who was in the local distribution chain who would sell you (under the table) the only three Yodas (with the orange, not the brown snake) that shipped to your town for what was then a steep upcharge of $3.50 apiece (flash forward a year later when Target had an entire wall of the exact same action figure on clearance for fifty cents apiece).  These days retailers are required to stick to schedules or they risk losing future opportunities.

If you thought George Lucas had the tie-in marketing game perfected, you haven’t met Disney.

Force Friday II weekend” kicks off tonight at midnight local time.  Disney marketing refers to it as the launch of new products “inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”  It’s the variety of stores that makes this year’s early toy store raid so unusual.  Bed, Bath and Beyond, Staples, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Hot Topic, Brookstone, are involved.  For Star Wars?  Yes, and Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Wal-Mart, and other stores like you’d expect.  Disney actually issued a pdf file listing all the stores having events early Friday morning.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi tie-ins are serious business.  And they will be everywhere.  Campbells’ soup labels?  Yes, even grocery stores are heavily involved in marketing the December 2017 film release.

So maybe your best bet is to gather up the gang in the car and go for a drive around town and just look for store lights.  If it’s midnight and they are turned on, the store is probably selling some kind of Star Wars exclusive, and store-by-store you can try to amass a small portion of the giant haul that will be what stores are carrying in plentiful supply by Christmas.  Or just go to StarWars.com for an extensive list of what is available, and where.  Note:  All stores in all locations may not be open tonight.

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