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So long as you have a compelling story to tell, sometimes having all the right people on the big screen is enough of a reason to sit through a movie.  But Agathie Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is like watching a play by Shakespeare.  You already know the story is excellent, and the challenge is how creatively the latest director will manipulate the strings and how deftly the actors will portray the characters.

The latest adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express has all the right components for a movie-lover’s two hours of bliss.  How will Kenneth Branagh orchestrate his next opus?  Like the magnificent Henry V or Much Ado About Nothing?  We can hope.  How will this room full of master thespians of the British and American schools play off each other?  Aren’t you inkling to find out?

This latest trailer for the film (see the first here if you missed it) expands the reach of the first, giving us a good look at Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Branagh directing Branagh as Inspector Poirot.  Other stars include Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom, Jr., Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, and Olivia Colman.  And don’t forget, publicity for the film has indicated that the clues of the crime are everywhere, including in posters and the trailers for the film.

Here is the second trailer for Murder on the Orient Express:

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Think fast, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon players–where can you find the lead actors of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica all in one film?

He is one of the top ten filmmakers of all time–Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, known for Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and much more, but Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is considered by many to be his masterwork.  It is a grand work that the film medium could not yet hope to transform into live action—a devastated world destroyed by atmospheric poisons, and barraged by gigantic insect beasts, sweeping cinematography, and a post-apocalyptic world layers and layers deep.  And from this arises a young woman named Nausicaä, princess of the Valley of the Wind.  Innocent and driven, can she piece back together what divides man and nature?

It’s a story of dangers and sacrifices, of epic scope, feuds between warring clans, a dying planet, and the forging of a new heroine.  A sci-fi adventure fantasy first released in Japan in 1984, Nausicaä’s story of protecting nature is a timeless tale.  Miyazaki adapted his own 1982 manga story for the screen, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with so many other great science fiction works internationally.  The film stars the voice talents of Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, and Iemasa Kayumi in this month’s subtitled screenings, with English voice actors including Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, Edward James Olmos, Shia LaBeouf, and Chris Sarandon in the dubbed screenings.

Frequently ranked as one of the greatest animated films of all time, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is being presented by Fathom Events in the States as part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2017.  Tickets are available now here at the Fathom Events website.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I can’t hazard a guess as to how many times I have watched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Probably a handful of times in 1982 and 1983, and at least once during a return to theaters in the past 35 years, plus a few times on VHS.  What stood out today, watching the film as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies 35th anniversary re-release screenings, is how ageless the film is.  A teenager sitting behind me caught every single joke.  In a time when parents don’t think to take their kids to classic film opportunities like this, the kids are truly missing a great experience.  The film is a giant adventure story set in the backyard of a boy and his brother and sister.  It’s relatable.  Just check out Elliott’s room.  There’s a toy Star Destroyer on the table.  A TIE Fighter across the room.  He carefully explains who Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrus Man, Snaggletooth, Lando, and Boba Fett are to E.T.  And that advance LEGO builder set on the shelf.  How many kids’ homes today, after all these years, still look so similar?  And someone nearby is getting ready to dress up as Yoda, or a character from his neighborhood, in only a few weeks, much like the kid E.T. tries to run off with on Halloween.

It’s not only relatable, it’s about that subject that sci-fi does best when done right:  Communication.  Last year’s acclaimed sci-fi film Arrival was all about it, but does it reach into each of us like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has?  We celebrated one of the best episodes of television this year here at borg.com, discussing the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest of all Star Trek episodes, Darmok from The Next Generation, a story entirely about the practical, real-world difficulty of communication.  Elliott, played so well by Henry Thomas, and later Gertie, played equally well by the younger Drew Barrymore, each use what knowledge a little kid has to try to relate to an outsider.  And we immediately see the problems–the barriers–that get in the way.  Elliott tries to convey to the very curious new alien visitor so willing to learn that this giant object is a peanut.  “You eat them, only you can’t eat this one because it’s not real.”  He’s describing a bank that was made to look like a peanut.  He then puts money in it.  And the result: E.T. next tries to eat a toy car.  Just as Dathon and Picard found, communication isn’t all that easy.  Only when Gertie gets her only one-on-one opportunity, of the three kids she is the one who helps E.T. gain his vocabulary.  The innocent and the youngest and the most awestruck.  And she’s also the first to understand he is trying to phone home.  Communication is difficult sometimes, but if kids can figure this out, what can adults do?

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This week’s release was the original cut, as seen in theaters in 1982, not with any modifications.  This is the first time the film has screened in theaters since the death of writer Melissa Mathison in 2015 (you might not have seen the laserdisc version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the only version ever released to feature Mathison’s then kinda-sorta well-known boyfriend Harrison Ford in the shadows as Elliott’s principal, meeting Elliott’s mom Mary (Dee Wallace) after his frog rescue–a bad scene, justifiably deleted).  I did not recall how much we see E.T. in the film’s first scene as he and other botanists search out samples.  E.T. carefully digs up what appears to be a Redwood sapling.  But I now understand what Spielberg was thinking in his later re-cut version.  As a kid I thought the humans were the enemy and yet this time I found no evidence of the humans trying to do anything other than learn about E.T.–much like the humans in Close Encounters of the Third Kind were scientists attempting to communicate.  In Close Encounters, the presence of weapons are to scare the public from the faked quarantine area.  Maybe that was the purpose of the weapons in the original E.T. cut.  But somehow the rifles seemed out-of-place when the kids were escaping on bikes, after E.T. dies, after showing all the adults desperately try to help, to save E.T, some even in tears.  This was the differentiator of Spielberg’s alien films from those that came before–the same spirit that only a few years earlier guided scientists to launch a couple of records into space hoping to communicate with someone out there.  So swapping out car phones or walkie talkies for rifles actually is consistent with the actions of the adults in the rest of the film.  I also can understand why so many little kids look back on the film as scary.  There’s plenty to scare little kids–those same things that scare E.T. throughout the film, as well as what might be many kids’ first introduction to death.  But the scene is gracefully done, and three decades later it’s great to hear that the adults are clearly heard attempting all those real-world, life-saving techniques to save our new alien friend.  Mathison masterfully blended a science fiction, a fantasy adventure, and a coming-of-age story all in one package.

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All you need to do to tell Alicia Vikander can not only act but has star power is watch her as the dramatic yet humorous secret agent in 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Or you could watch her portray a reality without a soul as a borg in 2014’s critically acclaimed sci-fi film Ex Machina.  Or how about her Oscar-winning performance awarded last year for her work in The Danish Girl?  She’s in theaters right now opposite Christoph Waltz in Tulip Fever and it seems more than fitting that the critically acclaimed dramatic actress is stepping into what could be a lucrative, major action hero role for her, taking over for Angelina Jolie in the reboot of Tomb Raider.  

This week started with the first official look at Vikander as video game franchise character Lara Croft in the first teaser poster for the film.  With the first trailer for the movie now available it’s clear that Norwegian film director Roar Uthaug (Escape, The Wave) and writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet (ROM, M.A.S.K., Sherlock Holmes 3, Captain Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons, Gotham City Sirens) are returning to the core of the character designed and created by Toby Gard to become one of the world’s best-selling franchises.  Gard said he left the company he created Lara Croft for because he was opposed to the idea and marketing of Lara’s sex appeal, with ever-increasing breast size in the game sequels after he left.  The sex appeal is still there but the film in the first trailer looks to be all about the adventure, exploring environments, solving riddles, and navigating traps with villains on her tail.  Clips from the trailer mirror some of the same kind of cliffhanger scenes found in each of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies–the same kind of adventure that made the original video game a success.  If you have any doubts that Vikander looks the part, just check out the comparison video after the clip below, which shows just how closely Vikander matches the Lara in the video game Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft has been around since 1996, in various versions of game play, based on at least eight different real-life models, and even voiced by the likes of Ashes to Ashes star Keeley Hawes and Good Will Hunting and The Riches star Minnie Driver.  The new film co-stars Walton Goggins, who always plays that half-cocked villain you are pleased to see get crushed under the hero’s toes, popping up in films like Predators, Cowboys and Aliens, Django Unchained, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and The Hateful Eight.  A big surprise–one of our favorite genre actors, Nick Frost (Attack the Block, Doctor Who, Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End), is in the film, plus Hannah-John Kamen (Killjoys, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ready Player One, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Dominic West (The Hour, John Carter, The Wire), and Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission: Impossible, The Golden Compass, The English Patient).

So check out the first trailer for Tomb Raider:

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Fans of the beloved Steven Spielberg film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial have only one more day to catch Steven Spielberg’s 1982 hit film in theaters.  As part of the TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events celebration of the 35th anniversary of some of the greatest films of all time, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial will be in theaters for only one more day via two screenings in hundreds of theaters nationwide.

You can still get tickets for one of two screenings showing locally Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.  For more information, to check theater availability, and to order tickets, check out the Fathom Events website here.

After unprecedented commercial success with Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg did the unthinkable, directing a fourth blockbuster that would outperform them all, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial saw the big screen breakout roles of Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, and C. Thomas Howell.  Nominated for nine Academy Awards, it would take home four awards, for John Williams’ vibrant score, for sound, visual effects, and sound effects editing.  The film is the only movie from the 1980s that is among the top 50 all-time box office record-holders, currently holding its place at#15.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service (reviewed here at borg.com) starts as you’d hope for, immediately slamming viewers into high gear with a frenetic car chase featuring BAFTA-winning actor Taron Egerton’s Brit spy Eggsy, defending himself from a kidnapping with the same level of over-the-top superhero moves that saved him from similar threats in the first film.  After the introduction of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which opens this Friday nationwide, the film loses the freshness and style of the original and shifts from a faithful James Bond homage to Bond as it might be interpreted by the Coen Brothers.  Where the original careened into the stuff of a Quentin Tarentino film in its major action sequences, the sequel shifts into a quirky blend of gore, explosives, and caricatures that moves beyond Bond homage to more of an Austin Powers parody.

The sequel offers up a top tier cast.  BAFTA winner Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Stardust, Kick-Ass, Green Lantern, John Carter, Zero Dark Thirty) returns as Merlin and–no surprise from the trailers–Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Shakespeare in Love, Pride and Prejudice) is back as agent Galahad and Edward Holcroft (Wolf Hall) returns as rejected Kingsman Charlie.  Audiences saw both die in the original.  Firth is picture-perfect in every scene, as if he was always destined to have a 007 role.  Holcroft, who you might easily mistake for Chris Evans, offers up a more fleshed out character this round, and he gets some of the better one-on-one battles against Eggsy, complete with a nifty Swiss Army multi-functional borg arm.

New to the world of the Kingsmen are their American spy agency counterparts.  The leader is played by Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, RIPD, Hell or High Water, Tron, True Grit, Iron Man) in a classic Southern-accented delivery, appearing for a few brief scenes.  Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), whose moustache makes him a ringer for a 1970s Burt Reynolds, breaks out in his performance as an agent with some mad lasso skills.  And true to form, genre favorite Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street) shows up with the swagger of a Southern lawman, but in only the briefest of scenes, much like his smaller roles in G.I. Joe: Retribution and Hail, Caesar!  The U.S. spy squad is full of Hee Haw-vibed caricatures of Americans, albeit echoing Joe Don Baker’s drawling U.S. roles in three Bond movies (The Living Daylights, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies).  The women have the better parts in Kingsman: The Golden Circle:  Academy Award winner Halle Barry (X-Men series, Catwoman, Monster’s Ball) is the American “Q” with the nicely Ian Fleming name of Ginger Ale–the former “Bond girl” flipping sides this time from Bond co-lead and love interest (Die Another Day) to the current Ben Whishaw I.T. guru role.  And Academy Award winner Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Children of Men) is the film’s villain, a drug kingpin named Poppy–a strange, comic books-meet-Coen Brothers baddie bent on world domination, with scary calm Jack Nicholson Joker insanity and a 1950s chic.  We’ve seen some Bond villains far out there, but Moore’s Poppy is one who could out-crazy them all.

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BIG Chief Studios’ marketing line should be “go BIG or go home.”  This year the UK-base company has locked three of the big four British giant genre franchises, and it’s rolling out even more of the company’s internationally popular 1:6 scale figures by year end.  With deals for James Bond’s Goldfinger, BBC’s Sherlock, and Doctor Who, BIG Chief has become the new source for high-end British series pop culture collectible figures.

BIG Chief is expanding into James Bond territory with Goldfinger, releasing this month great likenesses of actors Sean Connery as Bond, Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger, and Harold Sakata as Oddjob.  The figures each include several accessories, fabric clothing, displays, and attractive packaging, and can be pre-ordered now at online superstore Entertainment Earth.  The Bond series also is available in a set bundling all three characters.

The collectible company selected the big three from BBC’s Sherlock, creating a figure of Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes (Limited Edition 1000), Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson (Limited Edition 800; Signature Edition 200), and Andrew Scott as Moriarty (Limited Edition 1000; Signature Edition 400), now available only in the aftermarket, such as via eBay.  Three new figures are available for pre-order now at Entertainment Earth: classic Holmes as seen in “The Abominable Bride,” classic Watson as seen in “The Abominable Bride,” and Moriarty as seen in “The Reichenbach Fall.”  BIG Chief also is selling a 1:6 scale diorama set of the entrance to 221B Baker Street (Limited Edition 1000; Signature Edition 250).

   

BIG Chief’s Doctor Who collection has something for every Doctor Who fan.

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Perhaps the best part of the film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were the two behind the scenes books that provided superb coverage of the costumes, props, and vehicles from the film: the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Tech Manual reviewed here, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film, reviewed here.  These books demonstrate that despite the negative reception of a film by audiences, fans of the beloved characters have some resources to find inspiration for their next cosplay or prop-building project.  The next in the line of books probing behind the scenes of the DC Comics universe created for the big screen is this summer’s Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling (author of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes).  Anyone needing good source photographs of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors of her origin story for their next cosplay project will find some great references here, including photos of the greatest of the Amazon warriors, Robin Wright’s badass general Antiope, plus swords and shields of key characters developed for the film.

The best section of the book provides interviews with two-time Academy Award-nominated production designer Aline Bonetto (Amélie) and Academy Award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (Topsy-Turvy) as they discuss the planning and development of audiences’ first look at Themyscira on film.  Both worked together closely coordinating design elements between their departments as concepts were developed.  You’ll find 192 pages of artwork, marketing images, on-location photographs, and costumes as they were sketched and later finalized for wear, all in quality color photographs on thick paper stock.  Costume designer Lemming notes that the entirety of the Amazon warrior costume components were prepared by hand, without 3-D printers or similar modern techniques, intending for the resulting products to look as the characters themselves might have made them.  Although Gadot’s costume was already set prior to Hemming’s involvement due to Wonder Woman’s introduction in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–the costume was designed by Academy Award-nominated designer Michael Wilkinson (American Hustle, Tron: Legacy)–Hemming discusses re-designing the boots and attempting to make the rest of the costume more comfortable for Gadot, and this was an element for the other costume designs as well, many of which would be used for stunt and action scenes requiring significant movement.

Two-time Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer (The Golden Compass, The Life of Pi) managed the film’s significant use of CGI along with practical effects where possible.  Westenhofer discusses stunt sequences (including the end of film fight scenes) and points out where the film required digital rendering to illustrate the story’s grand environments.

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The season two premiere of Stranger Things is only six weeks away.  Since August Netflix has released several posters to get viewers back in prime throwback 1980s-mode.  Netflix’s marketing team was careful to suggest their source material without being exact duplicates of past posters, but some are closer than others.  It’s all about getting viewers prepped for another trip to the Upside Down, and a darker sophomore season.  We’ve already seen the kids sporting Ghostbusters costumes in previews.  And earlier posters carried images inspired by the work of motion picture poster artists that defined late 20th century film advertising, like John Alvin, Drew Struzan, and Bob Peak.  It all started with the season two general homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and twelve character posters (all shown below).  If you’ve ever collected movie posters, you know how close the creators got these to the fading prints after all these years, plus posters in the 1980s were often shipped folded to theaters just like many of their creations for the series this summer.

The new round of posters focuses even more on the horror pop culture with a nod to the B-movie genre.  If these posters are any indication, adding to the Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg callbacks throughout season one, expect even more horror in season two a la Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, and even Paul Michael Glaser (that’s right Starsky from Starsky and Hutch directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man).  We’re not sure how The Running Man fits in other than a unique poster to emulate, but maybe the action will be kicked into higher gear this year.

   

So check out these posters (below and above) and their inspirations from Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, Glaser’s The Running Man, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Stephen King’s Firestarter, and the Stand By Me adaptation of King’s original story, The BodyThe Elm Street match-up may be the best because of the common show’s Nancy reference.  But the picture they all form is pretty clear.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller backed the summer’s best preview from San Diego Comic-Con 2017 seen here.  Darkness and nostalgia are coming.

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When a movie director can re-create the right look and feel of a time and place, the film can take audiences in a darkened theater into the past as well as any time machine.   This year the re-creation is July 1973 and the place is Rome.  The subject is a celebrity family kidnapping that has faded in the memories of most and unknown to the rest, the kidnapping of oil baron and “The Richest Man in the World” J. Paul Getty’s grandson, and the efforts taken to get him back.  All the Money in the World is based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson, with a script by David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)).  The real-life account of the kidnapping is the stuff of great drama, full of strange decisions and bizarre actions by all involved.  The kidnapping is best known for the ear that was put in the mail–and delayed by a postal strike in Italy–sent by the kidnappers to press the Getty family to pay the ransom.  The story has plenty of room to illustrate the bumbling and the Reversal of Fortune-esque actions of the uber-wealthy that occurred along the way.

The film is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer) as J. Paul Getty III.  Michelle Williams portrays Gail Harris, mother of the kidnapped Getty.  Kevin Spacey looks believable as the aged and eccentric billionaire Getty and Timothy Hutton plays his lawyer.  And Mark Wahlberg, the highest paid actor in Hollywood, portrays the preposterously–but actual–named Fletcher Chase, a “tall, craggy-faced American” who was an ex-CIA operative from San Diego sent by the billionaire to assist in the release of his grandson.

The 1970s era (although the early part of the decade instead of the later) and a key role by a single hardened CIA-trained operative echoes Ben Affleck’s 2012 Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo.  The 1970s look and feel in All the Money in the World is provided by Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (Gladiator, Blackhawk Down, The Martian, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus) and set decorators on several productions featuring Italy of the past, Letizia Santucci, Cristina Onori, and Gianpaulo Rifino.  The film also features acclaimed genre cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Martian, War Machine, Dark City, Alice in Wonderland, Alien: Covenant, and the 1980s best rock videos from Aerosmith and Van Halen to The Bangles and Suzanne Vega).

Check out this first trailer for All the Money in the World:

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