Tag Archive: Amazon Studios


After the first of our two pandemic years, when we created last year’s preview of 2021 movies we admit we thought the year was looking iffy from a movie standpoint–so many films delayed or held back, others expected but canceled early in production, etc.  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, a smaller but still impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.

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.

Come back tomorrow for our best 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 2021 here and Best TV of 2021 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2021:

Best Superhero Movie  Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony). Overlooked like the original Venom, sharp writing and faithful adaptation of the comics made for the best, most fun superhero movie of 2021.  Runner-up: Black Widow (Disney).  Despite the delays it was worth the wait, and it stands as a rewatchable and fun movie. Honorable mention: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney), a great tie-in to characters from throughout the MCU.

Best Action/Adventure Film, Best Visual Effects: Jungle Cruise (Disney), another Disney rollercoaster ride translated to the screen; a film that surprised us as the next incarnation of a Raiders of the Lost Ark-level adventure.  Runner-up: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney).  A solid martial arts adventure, a bus scene out of Speed, and great finale action.

Best Film, Best Drama, Best Director (Simon Stone), Best Cinematography (Mike Eley) – The Dig (Netflix).  A powerful film, exploring life at the precipice of change, missed and almost missed opportunities, the fleeting nature of life, and the survival of humanity through what we leave behind.  Runners-up for Best Film: The Courier (Amazon), Black Widow (Disney), one of the MCU’s best contributions.

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Today we’re continuing our annual year-end round-up with the Best TV Series of 2021.  If you missed it, check out our review of the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2021 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching. The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  It’s even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.  And the very best series get usually get canceled at the end of their first season because network execs will never figure out what we genre fans love.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg Series, Best TV BorgCowboy Bebop (Netflix).  Mustafa Shakir’s Jet Black expanded on the anime series to create a space pilot and bounty hunter as cool and real as anyone from the Star Wars universe.  His cyborg implants made him incredibly powerful–necessary in his dealings on behalf of Spike and his family.

Best Sci-Fi TV SeriesBest Western TV Series, Best Space Fantasy Series, Best Retro Fix, Best TV Soundtrack, Best TV Costumes – Cowboy Bebop (Netflix).  Only one science fiction series really knocked our socks off this year.  The stylish look and music, and the fun of the crew of the spaceship Bebop made us want to speed through this series.  For viewers looking for the next Firefly, this is it.  For fans looking for the best futurism, space realism, and the next Altered Carbon, this is it.  Its writing, direction, cast, and overall production values made the series this year’s series to talk aboutRunner-up for Best Sci-fi TV Series: Blade Runner: Black Lotus (Adult Swim), great sci-fi, faithful to the source material.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-fi TV Series: Resident Alien (Syfy) Alan Tudyk’s fish-out-of-water story and his alien story pulled us back to the roots of classic sci-fi with humor and drama as a bonus.

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main-the-last-tycoon-lily-collins-matt-bohmer-kelsey-grammer

Review by C.J. Bunce

That’s showbiz.

It sums up every feature on the brilliant Amazon Studios series The Last Tycoon, a loose adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s incomplete final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon With a nine-episode first season only touching on the threads of Fitzgerald’s original ideas, just as the characters begin to fall apart in the season’s cliffhanger finale, Amazon Studios does what studios do–tightens it belt and cancels the series.  It helps to know this before you watch this one-season-wonder (we’ll add it to the list), because you will get pulled into the world of 1936 Hollywood in a way you could only be reeled in by a genuine 1930s picture.  Even if it was all filmed in Canada in an unthinkably short 65 day production.

The Last Tycoon does it all differently and gets it all right–it’s the series we hoped the film Mank would be.  It’s not an exact adaptation of Fitzgerald’s work, but the bones are there, and creator/writer/executive producer/director Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Terminator: Dark Fate) creates something perfect, probably better than any Fitzgerald adaptation you’ve ever seen, with some of your favorite genre actors.

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t-Ordeal-by-Innocence-

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Make no mistake, despite the title, this BBC adaptation really is not Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence.  It is without doubt writer Sarah Phelps’s Ordeal by Innocence, and it stands out as the best of her recent adaptations of Christie’s works.  In many ways, the 2018 television series is better than its source material.  Phelps is known for adding prurient subtext and graphic imagery to her film versions, efforts that typically seem uncomfortably gratuitous (such as the gore and sado-masochism in The ABC Murders, reviewed here at borg).  But in the case of Ordeal by Innocence, the delivery is more even-handed and her departures make the story better.  I came into the three-part miniseries immediately after reading Christie’s novel.  Published in 1958, Ordeal by Innocence centers around the classic mystery trope of the missing alibi witness, but with a tragic twist.

One lonesome night, scientist Arthur Calgary (played by Attack the Block’s Luke Treadaway) picks up a hitchhiker, and then is unavoidably detained, unaware that his testimony could make or break a murder trial.  Jack Argyll (Jacko in the novel, played here by Derry Girls’ Anthony Boyle) has been convicted of the murder of his adopted mother, philanthropist Rachel Argyll, matriarch of a clan of adopted children and assorted other household members.  Jack, with his contentious relationship with Rachel and a history of petty crime, seems the ideal suspect for the crime.  When Dr. Calgary appears long after the fact to clear Jack’s name, his mission of mercy and justice is met with strange reactions from all involved.  It’s almost as if they want brother and son Jack to be guilty.

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Leverage Redmption cast

Review by C.J. Bunce

The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

And the best pilot and reboot of the year goes to… Chris Downey, John Rogers, Dean Devlin, and Marc Roskin’s triumphant return of most of the Leverage Consulting & Associates team to the screen in the IMDb TV original series Leverage: Redemption In the intervening 8.5 years a lot has changed.  Now the business has expanded into Leverage International.  Beth Riesgraf’s Parker leads the way (but she has a psychologist to help now… a child psychologist).  Aldis Hodge’s Hardison has even better tech than he had a decade ago.  Christian Kane’s hitter supreme Eliot has expanded his business, too.  But somehow Timothy Hutton’s mastermind Nathan Ford has died, and Gina Bellman’s Sophie Devereaux–who was about to tie the knot with Ford at the end of the five-season series in December 2012–hasn’t been able to move forward.  That’s where the new series, which feels exactly like a new season, picks up.

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tomorrow-war

Review by C.J. Bunce

Chris Pratt movies are a thing now just like Tom Cruise movies and Mark Wahlberg movies.  The latest Chris Pratt movie is The Tomorrow War, which just arrived this past weekend on Amazon Prime.  It’s every bit a vehicle for Pratt and could star nobody else.  Like the Jurassic World movies, Passengers, and even The Magnificent Seven remake, Pratt is a unique casting decision but evidently studio execs keep going for his “aw, shucks” brand of characters.  In The Tomorrow War, Pratt plays a biology teacher dad turned rescuer of mankind named Dan Forester.  Forester is nearly impossible to distinguish from Pratt’s dinosaur confronting character in Jurassic World.  Pratt plays that bit of a dope you can’t imagine actually doing any of the things his character encounters, so you may need to be a Pratt fan or simply be grateful it’s a free action movie and not mind you’re getting what you paid for.  Either way, there are worse direct-to-TV movies out there, but as the alien invasion genre goes, don’t expect to count The Tomorrow War high on your list.

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Leverage new show

The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

Leverage original series executive producer and director Dean Devlin has credited a loyal fan base to bringing the team at Leverage Consulting & Associates back after its five-season run from 2008 to 2012.  The new series–call it a reboot, a continuation, a sequel, or just a new season–filmed as Leverage 2 and Leverage 2.0 and now titled Leverage: Redemption, will catch up with most of the original lead characters eight years after the series finale, “The Long Good-bye Job.”  We previewed the new series last year here at borg, as the series tried to get underway in the face of a pandemic.  The production made it, creating 13 episodes, and now we have the first trailer for the show.

Check it out:

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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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The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

Leverage original series executive producer and director Dean Devlin has credited a loyal fan base to bringing the team at Leverage Consulting & Associates back after its five-season run from 2008 to 2012.  The new series–call it a reboot, a continuation, a sequel, or just a new season–filmed as Leverage 2 and Leverage 2.0 and now titled Leverage: Redemption, will catch up with most of the original lead characters eight years after the series finale, “The Long Good-bye Job.”  We previewed the new series last year here at borg, as the series tried to get underway in the face of a pandemic.  The production made it, creating 13 episodes, and this weekend series co-star (and episode director) Beth Riesgraf confirmed on social media fans will get to see the series in 2021.

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Today we move from the big screen to the small screen with the Best TV Series of 2020.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2020 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching.  The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  Even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesAltered Carbon (Netflix).  Showing life in a world well past the merger of the organic and inorganic via stacks placed in human individuals’ vertebrae in the back of the neck, the second season of the series further revealed the dark side of being able to live forever.  What parts of life have the most value in a cybernetic world?  What crimes emerge when body and mind can be separated and re-shuffled?  Honorable mention: Star Trek: Picard (CBD All Access)–revisiting Star Trek’s old nemeses The Borg and introducing the cyborg-like nonbiological humanoids called Synths, the same term used in the BBC’s Humans.

Best TV Borg, Best TV VillainDarth Maul (played by Sam Witwer and Ray Park), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+).  The athletic performer Ray Park provided the best-ever lightsaber duel scenes in his co-starring performance in The Phantom Menace.  Watching the animated series this year it was clear Darth Maul wasn’t just another animated character.  Add another great duel to the books–Park’s motion capture abilities live on and continue to set the bar for Star Wars action sequences, and Witwer voices a character we never want to see go away again.  Honorable mention for Best TV Villain: Grand Moff Gideon, Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian (Disney+).

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Western TV SeriesThe Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which continues to be compared to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back more than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) now called Grogu, on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for a series that only gets better with each episode, despite their short lengths.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi TV Series: Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access).

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