Category: Movies


With what seems like an ever-widening move away from superhero movies for kids in the live-action arm of DC Entertainment–from a too-long recut of Justice League to another Suicide Squad movie aimed at adult audiences–fans of comic book movies for all ages should be glad to hear three big pieces of news this month from Warner Brothers about forthcoming film projects.  It’s hard to beat word that Helen Mirren has been cast as a new villainess in Shazam: Fury of the Gods, the sequel to Zachary Levi’s Shazam!, a good-hearted favorite of the DC live-action movies.  Along with her untouchable slate of acting honors, Mirren’s performances in the RED and Fast & Furious franchises make her perfect casting. 

Now Pierce Brosnan is returning to theaters in a major role since we last saw him in the great action-drama The Foreigner (reviewed here).  He’s playing Dr. Fate opposite Dwayne Johnson, who has the title role, in Black Adam, coming in July 2022.  That DC project keeps sounding better and better, and Johnson has been talking about it publicly since at least 2008.  It will feature Sarah Shahi (Fairly Legal, Life, Psych) as Isis and Aldis Hodge (Leverage, Black Mirror, Star Trek: Short Treks) as Carter Hall aka Hawkman.

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luke cage

Ten years!  That’s ten years reviewing TV series in the decade that streaming services began to dominate TV viewing– and binge-watching was born as Netflix began releasing entire seasons at once in 2013.  How do you pick the best series?  As with yesterday’s list of movie recommendations, our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great TV series?  Great writing—great storytelling.  Also we looked to difficulty level and technology innovation—TV productions tend to get a fraction of the budget of big-screen features, so what they do with their time and money is critical, and some television series in the past decade were all-out feats.  The third factor we looked to is re-watchability—we’ll be watching the best series for years to come.  The big difference between ranking movies and TV is the change between seasons, that force that inevitably causes most shows to decline with each season.  So consistency is a factor.  Finally, as with movies the most important factor is the fun—why would you devote so many hours of your valuable time if you’re not going to have a great time?

Manda

One more thing: Ten years is a long time so we narrowed the series we’re including to those recommendations that fall primarily within the ten-year window.  We covered several fantastic, re-watchable series that cemented their status in reruns or syndication, many beginning before borg began publishing and finishing in the years after, including Burn Notice, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Leverage, House, MD, In Plain Sight, and three landmarks among the best pop culture-packed series of all time, Chuck, Psych, and Community.  We were disappointed that some of the best series were canceled and left to only a single season, otherwise they may have gone on to fare better against our top recommendations, shows like Jason Isaacs’ psychological police procedural Awake, Sarah Shahi’s all-for-fun Fairly Legal, Lauren Cohan’s action/spy series Whiskey Cavalier, the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ popular noir novel series Quarry, the slick animated series Tron: Uprising, and the cyborg future-world Almost Human starring Karl Urban, to name a few.

Grimm

So here are the Top 40 series we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these shows.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new series to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre series.  Title links are to one of our previous borg reviews.

Let’s get started!

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haught-clexacon

ClexaCon is a new convention this year featuring stars and creators of LGBTQ characters across all genres of television and film.  It’s happening this Friday through Sunday at the Bally’s & Paris hotel convention centers in Las Vegas.  This first ClexaCon is featuring several well-known genre headliners from series past and present.

Celebrity guests at ClexaCon 2017 from last year’s new hit Syfy Channel series Wynonna Earp include Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Katherine Barrell (Nicole Haught).  Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer (Lauren), Rachel Skarsten (Tamsen), and Ali Liebert (Crystal) will appear along with Lost Girl and Wynonna Earp showrunner Emily Andras.  Palmer also appeared in Dark Matter, Skarsten has appeared in Birds of Prey, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Reign, and Liebert has appeared in iZombie, Fringe, Legends of Tomorrow, and Psych.  Amy Acker, star of Angel, Person of Interest, and Con Man is also a guest of the show, along with Life, Person of Interest, and Fairly Legal star Sarah Shahi.

shahi-acker

Other media guests include Elise Bauman (Carmilla), Lynn Chen (Saving Face), Gabrielle Christian (South of Nowhere), Aasha Davis (South of Nowhere, Pariah), Elizabeth Hendrickson (All My Children), producer Hanan Kattan (I Can’t Think Straight), Elizabeth Keener (The L Word), Michelle Krusiec (Saving Face), Mandy Musgrave (South of Nowhere), Natasha Negovanlis (Carmilla), Jasika Nicole (Fringe, Suicide Kale), Eden Riegel (All My Children), writer/director Shamim Sarif (I Can’t Think Straight), and writer/director Alice Wu (Saving Face).

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Before Greg Berlanti became a household name, responsible for creating, writing, or producing hit television series like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Riverdale, he created a successful drama for the WB network that would help propel his career forward–Everwood.  What could have been a flop on paper–a family drama about a widower who takes his career as a neurosurgeon and his son and daughter to a small town in Colorado to start again–became an engaging and enjoyable series with an electric cast and powerful writing.  The entire four seasons, all 89 episodes of the 2002-2006 series is now streaming via CW Seed online for free.

Treat Williams (The Empire Strikes Back, 1941, The Phantom, White Collar) starred as Dr. Andy Brown, an immensely successful big city neurosurgeon who, while intruding on the turf of the pompous local family doctor, Dr. Harold Abbott, played by Tom Amandes (Arrow, Fairly Legal, Leverage), begins to become an invaluable and influential member of the community.  Standout in the cast was Debra Mooney (Dead Poets Society, Tootsie) as Dr. Abbott’s mother Edna, whose snarky attitude was perfect as she helps the new doctor with his clinic across the street from her own son’s competing clinic.  Stephanie Niznik (Star Trek: Insurrection, Enterprise) played Dr. Brown’s friendly neighbor Nina, and Brenda Strong (Dallas) played Dr. Brown’s late wife in flashbacks.

But Everwood, which has not been available on any previous streaming service, will probably be best known for the breakout roles of two Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star Lord Chris Pratt and Captain America’s love interest Sharon Carter from Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, Emily VanCamp.  VanCamp and Pratt had significant roles on Everwood.  Portraying Dr. Abbott’s teenage kids, VanCamp was Amy, the target of affection of Dr. Brown’s son Ephram (Gregory Smith, selected for the role over Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki), and Pratt was Ephram’s not-so-bright new friend, ironically named Bright.  Both actors shined in these early performances (and were a real-life couple for several years).

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I watched two movie trailers this week for films coming out in 2013 and they prompted me to have several discussions with friends about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Some things you might not know that I learned this week:

Stallone was born in July 1946.  Arnold in July 1947.  That makes Stallone 66 years old and Arnold 65 years old.

Both of these guys are mega-action stars.  OK, you knew that.  At age 20 Arnold won the Mr. Universe competition.  He went on to win Mr. Olympia seven times.  Not an award winning bodybuilder, Stallone is no slouch, claiming to have reached a personal best of a 2.8% body fat percentage to film Rocky III.

Both of these guys have relied on their muscles in their action roles for years, making them literally seem bigger than life.

 

So I watched the preview for The Last Stand this week.  Check out the preview I posted earlier here.  If you missed it, check it out and come right back.  Arnold is playing a tough guy.  An older tough guy who seems like he is in his sixties.  So then I saw this trailer for Bullet to the Head.  Now check this out:

The movie seems pretty standard action fare for Stallone, similar to something like Tango and Cash from 1989 when Stallone was 43.  The thing is, Stallone looks like he’s in his late forties.  Maybe fifties.  But his late sixties?  Is this really Stallone?  He looks almost as good as he did in Tango and Cash.

Maybe Arnold is just playing old in The Last Stand.  After all it is about “acting” isn’t it?  Yet I can’t help wonder if the governor gig didn’t allow him to keep in shape so much and maybe lose pace with his long-time blockbuster competitor, Mr. Stallone.  Stallone is in better shape than everyone I know in their forties, so a big “bravo” to him for keeping so fit.

OK, so enough about comparing Stallone and Arnold.  This trailer doesn’t look too bad, but probably something I would wait for Netflix for.  One odd thing is the bullet coming from the movie screen at the audience.  Seems like something they might have adjusted in light of recent events.  The biggest redeeming quality of the trailer?  For me, seeing Sarah Shahi at last coming to the big screen.  Shahi gets some real face time in this trailer as the daughter of Stallone’s character.  Heck they even have coordinating tattoos.  As Shahi’s first foray into a big movie role, this role will hopefully do great things for her career.  She has been stellar in both the TV series Life, as a cop, and Fairly Legal, as a lawyer.

Bullet to the Head hits theaters February 1, 2013.  That’s 2 weeks after The Last Stand premieres.  So we will get to see which movie audiences want to see, and it will be fun seeing these two stars go head to head once again.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

NBC’s new John Grisham-inspired series The Firm premiered this week with a two-hour special (it moves to its regular night and time this Thursday at 8 pm).  To some, the original film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Holly Hunter (et al) might still feel startlingly recent, certainly not a candidate for a remake already–but surprisingly, it’s been 20 years, so the timing actually seems right for a TV version.  Evidently the show’s producers had that same sense, however, for they make it clear this is a “New Chapter” of the story, occurring ten years after the events of the novel/film.

Starring Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Poseidon, Hulk), Molly Parker (Dexter, Deadwood), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice), Juliet Lewis (Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear), and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica, 24), the first episode starts with a bang, dropping hero Mitch McDeere–and us–into a frantic foot chase across the Washington, D.C. Mall.  The chase is intriguing, if a pale shadow of Tom Cruise’s flight through a Memphis cotton-processing district, and it’s unclear whether McDeere is being pursued by criminals or cops, which adds a nice element of suspense.  He eludes his captors–so he believes–to confront a paranoid witness in a hotel room, who insists he can’t help McDeere, and to stress that point, flings himself off his hotel balcony.

Flash back six weeks, to learn McDeere and wife Abby have recently left the aegis of the Witness Protection Program they entered after the brilliantly-executed Get Out of Jail Free plan at the end of the original apparently failed spectacularly (i.e. the mob is after them).  It’s a little bit of a misstep, I think, as there was such cleverness and confidence in the climax to The Firm, that to immediately be told, “Oh, well, it didn’t work,” is fairly disappointing.  We’d like to see more of that slyness and charm, which Cruise pulled off so well, replicated here.

Which brings me to my thoughts on the pilot as a whole.  Instead of the intrigue-driven legal thriller of the novel and original film, the TV series appears to be shaping up as a fairly ho-hum courtroom drama.  The bulk of the two hours are spent on McDeere’s pro bono legal defense of a young boy charged with murdering a classmate.  It’s all very heartrending (so they hope), but ultimately not what this viewer, at least, tuned in for.  Balancing that is the subplot of McDeere being wooed by a local law firm, headed up by Tricia Helfer, looking to add a criminal defense division to their company.  It’s immediately obvious that McDeere will accept (witness the show’s title and entire premise), although the terms he demands are sort of interesting.

Performances are… OK.  I enjoyed watching Lucas, but although I’ve never been a particular fan of Tom Cruise, there is something missing from the performance here (or the script; it remains to be seen).  Abby McDeere, played here by Molly Parker, is cast in the role of smart, involved partner–she’s still a schoolteacher, but she is completely abreast of her husband’s work issues… all of which makes total sense, given the backstory presented us, and which is a refreshing addition to the story.  It’s nice to see the female lead with a head on her shoulders and a firm grasp of the full picture. (Their daughter, on the other hand, was an annoying distraction.)

Adding to the cast are Juliette Lewis, in the role Holly Hunter played in the original film, and Callum Keith Rennie, playing McDeere’s ex-con brother-slash-private-investigator.  This was a clever move on the part of the TV series, I think–they’ve combined two characters from the original (the ex-con brother and the hard-drinking P.I.) into one here, which works out very well, and was probably the part of the show I personally found most interesting.

Still, despite decent scriptwriting and casting, the verdict is still out on this new series.  I’m not sure I really care about a straightforward courtroom drama, and they’ll need to up the stakes and genre intrigue to keep me tuning in.  Likewise, it is really difficult to foresee how they’ll manage to build an entire season–let alone a whole series–from the events of six weeks.  What is the future here?  I’ll give it a few more episodes, but I’m not promising to stick it out.

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