Tag Archive: Awkwafina


nora 3

If you need something to laugh at–and who doesn’t?–a quick fix can be found with Comedy Central’s series Nora from Queens (full title Awkwafina is Nora from Queens), and right when we need her, she’s back with an all-new second season beginning tonight on Comedy Central.  The series of half-hour episodes is a semi-autobiographical look at Awkwafina, stage name of rapper/actor Nora Lum, who switches up her name slightly to Nora Lin for the series.  Viewers will find a lot of truth with Nora, whose real-life persona won a Golden Globe best actress for The Farewell, and she’s had breakout roles in Ocean’s 8, Crazy Rich Asians, and Jumanji: The Next Level.  Has any actor had a better year than Awkwafina?  She was the voice of comic relief Sisu in Disney’s best animated film in years, Raya and the Last Dragon and she’s co-starring in Marvel’s latest superhero blockbuster, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the The Rings–and she’s in Disney’s new, live-action The Little Mermaid.

Check out a preview for the new season below.

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Ten Rings

“Why are they advertising that Suicide Squad movie now?  Didn’t it come out 5 years ago?”

A major gap in the now enormous industry of producing nine-figure, blockbuster superhero movies is that the movie studios are missing an opportunity to retain audiences.  No doubt more than half of the audience for Avengers: Endgame, which earned nearly $2.8 billion at the box office, was from moviegoers that were merely passing fans of the MCU.  Maybe they accompanied a spouse or a kid to the movie.  Most probably had never read a comic book before or since.  Studios today assume audiences will just show up for the spectacle.  But are they right?  Take the trailers for competing superhero movie studio DC Entertainment’s The Suicide Squad.  Nothing in the movie trailers–the only glimpse most prospective moviegoers will see via their TVs–explains why there is another movie called The Suicide Squad.  Do they think most TV viewers catching the commercial notice the addition of the “The” in the title?  Do they assume everyone still reads a newspaper or online entertainment source and is going to make an effort to understand that this new movie is different than the universally panned Suicide Squad of 2016?  Do they really think most prospective movie ticket buyers know or care who the director is?

Which is why it’s refreshing, and a wise move, to see Kevin Feige, mastermind behind all the Marvel Cinematic Universe, discussing the background for the latest new Marvel superhero in a new short feature clip for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.  

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Shang Chi pics

We got our first peek at Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings here at borg this past April.  The new, full-length trailer reveals a plot that has the feel of Wu Assassins, and only a few days since the Snake Eyes trailers, with Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on video, and a new Kung Fu series airing on TV, audiences are getting new opportunities to watch AAPI actors shine.  While you’re in the vibe, don’t miss the live-action Mulan, the historical horror zombie series Kingdom, the action movie The Night Comes for Us, the fantasy wuxia series Legend of the Condor Heroes, the animated movie Over the Moon, the supernatural graphic novel Ghost Tree and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, the overview of martial arts in the movies in Iron Fists and King Fu Kicks, and the Bruce Lee documentary Be Water Long-time comics readers will know Shang-Chi as the Master of Kung Fu from the pages of 1970s Marvel Comics by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin.  Originally the son of Fu Manchu, the character was an attempt by Marvel to create a monthly like the Kung Fu TV series after they failed in their bid to get the adaptation rights.

Check out the new trailer below for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

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Raya a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first animated movie created during the pandemic, with 900 creators working together to make a full-scale feature film from home.  The result is the best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.  The entirely computer animated film also sports three strong female lead characters and is backed by an all female technical leadership team.  The result is a movie blending elements of Asian culture on par with Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fantastical elements of The Lord of the Rings.  Count Raya and the Last Dragon among the creative works that shine brightly despite the adverse conditions of 2020. 

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Shang-Chi trailer

Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe took center stage with some big reveals at a Disney investor event last year.  Since then it’s all been about shuffling release dates.  In the interim Disney+ has launched both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, with Black Widow now scheduled for arrival July 9, 2021, which was when we’d initially expected to see the premiere of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.  Probably the most unexpected of the forthcoming movies from Marvel, this is another film where we expect to find, as with Guardians of the Galaxy, a new access point to the Marvel superheroes for a new generation of movie audiences.  Along with a new poster, now we have our first teaser trailer.

Shang-Chi poster

Long-time comics readers will know Shang-Chi as the Master of Kung Fu from the pages of 1970s Marvel Comics by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin.  Originally the son of Fu Manchu, the character was an attempt by Marvel to create a monthly like the Kung Fu TV series after they failed in their bid to get the adaptation rights.  And everyone knew visually he was based on Bruce Lee.  In the new film Shang-Chi is played by Canadian actor Simu Liu (Orphan Black, Warehouse 13), comedian and comedic actor Awkwafina (Nora from Queens, Jumanji: The Next Level) plays his friend Katy, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong, Forced Vengeance) as The Mandarin, Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek Discovery, Guardians of the Galaxy 2) is Jiang Li, Florian Munteano (Creed 2) as a new cyborg, and Ronny Chieng (Godzilla vs Kong, Crazy Rich Asians) as Shang-Chi’s friend Jon-Jon.

Wait no longer!  Here’s the first look at Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

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Raya and the Last Dragon is the next animated Disney movie, coming later this winter.  Every new look at the film is more exciting than the last, and this is shaping up to be the next Mulan or MoanaRaya and the Last Dragon is entirely computer animated.  It features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classically designed visual fantasy homage to The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn.  Other cast lending their voices to the film include Gemma Chan (Humans, Captain Marvel) as Namaari, Raya’s chief rival and frenemy, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) as giant warrior Tong, and Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy) as Raya’s father.

Here’s the second trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon:

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Happy holidays!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2021!  But wait!  Next year’s list sure looks a lot like the the films we previewed last December.  The covid pandemic has delayed hundreds of film projects, but some made it through.  When you walk back through last year’s list and compare it to movies released after theater lockdowns, you get some insight into how Hollywood thinks.  Big movies and movies predicted to be successes were universally held back, while less popular films were released to low box office returns from theaters that remained open, and yet other films went directly to home streaming or related media platforms.

Last year we pulled 85 of the hundreds of films then slated for the 2020 movie calendar.  The first two dozen made it to theaters (films like Underwater, Dolittle, and Birds of Prey) before the national shift began on March 11 with news of the NBA reacting to the pandemic by suspending pro basketball–the first national awareness of the scope of the problem.  Suddenly we saw Vudu and other home platforms coming to the rescue for our entertainment fix, adding a new Theater at Home option, which captured movies like Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emma, Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, and the animated Scoob!  Disney began an interesting tiered release of Mulan, which for half the year showed a studio doing its best to maximize returns on what would have been a key release in any other year.  After another delay The New Mutants made it briefly to theaters followed by home release after three years of getting kicked aside as the last vestiges of the Disney-Fox merger were shaken out.  Other films, like Vast of Night, Extraction, The Old Guard, Rebecca, Radioactive, and Fantasy Island safely premiered on Netflix and Amazon Prime, with Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction standing out as the clear popular winner–the entire world needed some new entertainment and after what would only be the first of several months of shelter-at-home, it tentatively filled the void.

So our predictions for the year’s big genre films were flat wrong, every single one except Mulan was delayed to 2021, including Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Black Widow, No Time to Die, a new Fast & Furious, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, and superhero flicks Venom 2, Eternals, and MorbiusWonder Woman 1984 is expected to have a theatrical release by year end.  Altogether 35 of last year’s 85 movies previewed on our annual list are back again below, plus we found more than 35 new genre films we think will appeal to borg readers.

So what’s left and what’s new?

Grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2021.  Then compare the below list to our 2020 list, and look back to the 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list.  Last year we noticed studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services, and the pandemic only stepped up that migration.  Note:  Warner Bros. has reported it will issue its 2021 releases simultaneously on HBO Max.  Netflix has mostly dramas slated for 2021, but a few genre films are in pre-production, so expect a few surprises throughout the year.  Amazon Studios has fewer, most partnerships with Blumhouse Productions.

As we learned well this year, many of these films will have revised release dates, and even get pushed to 2022.

January

Mortal Kombat Based on the video game.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.  HBO Max.

Wrath of Man Next Jason Statham action flick.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.

The French Dispatch.  Wes Anderson and his familiar actors in new quirky film about journalists.  New!  January 28, 2021.

The DigA film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan.  January 29, 2021.  Netflix.

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Notable in part for being the first animated movie out of Disney without the work of creator John Lasseter in 15 years, the next major animated movie from Disney features the voices of two well-known genre stars, and it looks a bit on theme with Disney’s last live-action movie, Mulan.  Raya and the Last Dragon is all computer-animated, and it features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classic fantasy The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn-homage tale.

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Nora from Queens pic 2

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you need something to laugh at–and who doesn’t?–a quick fix can be found with Comedy Central’s new series Nora from Queens (full title Awkwafina is Nora from Queens), the latest of that niche New York neighborhood local comedy show.  The series was produced by Comedy Central, but airs across several cable channels, including MTV2, which is airing all ten episodes beginning this afternoon.  The series of half-hour episodes is a semi-autobiographical look at Awkwafina, stage name of rapper/actor Nora Lum, who switches up her name slightly to Nora Lin for the series.  Viewers will find a lot of truth with Nora, whose real-life persona won a Golden Globe best actress for The Farewell, and she’s had breakout roles in Ocean’s 8, Crazy Rich Asians, and Jumanji: The Next Level.  Just don’t let the kids in the room–Awkwafina’s humor is over-the-top, all-out vulgar at times, and right there with Sarah Silverman’s stand-up comedy, even evoking some Cheech and Chong ghosts of comedy past.

As with the real Nora, Nora in the series was born of a Korean American mother (who died when Nora was young) and Chinese American father, and raised by her father and grandmother.  Here BD Wong (Jurassic Park, Mr. Robot, Awake, Gotham) plays her amiable dad, a single father whose own mother lives with him and Nora (creating the core of the humor).  Looking for a girlfriend, he sets his sights on a woman he meets at a single parent support group, played by Jennifer Esposito (Spin City, The Boys).  Nora is frequently entwined in chaos with her nerdy but somehow more successful cousin, played by Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live), who proclaims 2020 as “Year of the Ass.”  He couldn’t be more on point.

Nora from Queens pic 1

But the best of the series is Nora’s sweet, mouthy, and feisty grandma, played by Lori Tan Chinn (Roseanne, Spin City, Orange is the New Black).  Chinn has all the range, and gets the best writing and dialogue in the show, crude and endearing at the same time, like Ruth Gordon in Every Which Way But Loose.  Grandma goes to the casino, but not to gamble, instead to watch Korean dramas with her friends.  She picks fights with Korean Americans, and a highlight of the series is a flashback episode centered on her meeting Nora’s grandfather, all produced as a melodramatic Korean drama.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In brief, it’s the best adventure, fantasy, and comedy in theaters in 2019 and a great way to begin your new year.  Jumanji: The Next Level is still packing-in theaters a little more than two weeks into its run–an alternative to the other holiday releases and guaranteed to leave you smiling at the end.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat in their return, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game are perfectly matched to tell a new tale.  Two films down and Jumanji: The Next Level is now the new major adventure fantasy franchise, up there with Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones.  Put this sequel at the top of the best of those franchises.

The studio didn’t hold back on new action sequences–inside the movie again Jumanji is the same video game of curious origin.  The new levels introduced this time increase the stakes in bigger and better ways.   A bridge-crossing scene with swarming apes and a geometric, Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong-like element is now going to be the adventure film standard to try to beat.  Sure, there are throwbacks to jungle adventures of the past, but it’s not derivative, all presented in fresh ways.  As another tour inside a video game (like Tron and Ready Player One), you’ll have the added fun of spotting video game influences (like Pitfall and Q-Bert), including a new, more difficult gauntlet.

The movie does double duty as an epic quest and rollicking comedy.  Comedians turned comedic actors Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon and Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar again are comedy gold.  Even the small bits are a scream–Hart riding and getting off a camel is a lesson in physical comedy.  They make the movie loads of fun, but straight man roles performed by Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan as in-game characters Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse share the credit for the laughs, too.  If you’ve seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, you’d expect big comedy from the sequel.  And that’s where the writing genius comes into play, thanks to a script by writer/director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg.  How do you bring back the hour movie stars, the four young actors who played the original players (Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, and Ser’Darius Blain), the rescued Alex played by Colin Hanks, and in-game characters played by Nick Jonas, and Rhys Darby without re-hashing the first movie?  You’ll have to see it to find out.  Just be prepared for some great twists and surprises.

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