Wednesday, 20 August 2014

GUERILLA WAR! REMEMBERING 'DARK APPRENTICE' - BOOK TWO OF 'THE JEDI ACADEMY TRILOGY'


Book Two of Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy- Dark Apprentice - speeds along as AFICIONADO celebrates both its place in the Expanded Universe and as an ambitious action successor to Timothy Zahn's opening trilogy- quite big shoes to step into!

Whereas Han and Chewie had the most action in Book One, this time out the adventure feels much more of an ensemble piece, particularly continuing to show us more of the mentioned but previously unexplored realms of the STAR WARS film universe. Now removed from the Maw sector of Kessel, wannabe Imperial tyrant Admiral Daala, thirsting revenge on the New Republic for the defeat of Tarkin and the Empire as a whole, begins her series of hit and run guerilla assaults alongside her remaining Star Destroyer fleet- first on a Rebel transport, then on the newly seeded colony world of Dantooine (literally massacred by spacial bombardments and AT-AT's). Then comes the big attack: on the undersea realms of the Mon Calamari (realised by the author in 1994 in a subtly different, but no less effective way to how it would eventually appear in THE CLONE WARS animated series). This is easily one of Book Two's highlights, where Admiral Ackbar, disgraced after almost prior killing Leia in a B-wing shuttle crash (later discovered as sabotage), gets to show his mettle as leader and strategist, whilst also saying a new variation on his classic line from ROTJ: "It's a Trap!" Meanwhile, other Imperial fractions on the training world of Carida gather strength in their plans to wrestle control from the New Republic: firstly, secretly poisoning Mon Mothma with a unique wasting virus, then planning to use an elite Stormtrooper squad to capture Leia and Han's third child, Anakin, from the safety of his secret location on the planet Anoth. More on this to come in Book Three.

Things aren't getting any easier for Luke in his setting up of the new Jedi Academy, either. Firmly settled on the Fourth Moon of Yavin (where Anderson reveals more about the planets history and its abandoned Massassi temples),  he has gathered his first twelve students, plus an inquisitive Mara Jade (a bit more friendly now towards her once enemy), but one- Gantoris- is soon murdered in mysterious circumstances (before his demise, linked to a fateful prophecy, he wields an impressive, extendable lightsaber blade weapon to Luke in a show of Dark Side strength), whilst the Master's most powerful star pupil, 18 year old Kyp Durron, previously rescued from Kessel by soon friend Han Solo, equally turns (perhaps too quickly in novel time) to evil, caught in the temptations and machinations of the reappeared spirit of one of the early Sith Lords: the formidable Exar Kun- leader of The Brotherhood of the Sith. Luke, previously resisting Kun's temptations (having used the appearance of the Sebastian Shaw version of Anakin Skywalker), soon has no choice but to battle both Kun and Durron. But will he be powerful enough?

In between all these events, Han and Lando are sidelined, engaged in constant friction, and Sabaac match battles, over ownership of the Falcon, General Wedge Antilles, on numerous assignments for the New Republic, gets to fall in love with one of the alien designers of the Death Star, whilst Chewbacca wants to free some prior prison-held wookiees from slavery on the Kessel Maw Imperial installation. Finally, young Jedi offspring Jacen and Jaina Solo get to show their Force powers after getting separated from Threepio and Chewbacca, going off to explore the underbelly of Coruscant/Imperial Center, in what is ultimately one of the weakest parts of the book.

Keeping the EMPIRE tradition, Dark Apprentice ends on an intriguing cliffhanger note, as Dark Forces of evil build: Durron, bordering on final Dark Side capabilities, salvages the Sun Crusher weapon and uses it against Daala's fleet, with catastrophic results, whilst Luke Skywalker's previous attempts to stop Kyp, and the corrupting influence of the immensely powerful spectre-like Exar Kun,  prove dangerously ineffectual. Soundly defeated, his mind separated from his body in Force limbo, it seems that his Jedi colleagues are now seemingly powerless to help him!

AFICIONADO RATING: A solid enough mixture of old and new from Anderson. 3 out of 5


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: FACE TO FACE!


Taking a break between on screen political antics as the distinctive Jar Jar Binks, a visor wearing, practical suit wearing Ahmed Best enjoys working with his alter-ego, in this behind the scenes image from Australian filming for EPISODE II.

A very Happy Birthday greeting goes out today to Mister Best, from STAR WARS AFICIONADO! 

Monday, 18 August 2014

HEROES AND VILLAINS! MORE 'EPISODE VII' GOSSIP!

Mark Hamill, and friend, returns to Pinewood Studios for filming. Image: Nathan Hamill.

Lots of interesting and exciting rumours on EPISODE VII's story, characters (especially villains), costuming and action. But, with the exception of a possible Luke or cyborg villain's mechanical hand (courtesy of J.J. Abrams), still very little confirmed facts. Regardless, enjoy...

A galaxy faraway, so close: Adam Driver on 'Star Wars: Episode VII' | Inside Movies | EW.com
Exclusive: Domhnall Gleeson Says What He Can About Star Wars: Episode VII - ComingSoon.net
Rumor: Description Of Daisy Ridley's Episode VII Costume | The Star Wars Underworld
Indie Revolver EXCLUSIVE: No One Expects the Sith Inquisition |
Exclusive: We Know Whose STAR WARS Hand JJ Abrams Showed Us | Badass Digest
More Information Star Wars: Episode VII's Stormtroopers & Incendiary Stormtroopers. - MakingStarWars.net
“It’s Not the Years, It’s the Parsecs.” |
New Star Wars: Episode VII Image Reveals Potential Plot Clue
MintInBox.net - Star Wars Episode VII

Is the mystery of the Lucasfilm publicity's chief's intriguing Twitter image about to be revealed? 

Finally, if the news is true (still no official confirmation, and have the distribution rights and remastering issues been sorted out?), a wonderful 2015 present for original, unaltered Classic Trilogy lovers: 

Report: Disney To Release Unaltered Original Trilogy On Blu-Ray | The Star Wars Underworld

Saturday, 16 August 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: IN WITNESS TO THE FALLEN!


Mark Hamill and Bob Anderson get ready to film a vital scene on the massive set of the Emperor's Throne Room, at Elstree Studios in March 1982. Considering how RETURN OF THE JEDI had such a need for trilogy-ending plot secrecy, it's surprising to see so many crew on set watching Luke ultimately defeating Darth Vader! Supervised by director Richard Marquand, getting the camera ready is seasoned British cinematographer Alec Mills, a veteran of blockbuster movies, with a number of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton era James Bond films to his past and future credit.


Out now from THE HISTORY PRESS, Mills has a brand new autobiography- SHOOTING 007 AND OTHER CELLULOID ADVENTURES - detailing his incredible and diverse time in the film industry, covering a vast range of behind the scenes experiences and memories on worldwide film sets and in exciting locations, with Bond and ROTJ getting some noteworthy attention.

Purchase SHOOTING 007 here: Shooting 007 | 9780750953634

And look out for our book review in the not too distant future...

Friday, 15 August 2014

THE CLONE WARS: FLYING PERILS!


Still trying to escape the Citadel prison world, Anakin and Even Piell make a bold aerial STAP assault against enemy forces, in this derring-do scene from the classic Season Three episode Counterattack.

A WORD OR TWO ABOUT 'THE EXPENDABLES 3'

The aviator! Harrison's back in action for THE EXPENDABLES 3. Images: LIONSGATE FILMS.

I'd previously skipped the second chapter of Sylvester Stallone's mass action heroes icon gathering that is THE EXPENDABLES saga, but I was very glad to have caught up with this new third one, released today in the UK. This time out, Stallone's talent for getting the likes of buddies and former box office screen competitors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren, and, most importantly, and quite surprisingly, Harrison Ford proved too irresistible a combo for me not to see. Ignoring what there is of an actual plot- there isn't really one, it's literally payback against an insane former "Expendable" in Mel Gibson (having an OTT ball here!) - I have to report being overall pretty impressed with the slick and fast-paced THE EXPENDABLES 3. For such a large cast, everyone seemed to have their moment in the sun character and action stakes-wise (and not afraid to make the occasional mockery of themselves in the process), whilst the fun these icons obviously had making it actually translates well to the screen (better than a lot of these other big name buddy-type movies), culminating in a genuinely exciting and spectacularly all-action finale within an abandoned, shady Eastern European hotel complex. Indeed, the film, directed with verve by Patrick Hughes, looks like it's had a deservedly way bigger cash injection since the originals unexpected box office release in 2010, and that's equally good news.

The Expendables 3 Trailer (Exclusive Trailer) - IMDb

As for a certain Mister Ford's appearance, well I was only expecting a cameo- perhaps a few minutes at the beginning and at the end as the suited CIA initiator, but surprisingly he was in the film quite a bit- his finale scenes in his guise as a shades-wearing, subtly daring, race against time helicopter pilot (clearly reflecting his real life aviation-loving air skills) proving a combination of an older, more grizzled Jack Ryan with the gung-ho-ness of Han Solo. It's nice to see Ford in action again, looking very comfortable in the pilot seat, as we get ready for his EPISODE VII contribution.

The gang's all here!

So, if you're wavering about seeing the film where it deserves to be seen - in the movie theatre, don't. Just buckle up and enjoy the big dumb fun action and nostalgia-fest that is THE EXPENDABLES 3.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

AN IMPORTANT POINT OF VIEW: CHARLES LIPPINCOTT LOOKS BACK ON 'STAR WARS'

A striking unused B/W poster concept for the original STAR WARS. Image: via Charles Lippincott's FACEBOOK page.

One of the original STAR WARS greatest allies on its path to cinematic realisation had to be its young and dedicated publicist Charles Lippincott. Lippincott was the man, as advertising/publicity supervisor, who helped sell the concept of a sci-fi/fantasy adventure to a blinkered film studio and a world audience at that time, in the seventies, when this particular genre was pretty much dead and buried thanks to a wave of dark-edged anti-hero thrillers and big-budget, big-starred disaster movies. George Lucas's production, though seemingly considered small budget at the nine million dollar mark, filming in the UK with at first little or no interest from the entertainment industry, was nonetheless a complex affair to organise in concept and practical execution, alongside the job of getting the film's vital visual effects and post production schedule on course and conceiving the film's unique flavour in all kinds of advertising and publicity, from posters to TV advertising, and eventual spin-off merchandise. Lippincott to a very large degree was involved in all these areas, and more, as well as providing many of the key of-their-time publicity interviews with Hamill, Ford, Fisher and co. later to be unearthed by Lucasfilm's Don Bies and J.W. Rinzler for the latter's acclaimed THE MAKING OF STAR WARS book of 2007 (now available in revised e-book form).

Lippincott (centre) in 1977, with FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine legend Forrest J. Ackerman (left) and Shel Dorf (right).  Photo by Alan Light.

Previously self-removed for the most part from the STAR WARS universe until around five or six years ago, Lippincott has made a welcome return presence and created a unique FACEBOOK page on the genesis and evolution behind the scenes of the first film, before it became A New Hope, putting up some rare, incredible imagery, artworks (like the one above) and production paperwork in his quest to debunk some of the now classic, and incorrect, behind the scenes mythos on the making of that first film between 1975 and 1977 that have evolved over the years. Having also been involved in publicity for the next FOX- backed sci-fi project, the equally iconic ALIEN, and buying the rights to the UK's 2000 AD comic character of almost vigilante future super-cop JUDGE DREDD, who eventually made his way to cinema screens first in 1995 with Sylvester Stallone in the title role, Lippincott's FACEBOOK page is an essential "Like" and "Follow"- a genuine treasure trove of memories and nostalgia to savour and celebrate.

FACEBOOK PAGE: Charles Lippincott

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

GOODBYE, JOE VISKOCIL...

Pyrotechnics wizard Joe Viskocil in 1976/77, with the Blockade Runner model from the original STAR WARS.

Another of the all-time great STAR WARS visual effects wizards has passed into the Force, with last night's sad news that the always in demand freelance pyrotechnics supervisor, and all-round nice guy, Joe Viskocil has died at the young age of 63. A fan of visual effects since childhood, and a particular enthusiast growing up on the exciting, colourful and always spectacularly explosive Gerry Anderson UK Supermarionation puppet action/adventure series of the mid to late sixties, Viskocil would vigorously enter the seventies quickly rising up the small but building new US behind the scenes SPFX ladder, journeying to the forefront of modern day pyrotechnics use in visual and practical effects filming, not just in blockbuster space epics but all other types of drama and entertainment that required his unique services. Going into the eighties and nineties he helped see-in the return of Batman with Tim Burton, and engineer world destruction in Independence Day, and beyond, as the man with the fingers on the explosive detonator! But it will be the first two Classic Trilogy STAR WARS movies for which he'll always be remembered by fans, assisting John Dykstra and the newly formed ILM from around 1975 to 1980. Any classic miniature explosion, large or small, the bigger the better, from the later re-titled A New Hope and its superb first sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, notably the first Death Star battle and the Imperial Walkers attack on Hoth, were realised to the highest standards by Viskocil - a talent whose like will be much missed in Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large...

Viskocil, helped by Joe Johnston, prepares to plant an explosive inside a doomed model X-wing, for STAR WARS.
A bearded Viskocil and a colleague prepare a charge inside an AT-AT, for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Another great image of Viskocil planning destruction on an impressive Walker model.

Some of Viskocil's exemplary work for the classic TIE fighter sentry attack on the Falcon, from A New HopeSTAR WARS: A NEW HOPE - TIE Fighter Attack - YouTube

Viskocil's favourite explosion: the final TIE fighter sentry is destroyed, from the original STAR WARS.

Monday, 11 August 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IAN McDIARMID!


Master of the Dark Arts and skilled Machiavellian manipulator. Twisted and abhorrent the era of Darth Sidious, aka Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, would be as the backbone threat to the entire opening two trilogies of the STAR WARS saga. Will his legacy of evil persist into the dangerous environs of EPISODE VII?

A very Happy 70th Birthday today to the man who brilliantly brought such cruel deeds to life - Ian McDiarmid.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

EPISODE VII NEWS: HARRISON's BACK ON TRACK!


Proving he's got off-screen milage way beyond his heroic portrayals of Han Solo and Indiana Jones, its great to see Harrison Ford back on two feet- preparing to return to the UK in the next week or so (much earlier than planned) for EPISODE VII filming, into September, at Pinewood Studios.

Welcome Back, Harrison!

Star Wars' Harrison Ford boards a private jet in Southern California | Mail Online
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