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Tag Archive: Amazon Studios


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 2018’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 24 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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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Man in the High Castle was Philip K. Dick‘s most critically acclaimed novel, which says a lot for his parallel history World War II tale when stacked up against his other brilliant short stories and novels (that’s 121 stories and 44 novels in all).  It’s also the first of his stories to become a big-budget television series, premiering in 2015 with the well-received pilot for The Man in the High Castle.  Amazon Studios proved it can make a drama on par with any other network or studio in its first two seasons, and at San Diego Comic-Con the studio announced the series renewal for a fourth season.  This past week Amazon released a great preview for the next season (see it below).  So you now have a full month to get caught up on the first 20 episodes before Season 3 arrives on Amazon Prime in October.

The series is well worth your time.  The first season was a bit of a slowly building story, providing all the twisty elements to take viewers in a believable way into a parallel version of Earth’s past where the Nazis and Japan were victorious in WWII and America was divided up between them.  As gritty a dystopian show as anyone could muster, the back half of each season is reward enough to stick with the series, even for viewers not especially in the mood for the bleak subject matter.  The winner of two of eight Emmy Award nominations, the series begins in 1962, long after the end of the war–long enough for a new culture to have been solidified across the regions of North America.  The series leads created the best performances you’ll find on television: Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Mist, Defiance), as Juliana Crane, an American whose actions are pivotal for the future, Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Zen), a former American soldier who becomes one of the Nazi leaders in the former States, Joel de la Fuente (The Adjustment Bureau, The Happening) is stunning as the most ruthless of characters, the Japanese leader of the Pacific region of America, and an incredibly nuanced performance of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Lost in Space, Star Wars Rebels, Grimm, Heroes, Alien Nation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) as trade minister for Japan based in San Francisco–a brilliantly layered character like nothing you’ve seen.

Building on Dick’s original ideas and expanding on them is what the series does best, blending the best of the old (like keeping Tagawa’s character having a special power to see an alternate version of the world from the novel) and the new (like using film footage vs. books to inspire actions).  The writers nicely integrate updates and new characters into the series.  Who is the Man in the High Castle?  You’ll just have to watch to find out.  Look for a stellar supporting cast, two fantastic season finales, and a great set-up for the show’s third season.  Fan-favorite genre actors in the show include Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Lexx, Fingersmith, Charmed), Luke Kleintank (Bones), DJ Qualls (Supernatural), Rick Worthy (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica, 12 Monkeys, Supernatural, Haven, Warehouse 13), Callum Keith Rennie (The X-Files, The Dead Zone, Tru Calling, Battlestar Galactica), Daniel Roebuck (Lost, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Grimm, Quantum Leap), Tate Donovan (Memphis Belle, Argo, Shooter), and many more.

Here is the latest trailer for the third season of The Man in the High Castle:

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Is it just me or do these look like the same movie?  On the one hand you have the dark and serious second chapter in the Sicario series, Sicario 2: Soldado, following a badass mercenary in the world of international drug smuggling played by Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Guardians of the Galaxy’s own Benicio Del Toro.  On the other you have the dark comedy Gringo, starring David Oyelowo as a businessman who gets caught up in a bad drug deal with a cartel in Mexico.

Sicario had some great things going for it, including Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Del Toro.  But Blunt was the lead, and the typically fantastic actress seemed stuck in a role where she was the only one making mistakes and the big bad guys were the only ones knowing what was going on.  Del Toro’s character was by far the best thing the film had going for it, the kind of character that got Kevin Spacey his Academy Award and in another year could have done the same for Del Toro.  But the 2015 film was most memorable for its long, slow, atmospheric scenes where nothing happened, making it feel like the film would never end.  But with Del Toro’s character driving the sequel and a new director (swapping Stefano Sollima for Denis Villeneuve), is there hope Sicario 2 could rise above the original?

Gringo has a different kind of cast of stars.  In addition to Oyelowo it stars Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, and Alan Ruck.  This one will be an Amazon Studios release–the studio is still looking for its breakout equivalent of a box office hit.  As with Sicario 2, again we have the theme of drug smuggling and drug deals gone bad.  both of these arrive on the heels of this year’s mildly successful and critically acclaimed drama comedy American Made with Tom Cruise, which took the whole drug smuggling concept in its own direction, poking fun at a real-life drug smuggler from the 1980s as his world crashed in on him.

So which one is for you?  Check out these trailers for Sicario 2 and Gringo:

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jean claude van johnson

Sometimes you vote and your nominee wins.

That’s what we were hoping when Amazon Studios asked audiences last August what series they wanted to see move forward with a full season.  The underdog contender was a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action flick, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  We thought he did it again with a great series pilot last year.  And Amazon Studios agreed.

Amazon Studios has released a new trailer and a teaser plus a firm release date for season one–it’s available next month.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  We reviewed the incredibly fun pilot here at borg.com last year.  Jean-Claude is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, slippers, an iron statue, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 39-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 57).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) acting parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s real-life answer to James Bond.  As Johnson, Van Damme was the world’s most dangerous undercover operative.  And he’s back.

And he has plenty of disguises.

Here is the new teaser and full-length trailer for Jean-Claude Van Johnson:

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Beyond the summer blockbuster and the winter holiday hits, every year movie studios shuffle in a stream of contenders during the interim, fighting for your movie dollars.  Today we’re highlighting three new trailers for high adventure movies coming your way over the next three months.  This weekend will see the latest in one of the oldest movie franchises, King Kong, as Kong: Skull Island arrives in theaters.  The Warner Bros. production stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman, and, of course, the return of Kong.

Appropriately enough Amazon Studios is releasing a true life adventure story next month about the search for a lost city of the Amazon.  The Lost City of Z stars Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak), Robert Pattinson (Harry Potter, Twilight), Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Layer Cake), Tom Holland (Captain America: Civil War, Wolf Hall), and Angus Macfadyen (Braveheart, Timeless, Chuck, Psych).

And Disney reports the end of its enormous box office hit series is coming with the fifth entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean series premiering in May.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales looks as swashbuckling and fun as the franchise’s prior entries.  Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scoledario–and Sir Paul McCartney!–join Johnny Depp and the rest of the cast.

Check out these new trailers for three high adventure movies: Continue reading

jean claude van johnson

Review by C.J. Bunce

So much good television, so little time.  iZombie, Killjoys, Galavant, Thirteen, Mr. Robot, Angie Tribeca–so many new television series are trying new things and stretching the boundaries of what makes fresh entertainment.  While premium cable channels and innovative networks like Amazon Studios and Netflix keep trying, usually via tired formulas and weak attempts to shock viewers over providing any substance, nothing from those sources in the past few years has stood out as a truly great series.  Could it be content overload?  Would Daredevil and Jessica Jones have fared better if we watched them in small doses over a normal season?  In a flat era of television these might take off as great shows, but seem to be easy to pass over for something else.

Amazon Studios keeps trying and may finally have a winner.  Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle started off well and was rewarded with a second season beginning this December.  Now Amazon is launching its own Kickstarter of sorts, letting we the audience influence what series is made next, based on three pilots, including a drama with Kevin Bacon, and another superhero series featuring The Tick.  But it’s difficult to resist the third entry–a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, then you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action vehicle, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  And he’s done it again.

Van Damme Kat Foster

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  Like all those great real and fictional characters interspersed in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series of novels, Van Damme is both real and unreal.  He is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 38-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 55).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s answer to James Bond.  And he’s back.  But audiences must make it happen.

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Man in High Castle Rushmore drop

Good news for you fans of Philip K. Dick novel film adaptations, or those who, like me, thought the pilot was not too shabby, as reviewed previously here at borg.com.  Amazon Studio’s The Man in the High Castle got picked up for a season–at least ten episodes–and it’s coming your way next month.

The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history story where Nazi Germany and Japan defeat the Allies in the second World War.  The acting really carried the pilot.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (The Librarians, Heroes, Alien Nation, License to Kill, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) plays Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese official who must warn Japan that Hitler is dying and will soon be replaced with one of his even less amiable lieutenants (Goebbels, etc.) who is likely to drop an Atomic bomb or two on Japan.

highcastle

Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, Defiance) plays Juliana Crain, a judo/Aikido instructor who receives a strange movie reel (in the novel, a book) titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy from her activist sister before she is gunned down by Japanese officials.  Her boyfriend in the TV series (and ex-husband in the novel) is played by Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Fingersmith).  He is taken prisoner at the end of the pilot, for his association with Juliana and her sister’s apparent treasonous acts.  Rufus Sewell (Zen, A Knight’s Tale, Eleventh Hour) makes an appearance as the ultimate villain–like many of his past roles–this time an unsympathetic Nazi military officer who tortures a rebel civilian without a glimmer of emotion.

Check out this preview then take a look at the first episode:

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The Man in the High Castle Times Square

Review by C.J. Bunce

The more I read Philip K. Dick’s novels, and I’ve read roughly half, the more I want to take a highlighter to paragraphs throughout his works that keep me coming back for more.  Oddly enough, those tidbits I liked best from his Hugo Award-winning, 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle, didn’t make it into the Amazon Studios pilot released this month on their streaming service.  Enough of his framework is there, however, to make science fiction fans, especially alternate history fans, want the new studio to pick up the series and show us what more they can do with this unique work.

The Man in the High Castle generally is considered Dick’s best work.  The TV pilot and novel follow a small cast of characters living their average lives in a world where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II.  The superpowers have divided America, leaving a neutral zone of sorts in between, and this arrangement is the key political focus of the story.  In the novel, life is more mundane and the vile realities more subtle.  In the TV series the theme is more like Red Dawn–the studio must think modern audiences need that over-arching theme of American rebellion for the show to take hold.  A key element missing from the pilot is the Japanese desire for American nostalgia.  A key character in the novel, an antique salesman named Robert Childan, is absent from the TV version.  It’s this character I was most fascinated with in the novel, so it was a strange watching the story progress without his contribution.

Davalos The Man in the High Castle

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