Saturday, 23 May 2015

CLASSIC ART: OF MIMBAN AND THE MIND'S EYE!


Their important mission for the Rebel Alliance put on the back burner, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa survey the lush but not so silent jungle environment of Mimban to which they've now fatefully arrived, in this lovely art by Hugh Fleming for the first issue of DARK HORSE COMICS sterling adaptation of the classic 1978 novel/unmade sequel to the original Star Wars, Splinter of the Mind's Eye.

FACEBOOK: (1) Hugh Fleming

STAR WARS AFICIONADO was thrilled to hear the recent news from LUCAS BOOKS that Alan Dean Foster will be returning to the STAR WARS literary universe, penning the all-important adaptation of THE FORCE AWAKENS, out for Xmas/New Year 2016, meaning that he has now written books for all three movie trilogies (so far).

Alan Dean Foster talks about his novelisation career, STAR WARS and STAR TREK, the state of Hollywood and much more, in this great five-part talk:

▶ Alan Dean Foster- "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" Book Talk- 1 of 5 - YouTube
▶ Alan Dean Foster- "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" Book Talk- 2 of 5 - YouTube
▶ Alan Dean Foster- "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" Book Talk- 3 of 5 - YouTube
▶ Alan Dean Foster- "Splinter of the Mind's Ey"e Book Talk- 4 of 5 - YouTube
▶ Alan Dean Foster- "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" Book Talk- 5 of 5 - YouTube

Thursday, 21 May 2015

AN 'EMPIRE' HITS 35!


Stalwart STAR WARS artist Chris Trevas latest work for the Illustrated series is another wondrous piece, capturing all the drama and coolness of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and its main characters, as the film, the first sequel, celebrates its superb 35th Anniversary today!


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

BEHIND THE SCENES: MAYHEW's WOOKIEE PRIME!

Image: Ann Skinner/BFI.

Peter Mayhew's first day of filming as Chewbacca on the Docking Bay 94 set at Elstree Studios, within Stuart Freeborn's superb yak hair material costume, is captured for continuity purposes on Polaroid by STAR WARS original Script Supervisor, Ann Skinner.

From Miss Skinner 's typed pre-filming character/costume continuity notes for Chewbacca, conceived at least a month or two before the character became the one we know and love: "Chewbacca. 8' savage looking creature - baboon-like, large yellow eyes, 2 chrome bandoliers and a flak jacket, brown cloth shorts, 200 years old WOOKIEE. Sc. 82 : Electric handcuffs put on and Sc. 88 undone- lost in that area. Takes a large rifle in that scene- ? keeps it." So, there were some early ideas for the Wookiee to indeed have worn pants!

A Wookiee takes shape in this conceptual art!

With thanks to Ann Skinner and the BFI Special Collections.

STAR WARS AFICIONADO sends out Birthday greetings today to Peter Mayhew, and look forward to seeing him back in action as the 235-year old "fuzzball" for THE FORCE AWAKENS. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 'REVENGE OF THE SITH'!


The diverse and intriguing characters of the final episode of the Prequel Trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, make for another striking and colorful composite from that inspiring talent Tsuneo Sanda, with the troubled Padme Amidala taking firm centre stage. This image has now apparently become available on apparel as part of the Her Universe STAR WARS clothing collection.

Celebrating its milestone Tenth Anniversary, EPISODE III, the most popular of the Prequels, looks set to endure for a long time to come...


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EPISODE I!

Classic poster art by Drew Struzan.

The STAR WARS universe was about to get a whole lot bigger today, back in 1999, with the release of the first of the Prequel films: The Phantom Menace, soon generating nearly a billion dollars at the box office and seeing-in the kind of fan appreciation, and fan controversy, that have remained unabated to this day.

▶ Star Wars Episode I: All I Need Is An Idea Webisode - YouTube
▶ Star Wars Episode I: Story Featurette - YouTube
▶ Star Wars Episode I: Movie Music Webisode - YouTube
▶ Star Wars Episode I: Assistant Directors Webisode - YouTube
▶ Star Wars Episode I: Costumes Featurette - YouTube
▶ George Lucas interview for "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" (1999) - YouTube
▶ Star Wars: Episode I - ...: Interview With George Lucas - YouTube

Happy Sixteenth Birthday, EPISODE I!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'LORDS OF THE SITH'



STAR WARS: LORDS OF THE SITH

Written by Paul S. Kemp

Published in UK hardback by CENTURY PUBLISHING


Reviewed by Scott Weller


Though still a relative newbie to the STAR WARS printed empire, author Paul S. Kemp has nonetheless managed to make a quick impact and successful immersion into it with his original novels and new characters highlighting Jedi and Sith conflicts across generations of storytelling. Now, however, he gets to officially play with the big toys- the canon series most popular and least morally chaperoned evildoers in the Dark Side, for what must surely be his most ambitious action/adventure tale yet, LORDS OF THE SITH, out now in UK hardback from CENTURY PUBLISHING and already entering a second successful printing States-side.


Ten years after the significant events of EPISODE III and before STAR WARS REBELS and EPISODE IV, the wellspring of hope that will become the Rebel Alliance is not yet a reality, but pockets of resistance are springing up against the machinations and power lust of the First Galactic Empire. The biggest in size and most daring in disruptive endeavours being located on the perpetually troubled Ryloth, as Cham Syndulla, a veteran of the original Clone Wars, having seen his planet attacked and enslaved not once but twice, allied with his dedicated Free Ryloth guerilla fighters brazenly gain noteworthy victories against their heavyweight oppressors, victories that soon capture the attention of the Sith overlords on Coruscant when much needed spice production grinds to a halt. No longer willing to tolerate such insurrection on Ryloth, the Emperor and his Rottweiler servant in Darth Vader soon prepare the ultimate lure for the green-skinned resistance forces, as orchestrated plans are made for a “special visit” which they know will bring Syndulla out of hiding and into their destructive grip.

“There’s always a bigger fish.” So said one wise Jedi to his Padawan many years ago. And this “bigger fish” with the news of Vader and The Emperor’s imminent arrival is indeed the ultimate prize for Cham- his attack plan as equally blunt: kill them before they can kill us! Regardless of the scenario being a trap, the opportunity to rip out the very heart of the Empire is just too good an opportunity to pass up. With all their resources soon committed, though, this will be Syndulla and his band’s last stand, which they must win at all costs!

Soon enough, the technology might of the hard-as-steel Empire clashes against the equally dedicated and controlled, know your environment tactics of the Ryloth resistance. Separate and together, Vader and the Emperor know their powers within the Dark Side, but the enemy soon shows greater resources and skill than they’d previously foreseen. Will even they find themselves out of their depth in the brutal battle for survival and final control that lies ahead- not just from the humanoid enemy forces but also the planet’s diverse and hungry-for-flesh life forms?

Their Empire to keep: the black-hearted Darth's Sidious and Vader

A gritty and carnage-rife tale of war, divided loyalties and corruption, LORDS OF THE SITH has no shortage of action in its 285 pages, rallying heroism and twisted villainy side by side. By far, though, the first half of the book showcasing the Twi’leks preparing to, then executing, their plan of attack on the Sith duo in their Star Destroyer, the Perilous, proves to be the best and most exciting, with technology and weaponry involved ultimately closer to the era of EPISODE III and the Prequels than that of the Classic Trilogy. Strange then, once on Ryloth- a fine choice for a battleground after its tragic history chronicled in THE CLONE WARS three-episode Season One arc, that the second half’s hunters-as-the- hunted aspect doesn’t prove quite as exciting- the kind of epic battle we see depicted on the book’s striking front cover, with AT-AT’s behind Vader and The Emperor no less, something we don’t quite get to see. But don’t be dismayed, the deadly duo still get some well-deserved time together on the printed page, embellishing their uniquely evil and sadistic repartee, as well as unleashing their incredible, awe-inducing energies to frightened antagonists both Rebel and Imperial.

No stranger to examining the motivations and power plays of the Sith mindset, Kemp clearly enjoys the unique pairing that is Vader and The Emperor as seen in the movies, building on the intense relationship between master and apprentice, and their rivaling for power and control, and in being part of the Way of the Sith and its disciplined and deadly mentality linked to the rule of two.

The Emperor shows his manipulative side from his days as Palpatine, as well as the kind of “unlimited power” not fully utilized since EPISODE III. Together with raw mental cunning and an ability to sacrifice anyone or anything to his advantage, there’s a reason why he'll always be very difficult to kill, continuing to fascinate and frustrate his apprentice servant and those around him with his seemingly all-knowing and all-seeing submersion into this most violent side of the Force - a condition he savours!

On his own, Vader is equally well brought to life in his complex aspects as warrior, Sith, and former Jedi, alongside his self-absorbed vanity and lust for the power of the Dark Side. Past memory fragments and unused skills from his time as Anakin Skywalker re-surface at important moments, reminding us of his tragic origins yet also of his unique gifts. There’s even a certain reference to a former young Padawan leaner of his, surely a reminder of what’s to come between them for REBELS Season Two.In LORDS OF THE SITH, Vader's showcased to action-packed form throughout, no holds barred battling for his and his Master’s survival once crash-landed on Ryloth- a welcome move by Kemp after years of LUCAS BOOKS having their star villain so underused in print, sometimes having made only the odd fleeting appearance here and there during the last six years or so.

Vader is the ultimate knife in the heart of peace and justice, dispensing his unique brand of cleansing right from the book’s get-go, as one of Cham’s resistance cells is swiftly destroyed in a V-wing fighter attack which the Dark Lord commands with typically ruthless efficiency, followed by an up close and personal assault on the stolen Imperial transport, massacring his enemies with precise and cruel efficiency. Vader’s ability to bring genocidal slaughter remains undiminished- first there was the Tusken Raider camp all those years back, now innocent Twi’leks unintentionally caught up in the conflict quickly enter range of his swift crimson blade swings!

Another noteworthy plus for Kemp is his fine use of, and tribute to, conceptual artist/legend Ralph McQuarrie’s original idea for Vader’s wearing of his unique breathing mask during STAR WARS early design stages– then it was to enter the airless corridor of the Rebel Starfighter, now we see the Dark Lord literally making a bold spacewalk in story form onto the stolen Imperial Transport after having dispatched his V-wing fighter into it kamikaze-style! This bit of referencing and celebration was great to read.

Ryloth rebel leader Cham Syndulla, as seen in THE CLONE WARS animated series.

With opponents like Vader, to fight a monster may mean having to become a monster yourself. Then there’s the opinion that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Both these unsettling dichotomies constantly play in the mind of Cham Syndulla during this epic struggle, as Kemp manages to add some nuance to the angry and bitter character seen in the animated series, now trying to convince himself and his conflicted conscience that his actions, no matter how high the body count and the destruction wrought, must ultimately be worth it.

A calculating warrior with a passion for survival, Cham will need to find all his reserves and more against the Empire and the tyranny of the Ryloth oppressors, including one of his own in the overbearing and greedy form of unscrupulous Orn Free Taa, who has done so much to enslave his people and make life miserable. Such dedication and fire will ultimately continue through his family lineage, via his equally passionate daughter, Hera, in another time and another place.

Kemp also concocts additional die for the cause Twi-lek warriors, particularly Cham’s loyal to the end lieutenant, the ex-slave Isvar, who proves a capable and strong right-hand woman ready to dish out Imperial death until the last drops of her very blood have been spent.

Finally, further gray moral drama can be found on the story’s periphery, courtesy of two all-new Imperial characters soon caught on the opposite side of the battle-lines: the corrupted Moff Mors, too-long enjoying the benefits of her Imperial position from her compound on Ryloth’s moon, what with its array of pleasures and shapely Twi’lek female slaves, and the equally corrupted younger Colonel, Belkor Dray, stationed on Ryloth prime, keen to remove Mors, whom he deeply despises, and establish a powerbase of his own by aiding Cham’s resistance when it’s proves to be in his best interests. Both Mors and Belkor prove potentially interesting at the start but are sadly under-developed and seem a little lost by the story’s inevitable conclusion.

AFICIONADO RATING: So, a great first half, and some very effectively written sequences here and there, especially the memorable finale scenes involving Vader and The Emperor, yet LORDS OF THE SITH ultimately has no major landmark qualities about it, nor is it quite the thoroughly barnstorming and thrilling conflict I’d personally hoped for. It is, however, a solid and adult entry in official canon, of which readers will surely appreciate Kemp’s setting-up of future plot/character strands linked to REBELS Season Two, especially with regards to Cham’s daughter, Hera, and her family’s shattered history of warfare against the soon full-time arrival in that series of Darth Vader. 7 out of 10

Get hold of LORDS OF THE SITH here:

With thanks to CENTURY PUBLISHING UK.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

REMEMBERING THE UK's 'STAR WARS: EPISODE III CELEBRATION DAY' - 2005

George Lucas and the cast of EPISODE III in Leicester Square- May 16th, 2005. 

Ten years ago today, worldwide STAR WARS fans gathered in the UK's beloved London West End for a monumental event that's still pretty much been unparallelled or equalled in its epic scale- the screening of all six George Lucas created films in one go on the big screen for what would become known as STAR WARS: EPISODE III CELEBRATION DAY, with some films shown in separate cinemas across the Leicester Square area, whilst one, the much missed original version of the EMPIRE, with its mighty screen and sound system, showed them all under one roof, in a sold-out, one-off uninterrupted screening (starting at 7.30 am) that was superbly presented, concluding with the first official public screening of EPISODE III (non-digital), once the lavish star-packed European premiere (digital) had commenced (of which, of the key cast, only Sam Jackson and Natalie Portman, then filming V FOR VENDETTA, were unavailable standouts). Lucas, McDiarmid and a clearly very nervous Hayden Christensen introduced the film at the EMPIRE, with Rick McCallum and all receiving a raptuous response and shaking fans hands. By night's end and the triumphant screenings of EPISODE III, the EMPIRE cinema interior became like a chanting football ground- the mob, almost like something from GLADIATOR, cheering a nicely lynched Lucas but also demanding "Seven to Nine, Seven to Nine!" At the time, Lucas said there was no more story and the audience left sad but still on a high. No Seven to Nine? Well, that's all changed, eh?!

Crowds gather for the European premiere outside the ODEON.
The ODEON Leicester Square gets ready for its European Premiere. Image: Scott Weller.
Fans lining up since 6am outside the London EMPIRE cinema. Image: Scott Weller.

Throughout the press-packed day, the massive centre park/garden of Leicester Square held an orchestra playing classic John Williams SW theme material to big screen clips, celebrities (including Sir Christopher Lee and Jeremy Bulloch) were interviewed to packed and attentive crowds, nearby eateries were full of STAR WARS promotions, a prop X-wing was a showcased display, and Imperial Stormtroopers and costumed fans of all ages were everywhere! The mid-afternoon and evening rain did little to dampen the people's spirits, and pulses raised ever higher when pretty much the entire film's cast, preceeded by Vader and a legion of Stormtroopers, arrived on the red carpet outside the ODEON Leicester Square.

A day long remembered indeed- one that I (Scott Weller) will certainly never forget!

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Film | Reporter's log: Star Wars marathon
▶ Star Wars Celebration Day - Interview with Christopher Lee - YouTube
▶ Star Wars E3 ROTS Celebration Day London 2 of 6 - YouTube

"The Saga is Complete" Well, it was in May 2005! Image: LUCASFILM/FOX.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 'ATTACK OF THE CLONES'


A hero on the precipice of evil-dom, a tragic love ignited, the rise of an evil Empire and the beginning of the end for the Republic and its Jedi Order; the four main ingredients for the ever-popular second episode of the opulent Prequel Trilogy- a film specifically designed, and genuinely feels like, a middle chapter of a trilogy: ATTACK OF THE CLONES, celebrating its Thirteenth Anniversary today.

▶ "Star Wars Attack Of The Clones" VHS Opening Trailers UK Rental Cassette - YouTube

CLASSIC IMAGE: VICTORY!


Friends and family gather amongst a jubilant crowd to celebrate young Anakin Skywalker's incredible success at the Boonta Eve Pod Race at Mos Espa, in this charming image from EPISODE I.

Friday, 15 May 2015

'STAR WARS' AT MADAME TUSSAUDS: UPDATE 6

Heroes and villains together. Jeremy Bulloch and Pip Anderson with friends. Images: TUSSAUDS/freerange.

The past, present and future of STAR WARS joyously collided at the sparking 13th May, 2015 launch party for MADAME TUSSAUDS London's critically acclaimed new waxwork figures exhibition, officially opening to the public this Saturday 16th. Galactic film and TV legend Jeremy Bulloch mixed with stunningly accurate classic character recreations and got to meet a real-life new UK star joining the upcoming sequel universe with THE FORCE AWAKENS, Pip Anderson.

Star Wars exhibit arrives at Madame Tussauds in London | Daily Mail Online

Encountering another STAR WARS baddie in Anakin Skywalker.
Han Solo's no good to him dead...
Hairy encounter! Manning the Falcon with Chewbacca. 

With thanks to freerange and MADAME TUSSAUDS for the updates.

Website (with new BTS footage) and advance booking: Madame Tussauds London - Star Wars


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