Sunday, 31 August 2014

THE CLONE WARS: DISTANT VIEWPOINTS...


It seems that time doesn't heal old wounds, as Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Duchess Satine get into a heated debate, threatening to get personal, regarding the state of the Republic and the Jedi, in this memorable moment from THE CLONE WARS Season Two episode Voyage of Temptation.

CLASSIC INDY: INDY's "FURTHER ADVENTURES'!



He'd captured audiences attentions at the worldwide box office, soon again for 1984's upcoming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and now the whip-cracking hero was becoming a full-colour MARVEL comic book star, as the first issue of his globetrotting exploits debuted on newsstands in January 1983, courtesy of this great Terry Austin cover-the artist no stranger to working with Lucasfilm after several years inking Carmine Infantino's work on MARVELs' equally iconic STAR WARS comic.

Friday, 29 August 2014

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'SHOOTING 007 AND OTHER CELLULOID ADVENTURES' BOOK


Capturing escapist truth and beauty through the camera- UK film cinematographer Alec Mills. Image: The History Press.


SHOOTING 007 AND OTHER CELLULOID ADVENTURES

By Alec Mills

Foreword by Sir Roger Moore

Published by The History Press


Reviewed by Scott Weller


“Knowing Alec, I can safely promise you a good read, and I always tell the truth.”

Roger Moore

There are many reasons why British film industry technical talent is regarded as the finest in the world. And famed cinematographer Alec Mills is one of them!

Best known for his involvement and vital contributions to some of the most popular films of the seventies and early eighties, most notably from the James Bond and Classic STAR WARS saga, Mills, in a lengthy career that would seem him handle everything from his first youthful and enthused clapperboard duties to learning the craft of becoming a seasoned visual renderer, would easily earn his title as one of the most popular and respected people of his ilk in the fantasy-making aspects of cinematography, helping to launch Roger Moore’s broad James Bond era into colourful, humorous, exciting fun, whilst, at the other end of the scale, and in a galaxy far, far away and a long time ago, subtly moving Return of the Jedi towards its vital climatically dark thrill ride, making it all the more thrilling and immersive to watch.
 
Alec Mills at the camera lens during the 1982 UK filming of Return of the Jedi.

A subtle and caring person with a fine eye for detail, research and continuity, as well as a pioneer in many areas, especially knowing how to work as part of a team in his varied jobs but also, where necessary, not afraid to let his views be known when critically needed, Mills, through contacts and sheer bloody hard work, would truly become a part of the golden age of cinema – American, International and often hard-bitten UK endeavours. Lured by the siren-like glamour, adventure and fantasy bug of celluloid at an early age, his youthful post World War II entering of the British film industry soon saw a quiet but solid advancing up the career leader in working with some of the biggest and brightest names in the UK industry, soon proving a vital and worthy way of building his craft- from his stints in moody and atmospheric black and white to glorious, extravagant colour, from the large to the small screen, travelling countries and climes as diverse as Austria to Japan, and learning from the likes of long time Cameraman/Cinematographer legend buddies/partners in cinematic magic capturing including Michel Reed, Jack Cardiff and Alan Hume, Mills unique relationship with the camera, and the mystical quality of film running through it, is a genuine, if not always perfect, love affair.

Shooting 007 and Other Celluloid Adventures, his newly released autobiography via The History Press, paints a clear, concise and honest picture (sometimes warts and all!) of the important mark Mills contributes to populist motion picture storytelling history. Some of the 007 anecdotes, about the family feeling of the franchise created by Albert R. Broccoli, and Mills constant “humorous” sparring with prankster star Roger Moore, may not necessarily be fresh, but there are many other glamorous, and not so glamorous projects made in and around them, previously unknown and unrevealed, that prove equally worthy- cherished insights and observations on well-known actors (like the infamous boozy legend that was Oliver Reed, gritty action hero (in reality and fantasy) Lee Marvin and stalwart super-bitch and all-round tough cookie Bette Davis, plus charismatic, often chilly or eccentric directors, including Franklin Schaffner, John Guillermin and Roman Polanski. Its here, in these outer chapters, that Mills also evokes his true duties and responsibilities to a time, place and era in filmmaking that will never be seen again, showing us the importance of hard work and dedication, and how, if not always quickly, it can pay off later down the line. STAR WARS fans, in particular, will not only relish the chapter detailing his time working on the ambitious, on set secrecy-shrouded final episode of the Original Trilogy with Return of the Jedi- the happiness yet ensuing nightmares of disagreeing/dealing with a resentful senior LUCASFILM staffer, but also director Richard Marquand’s previous evocative directorial effort, the one that ultimately got him into the attention sights of George Lucas in the first place: the much under-rated World War II thriller Eye of the Needle, of which Mills reminisces are clearly a more positive if smaller-scale experience.
 
Mills (top) with Richard Marquand and the camera team of Eye of the Needle

Beyond the tales of the good and the bad, the gentlemanly Mister Mills, a champion of the values of teamwork and loyalty, also shows his serious side when it comes to his craft, importantly revealing intriguing tricks and magic of the film-making trade which are now sadly passing into the ether with the arrival of CGI. It's information that historians, and especially students/rising star visualists trying to break into this difficult medium of entertainment, would be wise to remember and keep inside this mini equivalent of a film-school education.

Backed up by some very rare behind the scenes photos, especially of interest to Bond aficionados, Mills trip down the cobbled but incident-packed streets of Memory Lane- the ensuing personal hardships, friendships, battles and victories making their mark- is a well-written and incident packed endeavour, with some personal demons and insecurities over his contributions to film and TV thankfully exorcised. (Oh, and speaking of the supernatural, watch out for the chapter about his "house guest"!)

AFICIONADO RATING: Never has the phrase “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” been more apt with this book. 3.5 out of 5


Thursday, 28 August 2014

OUT TODAY IN UK PAPERBACK: 'KENOBI'


Krayt dragons, the nomad terrors of the Sandpeople, ambitious and corrupt farmstead owners and a young girl with a devoted crush- just some of the creatures and characters that the self-exiled Jedi pariah and fugitive Obi-Wan Kenobi will encounter whilst settling in and coming to terms with his new "home" on that farthest corner of the galaxy planet, with its harsh and dangerous desert climes and searing temperature twin-sun accompanying satellites, that is Tatooine. John Jackson Miller's deservedly acclaimed, well-researched and written original novel, now part of the all-new Legends series, KENOBI, arrives in weighty UK paperback from ARROW this August 28th, 2014.

STAR WARS meets the classic western SHANE, with Kenobi in the enigmatic stranger mode previously occupied by Alan Ladd, was how I originally observed this tale when it first appeared in hardback. Check out that original review: STAR WARS AFICIONADO MAGAZINE: JOHN JACKSON MILLER

Get the book here: Star Wars: Kenobi: Amazon.co.uk: John Jackson Miller: Books

Also available on audio book download - though what a shame that they couldn't get James Arnold Taylor to voice Kenobi for such a special project: Kenobi: Star Wars Unabridged (Audio Download): Amazon.co.uk: John Jackson Miller, Jonathan Davis: Books

Sunday, 24 August 2014

STAR WARS REBELS: PAYBACK TIME!


They've taken quite a bashing in seventeen years- their ecologically symbiotic world of Kashyyyk has suffered unnatural damage and numerous attacks from bounty hunters and Stormtroopers, whilst large families have been separated and put into vicious hardship and life-draining slavery. But now, within the harsh environs of the Kessel spice mines, a small group of Wookiees are free of their bonds to bring some physical chaos and punishment to their Imperial enslavers. Witness the revolt in an upcoming episode of STAR WARS REBELS this November.

Star Wars Rebels | Home | Official Disney UK


The recently Internet released, interesting character shorts for the series get their first UK digital TV airing tomorrow, Bank Holiday Monday, on the UK's DISNEY XD channel. Time details here: Star Wars Rebels (First Look) on Disney XD, Mon 25 Aug 7:45am - Your UK TV Listings at TVGuide.co.uk

BEHIND THE SCENES: ENCLOSED WORLD!


In Star Wars Canyon, Tunisia, during March 1976, a slightly wary looking Kenny Baker is strapped/installed within the Artoo Detoo shell, still getting used to its operation, for an upcoming scene with Sir Alec Guinness. Thankfully, by the time he's in the small fishing village of Jerba, Kenny looks a lot happier, continuing to be a lively presence for cast and crew during EPISODE IV's filming, as seen in this pic below.


STAR WARS AFICIONADO sends the merriest of Happy Birthday greetings out to the one and only Kenny Baker today!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

EPISODE I AT FIFTEEN: A STAR IS UNLEASHED!


The moment he appeared activating that double lightsaber in the first teaser trailer of 1998, if there was one surefire element that everybody was going to love in the then oncoming EPISODE I it would be sinister new Sith Lord, Darth Maul - a mysterious, athletic and savage new opponent for our Jedi heroes, especially Obi-Wan Kenobi. And when Maul graced his premiere magazine cover soon after- on the quickly sold-out issue of the US STAR WARS INSIDER- his popularity was further cemented and assured...


Happy Birthday today to the man who made the character so worthy and so evil in the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy universe- Ray Park.

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! 
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