Monday 31 October 2011
Happy Halloween from our friend with the skin decay problem: Darth Sidious!
Check out some more STAR WARS Halloween items at our FACEBOOK page here: HALLOWEEN-STAR WARS STYLE! | Facebook
Saturday 29 October 2011
Well, STARWARS.COM and TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX have now officially released their first trailer for EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE 3-D, to be released in the UK and US from February 2012.
StarWars.com | Star Wars: Episode I in 3D Trailer
It's a nice compilation of all the important elements that made the first of the Prequels such a big success back in 1999, despite its splitting fandom right down the middle as to the movies actual merits (any STAR WARS fans that regularly read this site will know that I'm on the positive side of the fence with regards to the overall Prequels), and those who hate Jar Jar Binks will be greatly relieved to discover he's not shown in any of it's 1 minute and 33 seconds, though brave Captain Tarpals and the rest of the Gungan army are seen in action against the Battle Droids and their tanks.
Here's some links for the future...
Official Facebook page:
With its firm concentrating on key elements that wowed audiences on its original release rather than on the actual story of young Anakin Skywalker's rise and fall, I'm not the greatest fan of the new official release poster for EPISODE I, and think that the new 3-D STAR WARS films really deserve better treatment: like beautiful, specially commissioned artwork to herald the movie event rather than the awful and cheap photoshop composition work on display here: a Hollywood factor which has, in the last ten years, blunted the impact of so many of todays modern films and blockbusters.
Friday 28 October 2011
Darth Vader's personal TIE fighter looks more menacing and intimidating than ever in this fun ILM model reference shot from 1976/77, for the original STAR WARS.
Thursday 27 October 2011
Wearing the infamous Jar Jar Binks X-MEN-esque head/visor, so as to give actors/ILM animators a visual eye line reference whilst relating to him, Ahmed Best poses for a costume test photo as the often unfairly derided, family audience created Gungan clown for EPISODE ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE.
For more exhaustive behind the scenes info on the making of EPISODE ONE, check out our definitive special issue on the film here: STAR WARS AFICIONADO MAGAZINE ISSUE 15 - TEN YEARS OF EPISODE ONE!!
Wednesday 26 October 2011
A fine go-motion puppet creation from the legendary Phil Tippett, the Rancor beast underneath Jabba the Hutt's Throne Room makes its mighty presence known towards a hapless Gamorrean Guard, and soon Luke Skywalker, in this classic monster mayhem scene from EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI!
Tuesday 25 October 2011
|The trap is sprung! Asajj Ventress and Savage Opress take their attack to Count Dooku in the superb THE CLONE WARS episode Witches of the Mist.|
Well, it was a close run thing, and there were many great tales worthy of consideration in the top five pantheon in general (special consideration mentions must go to Heroes on Both Sides, Altar of Mortis, Citadel Rescue, Padawan Lost, and Monster) but the top episode - Numero Uno - of THE CLONE WARS Season Three (out now as a box set on both glorious high definition Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO), has to be the final part of Katie Lucas's epic trilogy of revenge, resurrection and carnage built around the lethal duo of Asajj Ventress and the formidable Count Dooku. An exciting, fast paced tale of drama, action, mystery and magic, which sees in the creation of a worthy new antagonist of brutal power and ferocity for our Jedi heroes: Savage Opress.
Yes, it can only be WITCHES OF THE MIST. And here are the five reasons why it hits the spot as the premiere episode of the season, and easily one of the series greatest episodes...
|Dark deeds as Count Dooku trains his new apprentice.|
1. Exploring the darker side of the STAR WARS universe. This well structured three episode tale, of which WITCHES is the exciting finale, gives fans a further chance to see the galaxy from the twisted eyes, attitudes and dark deeds of its three primary baddies (two already known and actively evil within the animated series, the other a brand new and terrifying threat whose looming presence looks likely to change the game board long term for the series over the next two seasons). We get to see the weird and wonderful, almost ethereal, nightmare realm of Dathomir, a world of mist shrouded magic and power manipulated and lived through its unique sisterhood-much liked by fans from the Expanded Universe- as well as its colony of Zabrakian warrior males, soon visited by the in-hiding Asajj Ventress in the creation of what will ultimately become Savage Opress. There's also an intriguing look at Count Dooku's duplicitous double life from his powerful Separatist leader/political palace existence on his home world of Serenno, where, under cover of its immense and opulent interior, he trains Opress in his new skills for the Sith (a twisted take on the Yoda and Luke Dagobah scenes from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), unaware that the brutal being is a puppet of the Sisterhood/Ventress and will be used against him. As the drama unfolds, and the final battle begins, viewers are thrown into a striking resolution of action, violence, foreboding and death (poor King Katuunko of Toydaria, brave to the end, ultimately losing his life after having said "No" to Count Dooku from way back in Season One). The intriguing inclusion of Anakin and Obi-Wan's into the story, now aware of Savage Opress's formidable abilities after a Jedi massacre on Devaron (which also sees in a neat cameo from the popular Delta Squad Clone Commandos), is deliberately structured by writer Katie Lucas so that their ultimate attempts to stop the chain of events from happening prove too little and too late. A nice turn for the series which helps to keep it fresh and diverse in its storytelling.
|Now an outcast from the Sith, Asajj Ventress prepares for revenge!|
2. Asajj Ventress. Abandoned and left for dead by her now former master, the once Sith assassin gains a deepened and more complex characterisation in Katie Lucas's Trilogy of Evil. After a long absence from our screens (and making no appearance at all in Season Two whilst Bounty Hunters take centre stage instead), viewers get to see new facets to the popular female character, brought to life so well in her feral anger and underlying sexual power by Nika Futteman, including a strong sense of isolation, loss and fear, as first seen in her origin tale of part one, firstly with the Nightsisters of Dathomir who are forced to give her up, her early life as a Jedi and then gaining power and anger, resentment and a blood lust need for personal revenge as a talented and powerful orphan once again, now highly trained killer/accolyte, to the corrupt Sith Lord Count Dooku, who ultimately sacrifices her under orders from his own master, Darth Sidious. Down but not out, Ventress's return home to her people on the blood red world of Dathomir is both mysterious and fortuitous as the all-women society join forces with her to launch a revenge mission against Dooku. Their earlier invisible infiltration/attack plan fails, but, with the creation of a new pawn: Zabrakian male warrior-Savage Opress- capable of matching, and going beyond, the talents of Darth Sidious's first successor to Sith power: Darth Maul, payback time has finally arrived for Ventress.
|No one's servant any longer, Savage Opress is out for revenge!|
3. Savage Opress. Launched in an impressive blitzkrieg of pre-publicity by LUCASFILM and CARTOON NETWORK, Darth Maul's brother Savage Opress certainly impressed in this final part of the Ventress Trilogy-a potent tool for revenge, almost Frankenstein's Monster-like in his creation- in both story development and ultimate visual execution, created in the tale by the exiled Sith assassin and her lethal female Nightsisters, used against Count Dooku at the right time and place once safely ensconced to the Sith Lord's bidding. Movie actor Clancy Brown brings his superb vocal skills and range experience to the role of Opress, which, in early contrast to Maul, at first sees him as an intelligent and almost noble Zabrakian living alongside the rest of the surviving males of his kind within a colony on the far wilderness of Dathomir. Easily the best the tribe can offer with regards to intelligence and fighting ability, Opress's former skills are soon curtailed and the latter amplified, made more pliable by Ventress and the Sisters, as he is transformed into the lethal killing machine we see at work by this finale episode, easily taking on two sworn enemy Jedi Knights - Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi- with fearsome ease, but in the process ultimately killing King Katuunka of the Toydarians, whom he was supposed to capture and bring to Dooku alive. From that failure, Opress faces the wrath of his master and his dreaded Force lightning as his activation as an assassin against Dooku by Ventress finally emerges. But neither puppet master anticipates the raw power, ultimate individuality and anger of Opress, who breaks away from the machinations of each of them and goes on the offensive. Followed by a rematch with the Jedi and ultimately an escape back to the Sisterhood, the dark warrior, injured and weary of his existence- an abused character audiences feel partially sorry for- soon finds solace in being given a new direction and purpose to his life: to search for his lost brother far out in the depths of space. More on that "brother" later...
|One of several deadly three way lightsaber duels which take place in this terrific episode.|
4. Lightsaber duels. There's been some terrific duels across all three seasons of THE CLONE WARS worthy of the STAR WARS name, but this episodes conflicts are absolutely superb and thoroughly exciting. From Anakin and Obi-Wan getting the crud almost kicked out of them by the superior strength of Savage Opress on Toydaria, to the three-way duel between Opress, Dooku and Ventress, followed by Ventress's solo attack against the count, who proves too powerful and agile, mentally and physically, to beat, and then the finale of Jedi and Opress fighting again and then separately escaping the wrecked enemy cruiser, all tremendously well choreographed and animated, directed with style and imagination by series regular Giancarlo Volpe, thrilling to watch and highly memorable. Prequel movie Stunt coordinator Nick Gillard would be done proud seeing how his legendary lightsaber duel work has been built on to such high standards in this format.
|He doesn't look happy! Darth Maul will return Spring 2012!|
5. The return of Darth Maul. Who wasn't shocked and surprised by the final scene of this episode, when manipulative Mother Talzin revealed to a bruised and beaten Savage Opress the existence, far out in the galaxy, of his previously believed dead brother, the one and only devil-like, Jedi killing machine Darth Maul. We all thought that Obi-Wan had decapitated him and sent him down that Theed City power shaft to his final death, but, perhaps recognising that the character was killed off way too early in the Prequel Trilogy and would have been a tremendous recurring villain, George Lucas obviously changed his mind on Maul's fate, instead deciding to miraculously bring him back to the Dark Side from the Afterlife (Maul's return in Season Four of THE CLONE WARS next spring also handily ties in with the big screen re-release of EPISODE ONE in 3-D cinemas in 2012. Convenient, eh?!) How he is ultimately resurrected is something I'm so far not privy to. Will he be a clone? Half man, half cyborg? A rebirth via Mother Talzin's incredible witchcraft? Or has Darth Sidious used the power and knowledge of the slain Darth Plagueis to bring death back to life? We'll just have to wait and see, but let's hope its not done in a manner that hurts the prior drama of EPISODE ONE, Obi-Wan's original heroism in defeating Maul or stretch believability to its absolute limits. Lucas surely doesn't care one way or the other what people ultimately think of the characters return- he created Maul and the STAR WARS universe- and presumably wants Maul back for lots more drama and cool action (most likely an epic encounter between the brothers and Obi and Anakin!), but lets hope Dave Filoni, the writers and the animation team can also give such a big scenario some worthy accompanying story dignity at the same time.
Season Three of THE CLONE WARS is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. A Season One to Three box set is also available in both formats.
Monday 24 October 2011
In an evocative ILM EMPIRE storyboard-artist sadly unknown (possibly Joe Johnston?)- Darth Vader, having lost Luke Skywalker and the Millennium Falcon, contemplates the future from an observation window on the bridge of his Super Star Destroyer: the Executor.
A perfect moment beautifully realized on screen in May 1980.
Sunday 23 October 2011
|Animal firepower! A Wookiee warrior takes aim against the Trandoshans in the exciting finale of WOOKIEE HUNT!|
Just when all hope of escaping their unhealthy predicament as big game targets within the hostile jungle environs of Trandosha is almost gone, along comes one of the STAR WARS saga's most iconic and beloved characters, bringing his mighty heart, as well as equally large doses of courage, bravery and technical savvy, to the captured Ahsoka Tano and her fellow Jedi Padawan, as they plan a daring new bid for freedom from their Reptilian hunters. It was a close run thing nearing pole position, but at Number Two of our Top Five Season Three episodes of THE CLONE WARS (now available as a complete 22 episode box set on Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO) it's the fan favourite that saw in the return of Peter Mayhew as the legendary Chewbacca: Wookiee Hunt.
1. Chewbacca is back. Having had so little screen time with his prior highly anticipated return to the STAR WARS universe in 2005'S EPISODE III, it was great that George Lucas and Dave Filoni decided to bring everyone's favourite pre-Han Solo partnership Wookiee back into the fold for the animated series, and further develop that characters role and back story within such a critical period of the series history, part of an episode which successfully showcases all of his unique talents previously seen and enjoyed in the Classic Trilogy movies. Emerging from the caranage of the destroyed Trandoshan slave ship-after Ahsoka and her small teams escape plan goes terribly awry- the audience is stoked for Chewie's appearance with those first animal mumbles emanating from the beached craft wreckage, before his ultimate emergence in furry glory. As the episode progresses we gets to see our favourite woolly Wookiee as an inventor and technician (creating the rescue signal that ultimately gets picked up), protector (some lovely scenes with Ahsoka, the pair having a great chemistry on screen which appeals to all ages), and as a warrior-more so than we've ever seen before. His strength was only hinted at before and seen briefly in the classic films: here he has some terrific action/hand to hand combat scenes with his Trandoshan hunters- his sworn enemies after the soon to form Empire- and lives up to his reputation from Jabba the Hutt in EPISODE VI as "the mighty Chewbacca", now well and truly back home in the STAR WARS universe and brought to animated life with great care and attention to detail by the shows dedicated behind the scenes team, who took great pains to research the look and distinct manners of the creature, working with the actor who played him so perfectly- Peter Mayhew. In creating such a deservedly successful and memorable episode, lets' hope this isn't just a one -off for Chewie-we want more of him and Kashyyyk in general for the future!
|The Jedi Padawans and Chewbacca attack the Trandoshan cloud base.|
2. Confident storytelling. Right from the series early genesis, THE CLONE WARS has always had terrific writers and directors working on it (though I'm still waiting for my call to duty, George and Dave!), but with the second half of Season Three, the season not only retains its family audience values but starts getting bolder and better in the way that the stories are told. The animation continues to be top notch- better, bigger and more ambitious than ever, but the writers/producers also get to sneak in a lot more mature and darker themes into the show, as well as more carefully staged violence, becoming harder edged as the shows time frame nears the tragic events of EPISODE III. WOOKIEE HUNT, like its previous opener PADAWAN LOST, shows confident storytelling and developing talent in all areas, from scripting (a great tale from Bonnie Marks-my only complaint being that this episode feels just a little too short and would've done with an extra five minutes length), animation (superb planetary vistas for the exotic but deadly Trandosha, as well as fine action choreography), acting (a special nod to all the great work by the voice artistes who have made the iconic roles their own in this new format for the last three years) and direction (with Supervisor Dave Filoni really cooking in this two-parter: still the best man for the job in handling the reins of this epic series). It's a symbiotic union that makes great television and great STAR WARS, too!
3. Trandoshans. Ever since we saw his scaly feet hanging over the side of the top of the bridge pit of the Imperial Super Star Destroyer Executor in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, STAR WARS fans have been fascinated by the Trandoshan bounty hunter Bossk and the reptile/Dinosaur-like race of which he is a part. Though Bossk doesn't appear in this particular two-part story (though he had been in several episodes of the previous Season Two), his species more than lives up to his reputation for gruesome and unrelenting villainy within the almost PREDATOR-like environment of their tropical Island Four trap. Sneakily capturing humans and alien big game for the thrill of the hunt and the initiation of their species as deadly hunters, these technologically adapt, but also savage and instinctive creatures thirst to, and enjoy, their kills in almost Velociraptor style ingenious and unexpected means, alongside using their high tech weaponry, making them another terrific addition to THE CLONE WARS animated series evolving roster of galaxy spanning baddies.
|Giving as good as she gets, Ahsoka takes on the Trandoshans!|
4. Ahsoka's progress. At first she was 'snips' to her Jedi Knight Master, Anain Skywalker, now the Togrutan Padawan truly proves her worth as in individual in this epic two-parter. Resourceful and courageous in heart and spirit, she has learnt her abilities well from Anakin and looks set to go beyond his teachings as an individual. Despite her early insecurities and weakness at being captured by the Trandoshans, Ahsoka quickly turns around those first isolated vulnerabilities into a powerful rallying call for unity in fighting back against their enemy captors, gathering the remaining, now leaderless Jedi Padawan survivors of the planet into a formidable fighting team-working as one for survival. With the welcome arrival of Chewbacca, her biggest plan of escape yet comes to successful fruition as they attack the Trandoshan slaver vessel orbiting the clouds. No longer on the run, the reptiles get their just deserts, as the hunters now become the hunted, as Ahsoka uses all of her skills and lithe abilities to the fullest in order to defeat their races' towering and physically equally powerful ruler, Gamac, without succumbing to the hatred and revenge of the Dark Side of the Force.
5. More Wookiees! With the battle on the above air slaver ship at its height, and Chewbacca and the Jedi almost starting to be overwhelmed by the Trandoshans, help comes in the welcome form of a small Wookiee assault force led by their robust and eager for battle Tarfful and Sarporin, two of the popular Kashyyyk based characters from EPISODE III (in a ship piloted, in a further fun cameo, by bounty hunters-for-hire Sugi and Seripas, previously seen in the popular Season Two episode BOUNTY HUNTERS). Their group appearance is a welcome and unexpected surprise/bonus for the audience and its great seeing them alongside Chewbacca as they use their incredible physical strength to get stuck in and take out their Trandoshan opponents (in some cases literally throwing them over the desk in the process!). The finale scenes where all of our heroes are reunited on Coruscant with Yoda and Anakin is also well handled, ending Season Three on a very satisfying and successful note...
The Complete Season Three box set of THE CLONE WARS is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, as is a box set of the entire three seasons so far...
The Complete Season Three box set of THE CLONE WARS is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, as is a box set of the entire three seasons so far...
|Legion of LEGO! The cover for the lovely new LEGO STAR WARS CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA|
LEGO STAR WARS CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA
Published by DORLING KINDERSLEY
Reviewed by Scott Weller
The fertile imagination expanding and inspiring creations of Ole Kirk Christiansen and George Lucas join forces once again with DORLING KINDERSLEY books to present the newest volume of the LEGO STAR WARS CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA, out to buy in all good book stores and online sources this month. Now presented in a more compact presentation size (a new uniform look for this type of series), this lovely, lavishly illustrated tome gathers together everything you need to know, and more, about the small scale, big hearted world of the STAR WARS LEGO universe’s iconic characters- still as popular today, and even more ambitious and creatively made and presented, as they were when the range was first launched back in the nineties. Hannah Dolan and her research team have done an admirable and exhaustive job putting all this data and photo material together in collected form, along with worthy and practical, pleasing to the eye design by Anne Sharples and Jon Hall.
|Darth Maul and Yoda: the LEGO lowdown!|
This bristling information and photo guide presents each of the key 300 plus characters from all six STAR WARS movies, the animated series and comic books: Jedi and Sith, friend and foe, aliens and droids of all shapes and sizes get well treated in special fun packed and absorbing to read info pages, including a veritable wealth of detail on their history as LEGO creations (including multiple variations over the years, their accessories (large and small) and collections they’ve been a part of, alongside interesting behind the scenes production notes on how they came into existence. Amongst my personal favourites of the book, specially photographed, are the Sith Lord Emperor, Imperial Sandtrooper, Bib Fortuna, Embo the Bounty Hunter and the battle damaged Darth Vader. Brilliant!
It’s fascinating to see how each character has been visually rendered into the small but no less intriguing and fun world of scale LEGO, whose two inch tall figures (some of which I don’t think have yet been realized by KENNER!) have certainly belayed their size with the children and adults that adore and enthusiastically buy them in all their guises and multitude of accessories. STAR WARS has proved, and remains, a consistent winner for the company in its toy transition and evolution, and vice versa.
The final icing on the cake, the book also comes with an exclusive mini-figure of that daring space pilot Han Solo, bearing the medal worn and won at the end of EPISODE IV.
AFICIONADO RATING: Another unique and highly readable blending, it’s an essential purchase for all LEGO and STAR WARS toy fans to dive into and enjoy. Plastic Fantastic! 4 out of 5
Saturday 22 October 2011
To the woman whose performance would revolutionize and see in a new era for feisty and heroic fantasy females.
Many happy returns, Carrie, from STAR WARS fans everywhere!
Some great mid to late 1981 conceptual illustrations, presumably by the ever talented Nilo Rodis-Jamero, for RETURN OF THE JEDI's classic speeder bike chase. This art shows Han, who sadly never got to ride one in the exhilarating sequence, and an in development Biker Scout testing them out.
For the most in-depth behind the scenes look yet at the making of JEDI, be sure to get hold of our special issue here: STAR WARS AFICIONADO ISSUE 14 - THE MAKING OF "RETURN OF THE JEDI"
Friday 21 October 2011
|Lorne knew he was getting a birthday cake, but didn't know that it was going to eat him!|
Best wishes to ILM's genius/model-maker and all-round nice guy Lorne Peterson!
|Obi-Wan and Captain Rex look down into the abyss, and another of the traps located around The Citadel.|
Our Jedi heroes and their loyal Clone Troopers face their biggest challenge yet when they enter the asteroid field encircled, dangerous volcanic world of THE CITADEL-our number three entry on the Top Five episodes of THE CLONE WARS SEASON THREE (now available on box set Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS)- traversing the myriad traps set by it's mastermind controller and his legions of deadly droids, in order to rescue a captured Jedi Master.
And here's five great viewing reasons why you should join them on their quest...
1. Classic movie referencing. From vintage Japanese Kurosawa movies and westerns, to iconic war-time based Alistair Maclean novel to film adaptations like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE, THE CLONE WARS hasn't shied away in its enthusiasm in adapting classic action and adventure elements and locales from the past and present and giving them a unique STAR WARS twist or reinterpretation- a move which fans of all ages have enjoyed. THE CITADEL certainly has similarities to the aforementioned WHERE EAGLES DARE-one of my all-time favourite movies anyway- where our heroes have to break into an impenetrable Nazi fortress in hostile climes and rescue a captured Military dignitary, and its all the better for it. I'm next looking forward to THE CLONE WARS doing ICE STATION ZEBRA!
2. Classic Trilogy referencing. The hard working creative guys and gals who make this series are just as much loving devotees to the original Classic Trilogy as we are, and this episode is easily one of the most satisfactory examples yet in their dedicated showcasing, what with the way they link so much impressive visual continuity from EPISODEs IV-VI into the CLONE WARS universe. The Citadel interior has lighting and design specifications very similar to that of the original Death Star: the familiar looking control rooms, cell bays and corridors are littered with that previous films observation cameras, wall weapons and Mouse Droids from the detention block area of EPISODE IV, and, of course, there's the now classic carbon freezing scene from EMPIRE given a new spin, this time for heroic use (and obviously remembered by Anakin for the future!), as our brave strike team use it to pierce the planetary defences of the Citadel world (an idea conceived by ex-series story editor Henry Gilory for an earlier CLONE WARS comic book that was well worth revisiting). Finally, how can we not mention the welcome return of EPISODE III and IV's young and snidely Outland Regions Governor to-be, Captain Tarkin (as voiced by Stephen Stanton), who, with an intriguing foreshadowing relationship with Anakin, we're sure to see in future episodes of the series as it nears the shocking events of REVENGE OF THE SITH.
|The scheming Osi Sobek springs a new trap for the Jedi.|
3. Christopher Walken as a STAR WARS villain! Yep, I never thought that such a thing would happen-or be so successful-either! But skilled voice artist/current Obi-Wan Kenobi James Arnold Taylor's spot on vocal impersonation of the famous actor-the almost Han Solo from 1976 (also iconically impersonated by Kevin Spacey for Saturday Night Live back in 19997)- worked very well for the new villain of Osi Sobek (whose name surely has intriguing foundations in Egyptian mythology). Whoever came up with the inspired idea of bringing voice and character together should be congratulated. Sobek proves an intriguing and enjoyable new baddie for the series within the three episode arc, full of high pitched over confidence and intelligence but showing his unrelenting venom for the Jedi/Clone Troopers who tread into his fearsome territory. Quick to anger, he soon shows sadistic and delighted glee in initiating his lethal traps, many deadly weapons- lithe and constant Super Commando Droids and Anooba beasts against them- within and outside his seemingly invincible fortress (built around a once Jedi containment facility- an intriguing idea that I hope someone fleshes out in a book some day). Fearful of failure to Count Dooku, and prone to great anger, especially at the incompetent Battle Droids and technology that go on to fail him, his overconfidence and ego eventually brings about his ultimate demise, along with an audience cheer in the process, via a classic lightsaber chest spearing from a bold Ahsoka Tano.
4. Clone action! After a dry spell of Clone conflicts since earlier in the season, this episode, and the two to follow, certainly compensate for the oversight and deliver the goods to audiences keenly wanting to see their favourite trooper characters in infiltration and action, of which Captain Rex certainly gets some great Clint Eastwood-esque moments of bravery and general cool appeal, alongside some classic lightsaber swishing and ingenuity wielded by the Jedi (and a special nod here to Artoo Detoo!) as they break in then fight back against almost overwhelmingly impossible escape odds within this super powered labyrinth and its hostile outer environment. Death is but a heartbeat away, though, as, alongside several other faceless soldiers who die in this mission (and in the most horrible ways, too!), one of the series most popular Clones heroically buys the farm in the second episode, whilst trying to help his comrades escape. Its a shocking and actually unexpected scene (the lone Clone helmet on the floor being an effective and subtle visual moment), and a good and important move by the series writers/behind the scenes team in reminding fans that, as this particular storyline and series continues, the danger is real and that none of the popular supporting cast is truly safe or indestructible...
|Prior to his capture, Jedi Master Even Piell readies himself for Separatist attack.|
5. Jedi Master Even Piell. Barely glimpsed in EPISODE ONE, but given some further screen time in the first CLONE WARS animated series from Genndy Tartakovsky, the diminutive but no less powerful Even Piell is one of those Jedi characters that fans have been waiting to see get a slice of the action pie for some time now (alongside Saesee Tiin and Adi Gallia-both of whom appear in this tales breathless finale), and his story arc/ appearance in The Citadel Trilogy doesn't disappoint. As brave and agile as his fellow Jedi-and with very cool, almost Tasmanian Devil-like reflexes when fighting STAP-based Battle Droids- Piell (voiced by Blair Bess) has a shrewd intelligence and practicality about him, as well as strong mental prowess (a keeper of one half of the Republic's important hyper space routes no less!) and a deadpan wit. Resisting his Separatist interrogators (in which he almost loses his only remaining eye to a Torture Droid-another great moment of darkness within a family orientated series), and then fearlessly fighting alongside his Jedi rescuers, his ultimately final and exciting battle alongside Ahsoka against Sobek's Crab Droids, and then against one of the unleashed Anooba beasts that viciously slays him, is well handled by the shows animators. As Anakin and Obi-Wan lower his wrapped dead body for an honourable cremation into the planets lava flow, we know that the secret knowledge the noble Piell protected to the end is now in safe hands with Ahsoka Tano.
THE CLONE WARS Season Three is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from October 17th. A box set of the complete Season's One to Three is also available in both formats.
Thursday 20 October 2011
Within the hangar bay of the Massassi Temple on the Fourth Moon of Yavin, realized on the biggest soundstage of London's SHEPPERTON STUDIOS, Rebel Leader Princess Leia Organa, accompanied by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, is reunited with her friends and comrades in battle, including General Willard (played by popular sixties Irish film actor Eddie Byrne).
Wednesday 19 October 2011
|Love on the run! Ziro the Hutt and Sy Snootles escape Nal Hutta in HUNT FOR ZIRO.|
As the Third Season of THE CLONE WARS makes its mark in Blu-ray and DVD sales across the world, our countdown of the top five episodes of that year continues with Number Four: the light hearted but surprisingly action packed adventure HUNT FOR ZIRO, set within the murky climes of the Hutt empire, where love and hate share a very fine line indeed when you're a Pa'lowick!
Here are five reasons why this episode makes the deserved grade...
1. Strong storytelling balance. Effectively making fine use of characters and locales from both sides of the STAR WARS saga coin- this was by miles one of the best early episodes of an easily noticeable unbalanced start to Season Three- HUNT FOR ZIRO contains a very strong mix of comedy, drama and adventure locked down in a far more audience pleasing way than it had been in several prior poorly conceived tales set on Mandalore. Steve Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle's wide ranging, busy chase story was quite original, providing fans with compelling moments as it moved from planet to planet on the kind of epic scale that STAR WARS deserves in any format its realized in. Also, most importantly, it effectively made fine use of the series continually building animation strengths in terms of scale, backgrounds and character inter-action.
|Loose lips! The return of musical entertainer Sy Snootles!|
2. Sy Snootles. She may have been one of the least expected characters to make her way from the Classic Trilogy into the Clone Wars universe, but her return to the saga soon proves most welcome, infusing the show with some much deserved fun and showing us a whole new dark side femme fatale to her personality by story's end. Building further on her vocal versatility within the series, Nika Futterman-also the seductively evil Asajj Ventress- is a superb choice to play Snooty, whose on-screen visual entrance within the episode comes with a terrific song and dance number that more than pays a few nods to Kate Capshaw's Willie Scott in the opening of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. From then on, she gets to manipulate some very dumb Gamorrean guards and frees her ex-lover Ziro the Hutt from his prison on Nal Hutta so that they can run off to Teth and retrieve a vitally needed diary of dangerous information on the Hutt clan. It's at that point that Sy reveals her true colours and surprises the audience as someone you certainly don't want to cross, in an unexpected and classic moment for the series.
3. Nal Hutta. Finally, we get to explore the weird and wonderful world of the Hutts: its swampy landscape and the darkly humorous crime cartel empire/motive rationales of the creatures themselves-beings who mix their love of entertainment as easily as ordering their victims to death! And, as briefly introduced in the previous Threepio and Artoo tale Evil Plans, we now get to fully see a wide and distinctive vaiety of THE GODFATHER/Italian gangster visually inspired monsters, too (even down to one of them bearing the fine facial caricatures of Marlon Brando himself!). Though probably the grossest of them all has to be Ziro's mother, Mamma the Hutt-truly one of the most outrageous creations yet seen in THE CLONE WARS-even more so than Ziro first was in the series feature film pilot. So effectively brought to life on-screen was Mamma, covered in horrible symbiotic bugs (Ugh!) and flies, with a deep androgynous voice, that I felt visibly repulsed on first viewing and almost thought I could smell her vile pores even off screen when she talks to Obi-Wan about where Ziro has escaped to. Kudos to LUCASFILM ANIMATION's inspired team on bringing to life such a memorable, if repellent, creation...
|Obi-Wan and Quinlan Vos meet the Hutts.|
4. Quinlan Vos. This almost Han Solo-esque figure of the Jedi Order, first seen in the DARK HORSE COMICS, provides a welcome breath of fresh air with his introduction to the series, not only for the viewers but the shows writing staff as well, who surely wanted to add a bit more variety in the way they wrote for the members of the all so very serious keepers of the peace. Here was a Jedi not only looking and behaving differently than expected, despite retaining their incredible skills and abilities, but also possessing a healthy heart and a sense of humour. A veteran of battles, skirmishes and infiltration within the Outer Regions, this story gave Vos some great sequences to partake in, whilst his interactions with Obi-Wan Kenobi on both Nal Hutta and Teth are lively fun. Here's hoping he comes back for more episodes in the not too distant future-wouldn't it be great to see him and Obi re-teamed and taking on the returned Darth Maul next spring?!
|Sky battle! On Teth, Obi-Wan confronts Cad Bane.|
5. Jedi versus Bounty Hunter! One of the most exciting large scale action sequences of any CLONE WARS episode, but on a smaller and more intimate footing, as Quinlan Vos and Obi-Wan Kenobi take on the creepy Cad Bane (unnervingly voiced once more by Corey Burton-master of the STAR WARS animated villain speak!) and his robot servant Todo within the treacherous and geographically changing, and challenging, mountain climes of Teth (a fine planet from THE CLONE WARS pilot movie worthy of a return visit). It's a very cool, fast paced sequence of tense and suspenseful events, full of inventive hand to hand combat, lightsaber clashing, Force leaps and pushes, flame thrower discharges and blaster fire, in which we see Cad Bane continue to give as good as he gets-himself seemingly quite skilled with a lightsaber!- in the kind of combative ways superbly thought out and choreographed that I wish we could've seen Boba Fett do more of in the Classic Trilogy. Bane's flying droid pest/partner in crime, Todo, also proves a thoroughly rotten little douche bag, too- an equally tricky little customer to pin down in a fight. Here's to future Jedi/Bane showdowns, though whatever THE CLONE WARS writers/animators come up with next surely has a lot to live up to after what's been shown here!
Season Three of THE CLONE WARS is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO.
Tuesday 18 October 2011
Luke Skywalker, having been unable to convince his father, Anakin Skywalker now Darth Vader, to turn back to the good side of the Force, is taken to the Death Star II space station and brought into the vast Throne Room of Emperor Palpatine, in this moody and ominously staged photo from RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Monday 17 October 2011
|Clone Troopers defend their home against Separatist invaders in ARC TROOPERS.|
Season Three of THE CLONE WARS has now arrived in pristine animated quality on Blu-ray and DVD. As with last years season release, here's our personal top five episode choices from the year that gave us Secrets Revealed, and the five reasons why they make the grade as must-see tales for all ages. For viewers who have not yet seen the show and are thinking about dipping their feet in the water to see what all the fuss about, these blog features are a perfect showcase in helping them discover George Lucas's superbly animated universe in greater detail...
In reverse order, first up at Number Five is the action packed second episode of the season, where Separatist enemies make their play in attacking the watery Clone production home world of Kamino, whilst three ex-Clone cadets truly show their worth as leaders and warriors: ARC TROOPERS.
1. Returning to Kamino. Finally, as with the previous Clone Cadets season opener,we get to see the water world-birthing home of The Clone Troopers- in superb realized animated form. Not an easy task to create cgi water, but failure is not an option for THE CLONE WARS design/animating teams, who do a remarkable job in re-creating the environment to match and build on the epic interiors and exteriors previously shown in live-action form with ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Some stunning new environments, like the Clones sleeping areas, as well as some nifty underwater scenery, make their debut in the two episode story arc, and Tipoca City looks incredible even under all the conditions of destruction, chaos and blaster fire wrought on it by Separatist forces. Seeing the Clone birthing tanks being destroyed on the digital screen at CELEBRATION V a few years back not only reminded me of just how good the series looks BIG, but was also a very cool dramatic/action moment for fans to enjoy and be amazed at-part of a storyline that I'd been waiting years for them to explore beyond what was created in a similar type of DARK HORSE comic storyline a few years after the release of EPISODE II. ARC TROOPERS was simply bigger and better, and a bold step whose success would lead to further dramatic and visual dividends to be reaped with Season Four's Mon Calamari underwater war plot line.
|Diabolical pairing! General Grievous and Asajj Ventress bring terror to Kamino.|
2. Villain team ups. It was great to see Asajj Ventress and General Grievous at last joining forces for some major league carnage wielding (though they'll soon be enemies lightsaber duelling with each other, if the new extended Season Four trailer recently revealed online is anything to go by!) with the kind of banter and villainy that reminded me a bit of the old BATMAN TV series when our favourite baddies used to get together for special two parters. Obviously, THE CLONE WARS isn't high camp like that classic TV series of the sixties, but there were some strong put downs towards Grievous from Ventress that were certainly of a similar ilk. Its a shame that her spearing/death kiss of a Clone Trooper was cut from the episode by a jittery CARTOON NETWORK, but hopefully the scene will be on the Blu-ray...
3. Action. And all kinds memorable both above and below the seas. From epic space battles above orbit, to Obi-Wan fighting the lethal and impressive new aqua droids (and later a skirmish with General Grievous), to the huge Separatists squid-like Trident machine weapons smashing into the heart of Tipoca City and unleashing wave after wave of enemy droid troops. This was big screen stuff on the small screen capable of blowing the competition out of the water (excuse the pun!) and again a huge leap in animation techniques in such a small space of time behind the scenes between seasons.
|In the city's control room, Shaak Ti and her men hold off advancing Battle Droids.|
As heroes and villains lock laser swords and blasters (and a nice nod here to noble Jedi Shaak Ti, who finally appears in the series), the only remaining members of the original "Rookies" from Season One- Broadside, Echo and Fives- also valiantly hold their own in this prime adventure, as do all the other main Clone character favourites like Rex and Cody, and a worthy defence force with the next generation of in accelerated growth youngsters (once again voiced by Daniel Logan).
4. A hero's death: 99. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. 99 may have been considered a reject by his Kaminoan creators, and almost shunned by his fellow clones, but this moral building and heart in the right place character-another animated triumph- showed his spirited worth in the courage and bravery stakes during his final episode. Despite physical impairment, he valiantly helps his loyal Clone Trooper brethren family defend his world to the final gasp of his life. His ultimate demise trying to get one last lot of explosive ammunition is well handled on screen and certainly brings a lump to the throat even in repeats. A true and selfless solider doing his duty to the end.
|Perfect combatants in fear and aggression: Asajj Ventress and Anakin Skywalker.|
5. Anakin versus Ventress. Its always great to see the hairless harpie in any kind of savage and instinctual lightsaber action against our loyal Jedi heroes. Normally fighting against Obi-Wan, whom she clearly shows morally complex love-hate issues with, it was a treat to see her in a more feral type of combat towards an equally determined and less playful foe- Anakin Skywalker-as she tries to steal the Kaminoans top secret Clone DNA. The almost cat and mouse sequence, full of ingeniously choreographed lightsaber moves and physical blow, ends well with the Sith wannabe cornered by a hungry for revenge Anakin and his fellow itchy trigger finger 501st Clone Troopers finally ready to end this pests existence once and for all, but, as ever, she manages to escape to fight another day...
Season Three of THE CLONE WARS is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO.
Sunday 16 October 2011
Its new fourth season may not be officially available to UK fans yet, but, in some compensation, tomorrow does at least see in the release, transferred in the finest optimum picture and audio quality yet, of THE CLONE WARS Season Three in crisp Blu-ray and DVD box set form courtesy of LUCASFILM ANIMATION and WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO, and which comprises all twenty-two action packed episodes of 2010-2011.
|Season Three adds the blade wielding Savage Opress to the ranks of Sith villainy!|
17/10 UPDATE: In celebration of the new Season Three box set, WARNERS have also introduced this fab new website called Force Scanner, where you can make your TWITTER feed even more lively and active, especially with regards to all things STAR WARS. Choose your good side, or bad side, of the Force here: STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS - FORCE SCANNER
From Monday, we'll be presenting the AFICIONADO guide to Season Three's Top Five episodes, plus an eventual review of the complete box set release.
Check out the most recent trailer for the Season Three box set here: StarWars.com | Own The Clone Wars Season 3
And Dave Filoni and George Lucas talk about what's new with Season Three to SCI-FI NOW magazine here: George Lucas and Dave Filoni talk Star Wars: The Clone Wars | SciFiNow
Finally, the official press release for Season Three on Blu-ray and DVD: StarWars.com | The Clone Wars Season 3 on Blu-Ray and DVD This Tuesday
Seasons One to Three are also available in one encompassing Blu-ray or DVD box set- just in time for Christmas, and released in the UK from 17th October.
STAR WARS: BREAKOUT SQUAD
BOOK II: CURSE OF THE BLACK HOLE PIRATES
By Ryder Windham
Published in the UK by PUFFIN BOOKS
Reviewed by Scott Weller
On his first true assignment/ mission as a representative of the Republic- sent on his way by that kindly protectorate of the galaxy, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine!- young Jedi Padawan Nuru Kungurama, whose search for his missing Jedi Master- Ring-Sol Ambase- has currently stalled, heads for the largely unexplored and dangerous Outer Regions to partake in a delicate diplomatic meeting with the secretive and isolationist race who also just happen to be a part of his birthright: theChiss.
Accompanied by his newly formed Breakout Squad of Clone Troopers to a world in the Csilla system, things don’t go according to plan from the outset, with incorrect co-ordinates leading to an uneasy arrival at their ultimate destination, followed by a first encounter with the female Chiss representative, Veeren, that promises little for any kind of future pact between the two civilizations. Soon caught up in a new battle against attacking Separatist forces, the would-be retreating allies-to-be find themselves unwittingly caught in an unknown region of space, and facing off against a brigand of desperate and dangerous space pirates.
Beyond those conflicts, frightening plans are also under fruition in another corner of the galaxy, as Nuru’s aforementioned missing Jedi Master, Ring-Sol Ambase, previously captured by Cad Bane, is ultimately delivered to Count Dooku, who has his own special and manipulative agenda to commence against his once friend and the Republic he serves...
Old pirate clichés get the revisionist STAR WARS treatment, and there’s even a few nods to other films like Disney’s classic THE BLACK HOLE from 1979.
Add to the mix a little bit of STARGATE and TOTAL RECALL, as well as a whiff of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s second season episode Contagion, and you've got another lively adventure from longtime EU scribe Ryder Windham that younger readers will enjoy. And, as ever, there's some fun references and dialogue quotes linked to previous STAR WARS films.
The author carefully develops his recently introduced characters a little bit further, and obviously has bold plans ahead for them. Jedi Padawan Nuru, despite early hesitancy and anxiety about his new mission and what it entails, becomes a more confident Jedi, hopefully learning something about his mysterious identity along the way, whilst new antagonist/heroine Veeren is another fine addition to the roll call of Expanded Universe women: young but an experienced ambassador and warrior. Efficiently trained as a protector of the Chiss people, her first encounter with Nuru is cold to say the least, but will presumably soften to either Han/Leia proportions at some point in the future or, at worst, they’ll end being brother and sister!
Adding some enjoyable invention to the tale, the Hasty Harpy‘s eccentric smuggling vessel Captain, Lalo Gunn, has to use all of her knowledge and experience to outwit the trapped space pirates, operating at the edge of an unknown system containing a black hole, whilst the Clone Troopers of Breakout Squad have to adapt to an intriguing kind of servitude!
There’s also more mixing and matching of guest star aliens from across the two trilogies, which works better in novel form than in any of the revisions added to the Blu-ray movies!, including the return of the scaly Trandoshan bounty hunter with the lisp problem: Bossk, who, as part of the motley band of rag tag pirates, makes a welcome reptilian re-appearance and proves as slippery and aggressive a customer as ever!
Meanwhile, the dark forces of the Sith may remain in the background, but their manipulating presence continues to be felt, as the books final chapter, with the deceptive Count Dooku, gives the tale an enjoyable To Be Continued… flavor.
AFICIONADO RATING: Though its not my personal favourite of the three Breakout Squad books so far- it doesn’t feel quite as well constructed story-wise as the other adventures it bridges- it's all still highly readable stuff. 3 out of 5
Saturday 15 October 2011
Lando Calrissian's brave attempt to right a past wrong with Han Solo goes awry when he ends up over the side of Jabba's death skiff and almost into the clutches of the Sarlaac Pit, in this memorable photo from RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Friday 14 October 2011
In a break between filming set-ups, Harrison Ford poses for a quick photo on the set of the Rebel Medical Centre at ELSTREE STUDIOS, London during the 1979 interior filming of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Monday 10 October 2011
|Officially gone forever? The unaltered Classic Trilogy DVDs from 2006.|
With the recent release of THE COMPLETE SAGA on Blu-ray, still in pole position (or very near that) within the Top Ten charts of the world consumer home entertainment market, it's time to reflect on the disappointing fact that, for the time being, the original theatrical versions of the Classic Trilogy- 1977, 1980 and 1983- have been officially discontinued on DVD from the major seller sites like AMAZON and PLAY.COM with the prior 2006 release (where each film, disappointingly released in a non-anamorphic format, and scanned from the 1995 laserdisc releases, would be presented on a separate bonus feature disc alongside the SPECIAL EDITION versions), and there are apparently no plans to release new copies. How long this current situation will last is unknown, but I'm assuming it will be for the lengthy peak sales duration that the Blu-rays will need to generate income for LUCASFILM and FOX.
Now, more than ever, and especially with the recent controversies regarding the further changes made to the SPECIAL EDITION films on the Blu-rays (some enhancements great, others (you know which ones they are!) not so great), I think it's time that LUCASFILM finally caved in (and there is absolutely no shame in doing this!) and answered the heartfelt requests/pleas from fans, young and old, around the world to finally release the original unaltered Classic Trilogy films on Blu-ray once and for all (the chance to win back much tarnished fan appreciation and media support, and greatly increased sales, following years of disappointment with what has been released on DVD, was sadly blown this year by their not doing this with the new COMPLETE SAGA release).
There is still time to put this sad Classic Trilogy oversight right, and have a separate release for the beloved three films on Blu-ray in a few years time, if LUCASFILM start acting now. The transfers don't have to be anything fancy-just nice clean TECHNICOLOR presentations of the movies as we love and remember them from their original screenings, and with the original superb sound mix restored to the way it was (it doesn't need any flashy mucking about with or be put in new DOLBY techniques). TECHNICOLOR copies of the original films do still exist. Producer Gary Kurtz has a copy of the 1977 STAR WARS-he told me this a few years back, and also revealed he lent it to LUCASFILM when they were doing their SPECIAL EDITIONS restoration work for release in 1997-scenes from his copy were duplicated and used to fill in gaps where the original masters had deteriorated from age. Copies of EMPIRE and JEDI also apparently exists in private hands and their owners would surely be more than happy to work with LUCASFILM so that the best available prints are made available for transfer of the highest definition possible. The potential profits from the new release far outweigh the potential behind the scenes costs and time that needs to be spent by Lucas's restoration team/s...
So please, George Lucas and LUCASFILM, you've given us a good starter with THE COMPLETE SAGA box set, now go the distance that little bit more and give the fans who have loyally bought all the box sets- in all types of format since the eighties- what they really want: the Original Versions of the Classic Trilogy on Blu-ray-the unaltered and still magical three films we fell in love with all those years ago worldwide: which started the phenomenon into what it has become today!
STAR WARS AFICIONADO fully supports the recently launched SAVING STAR WARS website (Save Star Wars) in all its endeavours and beliefs to make sure people worldwide keep the spirited flames of the original and best versions of the Classic Trilogy burning brightly, and that an eventual release of those three films is achieved.
There's also a petition at the ORIGINALTRILOGY.COM website where you can show your support: Petition for the Theatrical Cuts of the Original Star Wars Trilogy On Blu-ray. Please spare five minutes to add your name to the list-don't let these iconic and important films disappear from both time and the minds of the next generation/s of STAR WARS fans!
Sunday 9 October 2011
A short cease fire occurs between Jedi and Droid Armies within the Geonosian Death Arena, as Jedi Master Mace Windu, alongside Anakin Skywalker and a blaster wielding Padme Amidala, brace themselves for worse things to come in this tense scene filmed at the FOX STUDIOS, Australia in 2000.
Saturday 8 October 2011
In the guise of one of her handmaidens, a curious Queen Amidala accompanies Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and Gungan Jar Jar Binks into the heart of Tatooine's Mos Espa spaceport, as they begin their search for a new hyperdrive generator for their damaged ship, in this scene from EPISODE ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE.