Tag Archive: AAPI actors


Review by C.J. Bunce

Romeo and Juliet, Emma, American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Grease, Square Pegs, The Outsiders, Sixteen Candles, Say Anything, Heathers, Dazed and Confused, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Clueless (the best version of Emma), 10 Things I Hate About You, Veronica Mars, Orange County, Superbad, Riverdale.  Writers have concocted several personal and entertaining coming of age movies and TV series over the years.  Add to that list Netflix’s new series Boo, Bitch, a funny, clever, supernatural twist on the typical “last days of high school” story, full of snappy, witty dialogue that catches the genre up with the year 2022.

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Before you go out and read the novel the movie Bullet Train is based on, check out my review here at borg from last year.  Perhaps the English edition is a poor translation of Kotaro Isaka’s novel Maria Beetle, but I’m thinking it’s just simply a dry novel with a good title.  Either way, for a title like Bullet Train, it was lacking in many ways.  Happily, the first trailer for the movie adaptation starring Brad Pitt looks nothing like the novel, which was an homage to Thomas the Tank Engine cartoons (seriously!).  In the movie trailer Pitt appears like he’s stepping back into the role of Cliff Booth, that badass brawler from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (who was even better in Quentin Tarantino’s novel than in the film) So the good news is director David Leitch, known for actual action content like Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw, and John Wick, seems to be disregarding the book and focusing on what audiences would expect from that title: a big action movie.

Full of style and color (and action!) backed by a Japanese version of the BeeGees’ Staying Alive–check out the trailer for Bullet Train:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s tough to review something you’ve been waiting for that doesn’t meet your expectations, especially a sequel to a great, original story.  Unfortunately that’s the case with Fistful of Vengeance, Netflix’s newest action movie that forms a sequel to its 2019 streaming wuxia TV series Wu Assassins, one of the Top 10 fantasy television series of the past decade.  As with Firefly, another property that went from series to movie, the movie just doesn’t capture the magic that made the series so well received.  Fistful of Vengeance isn’t horrible if you really liked the relationship of the three male leads of the series.  But in the series they were secondary to the fresh, new world of magic users it created.  And aside from international martial arts headliner Iko Uwais and his supporting actor, Mortal Kombat star Lewis Tan, the best parts of the series were left behind.

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One of the Top 10 fantasy television series of the past decade is getting a sequel.  As with Firefly, that sequel is coming in the form of a major motion picture.  The series was Netflix’s 2019 wuxia series Wu Assassins, and the sequel is Fistful of Vengeance International world martial arts champ Iko Uwais returns as the chef tapped with the supernatural powers of 1,000 monks, along with series co-star Lewis Tan (Mortal Kombat)Wu Assassins made other action franchises pale in comparison, mixing the best choreographed fight sequences with visual effects, humor, actors we want to see more of.  That Chuck Norris-esque movie title doesn’t hurt either.  Check out the trailer for Netflix’s Fistful of Vengeance below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level you know exactly what to expect when you select a movie based on a video game.  Any film worth its production costs needs to bring general audiences into the world, the director and writers need to then build that world, establish heroes, fight battles, provide over-the-top action and effects, and the hero(es) must achieve some kind of goal.  The stakes are high, often the fate of the entire world.  And that rarely leaves room for character development.  Entries include Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Monster Hunter, Prince of Persia, Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slew of Pokémon movies, and they go back decades to the original concept film Tron, which had a video game at its center that players didn’t get to play until after the movie.  Lesser rated entries include movies like Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter, and In the Name of the King.

This year’s big-budget release Mortal Kombat, both a remake and a reboot and adaptation of a series of martial arts fantasy games going back to 1992, leans heavily into Asian action movie culture.  It arrives in a growing marketplace for API and AAPI films, in a year including Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.  

So where does Mortal Kombat land in comparison?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as any movie has been able to keep its secrets in the past few years, it’s hard to beat the surprises in the epic fantasy film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first film of Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without an Avengers headliner.  And when I say fantasy, I mean it–it’s got it all, a combination of the magical realm of Doctor Strange, the ancient, secret country hidden from the rest of the world like Black Panther, a mix of Asian lore, Shakespearean family squabbles (including a famous, Oscar-winning Shakespearean actor), and a plot–and dragons–right out of The Lord of the Rings (after all, Ten Rings are better than One Ring, right?).  It has action, it has ties to the old and new, and, thanks to co-star Awkwafina, it’s the laugh-out-loud funniest of all the Marvel movies.  And it’s finally arrived on Disney+ so mass audiences still staying away from movie theaters finally have a chance to see what they missed.

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Snowpiercer book cover a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Three things should get you to take a second look at both the 2013 movie Snowpiercer and the new behind the scenes book Snowpiercer: The Art and Making of the Film, just released from Titan Books.  First, it’s been a really hot summer almost everywhere and the movie is all about freezing cold temps.  Second, everyone loves Chris Evans, and it’s time to revisit his work outside of the supersuit and shield.  Third, after winning three Oscars in 2020, for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture, everyone should also go back and revisit the works of Korean director Bong Joon-ho.  After the film suffered a long and clunky path to theaters thanks to the Weinstein scandal, the end result–even if it was far removed from its source material–was an interesting action movie, notable for actor Song Kang-ho, too.  It’s been seven years since Snowpiercer, the highly, almost ludicrously improbable story of a train carrying the last humans on Earth akin to Noah’s Ark, finally arrived in wide release (see my review here), but now it gets a thorough investigation in Snowpiercer: The Art and Making of the Film, which was also delayed, this time for the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the intervening years a prequel tie-in TV series took off.  For all the above reasons, it’s a good time to hunker down and take a look at this book and its one-of-a-kind vision.

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Ten Rings

“Why are they advertising that Suicide Squad movie now?  Didn’t it come out 5 years ago?”

A major gap in the now enormous industry of producing nine-figure, blockbuster superhero movies is that the movie studios are missing an opportunity to retain audiences.  No doubt more than half of the audience for Avengers: Endgame, which earned nearly $2.8 billion at the box office, was from moviegoers that were merely passing fans of the MCU.  Maybe they accompanied a spouse or a kid to the movie.  Most probably had never read a comic book before or since.  Studios today assume audiences will just show up for the spectacle.  But are they right?  Take the trailers for competing superhero movie studio DC Entertainment’s The Suicide Squad.  Nothing in the movie trailers–the only glimpse most prospective moviegoers will see via their TVs–explains why there is another movie called The Suicide Squad.  Do they think most TV viewers catching the commercial notice the addition of the “The” in the title?  Do they assume everyone still reads a newspaper or online entertainment source and is going to make an effort to understand that this new movie is different than the universally panned Suicide Squad of 2016?  Do they really think most prospective movie ticket buyers know or care who the director is?

Which is why it’s refreshing, and a wise move, to see Kevin Feige, mastermind behind all the Marvel Cinematic Universe, discussing the background for the latest new Marvel superhero in a new short feature clip for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.  

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Shang Chi pics

We got our first peek at Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings here at borg this past April.  The new, full-length trailer reveals a plot that has the feel of Wu Assassins, and only a few days since the Snake Eyes trailers, with Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on video, and a new Kung Fu series airing on TV, audiences are getting new opportunities to watch AAPI actors shine.  While you’re in the vibe, don’t miss the live-action Mulan, the historical horror zombie series Kingdom, the action movie The Night Comes for Us, the fantasy wuxia series Legend of the Condor Heroes, the animated movie Over the Moon, the supernatural graphic novel Ghost Tree and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, the overview of martial arts in the movies in Iron Fists and King Fu Kicks, and the Bruce Lee documentary Be Water Long-time comics readers will know Shang-Chi as the Master of Kung Fu from the pages of 1970s Marvel Comics by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin.  Originally the son of Fu Manchu, the character was an attempt by Marvel to create a monthly like the Kung Fu TV series after they failed in their bid to get the adaptation rights.

Check out the new trailer below for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

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Raya a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first animated movie created during the pandemic, with 900 creators working together to make a full-scale feature film from home.  The result is the best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.  The entirely computer animated film also sports three strong female lead characters and is backed by an all female technical leadership team.  The result is a movie blending elements of Asian culture on par with Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fantastical elements of The Lord of the Rings.  Count Raya and the Last Dragon among the creative works that shine brightly despite the adverse conditions of 2020. 

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