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Tag Archive: Ben Kingsley


Review by C.J. Bunce

When Brad Pitt has another winning performance you find you’re glued to the screen.  From Twelve Monkeys to Meet Joe Black, Ocean’s Eleven to Inglourious Basterds and Moneyball, Pitt has range, plus the charisma and presence that translates to star power.  As with Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, if you can strip away the celebrity and focus on the performance, Pitt seems like he just can’t fail.  Pitt is just as mesmerizing as any character in his past body of work in the new film War Machine.

In another time War Machine would be a theatrical release–it carries the production values, cast, script, and studio support as much as any other movie, and is produced by Pitt’s own Plan B Entertainment, the same company that garnered a Best Picture Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave.  But we’re now in No Man’s Land.  With Netflix making not only its own competitive, award-winning shows for the small screen, it has moved on to the theatrical film that simply isn’t intended for a theatrical release.  War Machine is based on Rolling Stone writer Michael Hasting’s book The Operators, a biographical account of now retired General Stanley McChrystal that was expanded from the piece he wrote when he was embedded with the general and his men.  You’ve heard the story, the one that took down the general’s career as he was attempting to gain traction in his efforts in Afghanistan in 2010.  McChrystal’s was an American story, one that has plagued leadership in wartime notably since World War II– how do you win a seemingly unwinnable war?  You’ll be hard-pressed not to find story elements from Vietnam days in War Machine, but also echoes of the Persian Gulf War, and other actions where data, facts, politics, economics, miscommunication, and personalities muddled direction and purpose.  Only War Machine isn’t about McChrystal really–Brad Pitt’s character is only based on McChrystal.  For storytelling purposes it’s close enough, and fortunately allows the viewer to enjoy the fictional story being told without the effort of comparing the story to the real events the underlying book was chronicling.  So throw out your own politics for a few hours and get ready for an interesting character study.

Were War Machine released in theaters, there’d no doubt be discussion of the film as the next chapter in a line of films with Twelve O’Clock High, The Best Years of Our Lives, Apocalypse Now, Patton, Full Metal Jacket, and Born on the Fourth of July.  Pitt’s General Glen McMahon is Pitt aged a decade or so, sporting gray hair and a fixed sideways sneer, a raised eyebrow, and a stature (especially when running exercise laps before the other troops awaken) that makes him almost unrecognizable.  McMahon is smart, fierce, determined, and strong–the perfect selection for someone who has been appointed to complete an impossible task–in essence, do all that needs to be done to fix Afghanistan and get ready to leave without bringing in more troops–when he should have known he was doomed to failure from the beginning.  Don’t we want our generals to be confident, strident, and to a certain extent, bold risk takers?  McMahon is quirky, just a little bit off, while exhibiting a bravado and charisma–albeit awkwardly packaged–that entrenches the picture in believability.  Pitt believes in his character so we do as well.  This includes the loyalty of his men, which begins to form the movie’s all-star cast, including McMahon’s obnoxiously loyal, angry, and mouthy#2 man played by Anthony Michael Hall (the film’s take on then-Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served 24 days recently as national security adviser) and an image guy played by Topher Grace.  The cast is rounded out on all sides by Ben Kingsley as President Karzai, Alan Ruck and Griffin Dunne as Administration policy wonks, Tilda Swinton as a German politician, and Meg Tilly taking on the role (brilliantly) of McMahon’s wife (plus a nicely handled cameo by Russell Crowe).

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Rogue One clip

Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at borg.com each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2016 as have been disclosed.  Usually we select the 24 that look like the biggest hits, but we’re going all out for 2016.  The result is a whopping 48 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video.  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2016 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2016 don’t even have posters released yet, but many do.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

Star Trek Beyond clip

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Rogue One?  Or Star Trek Beyond?  You’ve heard endlessly about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but 2016 will also see Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse.  There’s even a handful of Westerns, with The Hateful 8, Jane Got a Gun, and another remake of The Magnificent Seven heading our way.

01 Hateful Eight poster

The Hateful Eight – January 1

Tarentino’s Western!  Ennio Morricone score!  Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Channing Tatum!

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The 5th Wave – January 8

Chloe Grace Moretz and Liev Schreiber in an alien invasion.

03 400 days poster

400 Days – January 12

The CW’s Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, and Tom Cavanaugh in a movie about astronauts that seems to be a play on Ender’s Game.

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Jungle Book clip Baloo Mowgli

I consider myself a big-time fan of Disney’s 1967 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 work The Jungle Book.  To me, it has always been Disney’s #1 animated movie–from the perfect George Bruns score and memorable songs by Terry Glikyson and the Sherman brothers, including The Bare Necessities, Colonel Hathi’s March, Trust in Me, and Abba Dabba Honeymoon.  Back in 2012 here at borg.com I named it in my top five favorite fantasy movies.  (Quick trivia: It’s even one of Clint Howard’s earliest projects).  I even named one of my beautiful bear-cub looking dogs Baloo after the incredibly friendly best pal of Mowgli (and unsuccessfully petitioned the powers-that-be to name his sister after the protective panther Bagheera).  Although the animation itself isn’t Disney’s best, it doesn’t take away from the fun of the movie.  The animated version of The Jungle Book is a gem and a true classic.

So it was with some trepidation that I watched the first live-action adaptation of the story with Disney’s 1994 version of The Jungle Book.  This time the jolly, sing-along music and talking animals were gone.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Solid direction by Stephen Sommers (Catch Me If You Can, The Mummy, Van Helsing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) plus excellent acting and faithful characterizations allowed Jason Scott Lee, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, Cary Elwes, and John Cleese to make a truly enjoyable dramatic movie.

Bagheera

In 2016 Disney is trying again with another live-action version of The Jungle Book, this time directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) with a different twist: voice-over actors for the animals, including Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, Lupita Nyong’0 as Raksha, and young actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli.  Expect this version to be heavy on special effects.  How will it compare to the prior versions?  One plus is that the original songs from the 1967 animated movie will be back, as hinted at the end of the first trailer just released for the movie.

Check it out here:

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Selfless movie poster

As serious dramatic actors go, Ben Kingsley has branched out like no other from mainstream roles.  In addition to the biopic that won him the Academy Award for best actor, Gandhi, Kingsley doesn’t seem to flinch from unique fictional characters in the strangest of situations.  Take for instance his roles in Sneakers, Dave, Species, A Sound of Thunder, Hugo, Iron Man 3, and Ender’s Game.  Kingsley’s next role takes him into the stuff of classic sci-fi.

Self/less asks the question:  What would you do to live forever?  Orson Scott Card’s science fiction short story “Fat Farm,” where overweight people can swap out their larger self for a slimmer version of themselves, and plenty of other classic science fiction stories and movies, from Star Trek to Doctor Who to Avatar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Skeleton Key (even comedies like Freaky Friday and Prelude to a Kiss) have answered the question with swapping one body for another.

RoboCop, especially the remake, looked at how much you can take away from yourself and still be “you”.  In 1986’s Who is Julia?, Mare Winningham and Jameson Parker starred in a movie about a woman whose brain is transplanted into another woman’s body who was pronounced dead in an accident.  In Self/less, a wealthy man dying of cancer, played by Kingsley, undergoes a medical procedure where he ends up in the much younger body of Ryan Reynolds.

Ben Kingsley Selfless

Check out the trailer for Self/less:

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Monumental architecture by Ridley Scott

Ripley as an Egyptian Queen.  Gandhi as Moses’ minister.  And Ridley Scott directing it all.

Ridley Scott has much more source material to work from in his new Exodus: Gods and Kings, than Darren Aronofsky had with his take on the great flood in his Noah movie earlier this year.  And it must be great fun to explore a plague of locusts and a parting sea for a veteran of films like Blade Runner and Alien.

The last time someone tried to take all this on with the scope the new Exodus film appears to explore was nearly 60 years ago with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.  That perennial Easter favorite made good use of its then-current technology to illustrate some great bible story scenes, but with all the CGI available today, Ridley Scott better pull out all the stops or his epic Bible film will fall flat like Aronofsky’s effort.

It’s unfortunate Exodus: Gods and Kings has one of those direct-to-video titles.  Who signed off on such a poor title?  Why not just Exodus?

Exodus Gods Kings poster A   Exodus Gods Kings Bale poster B

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And now a word from our sponsor…

GE idea creature

Too many commercials.

Everywhere you go advertising is thrown at you.  From the margin on every web page showing you an ad for something you looked at yesterday at Amazon.com or on eBay, to the signs behind left field at the baseball game, to billboards on your way to work and quick-talking radio ads on your way home.

But once in a while you don’t mind so much.  Take the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials.  We’ve given our thumbs up to several past ads here at borg.com, like Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in his Volvo commercial, Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” and his sci-fi milk ad, the Volkswagen Star Wars Cantina re-creation commercial went above and beyond, too.

So what are the best commercials you’ve seen this year?

GE has a new commercial featuring a giant muppet-like fellow that should get some consideration for all the emotion it packs into a fantasy-themed promotion.  Check it out here:

Earlier this year genre favorites Mark Strong (Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes), Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Sneakers, Gandhi), and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Thor 2) created a fun commercial for Jaguar with a British villain theme.  If you missed it earlier, here it is an extended version:

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Enders Game image

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

First, let me say that I’m struggling to figure out how to review this for people who haven’t read the book (really?).  Although it’s been almost 20 years since my last read, so much of what I just saw is wrapped up in what I remember, and what I wanted to see, that it’s difficult to give this an objective viewing.  So I’m just going to give up trying.

Ender’s Game follows a talented young (young) military cadet, Andrew “Ender” Wiggan (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) as he navigates his way through a complex future military academy.  Picked at birth, soldiers begin their training in childhood, all in preparation for a massive war with Earth’s longtime, poorly-understood alien enemy, the Formics.  The title refers to the computer simulations and novel physical training undergone by the students at Battle School.  What makes Ender’s Game different from any other sci-fi bootcamp movie (like 1997’s Starship Troopers, itself an adaptation of the science fiction classic by Robert Heinlein, which was poorly received but which borg.com editor C.J. and I both enjoyed) is the focus on the emotional arc of the adolescent hero.  Where Starship Troopers is a straightforward shoot-’em-up action flick, Ender’s Game is a little more complex, delving into the psychology of indoctrinating the young to kill, and examining the effect of this training on young Ender himself, as he grows from a scrawny little picked-on genius to a brilliant military commander.  Oh, yeah—and it’s a damn good shoot-’em-up action flick.

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Enders Game final trailer

Ender’s Game has long been on borg.com’s list of books we’d like to see adapted to film.  We’ve been waiting nearly a year now for the November 2013 release of Ender’s Game, starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, since we included Ender’s Game as one of the 24 coming movies to see in 2013.  We featured the first trailer for Ender’s Game here at borg.com as well as a ton of the videos released this past July at San Diego Comic-Con International, where Summit Entertainment featured a great exhibit for the movie.

What is probably the final trailer leading up to the release is here.  Check it out:

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Cumberbatch in The Fifth Estate

The crux of the 1992 thriller Sneakers, reviewed here at borg.com last week, was all that mattered in the future is “Who controls the information.”  The problem behind every problem?  Too many secrets.  If everyone knew everyone else’s secrets, would that make us safer?  In Sneakers, the solution is a little black box invented by fictional Dr. Gunter Janek, a white haired, young, brilliant genius played by Donal Logue (Life, Copper).   His box is not just a decoder of secrets but THE decoder of secrets.  In a way Sneakers was prescient, but it took 20 years for the secrets to be revealed, not through a black box but via the Internet—led by a young Dr. Janek-looking genius, Australian editor, activist, publisher and journalist Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.

Logue as Janek in Sneakers

Next month actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who continues to prove he can play any role he attempts with aplomb, stars in his next leading role as Assange in the journalism thriller The Fifth Estate.

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River Phoenix in Sneakers

Born in a log cabin in Oregon 43 years ago this month, River Phoenix was raised much like the character he played in the acclaimed film The Mosquito Coast.  He was born into a flower child family and grew into a vegetarian, member of PETA, and supporter of saving the rain forests.  He was an activist, a creator, a musician and actor who no doubt would have been a key figure in the mid-1990s American culture had he not died from an overdose of narcotics outside of Johnny Depp’s club in L.A.  He was 23 years old and has been gone 20 years this October.

Like other famous people who died before 40, like James Dean, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Brandon Lee, JFK, Jr, Chris Farley, Karen Carpenter, Andy Gibb, Princess Diana, John Belushi, and–as we revisit the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years after his “I Have a Dream” speech this week–you can’t help wonder what someone like Phoenix would be doing had he not made a wrong life turn back in 1993.

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