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Category: Superheroes


At the beginning of Daniel Craig’s first foray as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig redefined Bond as viewers were taken back to his first kill, the event that earned Bond his 00 status.  The scene instantly set the standard for the modern fight-or-die scene.  This is the exact level of hand-to-hand combat viewers will be treated to in the new summer release, Atomic Blonde.  Charlize Theron terrifically portrays what everyone always wanted to see: a woman in the role of James Bond.  Sure, she has a different name, but Theron is believable just the same as a spy being interrogated by heads of MI6 at the end of a mission.  As she tells her story, in every way she convinces us that she could go head-to-head with, and maybe even knock out Craig’s tough and bloody version of the Brit master spy.  Only don’t think this is a typical Bond movie.  It isn’t.  It’s layered, more like The Usual Suspects or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, only better–less cerebral and more fun.  And Theron chalks up another badass cinematic heroine, resulting in a film that is easily worth the admission price.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City from Oni Press, Atomic Blonde follows the original, focusing on several nation’s spies trying to recover a secret list of agents being smuggled out of East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a no-nonsense top-level spy with attitude and style, battered and bruised from some recent epic encounter when we meet her at the beginning of the movie.  She’s being interrogated and debriefed by both British and American agency heads, with John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Big Lebowski, Monsters, Inc.) as the American and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Doctor Who) as the Brit.  What unfolds is a smartly constructed Cold War thriller, more complicated than Ian Fleming but not as complicated as John le Carré, but enough so that it may lose viewers a few times along the way.  Ultimately Broughton finds herself trying to smuggle out of the country a German officer who memorized the secret spy list, played by Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, The World’s End).  The rewards and payoffs come not only at the resolution but in several scenes along the way, as Theron punches, kicks, hammers, fires, splatters, mows down, stabs, punctures… everything but bites her way through dozens of bad guys trying to kill her.  The violence is extreme, but it all works–it’s great fun much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Chuck Norris’s blockbuster rampages in the 1980s–and it’s not gratuitous like a Quentin Tarentino bloodbath (blown-off heads aside).

The Atomic Blonde of the title comes from Broughton’s short, 1980s style hair, and that length allows us to see that much of the time Theron is actually doing her own punching, and taking plenty of punches, from all these men.  She’s quicker, and she prepares herself for many of her battle damage by soaking in water filled with ice cubes–a concept that helps her more than once throughout the film.  The story and action really kicks in as Broughton begins to smuggle Marsan’s character out of the country and as the steps are laid out in a subplot involving her mission to assassinate Satchel, a double agent known for selling secrets to the Soviets.  It’s exciting like the real-life story told in Ben Affleck’s hit film Argo, where a spy smuggled a group of would-be hostages out of Iran in 1980.  Atomic Blonde has less subtlety and nuance than Argo, but Atomic Blonde similarly displays an early, retro style of storytelling compelling enough to keep viewers interested.  Does it feel like a comic book adaptation?  Sure.  Like History of Violence and Road to Perdition.  In fact Broughton could be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass all grown up.

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That week is here–All the lead-in built up by Marvel’s host of television series created for Netflix finally comes together this weekend.  Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist become The Defenders.  Netflix has released a final trailer leading up to the series premiere.

We’ve learned in the past few years that combining your A-league superheroes doesn’t guarantee a successful cinematic experience.  How much better than the theatrical Avengers and Justice Leaguers was the B-league team that comprised the Guardians of the Galaxy?  How about the strange success in Deadpool of partnering Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Deadpool?

So far we’ve loved most of what we’ve seen Marvel put together for Netflix.  Luke Cage earned several of our “Best of Television” categories last year here at borg.com.  The core of its new team-up of all the Netflix Marvel superhero stories is a classic Marvel comic book team-up:  Power Man and Iron Fist.  It’s amazing that this team-up has the potential to gain some real traction 40 years later.  And you can’t get much more nostalgic for 1970s comic books than the late, great Steve Gerber run on The Defenders.  So put together Luke “Power Man” Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and add in Elodie Yung as Elektra, and give us a villain played by sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver, and a supporting cast including the incomparable Scott Glenn, and a triple threat of actresses known for their badass roles: Rosario Dawson, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Simone Missick?  What’s not to like?  We asked it earlier with the first previews for the series: Can The Defenders be the best team-up on-screen yet?

Check out this final trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders:

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Holy Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors, Batman!  Those fans of the late Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin and their classic camp TV version of the DC Comics superheroes can get a nostalgic fix of the good ol’ days in Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show, designed by Rian Hughes with text by Y.Y. Flurch (actually Joe Desris–Y.Y. Flurch is an in-joke to the name of an author on a book in the series).  Celebrating the five decades since the Batman series premiered in 1966, Batman: Facts and Stats is a technicolor treat for your favorite Bat-fan.

Batman: Facts and Stats is not an in-depth look at the series–it’s more of a “gift book” formatted hardcover–8 inches by inches, it’s a nicely designed scrapbook full of images from the show and selected trivia.  Did you know Robin delivered more than 400 “Holy…” lines throughout the series?  From Holy Barracuda! to Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods!  The book is populated with real-world references and in-world curiosities.  You’ll learn behind the scenes information about the Batmobile, Batcopter, and the Batcycles, and photos of many of Batman’s wonderful toys, like the years ahead of its time mobile crime computer, the inflatable duplicate Batmobile, and the Bat-phone.

Only one actor donned the suits of villainy for each of the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Joker (Cesar Romero), and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), but you’ll see plenty of different Catwomen (Star Trek and The Bionic Woman’s Julie Newmar, Barnaby Jones and Mission: Impossible’s Lee Meriwether, and St. Louis Blues’ Eartha Kitt) and Mr. Freezes (Oscar winner George Sanders, director Otto Preminger, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven’s Eli Wallach).  Like many 1960s television shows (think Lost in Space and Star Trek for starters), Batman featured a host of guest stars, with everyone from Vincent Price to Cliff Robertson, Shelly Winters to Liberace, Roddy McDowell to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and so many others.  But what five characters appeared in all 120 episodes of the series?  Batman: Facts and Stats will get you up to speed on plenty of Bat-trivia.

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Thor poster comic-con 2017

In today’s Marvel panel in Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center for San Diego Comic-Con 2017, fans first learned details about Ant-Man and The Wasp.  Michelle Pieffer was confirmed to be playing Janet Van Dyne, Laurence Fishburne will be Bill Foster, Killjoys’ Hannah John-Kamen will be Ghost, and Walter Goggins will be Sonny Burch.  And we will get to see Michael Douglas don the Ant-Man suit.  Hopefully this footage will be made public soon.

Next, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, and Karl Urban all were on the panel for Thor: Ragnarok, introducing a great new trailer for the film.  In Marvel Studios third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring Thor, Thor: Ragnarok, we catch up with Hemsworth’s Thor–absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War.  Where’s the (now short) golden-haired hammer-wielder been?  In the first trailer for the film we see him imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his hammer and struggling to return to ward off the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela, played by Cate Blanchett.

Directed by Taika Waititi, produced by Kevin Feige, Thor: Ragnarok.  The movie includes newcomers Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), and Karl Urban (Skurge).

Check out this new trailer for Thor: Ragnarok:

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Although it still has that same look and feel of the recent Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–it actually looks more like last year’s Suicide Squad–Warner Bros. revealed the latest team-up trailer for Justice League today at Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center.  This time the studio is smartly leaning on the success of Wonder Woman to reveal the inclusion of Themiscyra in the movie.  We’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Batman, with his best work probably his cameos in Suicide Squad, and we’ve seen Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman this year in the first solo Wonder Woman title film.  Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash have had some screen time in various images from Warner Bros. promoting this film, and the last trailer (here) highlighted Ray Fisher’s Cyborg.  Now, in this nearly four-minute long trailer, they all get to be seen.

Justice League, another Zack Snyder creation handed off for last-minute clean-up work to Joss Whedon, arrives in theaters later this year along with Wonder Woman, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and Spider-man: Homecoming.  Will Justice League deliver enough punch to equal The Avengers?  Can Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment ever stand a chance at catching up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This is the best look at the League in trailers for the film so far.  This looks more like the work of Whedon than Snyder, or are we just hopeful?  Check it out for yourself–here’s the latest trailer for Justice League:

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We’re running down several trailers released to start off San Diego Comic-Con this week.  One trailer defines what Comic-Con is all about, as Stan Lee looks at the Netflix series based on his creations.  The best trailer is Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, the fantasy director’s next monster movie, this time featuring his own take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Another good trailer is what plays out as a commercial for the giant robot “Jaegers” in a first look at the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, including star John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Attack the Block).  Below you’ll also find trailers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Natalie Portman in Planetarium, and the fantasy world version of the AlienNation buddy cop trope, Netflix’s Bright, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton.

We’re also including several trailers from the past week to get you caught up.  These include A Wrinkle in Time, Mary Poppins Returns, Blade Runner 2049, a teaser for The Incredibles 2 (sort of), and a Blu-ray preview for Gifted starring Chris Evans.

So let’s get started with The Shape of Water:

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It’s that time of year again–San Diego Comic-Con weekend, when the studios and publishers release teasers, trailers, and try-ons to generate buzz for the next big book, movie, or television show.  One of the first releases today was this new trailer for ABC’s new series, Marvel’s Inhumans.  

We previewed Marvel’s Inhumans earlier here at borg.com.  This new trailer is better, leaving Anson Mount’s Black Bolt in the background this time and giving us a look at more characters, like Serinda Swan’s Medusa, Ken Leung’s Karnak, and Isabelle Cornish as Crystal.

And yes, we get another look at Lockjaw, the big bulldog Inhuman that has already proved to be a big reason for superhero fans to check out the new series.

Check out this trailer from Comic-Con 2017:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Amazing?  Definitely.  Spectacular?  Absolutely.  Tom Holland, who stole the show in the key battle of last year’s Captain America: Civil War, has provided the definitive, and yes, the ultimate Spider-man performance in this weekend’s latest Marvel masterwork, Spider-man: Homecoming.  And Holland is equally good, if not better, without the suit as angst-ridden, overburdened teenager and Spider-man alter ego, Peter Parker.  Kids of all ages who ever envisioned the ultimate battle between Spider-man and Batman get their satisfaction here, too: Michael Keaton, in one of his best performances in decades, creates out of an obscure character one of the best supervillain performances to hit the big screen, complete with high-tech bat wings and the classic Keaton we all love to watch.

Moviegoers have seen good efforts from Marvel creating the comic book empire’s flagship, web-slinging superhero before, with Tobey Maguire in three Spider-man solo films and Andrew Garfield in two follow-up Amazing Spider-man films, but this latest story supplies what was missing from the other five: an authentic, likeable, smart, voice-breaking do-gooder and a classic coming of age story with heart.  But it doesn’t skimp on the action, and thanks to some well-filmed 3D and magical IMAX cinematography, one key scene that takes place high atop the Washington Monument made this viewer practically step backward out of his seat into the back row.  Just breathtaking filmmaking.

If you keep a list of superhero movie requirements in the back of your mind, you’ll find that Spider-man: Homecoming fulfills or surpasses them all.  A story with a solid character arc for its lead and antagonist.  A big relief for filmgoers who go to every new superhero movie: writer/director Jon Watts and five other writers (a fact that alone would normally spell certain doom for a film, but not here) knew enough to steer clear of another superhero origin story and instead delved right in.  They flesh out Parker’s relationship with his like-minded, knowledge bowl peers at school and provide more than one jawdropper along the way.  In Keaton’s villain they provide an exceptional, compelling villain, something lacking in the past several years of superhero movies.  Holland sports an update to the Spidey supersuit, and Louise Frogley’s latest costume design is superb, complete with believable, readily available tech supplied in-story by mentor Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man in his latest perfect adaptation of the role from the comics.  And Michael Giacchino’s powerful and emotional score is among his best, complete with plenty of clever and unexpected themes that amplify the story at the right time.  If you think Peter Parker is a throwaway character, prepare for some emotional work by Holland, especially at his character’s lowest point in the story.

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The Eternals.  The Defenders.  The Champions.  Alpha Flight.  The Invaders.  The Marauders.  Power Pack.  The Sinister Six.  The Elementals.  X-Force.  Squadron Supreme.  Guardians of the Galaxy.  Cloak and Dagger.  Power Man and Iron Fist.  Marvel has had plenty of team-ups over the years besides The Avengers and The X-Men.  But unless you read every issue of every Marvel monthly you may have missed some of the more obscure groups of superheroes.  Which may explain how audiences have been in favor of familiar characters as they hit the big or small screen in movies for The Avengers or The X-Men, or even Daredevil.  But Marvel has had a tougher time maneuvering the TV waters for its superheroes than DC Entertainment.  One of the reasons for DC’s success may very well be the fact that its Justice League of America has for so long been the flagship title for the publisher and it incorporated so many supporting superheroes into its stories over the decades that even the general public can name several.  So more of general audiences have heard of and accepted Green Arrow and Black Canary, The Flash, The Atom, and Supergirl when they emerged in our living rooms over the past five years.  As for Marvel, unlike Marvel’s Luke Cage–Netflix’s excellent and loyal update to the classic comic book series–Marvel’s Iron Fist hasn’t garnered similar acclaim.  Why?  Because of the story?  The production values?  The character?  The marketing?  Marvel’s Luke Cage demonstrates an obscure superhero can succeed if it brings to audiences a compelling story, talented actors, and high production quality.  Which brings us to the next new TV series from Marvel, Marvel’s Inhumans.

Marvel’s Inhumans is coming later this summer to ABC, from showrunner Scott Buck, the same creator that brought Marvel’s Iron Fist to Netflix.  Most people haven’t heard of the Inhumans, and even long-time Marvel readers may not be familiar with the characters in the Royal Family of the Inhumans, including Medusa, Maximus, Karnak, Gorgon, Crystal, Triton, and Auran.  So it makes sense that audiences witnessing the team for the first time don’t have enough to be excited about–yet.  As for its general appearance Marvel’s Inhumans arguably looks like Marvel’s Iron Fist, but it also looks like Marvel’s Legion, a somewhat overlooked yet well-received X-Men series hidden in the 500-channel cable line-up on the FX Network earlier this year.  So how will Marvel’s Inhumans fare?

   

The greatest challenge is one of story and character development.  Black Bolt is now the King of the Royal Family of the Inhumans, who were superhumans descended from humans experimented on by the Kree in Marvel lore.  Played in the new series by actor Anson Mount, Black Bolt doesn’t speak, or else he might bring forth a powerful shockwave that could level a city.  So a difficulty of the first trailer released for the series is conveying that fact, while showing plenty of scenes with the actor who will be the male lead of the series.  In the first show trailer we get a bunch of silent expressions by Mount just as his irritated (irritating?) brother Maximus (played by Iwan Rheon) does most of the talking.  How long can an eight-episode series run with the lead keeping his mouth shut?  It’s also difficult to immediately have any empathy toward royalty of any variety, especially those looking so formal and shown with a certain level of arrogance.  Another current series, BBC’s Class, has had trouble gaining traction with viewers, and it also follows a lead male who is an alien royal who is troubled and arrogant.

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This week the Saturn Awards crowned the best of genre film and television, selecting the best works on the screen for the 43rd year.  As with last year’s selections, although the start and end dates vary from our own calendar year list, this year’s winners aligned in the major categories with our own borg.com picks of the Best of 2016 from film and television.  If the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other award recognitions leave you wanting, you can always depend on the Saturn Awards to come through for genre fans.

So we’re happy to see the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films name Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction in a Film (Gareth Edwards) and Best Film Visual/Special Effects (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, Neil Corbould), Doctor Strange as Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress in a Film, and Star Trek Beyond for Best Film Make-up (Monica Huppert and Joel Harlow) Star of our favorite superhero sequence of 2016, Spider-man Tom Holland was awarded Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Captain America: Civil War.  In the television categories, Riverdale was named Best Action/Thriller TV Series and star KJ Apa won The Breakthrough Performance Award for his work as the iconic comic book character Archie Andrews.*  The Best New Media TV Series was a tie, shared between Stranger Things and Marvel’s Luke Cageand Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was named Best Younger Actor on Television.  Even a borg.com Hall of Famer won major kudos this year, Six Million Dollar Man actor Lee Majors was awarded The Life Career Award.  We couldn’t agree more with all these selections.

Other works we liked last year that won honors included 10 Cloverfield Lane for Best Thriller Film, Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman), Deadpool for Best Actor (Ryan Reynolds), Arrival for Best Film Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Best Film Costume (Colleen Atwood).

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