Tag Archive: Amazon Prime


Bliss B

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the 2017 movie Logan, three characters drawn together by circumstance form a family unit and for a brief moment over a dinner with strangers they get to experience bliss for the first, and possibly only, times of their lives.  In the climactic sequence of Amazon Studio’s original 2021 film, Bliss, the two lead characters also get to have a moment where their lives are what they always dreamed of.  Is it real or is this sci-fi or fantasy, or are we headed into some kind of twisted horror story?  That’s the question viewers will be waiting for as they take a very strange trip with Owen Wilson as a down-on-his-luck estranged father whose life collides with Salma Hayek as a vagabond conjurer of magic who lives on the streets nearby.  Fortunately the characters are endearing and sympathetic, the performances spot-on, and their story worth your two hours.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’ve been watching Michael Apted’s ground-breaking Up Series from its first installments, you know each new chapter in the real-life time travel journey makes the viewer feel like he or she has also reached some kind of achievement with the arrival of the new episode.  But the series of documentaries is not for the faint-hearted, filled with gut-wrenching views into participants’ lives, participants who feel like family after watching them over 56 years since their first appearance.  So compelling and personal is Apted’s look at this select group of fourteen English boys and girls turned men and women, revisiting them every seven years of their lives since 1964, the documentary series is practically an interactive experience.  With Apted passing away since the UK premiere last year, and the U.S. arrival of the latest installment–the eagerly awaited 63 Up arriving on BritBox via Amazon Prime this weekend–the question is whether this ninth installment is the last.  Key members of the crew since 28 Up have expressed an interest in continuing the series in 2027, but until then expect this to be a bittersweet end for the series, which Roger Ebert called the noblest project in cinema history and among the ten best films ever made.

At last Apted addresses the thesis of the show to each participant, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” and asks whether they agree after decades participating in this unique social experiment.  Apted was a researcher when working on director Paul Almond’s Seven Up! in 1964.  Seven years later the well-known director of Gorillas in the Mist, The World is Not Enough, Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gorky Park, was just out of university, and at 22 he revisited the original Seven Up! project.  He would go on to direct the subsequent eight episodes over 56 years.  The idea was to get a glimpse of England in the future year 2000 when these kids, the future leaders of England, were only seven years old.  It is difficult to surpass the jolts and surprises of 42 Up, but 63 Up holds its own, although sadly viewers will say goodbye to one participant who has died, another is seriously ill, and another decided not to participate.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Deceit, betrayal, glory, destiny.  

At one level the back half of the 89 hours of History Channel’s Vikings series had two key components that kept viewers coming back week after week: the next scene always was completely and terrifically unpredictable, and each increase in stakes for your favorite character was just plain nail-biting.  Like walking a tightrope, at any point every character–no matter how great or small–might get wiped away.  Creator and writer Michael Hirst plucked cultural bits of Norse history and intertwined them with the written histories and mythology of historical figures to make something riveting, compelling, and permanent–the spirit of a historical saga that Viking descendants can be proud of, while also meeting the needs of fantasy viewers for the next swordplay action-adventure.  Primarily a denouement for the long six season run, the final ten episodes have arrived on Amazon Prime, with History Channel to air them at a later date.

The reach of the Norse influence, the survival of the Lothbrok line, the direction of early England and Russia.  It all intersects here.  Does the end measure up to the rest of the series?

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When we created last year’s preview of 2020 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best, mainly because what were to be the big box office hits were delayed to 2021 because of the covid pandemic.  All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, an impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.  Ultimately we think the Best Movies of 2020 will stand up against any other year.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back tomorrow for our best on television and later this week for our print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2020:

Best Film, Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Drama, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Writing, Best Suspense/Thriller, Best Retro Fix The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime).  The man of many hats, writer-director-producer-editor Andrew Patterson dazzled us this year with the sleeper sci-fi film The Vast of Night, from Amazon Prime.  Amazon hadn’t before stunned us with a feature film, but this one sure blew us away.  We knew this was the #1 science fiction offering of the year at first viewing, but when we went back and watched films again, it also stood out as the clear winner for top prize.  Part American Graffiti, part The Twilight Zone and The X-Files, and filmed as faithfully to the era as a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece (with Orson Welles flair), this story sneaks up on the audience thanks in part to its two talented young lead actors.  The script is impeccable and rich, dotted with great jargon that dances artfully like music from the characters’ lips.  Expert Chilean cinematographer Miguel Menz adds just the right lighting and camera angles for a film we hope can get recognized by the Oscars, if only so we can see more of these filmmakers and actors in the future.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Film: Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Netflix).

Best Borg Movie, Best Superhero Movie, Best BorgBloodshot (Sony Pictures).  The story of slain soldier Ray Garrison provided the year’s best look at life as a borg.  What do you do with cybernetic enhancements, how do you use them, and what toll does take from your humanity?  Jeff Wadlow’s story really kicked in once the audience slides into the plot twist.  The Six Million Dollar Man didn’t get to decide to get his bionics, and neither does Ray.  Once you give up control of yourself to someone else, more and more of you vanishes.  Especially if the person in control is using you as a tool of evil.  The best superhero films tend to be about the B-level superheroes, and Bloodshot proved that true again this year.  Honorable mention for Best Superhero Movie: The New Mutants (20th Century Studios).

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Who lives and who dies?

In July we discussed a great summer panel from virtual San Diego Comic-Con discussing the final ten episodes of History Channel’s Vikings series, following the first ten episodes released a year ago (check out our coverage of the panel here at borg if you missed it).  The showrunner and cast of History’s Vikings, including showrunner and writer Michael Hirst and actors Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, and Clive Standen, who we saw at their first Comic-Con back in 2013, provided a brief preview of the final 10 of the season’s 20 episodes.  Now those final episodes will hop networks to Amazon Prime, where they will all be available for binge-watching on December 30, followed later on their original network, History.  Along with the news of the change in networks and streaming date is a new trailer–check it out below.

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Although it wasn’t renewed for a second season, streaming service DC Universe’s Swamp Thing was the 2019 adaptation of a comic book series that stood apart in a year where every other series seemed to be based on a comic book.  On the small screen, from The Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Watchmen, to the last seasons of Netflix’s The Punisher and Jessica Jones, plus new seasons of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and Legion, and new Batwoman and Doom Patrol series, 2019 meant a lot of comic book adaptations that either looked the same or they fought hard to try to be grittier and different.  And that’s great–that means there’s something for everyone.  But none compared to Swamp Thing.  For our money, if you’re looking for fun, creepy timed for Halloween and not cartoony, soap opera-ish, or comic booky, and a series that earned its way to be one of the top 10 comic book adaptations of all, give Swamp Thing a try.  Moving from DC Universe to the CW network where anyone can watch it, the first episode of Swamp Thing begins again tonight at 7 p.m. Central.

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October is almost here!

Your annual list of scary, ghostly, spooky, creepy, slashery, and generally monstrous films is back.  The goal?  Not to miss your favorite Halloween movies in October, and maybe find some new favorites.  You’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Need even more recommendations?  Check our borg lists of past recommendations here–Halloween doesn’t arrive each year until we’ve watched The Watcher in the Woods and Silver Bullet.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and modern fare.  Syfy′s “31 Days of Halloween” is back, along with Freeform′s “31 Nights of Halloween.”  AMC has its “Fear Fest” again, and as with last year you can get caught up on The Walking Dead airing throughout the entire month (you’ll have to check the AMC website for the last few days of the month, as the network doesn’t release its listings this far in advance).  Best of all, TCM hosts a day of monster movies on October 12 and 23, plus movies all month featuring Peter Cushing.  You’ll find this year all the usual suspects: Stephen King, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger.  Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month so you may want to check the Disney website for updates.

New for this year–check out the new remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Ratched, the brilliant zombie series Kingdom, the monster-filled October Faction, The Babysitter, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Enola Holmes on Netflix, The Vast of Night on Amazon, the horrors of love on Soulmates on AMC, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island on Starz and Vudu, or 2019’s Ready or Not on Vudu.  If you missed 2018’s Halloween movie with Jamie Lee Curtis, or Get Out, find them streaming on Vudu and other services–it’s not to be missed (and you can catch all the past entries in the series on AMC).  Also, if you missed Netflix’s latest seasons of Stranger Things or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, now’s a great time to catch up.  (Note: AMC and Syfy’s listings don’t always mention which versions of the movies are being aired (original or remake?), so your guess is as good as ours).

All month long on streaming services and premium channels like Netflix and Starz you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more, plus series like The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  Everything you see in AMC’s listings are offered via their on-demand services, so watch those whenever you’d like.  If all else fails, you can find your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (all these are highly recommended, and you can catch many of these airing this month, too).

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything, especially useful for many of the marathons, which often play in reverse order (?!).  We’ve bolded some of our recommendations.  All times listed are Central Time:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With the 1868 novel The Moonstone, author Wilkie Collins created what is widely considered to be the first modern English detective novel, creating the key beats that would thereafter make up the framework for the genre.  In his earlier work, the 1859 Gothic “sensational” novel The Woman in White, Collins created a suspense thriller that stands up to rich classics including his contemporary Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Bleak House, all while steeped in the realities of being a 19th century woman documented a decade earlier by Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre, and later, Daphne du Maurier in Rebecca.  The BBC 2018 adaptation of The Woman in White, streaming now via Amazon Prime, rises to the top of recent British mystery series, a compelling execution that will keep you guessing until the final scenes.    Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery series like Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  The 2019 British series A Confession is streaming on BritBox in the U.S. via Amazon, and it may not be as good as any of these, but it does eclipse recent series like Dublin Murders, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, and CollateralIt is based on the real-life story of the murders of two women in 2003 and 2011, so the drama is dark and real.  And it offers up a cast of familiar genre actors that will make you want to take a look.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

One of the news items from this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was a push of completed Disney and Fox movies out several months to insure full movie theater returns for the studio, while pushing out the door in advance of a full audience return films like The New Mutants and Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to his adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, now arriving October 23.  Those of us excited for the next all-star Hercule Poirot adventure can be glad that at least means a home release sooner than later.  In the meantime Amazon Prime has a brilliant BBC production of a classic mystery novel, previously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, and adapted most recently in 2013, of The Lady Vanishes.  

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