Category Archives: Film & TV

Leibovitz shoots The Force Awakens

Today (Star Wars Day) Vanity Fair have given us a unique behind-the-scenes look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The magazine has released six new photos from the film that were taken by none other than the legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz.

The images include an official reveal of Adam Driver playing the dark-cloaked Sith villain Kylo Ren, as well as actress Lupita Nyong’o playing her motion capture character, who is a pirate by the name of Maz Kanata. Then, of course there are Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, a group of various alien creatures, and members of the film crew, such as director J.J. Abrams.

Dashing Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) stands alongside his trusty X-wing fighter

Star Wars The Force Awakens Vanity Fair Front Cover

J. J. Abrams directs Actress Daisy Ridley for a scene in which her character, the young heroine Rey, pilots her speeder through a bustling marketplace on the planet Jakku

A small galaxy’s worth of tracking dots affixed to Lupita Nyong’o’s face allowed artists at Industrial Light & Magic to transform her into the C.G.I. character Maz Kanata

Galactic travelers, smugglers, and other assorted riffraff fill the main hall of pirate Maz Kanata’s castle

Next-generation bad guy Kylo Ren Adam Driver commands snowtroopers loyal to the evil First Order on the frozen plains of their secret base

Members of the brains behind The Force Awakens composer John Williams, producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, co- writer Lawrence Kasdan, and director and co-writer J.J. Abrams, who also gave a glowing report on Harrison Ford to Vanity Fair…

But the magic of Star Wars isn’t all about the creatures; the best effect in the wildly popular new trailer (88 million views and counting!) may have been Harrison Ford, slipping seamlessly back into Han Solo’s classic slow grin. Abrams himself was surprised by the performance and said that Ford “was excited to get back in those shoes again, which was really interesting because I thought he hadn’t been a fan. I kept hearing those rumors when I was a kid.” Abrams did have one specific note for the veteran actor: “I knew that he had done in some movies a kind of more growly thing, and I didn’t want Han to be growly.” Whatever Abrams said must have worked because, as the director himself put it, “There was a fire in his eyes that you see in the movie.”

We also got our first look at Gwendoline Christie’s character Captain Phasma.

UPDATE:

Star Wars.com have just released details and photos of Andy Serkis character in  The Force Awakens… Supreme Leader Snoke 

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz | Courtesy of Vanity Fair | Copyright 2015

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Feeling the Force

I’m a bit late stepping up to the plate with this review of The Force Awakens, as by now, everyone and their grandmother will have seen the second teaser trailer for the next Star Wars movie at least twenty times…I have, so I’ll keep what I have to say about it short.

…actually that’s just a Star Wars pun, as I really loved the teaser. I felt something when I watched that teaser. Although we can all be tricked into being excited about a film or TV show these days, even someone as cynical as me, but this is what JJ Abrams is really good at — He knows how to work those inner feelings in us. When you hack apart many of the shows and movies JJ has done, you can see he always jams his work full of things that immediately resonate emotionally with his audience.

The first teaser was full of stuff that resembled things we loved from the original Star Wars movie. Visual analogs were offered that called back to something we had good feelings about. The classic X-Wing, Stormtroopers and ‘that’ Lightsaber…all tweaked, instead of being the same as they once were, they echo like a ‘Borg-like’ collective feeling of ‘good’ Déjà vu. The first teaser even gave us good feelings of positivity, although it didn’t show any of the actors from the original film series, we knew that they was involved.

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Now this new teaser has gone further with that ‘calling back’ to the original series of films. Again, many things are slightly altered to be different, but yet the same. It’s as if JJ is winking and nodding at the audience with this teaser. “Hey, geek-boy, remember those good times we had? Remember that Tie Fighter?” It’s as if every frame has been composed to expressly tie elements with the previous stories of the original trilogy, including that voiceover from Luke Skywalker, and that awesome appearance of Han and Chewie that harked back to that “classic PR” shot from A New Hope.

As for me, I am truly moved by it, in the most honest sense. There are many things this teaser trailer does to mitigate the “bad PR” of the prequels, and although the giant corporate entity of Disney, that’s running it as a movie franchise, much in the same way they have done with Marvel. They’ve cheered us up, and even teared up this fan after seeing familiar things that have triggered fond childhood almost ‘pavlovian’ memories.

Can this film really deliver, and not be distracted by all JJ’s nods and winks that come through in this teaser…I do hope so, as I want to be in the geek zone with this movie, and don’t want to be knocked out by remembering the other films. Thankfully this is my only slightly ‘optimistic’ concern about this film, as it seems better suited to JJ than Star Trek, and I can only assume that means this film will be as good as 2009’s Star Trek was at playing with our feelings, if not better…“I’ve a ‘good’ feeling about this”

Jakku Sunset

My favourite mondo artist of film culture, Craig Drake…which you’ll already know I’m a massive fan of his Patrick Nagel ‘Pop Culture’ style of visualisation, has at last entered the realm of Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens with this rendition of the character Rey and her speeder. Rey is played by 23-year-old Daisy Ridley, who is a scavenger and desert rat on the Planet Jakku…although Craig has initially called the artwork Tatooine Sunset, since Jakku was only recently announced as her home planet at Star Wars Celebration.

His recent artwork was also the main official ‘visual theme’ for the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim in California, which he also attended signing prints of ‘The Bounty Hunter‘ and ‘The Stormtrooper‘ shown below…both of which are still available at Dark Ink Art.

Even the legendary Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch turned up to meet Craig Drake to grab his own personal copy of Proto Fett, which was featured on Milner’s Blog earlier.

Part of his Star Wars Celebration ‘Official’ Artwork was also the creation of the ID Badges for the event, some of which I’ve already feature in my Art of Star Wars blog, but this montage shows the full set of characters he created.

He’s also recently dabbled into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the rendition of Black Widow for the Avengers: Age of Ultron exhibition at the Hero Complex Gallery.

What’s next for Craig!…More Force Awakens mondo art I hope, especially his Solo Show II at Hero Complex Gallery, on 2020 South Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, California on the 22 May 2015…watch this space for a Milner’s Blog report on the event.

 

The Real BB8

One of the fundamental principles from Disney, the new Lucasfilm owners of Star Wars and the creative team behind The Force Awakens, ‘which gives me so much joy’, was their desire for less CGI (which sadly Lucas has canon splattered throughout the prequels) but now gone for more of the physical sets and practical characters that we saw in the original trilogy. Little did we know that they had taken this creative principle to whole new technological level with the so-called ‘Football Droid’ BB8 from the first teaser trailer, that we all thought was CGI…But in fact we witnessed at the launch of the amazing 2nd Force Awakens Teaser Trailer at Star Wars Celebration, a fully functional BB8 appeared on stage that was freaking REAL! …But how?

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog New Star Wars Football Droid
New Star Wars Football Droid

You see Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney is credited with discovering this little known company called Sphero who are responsible for the BB8,s character’s movement. It turns out that this startup, headed by Paul Berberian, was selected for Disney’s accelerator program last year. According to Disney’s website, the three-month-long program picks tech startups who want to “make an impact on the world of media and entertainment,” giving them upwards of $120,000 in investment capital. It also gives each start-up a mentor from within Disney’s executive ranks…guess who was Sphero’s mentor? You guessed it: Bobby Iger, who’s now at the helm of Star Wars Empire, and saw at first hand Sphero’s technology in action, and then realized the potential of a Sphero style BB-8 droid and then connected with the creative imagineers working on the Star Wars Force Awakens characters.

Bob Iger,  has a great track record when it comes to acquiring companies and letting them continue in their creative freedom, and none more so when the Disney media empire bought the creators Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012, and although he’s kept a low profile, he was one of the fans sitting right in the front row at the massive Star Wars Celebration auditorium where a star-studded panel of J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and stars of past, present and future appeared on stage to premiere the 2nd Force Awakens trailer, but I’m sure he had a wry smile not just for the trailer, but when that fully functional and operational BB8 appeared on stage. I’m sure he also had a bigger smile 24 hours later when the Disney empire stock had risen by 2 BILLION Dollars, that’s almost as much as Avatar made, and half he paid for LucasFilm…just from a Teaser Trailer…Nice work JJ, Iger did say to you this was a $4 Billion movie, you just passed half way point. 🙂

Star Wars BB8 Ball Droid

What is also more interesting Disney are working on a Star Wars-themed fully functional BB-8 toy with Sphero…who wouldn’t want their own app controlled BB8 at Christmas 2015 rolling around their home…count me in!!…But Stop the Press, Industrial Designer Christian Poulsen has already done it…check it out.

As for Iger’s involvement in this much-loved film franchise he has stayed been behind the scenes, and so far has protected our Star Wars world from any overt “Disneyfication.” and managed to assuage the fears of this apprehensive Star Wars geek.