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Tag Archive: Alicia Vikander


Review by C.J. Bunce

For a niche area of publishing, you might be surprised how diverse the range of coverage you can find in art books delving behind the scenes of the latest movies.  In Titan Books latest artbook Tomb Raider: The Art and Making of the Film, two key elements stand out compared to prior examinations of film.  First, the cast and crew were deeply passionate about the film, reflected in their great contributions to the book.  Second, audiences have probably not seen production sets and stunt sequences that created realism in the adventure genre as much as Tomb Raider since the Raiders of the Lost Ark series, although it’s no secret that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the principal inspiration for many key sequences.  In the theater it’s easy to get into the story and not hone in on the background details, but thanks to this latest entry in the artbook realm fans of the film will see how it became a mix of James Bond-level stunt work built on a classic adventure style full of exciting special effects.

As with Guillermo del Toro’s significant contributions to The Shape of Water artbook, Tomb Raider director Roar Uthaug contributes insight into his vision in nearly every segment of the book.  He references his love for Raiders of the Lost Ark when creating his film for its mix of action, humor, archaeology, mystery, and great characters.  He also looked back to Ripley and Sarah Connor in Alien and Terminator 2 as he carved out the lead role for Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft.  Other executives and crew members explain significant aspects of the creation of the film: producer Graham King was perhaps the earliest advocate for a reboot film in the series, production designer Gary Freeman (Maleficent, Everest) knew exactly how he wanted to create the major environments for the adventure, cinematographer George Richmond (Kingsman 1 and 2) discusses challenges filming the visual effects sequences, costume designer Colleen Atwood (Arrow, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) provides particular insight into her creation of the look of each character and how she sourced materials, and stunt coordinator Frank Henson (Never Let Me Go, Sherlock Holmes) had a greater responsibility in this stunt-heavy film than a stunt coordinator in most movies with its variety of action scenes.  Star Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) recounts the experience of playing the popular character as a sort of prequel or origin story for the character.  Vikander contributes heavily to the behind the scenes detail of the book, in addition to the other key players in the film, including co-stars Daniel Wu and Walton Goggins.

The film all centered around leaving the past films in the past and honing in on the 2013 video game reboot of Tomb Raider.  It is not likely any prior adaptation of a video game has come as close to its source as the new film, which included many storyboarded scenes from the 2013 game sequences.  From the London training facility where Lara trains in MMA fighting, to the planning and execution of the exciting fox-and-hound bicycle race on the back streets of London (one of the few scenes where Vikander didn’t do her own stunts was the crash), to the very Indy Jones-esque crypt under Croft Manor, to the chase scene at a full-scale mock-up of Hong Kong’s Aberdine Harbor, to building the cargo ship from the game–the weathered vessel Endurance–on a giant hydraulic gimble (set dresser Raffaella Giovannetti used real materials from similar ships to give it the realistic appearance), to Vikander’s twelve days submerged under water in a tank–the book is filled with production how-to knowledge for any aspiring filmmaker, movie aficionado, or anyone who is just a fan of Lara Croft.  Roughly half of the volume covers the scenes that take place on the island.  Author Sharon Gosling points out Vikander was filmed in the raging rapids sequence in the facility where the 2012 Olympics were held, and the parachute drop scene came straight from the game.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a new generation, the new adventure-thriller Tomb Raider may be an entry point into the adventure genre.  If you like the concepts in Tomb Raider, you’re likely to love adventure classics like that other “raider,” Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Mummy, and Disney’s National Treasure series.  Tomb Raider borrows much from these movies, even key sequences that serve as the high points of the film.  The film itself?  It’s all about that upper-body strength and holding on for dear life.  (How many action films feature the hero holding on to the edge of a precipice with one hand anyway?)  It’s good, not great, but a fun enough popcorn flick for a late winter release, particularly to see someone the size of Alicia Vikander racing through all the required harrowing action scenes.  She leaps, fights, sprints, and dodges pitfalls, and gets kicked, punched, and bruised in a part typically reserved for the likes of Dwayne Johnson.

In the role last explored by Angelina Jolie, Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ex Machina, Jason Bourne) becomes video game heroine Lara Croft, only this version of the story is more rooted in the real world, with less heroine posing and no cocky catch phrases–and more sweat.  The new Tomb Raider definitely fits alongside past video game adaptations, better than the prior films in the franchise, and nudging out more recent video game adaptations Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed.  Unfortunately it comes on the heels of the immensely entertaining Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which opted for humor instead of drama.  This isn’t a comedy, but would have benefited from some more levity along the way.

For an adventure about secrets and riddles, it doesn’t present much for the audience to sleuth out, as was done so well in the entertaining National Treasure movies But to its credit it has some good special effects and exceptional chase sequences that are best viewed on the big screen.  And this Lara Croft is always being chased or running from something.  A bicycle race early on and a foot chase across boats docked off the coast of Hong Kong are filmed like a riveting James Bond opener.  And an escape through raging rapids at the edge of a waterfall is perfectly executed and full-on exciting (in a good theater your acrophobia and claustrophobia may even kick in).  The overall plot is a bit thin–Lara receives a key left by her father as she is about to sign an affidavit acknowledging his death and her inheritance, and she pursues clues to his secret work that leave her stranded on a secluded, legendary island housing an ancient tomb.  This is about a fantasy video game character, so if you can push aside reality you may have a really good time.

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Norwegian film director Roar Uthaug (Escape, The Wave) and writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet (ROM, M.A.S.K., Sherlock Holmes 3, Captain Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons, Gotham City Sirens) are returning to the core of the character designed and created by Toby Gard to become one of the world’s best-selling franchises in the new trailer released today for the reboot of the Lara Croft franchise.  Even more than the last trailer for the film, clips from today’s preview mirror some of the same kind of cliffhanger scenes found in each of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies–the same kind of adventure that made the original video game a success.

If you have any doubts that Vikander looks the part, just check out the comparison video discussed here earlier, which shows just how closely Vikander matches the Lara in the video game Rise of the Tomb Raider.  Lara Croft has been around since 1996, in various versions of game play, based on at least eight different real-life models, and even voiced by the likes of Ashes to Ashes star Keeley Hawes and Good Will Hunting and The Riches star Minnie Driver.

Check out today’s new trailer for Tomb Raider:

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All you need to do to tell Alicia Vikander can not only act but has star power is watch her as the dramatic yet humorous secret agent in 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Or you could watch her portray a reality without a soul as a borg in 2014’s critically acclaimed sci-fi film Ex Machina.  Or how about her Oscar-winning performance awarded last year for her work in The Danish Girl?  She’s in theaters right now opposite Christoph Waltz in Tulip Fever and it seems more than fitting that the critically acclaimed dramatic actress is stepping into what could be a lucrative, major action hero role for her, taking over for Angelina Jolie in the reboot of Tomb Raider.  

This week started with the first official look at Vikander as video game franchise character Lara Croft in the first teaser poster for the film.  With the first trailer for the movie now available it’s clear that Norwegian film director Roar Uthaug (Escape, The Wave) and writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet (ROM, M.A.S.K., Sherlock Holmes 3, Captain Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons, Gotham City Sirens) are returning to the core of the character designed and created by Toby Gard to become one of the world’s best-selling franchises.  Gard said he left the company he created Lara Croft for because he was opposed to the idea and marketing of Lara’s sex appeal, with ever-increasing breast size in the game sequels after he left.  The sex appeal is still there but the film in the first trailer looks to be all about the adventure, exploring environments, solving riddles, and navigating traps with villains on her tail.  Clips from the trailer mirror some of the same kind of cliffhanger scenes found in each of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies–the same kind of adventure that made the original video game a success.  If you have any doubts that Vikander looks the part, just check out the comparison video after the clip below, which shows just how closely Vikander matches the Lara in the video game Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft has been around since 1996, in various versions of game play, based on at least eight different real-life models, and even voiced by the likes of Ashes to Ashes star Keeley Hawes and Good Will Hunting and The Riches star Minnie Driver.  The new film co-stars Walton Goggins, who always plays that half-cocked villain you are pleased to see get crushed under the hero’s toes, popping up in films like Predators, Cowboys and Aliens, Django Unchained, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and The Hateful Eight.  A big surprise–one of our favorite genre actors, Nick Frost (Attack the Block, Doctor Who, Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End), is in the film, plus Hannah-John Kamen (Killjoys, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ready Player One, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Dominic West (The Hour, John Carter, The Wire), and Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission: Impossible, The Golden Compass, The English Patient).

So check out the first trailer for Tomb Raider:

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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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Jason Bourne

Universal Pictures has released a full-length trailer for Jason Bourne following up on the short teaser released Super Bowl weekend.  Unlike 2012’s last film in the franchise, The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner, Matt Damon is back for his fourth appearance as Bourne following 2002’s original The Bourne Identity, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. 

It will be a bit of a deja vu, as Julia Stiles is back in her third stint in the franchise.  The Bourne movies, based on Robert Ludlum’s books, are a lot like Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible movies–after a while they all seem to run together.  We were fans of the first film, especially co-star Franka Potente (Copper, The Bridge, Dark Matter).

This time out, newly-minted Oscar winner Alicia Vikander joins the ranks of Bourne chasers, along with Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones, and multiple Oscar nominee Albert Finney makes an appearance in the trailer.

jason bourne poster

So here it is, the trailer for the fifth film in the series, Jason Bourne:

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Arnold Terminator Genisys

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and as with last year we’re certain we reviewed more content this year than ever before.  This year was a big year for borgs in TV and film, so we had some difficult decisions to make.  All year long we sifted through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre TV, films, comics, and other books we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.

Today we reveal the entire list–the best genre content of 2015–with our top categories Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero FixBest Animated Fix,  and Best Borg selected regardless of medium.  A dozen properties garnered multiple mentions.

We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2016!

Killjoys

Best Sci-Fi Fix – Killjoys (Syfy).  Surprised?  Killjoys pulled together great worldbuilding, characters and actors in a year of a dozen new sci-fi shows to provide us the closest thing to the next Firefly we’ve seen in a long time.

Galavant

Best Fantasy Fix – Galavant (ABC); Runner-up The Librarians (TNT).  It aired early in 2015 but nothing surpassed Galavant’s medieval high adventure and all-out Princess Bride-style fun.

the-cw-arrow-flash-crossover

Best Superhero Fix – The Flash (CW).  Of all the Marvel movies and TV series from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agent Carter and from Arrow to Supergirl, nothing had us coming back for more each week like the superhero world in The Flash.

Rebels season 2

Best Animated Fix – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  Compare it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and see if you think this animated Star Wars galaxy had an even better story and characterization, along with the return of its own group of original trilogy actors, compelling visuals and rousing music.

Terminator Genisys image

Best Borg – Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Terminator Genisys (Paramount).  Schwarzenegger created yet another borg that could stand up against his prior successful characters from the series.  A cool, moving character in a big year for borgs on screen!

Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Best Borg Movie –  Ex Machina (DNA Films).  Incredible storytelling and a small cast of talented actors provided a classic science fiction story and Oscar-worthy film about our favorite subject.

Humans series

Best Borg TV SeriesHumans (AMC).  On television the most in-depth look at life as a borg and among borgs has never been portrayed more dramatically than on this year’s surprise sci-fi hit series from AMC.

Star-Wars-Force-Awakens-Rey-Finn-BB8-running

Best Kickass Genre Movie Heroine – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney); Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Terminator Genisys (Paramount); Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Mad Max: Fury Road (Village Roadshow)

Liv Moore

Best Kickass Genre TV Heroine – Liv Moore (Rose McIver), iZombie (CW); Honorable Mentions: Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), Killjoys (Syfy); Helena (Tatiana Maslany), Orphan Black (BBC)

Want to know who we picked for best villain and best comic books of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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borg-label hall-of-fame-label

After climbing over our 1.4 millionth site visit at borg.com this month, it’s time to update the borg.com Hall of Fame, with borg in genre fiction from past, present, and future, and from all media.  Click here for our “About” page if you need a refresher on what makes a borg a borg.

These new inductees are primarily new additions to the world of fiction this year, but many were borgs we overlooked in prior years.  A few may or may not be borg, depending on your point of view.  Robots or androids that look perfectly human, for example, that have organic looking material but may not have actual living tissue are not technically cyborgs.

So here is Round 3, the 2015 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order:

Ex Machina Kyoko and Ava

Alicia Vikander’s Ava and Sonoya Mizumo’s Kyoko from this year’s critically acclaimed movie Ex Machina were stunning additions to the world of borg.  Clearly robots with artificial intelligence but they make our list with what appeared to us to be some kind of replicated organic skin.

Humans

AMC’s new TV series Humans introduced the “synths,” robotic servants that permeated the modern world.  Five of these had something more than the others, the best of these being Gemma Chan’s synth Anita, and whether you count only these five or all of them as borg, we think they fit right into our Hall of Fame.

Furiosa

Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the year’s biggest hits, with Furiosa on many critic’s lists of kick-ass heroines in 2015.  Her mechanical prosthetic arm provides her entry ticket into our list of 2015 borgs.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Athena (Raffey Cassidy) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

In this year’s Disney adventure movie Tomorrowland, the girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy)reveals herself o be an “audio-animatronic robot,” but she looks entirely borg to us.  Plenty more borg are featured in the film, including the proprietors of the toy shop who are out to keep the secrets of Tomorrowland from humanity.

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Ex Machina trailer

Jurassic Park was not only Michael Crichton’s most popular novel, it finally allowed him to synthesize all the elements he had worked out over the course of his career into a perfect story.  Crichton could easily have been the writer behind the examination of man vs. machine that is this year’s big screen release Ex Machina, now in Digital HD and Blu-ray.  Writer-director Alex Garland (28 Days Later) could have taken us on another bland adventure about man’s fascination with technology and mortality, but instead he creates a morality play that is eerily simple yet surprisingly profound.  Behind Ex Machina is a modern Victor Frankenstein complete with a reclusive laboratory and spectacular creations.  Oscar Isaac (Sucker Punch, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is Nathan, the uber-wealthy CEO inventor atop a Google-inspired enterprise, who secretly is using his company’s collective search data to create artificial intelligence–and more.  Is he the classic mad scientist?

In the spirit of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, Nathan launches a contest for employees with the prize being a weeklong visit to his own Skywalker Ranch.  The winner is the smart and amiable Caleb, played by Domnhall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Star Wars: The Force Awakens).  All is not what it seems.  Someone here is being played and it’s for the audience to figure it all out.  Nathan has really brought Caleb to his lair to test out his new humanoid robot, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Seventh Son), and give her a battery of ad hoc tests to see if she passes the Turing test–to confirm whether Nathan has really created the ultimate intelligent machine.  Loosely inspired by more than one classic fairy tale, the seemingly simple story and strange circumstances quickly grow dark.  Who is manipulating who?

Isaac and Gleeson

Garland doesn’t need to rely on his fascinating, humanoid, robotic creations–arguably cybernetic or borg, and eminently believable–to carry the picture.  Its backbone is a well-paced story with a satisfying payoff.  Fans of Neill Blomkamp will love Garland’s study of class and society in the post-modern future: relations between employee and boss, scientist and subject, and master and servant.  In a world of secrets and locked doors, who can you trust?

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost a shame this weekend’s big screen release The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a retelling of the 1960s television series.  It’s an adaptation in that it takes the framework of the show—an American and a Russian working together as Cold War era spies—yet director Guy Ritchie makes this work stand completely by itself.  The fact that it’s based on a classic series may turn away viewers who may be tired of other remakes of 1960s shows like Get Smart and The Avengers (both of which were good standalone films).  But that would be a great loss, as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is not only as stylish as advertised in our favorite trailer of the year, it’s a classy and smart story and a superb re-creation of the early 1960s.

It’s no surprise that this film relishes its Bond influences–Henry Cavill’s character Napoleon Solo was created by Ian Fleming, the same Ian Fleming that created Bond.  Yet the movie is fresh and new.  The story and Cavill’s performance evoke Matt Bomer’s role of stylish and cocky ex-art thief-turned government man on TV’s White Collar.  In fact Cavill is a dead ringer for Bomer.  Likely it’s just a coincidence but if you loved White Collar you’ll love this film.  And any doubts you may have as to Cavill’s acting because of the poorly written part he was stuck with in Man of Steel will be wiped away with his confident and suave Solo.  Even better is Armie Hammer’s performance as Illya Kuryakin.  Any doubts you may have as to Hammer’s acting from his lead role in The Lone Ranger will also be wiped away.  Hammer’s performance as a KGB agent in need of some anger management is nuanced and layered.  The idea of putting some Ennio Morricone musical queues behind Hammer and adding a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry twitch are simply inspired.  This is a great team and a film that sets itself up for an exciting sequel.

Cavill Debicki Man from UNCLE

As commanding a presence as Cavill and Hammer have, they are almost upstaged by the equally important roles played by Alicia Vikander as the German daughter of a rocket scientist and Elizabeth Debicki as the ultimate Bond villain.  The villainy in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is surprisingly as powerful, seething, and fun as any 1960s Bond film.  All of this is a credit to Ritchie’s bankable directorial and writing prowess.  A fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Ritchie knows how to get the best out of partnerships here, just as he did with his Sherlock Holmes movie series.

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