Category: Movies


Since launching it’s studio of direct-to-streaming films, Netflix has not been lacking for sci-fi.  The latest in its line of space disasters is Stowaway, coming to your TV sets next month.  It’s a suspense thriller about a long-term voyage to Mars that–no surprise–has a stowaway, and other problems that require some life-and-death decisions of the Kobayashi Maru variety.  Because of the stranded lifepod nature of the story, look for a small cast.  It stars Anna Kendrick (Twilight, End of Watch), with Daniel Dae Kim (Star Trek Enterprise, Star Trek Voyager), Shamier Anderson (Wynonna Earp, Lost Girl) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Shaft).

Check out the trailer for Netflix’s Stowaway.

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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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Berkeley Breathed, Mike Mignola, Lynn Johnston, Joe Jusko, Kevin Eastman, Freddie Williams III, JK Woodward, Scott and David Tipton, Marc Andreyko, Bobby Moynihan, and cast from Wynonna Earp, are among dozens of comic book and television creators to be featured at signings and panels hosted by IDW Publishing at next week’s 49th annual San Diego Comic-Con.

As you’d expect IDW will also be bringing to Booth #2743 lots of comic book exclusives and special edition hardcover format books.  You’ll find Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin, and John Byrne Artist’s Editions, plus comics featuring Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DuckTales, Danger Girl, Judge Dredd, My Little Pony, Sonic, Transformers, Ghostbusters, Sword of Ages, and more, including several exclusive variant covers only available at SDCC 2018.

Get more information on all the SDCC 2018 exclusives from IDW at the publisher’s website here.

Here are the announced exclusives from IDW, followed by IDW’s signings and panels:

Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Monsters Artist’s Edition, Heroes Convention Variant
Cover by Jack Kirby
$150, Limited to 100 units
15” x 22”
Many of Jack “King” Kirby’s most iconic heroes (Captain America, the X-Men, Ant-Man, and Sgt. Fury) join seven of his best monster stories in this collection, plus a gallery section filled with covers and pin-ups.  Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring Tales of Suspense #98 — Captain America versus Black Panther.

Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Monsters Artist’s Edition, Monsters Convention Variant
Cover by Jack Kirby
$150, Limited to 100 units
15” x 22”

Jim Starlin’s Marvel Cosmic Artifact Edition, Signed Convention Variant
Cover by Jim Starlin
$150, Limited to 100 units, each with a bound-in signature plate signed by Jim Starlin.
12” x 17”
This Artifact Edition focuses on Jim Starlin’s beloved Warlock, Thanos, and Captain Marvel, stories that shaped the Marvel Universe for decades. Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 with Thanos fighting Spider-Man and the Thing.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition, Signed Convention Variant
Cover by John Byrne
$150, Limited to 100 units, each with a bound-in signature plate signed by John Byrne.
12” x 17”
John Byrne’s run on the X-Men that introduced Alpha Flight and created the near-mythical storylines “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past!”  Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring X-Men #133, where Wolverine goes berserker-style on the Hellfire Club.

Joe Jusko’s Marvel Masterpieces Hardcover Convention Variant
Cover by Joe Jusko
$75 each, Limited to 150 units
Joe Jusko’s complete Marvel Masterpieces painted trading card art from the 2016 Upper Deck set is collected in its entirety for the first time — more than 130 never-before-seen masterpieces, including hard-to-find premium cards.  Debuting at this year’s SDCC is the variant cover featuring a new painting of the Incredible Hulk.

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It’s like Quentin Tarentino bought the rights to direct a Clue remake and merged it with another Kill Bill sequel and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.  Whichever way it ends up, the creators of the late summer release Ready or Not know how to make a great movie trailer.  Disney’s new production arm Fox Searchlight, known for independent, horror, and comedy films, looks to have produced a clever idea: a horror film with quirky dark Tim Burton-esque black comedy in a traditional mystery setting.  Make that two trailers, both a good greenband trailer and a good redband trailer.  Check out both trailers below.

Australian actress Samara Weaving (Ash vs Evil Dead, Picnic at Hanging Rock) plays bride Grace, whose new husband, played by Mark O’Brien (Arrival, Warehouse 13), belongs to a family with an eccentric tradition.  The bride must draw a card and survive the game on the card to pass the test and join the family.  She chooses “Hide and Seek” and the family grabs their weapon of choice and proceed to try to kill her.  In the backdrop is this great mansion, backed with production design by Andrew M. Stearn (Chicago, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killjoys), and costumes by Avery Plewes (The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Discovery).  There’s not much not to like here, except the splattery blood and gore and language that won’t be for every audience.  For everyone else this looks like plenty of goofy fun.

Some high points not to overlook are the Canada actors TV watchers should be familiar with, especially Orphan Black’s standout funnyman Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano.  Other familiar faces include Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day), Henry Czerny (Clear and Present Danger), Adam Brody (Shazam!), Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, Orphan Black), Hanneke Talbot (iZombie, Star Trek Discovery), and John Ralston (Haven, Reign).  Ready or Not is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, with a screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy.

Here are both the PG-13 and the R versions of the trailers for Ready or Not:

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In-person cancellations have not kept every event this summer from canceling entirely.  One of those is typically one of the summer’s biggest events, San Diego Comic-Con.  Events for SDCC 2020 are proceeding ahead beginning Wednesday, but this time providing an opportunity for fans of all things pop culture a chance to sit through the kinds of panels you might see were you to attend in person in any regular year–without standing overnight in lines.  You can even grab a lanyard off the rack, print your own badge (for you and your pets), cosplay with your family, and load the panels up on as big of a screen as you have.  It’s 350 panels over five days, beginning Wednesday, July 22, and wrapping up Sunday, July 26.  Check out all our suggestions for building your own fun convention week experience below.

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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Despite delays in releases due to the covid pandemic, nothing kept Hollywood from including great female characters on the screen, even if that meant moving movies to the small screen for a while. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2020 compares?  Here are 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add masked superheroines, a CDC epidemiologist, aliens, assassins, martial artists, warriors, cyborgs, a telephone operator, an engineer, a bounty hunter, and a frog and a pig–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020:

Bo-Katan Kryze (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).  In the animated series she would let nothing stand in her way. In a galaxy with villains like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Grand Moff Gideon, we’re lucky to have Bo-Katan on our side. Leading a team to find the Darksaber and restore Mandalore, she’s also willing to enlist a lone straggler, and help him for his efforts. With Katee Sackhoff, the actress behind Starbuck, in the armor, the coolness factor goes up by a factor of 100. Great heroines are great leaders, and, like Bo-Katan, they wield an incredible arsenal of skills. (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Nicole Haught in Wynonna Earp

Sheriff Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp).  Katherine Barrell’s tough, savvy, and friendly sheriff is one of the best reasons to watch Wynonna Earp, now four seasons running. She’s the girlfriend of Wynonna’s sister Waverly, she is plugged into the local supernatural happenings, and she’s always available to lend a hand, when she’s not carrying out her sheriff duties. She’s an investigator who is loyal, driven, and smart. She’s also fun and friendly, making her the heart of the series. In a show about supernatural people, she holds her own as law enforcer simply by her own human wits. (Syfy)

Seven of Nine (Star Trek Picard).  More than forty years of Star Trek have revealed some exceptional women leaders. This year we were lucky to see the re-appearance of one of the best, a character who was captured as a child and trapped in what amounts to a technological cult. With the help of a strong captain, Seven was able to break free, and re-learn what it means to be human. This year that meant helping a legendary former admiral, avenge the death of her closest friend, and fight for good long after her call to duty. (CBS All Access)

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Is there a great movie to take your spouse for your anniversary?  Ready or Not may be the one.  An atmospheric Gothic story that doubles as dark comedy and horror-lite cautionary tale, it’s a fun flick that will get you in the mood for the holiday–Halloween, that is.  It’s about a wedding, about marriage, and marrying into a new family.  And in-laws.  It’s also about the dark side of families, the skeletons in the closet.  Australian actress Samara Weaving plays Grace, and we meet her on her wedding day, marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien), a young man who has tried to extricate himself from his eccentric family.  But now he’s back.  He warns his new bride that his family has a “first night” tradition, requiring her to participate in a game.  First she must draw a card and all she must do is play the game.  To her surprise, statistics of chance kick in and she draws the single dreaded card, for “Hide and Seek.”  The house rule for this game is the new member of the family is the target, and it’s a game played to the death.  Is the family crazy, or is there some real dark force behind their madness?

As you might guess from the trailers, it’s like Quentin Tarentino bought the rights to direct a Clue remake and merged it with another Kill Bill sequel and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.  Credit the setting with much of Ready or Not′s atmosphere, filming at mansions Casa Loma and Parkwoods Estate in Ontario.  Behind the action of characters running through the house is expert production design by Andrew M. Stearn (Chicago, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killjoys) and costumes (including a noteworthy wedding dress that devolved over the course of the film) by Avery Plewes (The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Discovery).  Fans of the classic creep-fest Wicker Man take note: This is another film about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Samara Weaving shows she’s ready to take on the big roles going today to the likes of Margot Robbie and Emma Stone.  A big high point of the film is the mix of quietly haunting and jumpy, rousing music, thanks to composer Brian Tyler (Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Aliens v. Predator: Requiem, The Final Destination, The Expendables, Thor: The Dark World).

Most of the fun comes from a supporting cast of familiar faces.  Genre TV watchers should recognize Orphan Black’s Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano, playing a hysterical sister and brother-in-law.  Other familiar faces include Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) as the bride’s mother-in-law (MacDowell seems to conjure Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill here), her husband is Clear and Present Danger’s Henry Czerny, with Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, Orphan Black), Hanneke Talbot (iZombie, Star Trek Discovery), and John Ralston (Haven, Reign) rounding out the key players.  The most interesting is the bride’s new brother-in-law, played by Shazam!’s Adam Brody.

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It’s time for borg.com′s annual look at the year’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons, and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2017 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a pregnant gunfighter, a mutant mental patient, a double agent, a space pilot, an alien security officer, a pregnant former psychopathic killing machine, a cyborg assassin, a mythic warrior, a maverick mercenary, a warrior, a commander of armies, an alien slave turned teacher, an angry young mutant, and a teenage high school reporter.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2017:

Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp).  Melanie Scrofano not only played Wynonna Earp as pregnant in this year’s second season, she actually was.  And that didn’t slow her down, defeating all the evil Revenants in the town of Purgatory, and incorporating the discomfort of pregnancy made for great comic release all season long.  Who had the tougher task, Earp or Scrofano?  Either way, the series showed it’s a keeper and Earp the sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter we continue to love.

Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok).  As cool and powerful as Cate Blanchett’s Hela was in this year’s pinnacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the real scene stealer in Thor: Ragnarok was Tessa Thompson’s surprising new tough heroine, Valkyrie.  Cocky?  Yep.  And she backed up that confidence with mad fighting skills and brains–enough of a combination to help Thor & Co. save the people of Asgard and get some revenge for the Valkyries who lost the original battle against Hela.  As much as any other character, we’re looking forward to more of Valkyrie in next year’s ultimate team-up Avengers: Infinity War.

Luv (Blade Runner 2049).  If Blade Runner 2049 is remembered for anything, it should be Sylvia Hoeks’ badass Replicant oddly (ironically?) named Luv.  First unassuming, polished, and pristine in her mannerisms, she later reveals she can be the next best thing since Sarah Connor and the Terminators.  Luv is a fierce, brutal borg whose villainy became the high point of the film.

Laureline (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).  Cocky yet sympathetic, loyal and determined, the space pilot 50 years in the making made it to the screen this year and Cara Delevingne delivered a surprise performance as the co-lead and equal half of Luc Besson’s science fiction space duo.  Her confidence was second to none, she stood up for what she believed and took what she wanted, and still had time to care for a lost rare species while making sure she protected her partner’s back.  We’d like to think she dropped the creepy egotistical Valerian in her next adventure, but she did exactly what she wanted to, and seemed to have one of those modern romances that worked for her.  Quirky, snarky, funny, and tough, she took out a room full of men with weapons and made it look like she wasn’t even trying.  Laureline has it all.

Helena (Orphan Black).  Of all the characters played by Tatiana Maslany in the series’ five seasons, who knew the sestra that would write the book on them all would be Helena, the once ruthless, psychopathic killing machine who once befriended a scorpion in prison?  This year Maslany wrapped up what must be the best role for a performer in the history of television.  No one has ever played so many parts in a series, and played them beautifully.  Each character had her moment, but Helena would make our list if she was in any series.

Antiope (Wonder Woman).  The opening minutes to this year’s DC film Wonder Woman finally adapted to film what comic book readers have seen all along–that the Amazons were a creation that should have been on the screen long before 2017.  The envy of them all was the brave and strong Antiope, played by Robin Wright.  It was the character that launched a thousand memes, and what greater way to illustrate the mentoring of Wonder Woman than via Wright’s ultimate warrior.

Commander Lin Mae (The Great Wall).  Jing Tian’s Lin, commander of the Crane Corps who takes charge of the Nameless Order and staves off the Tao Tieh, may be the year’s most dynamic and talented superhero–not technically a superhero, she looked superhuman in all her battle scenes.  She was decisive and cut through the nonsensical parts of the story.  Her aerobatic skill in defending the Great Wall, leading the largest military force ever, and saving her people in the process makes Commander Lin an easy entry on this year’s kick-ass list.

Betty Cooper (Riverdale).  It took 77 years but fans of Archie Comics finally got what they always wanted: a television series true to the characters generations have grown up with.  CW’s Riverdale gave viewers 1.5 seasons to soak up Archie and his pals with a tremendously well-written story team led by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but best of all was the casting of Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica.  Both were badass frenemies, but Betty’s story really allowed her to save the day time after time while taking the high road, even becoming a member of the Southside gang to help Jughead, and as intrepid school reporter, sleuthing out and taking down the town serial killer known as The Black Hood.

Trubel (Grimm).  When the Wesen become too much for Grimm’s Nick Burkhardt, the series’ other Grimm warrior Theresa “Trubel” Rubel came to the rescue.  Reserved and measured in her actions, she also never hesitated to take someone’s head off to protect her newly found family.  In the series finale this year she even took on Nick directly when she disagreed with his plan, only to help take down the Zerstörer after an ultimate confrontation team-up with the ghosts of Kelly and Marie, and Nick.  What we’d give for a Grimm spin-off with Jacqueline Toboni bringing her character into new adventures!

Syd Barrett (Legion).  Many viewers saw the twisted look at the X-Men in the new FX series Legion as the best of the superhero fare on television this year.  The highlight of the show was Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett, who became girlfriend to series lead hero David Haller.  Revealing a brutal dark side to being a superhero mutant, Syd’s powers won’t allow her to physically make contact with anyone, yet she makes it work anyway.  She’s willing to use her powers to switch bodies with anyone she touches to save those she cares about, even at great pain and loss.  Syd fights through her own doubts, uncertainty of reality, and those that have lied to her to break through and take what she wants.  She’s a fighter and triumphant, with only more battles ahead as season two is just around the corner.

Martha Jumanji

Martha/Ruby Roundhouse (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle).  She was a shy kid who got detention for objecting to phys ed class.  But once she got sucked into the Jumanji video game, she became Ruby Roundhouse, “killer of men,” with the symbol of a karate fighter as her avatar.  A badass in every way, she is a commando and deadly dancefighter, with mad skills in all sorts of martial arts.  Just keep her away from venom–that is her single weakness.

Andrea/Andra’ath Quill (Class).  We only had eight episodes to get to know Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off series Class, but what we saw in Katherine Kelly’s alien slave turned teacher was the foundation for an incredible series that could have been.  Quill made the ultimate break from oppressor Charlie, the last surviving prince of an alien war.  That didn’t stop her from finding a way out, while taking care of the prince and the small class of would-be student heroes.  Quill could have taken the show in infinite directions had viewers supported the series more.  Regardless, Katherine Kelly’s Quill will always be remembered as a kick-ass heroine in a class by herself.

Lt. Alara Kitan (The Orville).  Who knew the next great science fiction series since Battlestar Galactica would be half comedy and produced by Seth MacFarlane?  Among the strife and misadventure, one crewmember had the greatest character arc in the series’ first season, and she was also the physically strongest person on the ship: Chief of Security Lt. Alara Kitan.  Halston Sage didn’t skip a beat in portraying a futuristic officer on a starship.  She didn’t begin the show as a leader, but learned the ropes and took us all along for the ride as she became that leader, revealing a sensitive and uncertain, very “human” side, who could still buddy around with the ship commander and save the day more than once.

Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde).  Next year will see a shift where the British treasure Doctor Who sees its first woman Doctor.  Who knows if something like that will ever come of the other Brit icon, James Bond, but the closest anyone has ever come to that was Charlize Theron’s hardened and savvy spy Lorraine Broughton in the film adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City.  Has any woman action star ever given this many punches in a movie ever?  She took a pounding as well, but ultimately came out on top with some shrewd tactics.  Lorraine Broughton–nobody does it better!

X-23/Laura (Logan/Logan Noir).  The biggest surprise of the year was the great piece of filmmaking that was Logan, and more specifically the black and white version that arrived in theaters in limited release, Logan Noir, the swan song for both of the X-Men we got to know over the years as Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier aka Professor X.  Incredible direction and cinematography created a film on par with any black and white classic.  But the young actress that the film could not have been successful without was the young Wolverine in training, Laura aka X-23.  What a fantastic actress was Dafne Keen as Laura that you almost forget it’s a little girl ripping all these bad guys’ heads off and digging her sharp claws into their skulls.  And in the next scene she’s nonchalantly eating a bowl of cereal, or acting angry because of something Logan said.  X-23/Laura was simply the best of the best of the list of kick-ass women characters revealed to movie fans this year.  Please, oh, please, Fox or Disney, let’s see Keen reprise the character again soon, huh?

And that’s it.  Keep coming back the rest of this month as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV and Best in Print, and our borg.com Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

I love ghost stories at the movies.  Whether it’s lighter faire like Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie, a favorite version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or the Disney favorite The Watcher in the Woods, or darker stories, like Guillermo del Toro taking on the Gothic mystery genre in Crimson Peak, count me in.  We’ve reviewed some good ghost stories here at borg.com, including The Woman in Black, the aforementioned Portrait of Jennie and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and television series like Marchlands, Lightfields, and Wynonna Earp From the ghost pirates and pirate ghosts in the Pirates of the Caribbean series to the ghost army in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, a good ghost story must have a believable visual take on the actual spectres, but it also needs to provide an appropriate level of spooks and an interesting story.   Ghosts have been featured in romps like R.I.P.D., Ghost Rider, Beetlejuice, and Ghostbusters, darker ghost tales like The Crow and The Others, and even romances like Always, and City of Angels.  Some great, some only good, I count all of these worth watching.  Critics rarely give credit to the genre, with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense as an exception.  But count Winchester, now in theaters, as one of the good ones.

Although the ghost story is a subgenre of horror, if you lean more toward slasher flicks, monster gore, and terror (think Saw or Scream series), if you want to scream out loud in the theater, and true ghost stories aren’t really your thing, Winchester may not be for you.  But if you want a nicely creepy setting, a throwback style ghost story movie, and a cast of excellently realized characters, Helen Mirren’s Sarah Lancaster, Jason Clarke’s Dr. Price, Sarah Snook’s Marian Marriott, and Eamon Farren’s Ben Block make the cut.  This is not just a pile-on of gotchas you’d find in a typical teen slasher film, but it’s peppered with jumps and starts.  Its setting, its costumes, and its roots in reality will keep you on the edge of your seat, but it also flows at a steady pace.  A simple tale with a few twists, Winchester is most on par with The Woman in Black, but it also dabbles in the realm that will appeal to many fans of The Sixth Sense–even the plots share some similarities.

Do you like haunted houses?  The famed real-life Winchester haunted house in San Jose is the right place for the ultimate haunted house tale.  The truth of Winchester only adds to the suspense and intrigue:  Heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester became one of the world’s wealthiest women of the 19th century.  Her husband died in 1881 and she then proceeded to spend her fortune on a sprawling mansion over the next 38 years, a mansion that was never finished.  And why?  Some evidence indicates it’s because Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her.  Lore of the house is that she built extra rooms onto her mansion to trick the ghosts.  She was a bit of a recluse and known by those near her to be superstitious, and this is evident with the number 13 appearing throughout the house windows, such as rooms with 13 panes of glass, ceilings with 13 panels, and staircases with only 13 steps.  And workers removed and added new rooms to the mansion until her death in 1922.  Where there are gaps in the story, the directors–the Spierig Brothers–fill in the blanks visualizing the mythos of Sarah Winchester’s supposed vision of the truth, asking the question: If her superstitions are related to her strange house design, what story could explain this unique house?  Despite the inclusion of ghosts, nearly everything can be explained by science, and much can be left to the viewer to make his/her own call.  But if you’re game, couple an heiress who truly believes she is cursed and a doctor whose own past demons and drug use make him susceptible to some suggestions of a supernatural nature, and you’ll find an intriguing ghost story.

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jaylah-action

What better way to celebrate the strong, determined leader Leia Organa made famous by actress Carrie Fisher than to celebrate her legacy in the genre heroines of today?  What do most of the characters on this year’s list of Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines have in common?  Most have roles that could easily be swapped with a male.  Sure, you can have heroine characters who are written to largely rely on traditional female qualities, but women characters bending gender roles are breaking new grounds.  We met characters this year who were held back in their place in time by their status as women, and it is often that role that prompts them to gain the fire and passion necessary to become the heroine of their stories.  So we have both a dress-wearing, well-read 19th century Jane Austen character on our list, but also a space-faring criminal in combat boots, a sea captain, an alien survivor, an alien visitor, a warrior, a sorcerer, a group of clones, a gunslinger, two cops, a zombie, and a supernatural assassin.

In past years we were able to select our Best Kick-Ass Genre Movie Heroine and Best Kick-Ass Genre TV Heroine, but this year the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever, and instead of ranking them we’re highlighting the very best from an unprecedented slate of heroines, with characteristics to learn from and emulate.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong.  You’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, very human, resulting from trying circumstances, personal losses, and even death of friends and family.  But they all mustered up the strength to rise above it all.  These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2016:

Sara Huntsman

Sara (The Huntsman: Winter’s War).  Heroines can be medieval or fairy tale warriors, a trained Huntsman quick with a bow and arrow or two-handed swordplay.  Jessica Chastain’s Sara was never seen in Snow White and the Huntsman, but we quickly learned why Chris Hemsworth’s Eric was filled with despair when learning of her supposed death.  A loyal warrior to her queen, she must decide whether to join her excommunicated secret husband against the forces of evil or stand with Queen Freya and her manipulative sister.  A powerhouse trio of actresses, Chastain’s Sara rises above them all opposite Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in this great fantasy film.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  You already know Elizabeth Bennet as the eldest sister in the classic Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice.  An obnoxious mother harassing her, unlikely prospects for marriage, and an oppressive society with little opportunity to make her own choices.  Readers finally get to witness how the classic character might react when given opportunity–opportunity to learn Eastern mysticism and Japanese martial arts, and a role where she and her sisters and friends can fully defend their family and home from a zombie onslaught.  Lily James couples lacy dresses, Regency manners, and in-your-face, Quentin Tarentino-inspired kicks, with classic swordplay–and bloody beheadings.  If a war is coming, you want the likes of Elizabeth Bennet on your side of the battle lines.

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