Category: Movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Like an episode of Monk or Murder She Wrote, the next film from writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is a straightforward mystery.  Knives Out comes in on the heels of the similar looking Ready Or Not, and it’s a mash-up of sorts, aiming to have that ensemble cast variety of the last Thanksgiving movie release mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, while trying to bring back the nostalgia of the famous comedy whodunnit movie, Clue.  It’s the 85th birthday of the family patriarch and the families of his three children arrive to celebrate.  The next morning the patriarch is found dead.  Arriving in theaters next week and marketed toward the Thanksgiving holiday crowd, Knives Out turns out to be a mixed bag.

The reason to check it out is as you’d expect: the cast.  The cast choices would be a dream assemblage for any film.  James Bond Daniel Craig facing off against Captain America Chris Evans?  Legend Christopher Plummer delivering a performance as good as his last Oscar-winner?  Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Toni Collette playing against type?  And top it off with Don Johnson, poised to have his own career second wind as a leading man.  But the real star performance comes from Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049).  de Armas, a ringer for a Tru Calling-era Eliza Dushku, plays a nurse to Christopher Plummer’s character.  Incredibly charming and engaging, de Armas is also given the biggest opportunity to show the most emotional range in the film.  A plus for Bond fans, this movie will serve as a preview of sorts for movie audiences of No Time to Die, as de Armas plays the next “Bond girl” opposite Daniel Craig’s master spy in theaters next spring.

Not a recommended movie for taking on a date, and ultimately a questionable choice for Thanksgiving, one of the conceits (which may take viewers outside the realm of reality) is a character who vomits with each lie.  By the end of the film it becomes an in-your-face gross-out, making viewers watch one character… covered… for an entire scene.  As a story element this “human lie detector” is also a writers’ crutch, a trick that skips over some story challenges viewers would normally be able to work through on their own.

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November of course means Novembeard–where participants grow beards to raise awareness of men’s health issues.  Or, just because beards are cool and it’s become an annual tradition.  So who better to celebrate than the actor who has made a beard work for him throughout his career?  That would be Kurt Russell.  As Snake Plisskin in Escape from New York.  As MacReady in The Thing.  As Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (stubble counts).  (Russell only had a moustache in Tombstone so we’ll skip that one).  As the sheriff in Bone Tomahawk.  As John Ruth in The Hateful Eight.  As Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.  Even his son Wyatt knows how to sport a cool beard–He wore won this year as the star of Lodge 49.  So what’s left for the guy with the cool beard to take on next?  How about playing the guy with the best beard of all time?  That’s Santa Claus, of course.

The best part?  In this trailer for Netflix’s new The Christmas Chronicles, Russell isn’t playing just another “Bad Santa” role.  Sure, it looks like a traditional family Christmas show, but Russell revealing how cool Santa is (and always has been) and lines that sound like they were written for Jack Burton?  That’s an inspired choice.

He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so you’d better clean up your act right now.

The movie stars Benji star Darby Camp and The Babysitter’s Judah Lewis as kids who want to film Santa in action.  Look for co-stars Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride, Darrow & Darrow) as their mom, plus Lamorne Morris (New Girl, The Guild) and Martin Roach (Kick-Ass 2, The Shape of Water). 

Check out this new trailer for The Christmas Chronicles:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

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i-am-jim-henson

Life’s like a movie… write your own ending… keep believing… keep pretending…

Throughout the past year Brad Meltzer, noted fiction and non-fiction author and television personality (and DC Comics writer for the Identity Crisis and Green Arrow series) joined former Marvel Comics artist Christopher Eliopoulos to produce the Ordinary People Change the World series of books for young readers from Dial/Penguin/Random House.  Each of these could–or should–be your child, your nephew, niece, grandchild, or other young friend’s first book.  Back in September we previewed the most recent books in the series here at borg.com, featuring Dr. Jane Goodall and President George Washington.  This month Meltzer and Eliopoulos are releasing their latest inspirational and educational book for kids, I am Jim Henson.

What is incredible about this book in the series is Eliopoulos’s success in seemingly including every Muppet you can think of one way or another, all his fuzzy and beloved characters from both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.  From Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy to Yoda and the movies Henson created, details of Henson’s life that will interest his fans are all here.  Meltzer, writing in first person as Henson, recreates Henson’s influences and youth.  Most importantly, Henson’s love of magic, imagination, and learning, and characters who taught everyone about laughter and kindness, will inspire new generations to look at his works again, and maybe even create their own.

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Meltzer and Eliopoulos know Henson’s characters like fans do–some of the most memorable lines and images of them can be found tucked into the background and corners of each page.

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Not many R-Rated movies these days get much attention in a genre world of sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, action, or suspense/thriller films.  The current wave of hit films seems to be targeting the broader, all-age audience, not just the adult set, with Deadpool being the notable exception.  But a new historical romance opening this weekend is so loaded with genre actors it drew our attention.  The background for Tulip Fever is as unusual as its subject matter.  Tulip Fever was initially set to be a Steven Spielberg film with Paramount Pictures starring Jude Law, Keira Knightley, and Jim Broadbent, way back in 2004, but a change in UK tax rules stopped the film in its tracks.  So Harvey Weinstein bought the rights and re-cast the film and production commenced in 2014.

The costumes, from Academy Award winning designer Michael O’Connor (Dredd, The Duchess, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and the set design by Simon Elliott (Bleak House) look quite good, a dark European drama with Les Miserables-esque cinematography.  The film’s premise is unusual.  Academy Award winning actress Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Jason Bourne, The Danish Girl, and next year’s Tomb Raider) stars as Sophia, a young married woman who falls for a portrait artist during Tulip Mania in 17th century Amsterdam.  Her lover is played by Dane DeHaan (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Amazing Spider-man 2).  The comparison of this couple to Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s secret lovers in Titanic is unmistakable.  But can a movie set with the backdrop of Tulip Mania possibly hope to draw the appeal of the sinking of the Titanic?  Probably not where this film is heading.  The film was originally screened at Cannes in 2015.  It’s release has been delayed at least six times.

But the genre actor cast list continues.  Sophia’s husband is played by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Spectre, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Legend of Tarzan, Muppets Most Wanted).  Oscar winner Dame Judith Dench (the James Bond series, The Chronicles of Riddick, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Shakespeare in Love, Henry V) has a cameo role as a nun.  BAFTA winner Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean series, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Muppets Most Wanted, Valkyrie, Gosford Park) plays a doctor.  Primetime Emmy winner Zach Galifianakis plays a friend of DeHaan’s character and DeHaan reunites with Valerian co-star Cara Delevingne.

Here’s a trailer for Tulip Fever:

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Fathom Events is bringing Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s landmark fantasy The Dark Crystal back to theaters tomorrow and Wednesday, and advance response has resulted in an additional two screening dates the following week and expansion into 700 theaters nationwide.  A member of the Class of 1982, The Dark Crystal just celebrated its 35th anniversary.  The ambitious story of The Dark Crystal takes place in the world of Thra, which has been torn by a fracture in a great magic crystal, which caused two races to be created: the tranquil Mystics, or urRu, and the evil Skeksis, who all but destroyed Thra’s native species, the Gelflings.  The Mystics have summoned Jen, one of the last surviving Gelflings, to find the lost piece of the crystal.  The quest sends Jen on a classic adventure to try to restore harmony and peace to Thra.  Don’t wait–get tickets now here at the Fathom Events website before tomorrow’s screening sells out.

We recently revisited Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal with a groundbreaking look at the film and co-directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz in Caseen Gaines’ The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, a new deep-dive into the film reviewed here at borg.com.  According to Henson’s daughter Cheryl Henson, The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson’s most personal work.  This is a great time to have The Dark Crystal fresh in our memory, as we expect to see a 10-episode Netflix follow-on series hopefully by the end of 2018.  The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance does not yet have a release date.

Yes, we’re just as excited as Fizzgig–The Dark Crystal was the reigning favorite fantasy film of all time for legions of moviegoers before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings came along.  The film features performances by Jim Henson as Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick), Kathryn Mullen as the Gelfling Kira (voiced by Lisa Maxwell), Frank Oz as the astronomer Aughra (voiced by Billie Whitelaw), and Dave Goelz as Fizzgig (voice of Percy Edwards), with Henson, Oz, and Goelz also performing as the Skeksis. Kiran Shah also performs the body of Jen, Kira, and Aughra. With a screenplay by Dave Odell (The Muppet Show), The Dark Crystal also features a majestic score by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Labyrinth).  Along with Yoda creator Frank Oz, the film was produced by Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz.

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Wrapping up this spectacular and anniversary-filled year of the best of classic genre films will be a Fathom Events screening of Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s The Dark Crystal.  Another member of the class of 1982, this one slipped in during the holiday season, and it’s anniversary screening will be heading to a theater near you in February.  It’s been an unprecedented year that was almost a weekly opportunity to see the best nostalgic trips into the past, with 1982 films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Blade Runner, and The Princess Bride celebrated its 30th anniversary, while Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrating its 40th in theaters, and audiences in Europe attended screenings celebrating the whopping 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It seems Disney refrained from partaking in the big screen retrospectives: no Star Wars (40) or Tron (35) anniversary theatrical screenings were to be found, but maybe it’ll happen in five years for the next benchmark year.  But it ultimately didn’t matter–this year of classic movies couldn’t be beat.

We recently revisited Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal with a groundbreaking look at the film and co-directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, a new deep-dive into the film reviewed here at borg.com.  According to Henson’s daughter Cheryl Henson, The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson’s most personal work.  This is a great time to have The Dark Crystal fresh in our memory, as we expect to see a 10-episode Netflix series hopefully by the end of 2018.  The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance does not yet have a release date.

Yes, we’re just as excited as Fizzgig–The Dark Crystal was the reigning favorite fantasy film of all time for many before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings came along.  The ambitious story of The Dark Crystal takes place in the world of Thra, which has been torn by a fracture in a great magic crystal, which caused two races to be created: the tranquil Mystics, or urRu, and the evil Skeksis, who all but destroyed Thra’s native species, the Gelflings.  The Mystics have summoned Jen, one of the last surviving Gelflings, to find the lost piece of the crystal.  The quest sends him on an unbelievable adventure that can restore harmony and peace to Thra.  The film features performances by Jim Henson as Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick), Kathryn Mullen as the Gelfling Kira (voiced by Lisa Maxwell), Frank Oz as the astronomer Aughra (voiced by Billie Whitelaw), and Dave Goelz as Fizzgig (voice of Percy Edwards), with Henson, Oz, and Goelz also performing as the Skeksis.  Kiran Shah also performs the body of Jen, Kira, and Aughra.  With a screenplay by Dave Odell (The Muppet Show), The Dark Crystal also features a majestic score by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Labyrinth).  Along with Yoda creator Frank Oz, the film was produced by Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz.

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This one looks like it could be the next holiday classic.

Although he’s had theatrical roles in 2013’s The Fifth Estate, 2014’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, 2016’s Colossal, and this year’s Beauty and the Beast remake, Dan Stevens is better known for his British TV roles like Matthew Crawley throughout the run of Downton Abbey.  But the genre world really took notice of Stevens this year when he headlined a new X-Men TV series, playing David Haller, a crazed wielder of superpowers on FX’s new series Legion.  His next role takes him back to jolly old England and a character that can’t possibly be more classic and British: Charles Dickens himself.

Although the last time we saw someone play the part of Charles Dickens in a major film it was Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Stevens’ off-kilter, frenetic kinetic sense, and quizzical expressions make for an intriguing take on Dickens in the first preview for The Man Who Invented Christmas.  Stevens looks like he’s channeling Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein in one scene from the movie’s first trailer.

And we get to see Academy Award-winning actor and Shakespearean great Christopher Plummer (Twelve Monkeys, Up, Wolf, Dragnet, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Somewhere in Time, Return of the Pink Panther, The Sound of Music) join the likes of Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, and Bill Murray as Ebenezer Scrooge.  This take on Scrooge focuses on Dickens writing the novel A Christmas Carol and getting a spell of writer’s block.  And speaking of Finney, the view of the film in the preview looks like a mash-up of style from the comedies Tom Jones and Shakespeare in Love

Here’s a fun preview for The Man Who Invented Christmas:

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crystalskeksis

This year Funko ReAction proved it can create the ultimate mix of nostalgia and quality.  The toy line famous for bringing to fanboys and fangirls action figures that were never made when these modern classics played in theaters has released images of its sculpts and packaging for The Dark Crystal.  The first figures from the ultimate 1980s fantasy film reveal Funko’s ReAction division’s best work so far.

We first heard about the ReAction line working on a project to bring to the market a set of figures from The Dark Crystal here at borg.com way back in November 2013 when its first retro line-up hit the market, featuring characters from Alien.  Funko has come a long way and proven to be a toy industry driver, particularly with its other toy lines like Pop! and Dorbz figures.  The small yet surprisingly complete set from The Dark Crystal is reminiscent of the successful and similarly small set of Raiders of the Lost Ark figures from the early 1980s.  Kudos are owed to Nena Ijiomah, aka Queen of Gates on Tumblr, the Funko 3D sculptor who simply nailed these designs.  You really see the care that went into these figures from images of her original designs.

nena-ijiomah-sculpt-dark-crystal-funko   nena-ijiomah-at-funko-3d-sculpt

Jim Henson and Frank Oz, directing The Dark Crystal, along with Brian Froud’s Muppet creature creations, showed us a glimpse at what might have been had Henson lived out a longer life.  Each of Froud’s unique beings–from the cute and toothy Fizzgig to the beautiful Landstrider, the creepy Skeksis, the haunting Garthim, the solemn mystic Ursol, and heroic Jen and Kira–all receive a loyal and respectable re-creation in this series.  And each figure includes a piece of the purple crystal, so, as the Pokémon Go kids say “ya gotta catch ’em all.”

Two boxed sets are exclusives and not so easy to track down.  The rest can be pre-ordered now from Entertainment Earth by clicking on the images above and below (after the break).

crystalkira    crystaljen

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Joey Spiotto is an artist whose works are immediately recognizable.  He has his own whimsical take on characters fans know and love–unique, but much like comic book cover artist Skottie Young he makes popular characters his own.  Spiotto is well known for his parody covers for Little Golden Books–his Storytime series takes sci-fi, fantasy, and other pop culture favorites and uses a Muppet Babies-type change-up to show us characters as wee ones on the cover of their own little kids’ book.  He’s taken on every franchise from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2, Robocop, and Lost, to the Hamilton musical, from Mad Max: Fury Road, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, They Live, and Tron, to Donnie Darko.  How often do you see one series of anything include homages to both Mr. Rogers and Donnie Darko?  Individual prints of his Storytime series can be bought here and many have been compiled in his book available here at the artist’s Etsy store.

Now in stores is Spiotto’s latest book, Firefly–Back From the Black, a look at the characters of the fan favorite sci-fi series in the artist’s style and brand of humor.  A latecomer to the Firefly series, Spiotto counts himself a fan, and he shows it through his many obscure references in page after page of single panel drawings.  This is one where those who aren’t Firefly fans probably won’t understand what’s going on, but for those who are fans all the key characters are covered–spoofed, parodied, and maybe poked fun at more than a little bit.  You’ll find plenty of images of Jayne sporting his cunning hat, including one of his Mom sewing his hat for him–an off-screen scene every Firefly fan has imagined.  Fans of Spiotto’s first movie tie-in, 2015’s lovable look at Ridley Scott’s Aliens, Alien Next Door, will also like what the artist does here with the Firefly crew.  The kind of book you’d see getting as a Christmas stocking stuffer for those dreaming of a return of Firefly, or a nice add-in to a future Firefly Cargo Crate, Firefly–Back From the Black is now available here from Amazon.

   

Spiotto fans also have just under a day left to take advantage of the artist’s Kickstarter campaign to launch a compilation book of his High Fidelity series of prints–it’s fully funded, but some great deals and incentives are still available.  In this series he takes a similar twist on popular films and series as with his Storytime prints, but with High Fidelity the format is vintage 33 1/3 vinyl LP record album covers, and the characters become bands.

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