Tag Archive: Amazon Studios


This year we found one series that could easily sweep most of the categories–a single television series that had everything: compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, all kinds of genre elements that were satisfying and left viewers feeling inspired.  Richly detailed sets and costumes.  An impossible feat to replicate.  No drama came close.  No other visual effects spectacle could touch it.  And its audience is everyone.  A truly epic addition to television viewing, that series is The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the greatest television series to come along in years.  If you love genre like we do, this was as good as it gets.  And like icing on the cake, along came The Mandalorian at year end.

But we’re not going to ignore the other good things that happened on the small screen this year.

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here.

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

Best Borg SeriesDoom Patrol (DC Universe).  With this year’s series Doom Patrol we got a look at two borgs, DC Comics’ Cyborg, an update to Martin Caidin’s original Bionic Man from the 1970s, and an older borg created before the word was even coined in the 1960s, Robotman.  Both characters revealed a glimpse at what life might be like with significant cybernetic enhancements (when brought together by a modern Dr. Frankenstein).  For 2019, it was the way to get your borg fix on the small screen.

Best TV Series, Best New Limited TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Writing for TV, Best TV Costumes/Makeup, Best TV SoundtrackThe Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix).  It was worth the wait.  Jim Henson’s seemingly impossible to replicate artistic vision was successfully achieved thanks to his daughters and the company he founded.  The kindest heroes, the darkest evil, a truly epic, legendary story for the ages.  Everybody is cranking out CGI extravaganzas, but how many are creating artistry so fundamentally real, with so many individual artists and artisans contributing and achieving so much?  Even that wouldn’t be enough if not for the layered mythology and epic adventure story.  Add great humor, high stakes, emotional impact, an all-star voice cast, Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim’s  imaginative musical score, and those puppets and all that go into them–it adds up to a rare thing–a Henson masterpiece.

Best TV Sci-fi Series, Best TV DramaThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  Amazon Studios could not have adapted a series more faithfully, making changes for the medium and the times, than its take on Philip K. Dick’s most celebrated novel.  The use of science fiction to tell a deep and twisty level of subplots and unique setting all came to a perfect conclusion in the series finale.  Exciting, intelligent, frightening, and the most thought-provoking series this year, it was also different from its sci-fi competition.  Honorable mention: The Mandalorian (Disney+)–but only if we allow space fantasy since the series is not true science fiction, The Orville (Fox)–for its two-part epic movie-worthy space story, “Identity.”

Best New Ongoing TV Series, Runner-up: Best TV Soundtrack, Runner-up: Best TV Costumes/Makeup The Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which in only its first two hours we rated it closer to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back 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) on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for the success of this surprisingly awesome arrival–the series is proof Star Wars is far from over.

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2020.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 85 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  Ghostbusters: Afterlife Scarlett Johannson solo in Black WidowA new James Bond movie, No Time to DieVin Diesel in Bloodshot and a new Fast & FuriousThe original Tom Clancy novel series is finally continuing with an adaptation of Without Remorse Comic book adaptations are in less supply in 2020, but look for Venom 2, Wonder Woman 1984, Eternals, The New Mutants, Morbius, Birds of Prey, The Old Guard, and did we mention Black WidowCompare the below list to our 2019 list and even the 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list, and your takeaway may be seeing the studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services.

Do you like sequels?  There are far less coming to theaters in 2020 than in 2019, but many more remakes of movies, books, and TV shows are on the way.  In fact, with all the blockbusters in 2019, 2020 looks pretty tame as the cinema marquee is concerned.  Some films don’t have locked in release dates yet: Amazon Studios and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for the following 2020 releases (those we know you’ll find on the calendar below):

  • 7500, a film about a highjacked airplane, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Amazon Studios)
  • The Dig, a film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan (Netflix)
  • Horse Girl, Alison Brie stars and directs this story about an awkward girl who fuses her dreams with reality (Netflix)
  • Jingle Jangle, an animated Christmas story with the voices of Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, and Hugh Bonneville (Netflix)
  • Louis Wain, biopic of the 19th century artist starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, and Andrea Riseborough (Amazon Studios)
  • The Old Guard, adaptation of comic book story, starring Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, a film about Marie Curie, starring Rosamund Pike and Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)
  • Rebecca, adaptation and remake of the Daphne Du Maurier classic novel, starring Lily James, Keely Hawes, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Armie Hammer (Netflix)
  • Welcome to Sudden Death, sequel to Jean-Claude van Damme 1995 movie starring Michael Jai White (Netflix)
  • The Willoughbys, animated adaptation of the Lois Lowry book, with voices of Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, and Jane Krakowski (Netflix)
  • Wonderland, murder conspiracy mystery starring Mark Wahlberg, Allan Arkin, and Colleen Camp (Netflix)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2021.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2020 (and some you might not!):

January

The Informer – Thriller, starring Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Common, and Clive Owen – January 10.

Underwater – Thriller, stars Kristin Stewart in underwater horror story – January 10.

Dolittle – Family/Comedy, stars Robert Downey, Jr. in remake of the classic, with voices of Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes, and Michael Sheen – January 17.

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This Friday fans of the science fiction TV series The Expanse get their wish: a fourth season and new studio commitment that may yield even more seasons.  Dropped by the Syfy channel more than a year ago, Amazon Studios is breathing new life into the series, taking over right where the third season left off (check out a preview for the new season below).  Based on the James S.A. Corey series of novels (eight with a ninth in the works), the show has earned a fan following much like that of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, in part because of its similar dark and gritty look at the future of Earth.  And as a bonus, unlike most TV series, The Expanse now has its own behind-the-scenes book digging into the production, full of concept artwork, ship and costume designs, and all the future tech that goes into a visual effects-filled show.

The Art and Making of The Expanse was created by Titan Books editor Andy Jones and Alcon Publishing’s Jeff Conner.  It doesn’t skimp on the photographs, giving fans both a treasure trove of screen images while also showing how those final shots came to be.  It recounts how the series made its way from video game to roleplay game to novels before getting picked up for TV.  Showrunner Naren Shankar and producers Mark Fergus, Daniel Abraham, and Ty Franck tell the whole story with contributions from actors Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Thomas Jane, and Sadavir Errinwright, production designer Seth Reed, costume designer Joanne Hansen, construction coordinator Robert Valeriote, senior VFX supervisor Bob Munroe, and concept artist Tim Warnock.

Readers will see all the key sets, spacesuits and other costumes, props, designs, ships, ship signage, and more from the first three seasons with a look at the fourth season’s concept art.  Look for layouts on each main character, the major ships and space stations, and a lot more.

Here is a preview of season four of The Expanse, with new cast members Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Forever, The Man in the High Castle), Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow, Nikita), Jess Salgueiro (Orphan Black, The Strain), Michael Benyaer (Deadpool, Magnum PI), Chai Valladares (Star Trek Discovery, The Boys), and Kris Holden-Reid (Vikings, Lost Girl), and a new cyborg or two:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How often does a television series stay powerfully compelling for the entirety of its run?  Most series, especially science fiction series, have a freshman and sophomore season full of bad episodes and clunky storylines.  With a fourth season now one for the books, Amazon Studios’ The Man in the High Castle is the exception, and nothing short of cinema magic that the final season of the series didn’t miss a beat in its final ten episodes.  The series has been a slow burn from the first season, but if you enjoy the idea of an alternate universe that doubles as an alternate history story–and nobody made them better than author Philip K. Dick–then this is the series for you, waiting for you to stream its 40 episodes right now.  It all began with a first-rate pilot (first previewed here at borg) set in a gut-wrenching world where the Axis beat the Allies in World War II, created five years ago for Amazon’s first run at a series format.  From the meticulously re-created sets, buildings, landscapes, costumes, props, and vehicles, to a script that may very well reflect the smartest and most tense science fiction ever to hit television sets, The Man in the High Castle proves Amazon Studios can match (and beat) the quality of programming of any of its competitors.

The themes are unfortunately current, grand and weighty like the best science fiction should be, and Santayana’s warning was probably never better illustrated in fiction form, asking the question: Could Nazi leadership of the homegrown American variety be worse than a threat from foreign invaders?  The show also explores other big ideas, like the idea that you may not be the very best possible version of yourself (and what you could do about it).  Most series are top-heavy, relying too much on the lead characters to drive the story.  The writers of The Man in the High Castle took the time to completely flesh out dozens of key supporting characters, each one critical to the story, and all an example of world-building detail that every writer should take notes on.  Every thread they created gets nicely tied up by the final episode.  The very best, most complex and creative character arcs on any series this decade happened here.  And the series’ climactic scene is simply goosebump-inducing.  The pool of candidates for anyone’s best TV actor and actress this year?  They should begin with this series.

Back again is Alexa Davalos as the world-bending, judo teacher-turned resistance strategist.  She was joined by last year’s new suave, rogue soldier, played by Jason O’Mara.  They have the knowledge to potentially save their world and infinite others, but how do they decide what is the right way to do it? Leading the bad guys on the American front again is Rufus Sewell′s Reichsmarshall John Smith, whose performance as the rising Nazi leader is so convincing viewers will never see what’s coming next, and his wife Helen, played by Chelah Horsdal, gets to step into the spotlight in nerve-wracking ways this season.  Joel de la Fuerte, as Japan’s Emperor’s leader in San Francisco, is so versatile he should be the most sought-after actor on the planet.  This year they are joined by new good guys played by Frances Turner and Clé Bennett, who bring a welcome, late-breaking twist to the outcome of the world, plus the return of Quinn Lord as the alt world’s Thomas Smith.  Even the kids playing the daughters–Genea Charpentier and Gracyn Shinyei–are scary good (meriting inclusion on our ever-growing horror film “creepy little girls” list).

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It’s not historical fact as much as a depiction of an era, but Amazon′s original movie The Aeronauts has a gorgeous look with plenty of historical elements.  We previewed the first trailer for the film two months ago, and Amazon just released the next.  The film is billed as biographical adventure, and that comes from its depiction of Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts) as real-life balloonist James Glaisher.  Glaisher, with another British aeronaut named Henry Coxwell, beat the world flight altitude record by reaching nearly 39,000 feet with a hot air balloon.  For the Amazon production Coxwell is being swapped out for a fictional character played by Rogue One’s Felicity Jones.  Both Jones and Redmayne were nominated for Oscars for The Theory of Everything, with Redmayne taking home an award.  Jones’ character in this film will be an amalgam of the first woman who was a professional balloonist, Sophie Blanchard, and another famous aeronaut of the era, Margaret Graham.

Even if you dismiss the elements that aren’t historical, you’re left with a big budget steampunk era film, which is a rarity for fans of the genre, The Aeronauts had top designers re-create the 1860s.  Alice Sutton, who was production designer on Bohemian Rhapsody, is production designer on this film (as well as next year’s Emma adaptation starring Anya Taylor-Joy).  The historical costumes were created by Alexandra Byrne, Oscar-winner for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and she’s known for her work on Marvel movies Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, The Avengers, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, plus The Phantom of the Opera and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.

Take a look at the new trailer for Amazon’s The Aeronauts:

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It’s not historical fact as much as a depiction of an era, but Amazon′s forthcoming original movie The Aeronauts has a gorgeous look with plenty of historical elements.  It’s billed as biographical adventure, and that comes from its depiction of Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts) as real-life balloonist James Glaisher.  On this day in September 1862, Glaisher with another British aeronaut Henry Coxwell beat the world flight altitude record by reaching nearly 39,000 feet with a hot air balloon.  For the Amazon production Coxwell is being swapped out for a fictional character played by Rogue One’s Felicity Jones.  Both Jones and Redmayne were nominated for Oscars for The Theory of Everything, with Redmayne taking home an award.  Jones’ character in this film will be an amalgam of the first woman who was a professional balloonist, Sophie Blanchard, and another famous aeronaut of the era, Margaret Graham.

Besides having the greatest steampunk title you can think of, The Aeronauts had top designers re-create the 1860s.  So even if we’re not going to get historical accuracy, this seems like it may provide a good feel for an era that hasn’t seen much screen-time outside the fictional realm of the steampunk genre.  Alice Sutton, who was production designer on Bohemian Rhapsody, is production designer on this film (as well as next year’s Emma adaptation starring Anya Taylor-Joy).  The historical costumes were created by Alexandra Byrne, Oscar-winner for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and she’s known for her work on Marvel movies Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, The Avengers, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, plus The Phantom of the Opera and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.

Take a look at the trailer for Amazon’s The Aeronauts:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Underneath The Boys, a series so full of all things offensive, with language, misogyny, immorality, violence, sex–something sure to offend everyone, lies a backbone of a story that might have something to say, if the way it was laid out wasn’t so exploitative.  It’s easy to imagine show execs Eric Kripke, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen pulling the strings behind the curtain on this project, but what exactly are they trying to say?  Mocking the real-life modern horrors on your TV, protected by the acknowledgement that the moral is clear that all the bad they show is bad, it’s intended as satire, as social commentary.  It’s an unusual medium to convey its many messages, questions without answers for many things Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson took on in their source material comics of the same name, very much like Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s stories from the 1980s it attempts to pay homage to.  It’s impossible not to compare The Boys to Moore’s Watchmen–superheroes for a dark and modern time that are different but familiar to the superheroes we all know so well–it may be even closer to Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns despite its lack of well-known characters.  The entirety of the story of the first season, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is the familiar “Who watches the watchers?”

Who are “The Boys” of the title anyway?  Led by ever-angry Bill Butcher, played by the actor of all franchises Karl Urban, it’s a small team of five rebels determined for their individual reasons to take down Vought, a corporation that manages the superheroes that protect Americans from almost every crime that’s occurring.  As good as the production values are, the series is not that clever, but its difference is how over-the-top and grimy it’s willing to get to tell its story.  From the previews you might think it compares to The Umbrella Academy.  Make no mistake, the storytelling in The Boys is better and less yawn-worthy, except The Umbrella Academy showed off some better superhero special effects along the way with its Number Five character.  You’ll find a lot here no one else is willing to touch on TV, making it a clear NC-17/R+ show: Carlin’s seven dirty words get explored, anti-fundamentalism, blasphemy in themes and situations, assault on today’s politics and extremism, nationalism, misogyny, sex abusers and other deviants, gender issues–most of these used to make valid points about issues mirroring modern times.  But like watching the daily news (or newsfeed) it’s not that enjoyable.  It never manages to approach similarly violent but fun efforts like tongue-in-cheek superhero films Deadpool or Kick-Ass.  Except for the vengeance.  When the bad guys pay–and that’s strangely rare–it’s hard to deny some of the scenes are pretty satisfying, especially when Urban wields a newborn supe as a laser gun.

The Boys has some cream-of-the-crop acting, which elevates the entire project.  Urban leads it all as the Daniel Craig-in-Layer Cake level, put-upon, amped-up mercenary Butcher.  As with all of his performances he jumps right in, creating one of his best, ugly characters (compare to his Caesar, Vaako, Cooper, and Skurge).  Equal to that is a layered performance by Jessica Jones’ Erin Moriarty.  The series is really about her.  She plays Annie January aka Starlight, a young, naive woman who sincerely wants to use her powers to help others.  She makes it into an elite, corporate controlled group of “supes” called The Seven.  But she quickly learns The Seven are more bad than good for America and the planet: one supe forces her to have sex, another invisible supe hangs out in the restroom leering at her.  Along the way Starlight picks up a friend in The Hunger Games’ Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell, a guy whose girlfriend is killed by a speedster supe in The Seven–but was it an accident?  Hughie is enlisted to help Butcher try to take down Vought–the corporation behind The Seven.  Vought might as well be Detroit’s Omni Consumer Products from RoboCop or Veidt Enterprises from Watchmen, but even more vile.  The shock and in-your-face violence is every bit a match to these films from that infamous era of no-holds-barred 1980s violence.

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Victoriana meets steampunk and mythology in an upcoming series.  With production design that evokes The Golden Compass, Harry Potter, and the gloom of Charles Dickens, Amazon Studios’ new Carnival Row has all the elements of a good fantasy.  With two big stars, Cara Delevingne (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) and Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings), it looks to be the next series to keep an eye on.

At San Diego Comic-Con this week, Amazon Studios’ released two introductions to the series, presented by the two lead actors.  The best feature may be the beautiful accompanying music by Nathan Barr, composer of many a horror show.  And this has plenty of its own blood and gore.  A detective show, a mystery and a fantasy world with its own look despite familiar influences, Carnival Row will be a certain pick to binge-watch next month.

Check out these new previews from SDCC 2019 of Carnival Row:

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With Amazon Studios releasing a new, full-length trailer for its six-part series Good Omens, showrunner Neil Gaiman discussed his creative process for the book and the show at this weekend’s South by Southwest (SXSW 2019) conference and festival in Austin, Texas.  Check out his panel interview below, with Gaiman discussing the series and his creative process.  Gaiman co-wrote the novel Good Omens on which the series is based with Terry Pratchett way back in 1989.  Pratchett passed away in 2015, and now, led by Gaiman’s efforts, twenty-nine years after its creation the book is on its way to a TV adaptation later this spring.

In Good Omens the end of the world is coming, and opposite personalities in the form of an Angel and Demon are brought together to form an unlikely alliance to stop Armageddon.  They have lost the Antichrist, an 11-year-old boy unaware he’s meant to bring upon the end of days, sending the pair to find him and save the world before… The End.  The series combines the talents of Douglas Mackinnon, who directed episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who, and it stars David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viva Blackpool) and Michael Sheen (Passengers, Doctor Who, Tron: Legacy, Frost/Nixon, Alice in Wonderland).  Other big names appearing in the series include Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Hobbit, Star Trek Into Darkness), Jon Hamm (Baby Driver), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Muppets Most Wanted), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Michael McKean (Clue, Laverne and Shirley), David Morrissey (Doctor Who, The Walking Dead), Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards, Isle of Dogs), and Brian Cox (Shetland, RED, Doctor Who).

First, take a look at the new full-length trailer for the series, followed by the discussion with Neil Gaiman this weekend at SXSW 2019, and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette:

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It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 25 characters that rose to the top.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2018 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked as well had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a former MI-5 agent, bounty hunters, assassins, doctors, defenders, advanced superhumans, superheroines, warriors, witches, and even a few cyborgs–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters.

Better yet, here’s something we haven’t said before.  Several of our selections this year were played by women over 50.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2018:

Enfys Nest (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  For the first half of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Enfys Nest was the leader of a band of pirates, a character as cool and ruthless as anyone Han Solo ever faced.  But once she took off her mask,  it became clear how important she was, how significant her mission was–even more so than Han Solo’s own pursuit of mere wealth.  She foreshadowed what Han would later find with Leia, an early glimpse at a rogue and scoundrel who actually had some good in him.  When they joined forces, it made their characters even better.  And she became one of the best warriors in the Star Wars universe since the original trilogy.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Okoye (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War).  Is there any woman warrior as powerful and impressive in a fantasy movie this year as Danai Gurira’s Okoye?  We can’t think of any.  A smart commander, a brave soldier, a loyal ally.  Stalwart, devoted, steadfast, strong physically, intimidating and wise, with a keen unwavering ferocity, she represented the best of Wakanda, and fought bravely to defend the world at the last stand against Thanos.  (Disney/Marvel)

Higgins (Magnum PI).  Few television characters are as beloved as Jonathan Higgins in the original Magnum, p.i.  So it was going to be risky having any actor step into the role John Hillerman made famous.  So when the show honored the original character and late actor with such a finely tuned, updated character and actor, we took notice.  Perdita Weeks’s Juliet Higgins is everything Robin Masters was–the character we all thought Higgins was in secret.  We don’t know whether we’ll learn the truth this time around and what that truth will be, but as an ex-British secret service agent, she’s a James Bond for Thomas Magnum to partner with–literally running alongside the show’s star and fighting and shooting her way as an equal.  And the result?  Every episode of the first season was full of great action and fun.  (CBS)
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