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Tag Archive: Bryan Cranston


Review by C.J. Bunce

In that niche area of dystopian dog movies (that’s the adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and his Dog and… ?), Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs not only soars to the top of the list, it’s a great film in all sorts of categories: it’s new, yet a classic children’s story, it’s a timely political allegory, and it’s a solid movie about dogs.  We knew Anderson had a grasp on animals in his surprisingly good Fantastic Mr. Fox, but audiences will soon learn he also understands dogs and dog behavior.  The trailers don’t really prepare moviegoers for what lies ahead.  Sure, it’s about an island of exiled dogs so of course audiences are in for a bleak ride, complete with at least one dead canine, lots of dogs in peril as well as many mutilated and diseased.  Yet Isle of Dogs is surprisingly grand in scope, thought-provoking, and even heartwarming.  And epic–don’t be surprised if you start thinking about the closest Martin Scorcese or Stanley Kubrick movie while you’re glued to the screen.  Despite some witty dialogue in places from Anderson’s smart script, this is less comedy and more drama than his past efforts.

The dystopian world is better realized, bigger in scope, and yet more personal than typical futurist visions, beyond that dismal hopeless doom of Mad Max, The Postman, Escape From New York, Twelve Monkeys, Snowpiercer, Looper, Logan’s Run, and District 9.  Isle of Dogs is probably closer to WALL-E and Planet of the Apes in feel.  Isle of Dogs is gloomy and dark and bleak, but it offers a ray of hope for the future from a 12-year-old Japanese boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) and a freckle-faced, high school exchange student named Tracy from Ohio (Greta Gerwig), both out to defy an autocratic government’s ban on dogs.  That’s thanks in major part to the vivid, eye-popping world of future Japan filmed by celebrated Aardman Animations stop-motion cinematographer Tristan Oliver (A Close Shave, The Wrong Trousers, Chicken Run), and the encompassing sounds from this year’s Oscar-winning composer for The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter series, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Golden Compass).  As to the stop-motion, audiences can marvel at how far Hollywood has come since the Ray Harryhausen era.  The film follows Anderson’s design choices first seen in his Fantastic Mr. Fox and only continues to add to the unbelievable magical movements carried forward by Aardman’s achievements.  And instead of a typical Romantic, programmatic score, Desplat’s best choices can be found in his use of loud, almost frightening Japanese taiko drums, Fumio Hayasaka’s haunting theme from Seven Samurai, the more celebratory bits from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije, and a simple recurring dog whistle.

Anderson offers up admirable tributes to Japanese culture and film, everywhere from costume design to modern TV reporting stylings, to Hayao Miyazaki themes and Akira Kurosawa landscapes, to traditional imagery like beautiful ukiyo-e on walls and cherry blossoms floating by at the right time.  Isle of Dogs finds a firm footing on the children’s classics shelf of your film library, alongside Roald Dahl’s Mr. Fox but also his Willy Wonka.  It also has much in common in tone with Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal.  The political allegory is thick and layered, a mix of the nuanced and the obvious, a mirror reflection of society that you’d have found years ago in a Frank Capra movie.  Science is mocked, scorned, and worse.  Experts are traitorous and immigrants are exiled.  It’s also graphic in parts at a baser level, showing an animated meal from a dumpster with creepy crawlies that may make your stomach turn, plus an open chest surgery, bloody, torn body parts, and dogs with missing eyes and open wounds.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

By the time of his death in 1982, science fiction writer and future visionary Philip K. Dick wrote some 44 novels and 121 short stories.  A master storyteller, Dick’s short story writing was often simple and straightforward, but it was packed with amazing worlds, prescient technologies (and glimpses at what would be real problems resulting from those technologies), plus truly unique and inspiring ideas and ideals.  The real genius of Dick can be found in these quick stories.  The 2017 British and American co-production Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a science fiction series of ten episodes inspired by ten of his short stories, available now in the U.S. for the first time via Amazon Video.  If you find you’re not a fan of the series, don’t hold it against Philip K. Dick–the episodes are only very, very loosely based on his short stories, opting instead to expand on the stories and update most of the settings and plots, including swapping new technologies for those he wrote about.  Ideally those new to Dick’s works will be inspired by the ideas in the series to delve into his written works and experience his creations for themselves.

Written and directed by a variety of filmmakers, Electric Dreams is a hodgepodge of styles, storytelling, and continuity. Surprisingly the writers opted against sticking with the magic of Dick’s stories, deleting key memorable scenes, and choosing to add extra subplots with a few stories barely recognizable from their source material.  Most of the updates detract from the underlying story.  Three episodes fare the best–coincidentally or not, these are episodes that stay the truest to Dick’s own work.  The rest are less compelling, but each has its high points, either via surprisingly good special effects and production values for TV, or the choice of and performances by the actors (including Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel, Source Code), Anna Paquin (X-Men series), Timothy Spall (Harry Potter series), Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Total Recall), Jacob Vargas (Luke Cage), Terrence Howard (Wayward Pines), and Anne Reid (Hot Fuzz, Doctor Who, Marchlands).  Based on one of the best of all Dick’s stories, Impossible Planet follows the original story to create the best episode of the series, taking viewers on a final voyage home accompanying an old (more than 300 years old) woman played by Geraldine Chaplin (even this episode cuts the most powerful scene from the short story).  The Father Thing takes its time getting to the story, but once there it keeps the guts and spirit of the original story.  Loyal to the source material, it also has a great John Carpenter-esque soundtrack and Greg Kinnear is perfectly cast as the father.  For a person who was not remembered as a family man, Dick’s stories involving children are among his best and “The Father Thing” is no different.  Ideas furthered in a story familiar to most sci-fi fans, “The Minority Report,” are examined in The Hood Maker, complete with precognitive telepaths and the concept of pre-crime.  The episode follows the original story, and its “buddy cop” duo would make a great spin-off series.

The remainder of the series offers concepts that will be familiar to fans of Dick’s works, particularly those short stories previously committed to film, including “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” adapted into two Total Recall films, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, John Woo’s Paycheck, The Adjustment Bureau, and Next (from “The Golden Man”), among others.  Many Dick full-length novels have made it to the big screen, too, most notably Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? released as Blade Runner, and although it does not credit Dick, The Truman Show is obviously sourced in Dick’s novel Time Out of Joint.  In addition, recently Dick’s award-winning novel The Man From the High Castle made it to home video as another Amazon series.

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The late science fiction writer Philip K. Dick wrote so many short stories and more than 40 novels that included so many creative and futuristic elements that a television series based on his works alone could run as long as The Twilight Zone.  Best known for the novel and story that became Blade Runner and Total Recall and the award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle which recently became an Amazon series, Dick’s works are finally getting adapted in a new television anthology series.

Sony Entertainment announced this week a 10-part series is in the works, Electric Dreams–The World of Philip K. Dick, starring Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, with noted Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore producing and writing the series.  Each episode will be a standalone story derived from Dick’s works.  We’re expecting something like an ensemble cast like that used in the Nero Wolfe TV series, with Cranston playing different parts in each story.

Haven’t read any of Dick’s books?  You’ve likely seen several of the movies based on his works: In addition to Blade Runner and Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, A Scanner Darkly, Screamers, Radio Free Albemuth.  Check out our reviews of his novels, previously posted at borg.com here and our archive of hundreds of images of pulp covers created for his works we preserved here.  Many have read his novels, but Dick’s real genius is in his short stories, where in only a few pages he shared ideas of a future and parallel worlds that will make your head spin.

Cranston Comic Con

No U.S. network has picked up the series yet, but we’re guessing it is a prime candidate for the Syfy Channel.

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Zootopia sloth

So many movies, so little time.  This year several new animated movies are coming to a theater near you.  How do you choose which to see?  Don’t choose… just see them all!  Many of these trailers were previewed with Christmas releases last month and this month.  Zootopia may just be the funniest of the trailers.  We also have Angry Birds and Snowtime! 

Kung Fu Panda 3

First up–Next week Jack Black brings his awesome panda back to the big screen in Kung Fu Panda 3.  Look for the voices of Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Wayne Knight, Kate Hudson, J.K. Simmons, and the great James Hong.

Here’s the trailer for Kung Fu Panda 3:

Kung Fu Panda 3 is in theaters January 29, 2016.

Snowtime!

This great looking French Canadian production features every kid’s favorite thing–the snow day.  How fun is that?

Snowtime! hits theaters February 26, 2016

Zootopia

Zootopia features the voices of Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, and Tommy Chong.  Check out this great trailer, which was previewed in December with Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

March 4, 2016.

The Angry Birds Movie

Your favorite cartoon birds arrive in theaters this summer with the voices of Peter Dinklage, Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Keegan-Michael Key, and Bill Hader.

Check these out:

The Angry Birds Movie is in theaters May 20, 2016.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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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Godzilla movie poster 2014

The unmistakable voice of David Strathairn.  A pretty intense parachute jump in the middle of a storm into God knows what.  The shrill tones of operatic sopranos.  And a glimpse… of what?

Then the montage of what in another era would have been all the Irwin Allen movies combined into one.  And a pretty cool roar.

If you want to know how to make a good teaser–as opposed to a full-blown trailer–check out this new teaser, the first released for the next Godzilla movie:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In Argo, the stakes could not be greater.  It is 1979 and the American embassy in Iran is stormed by a vast street mob seeking to hold hostage 52 people in exchange for the return of the Shah of Iran, granted asylum in the United States and dying from cancer.  For 444 days we waited and hoped for their release, and each day Walter Cronkite ended his news broadcast with the number of days they’d been held.  It was the ultimate nightmare and the sporadic glimpses of the hostages being led away with white blindfolds made us all imagine what kind of terror they must each be going through, as Christmas 1979 and  Christmas 1980 came and went, as back home we all went ahead with our lives every day.  But Argo is not about the 52 hostages.

At the time the embassy was attacked, six Americans working in the embassy managed to escape and hide out in the home of the Canadian ambassador and his wife.  Argo is the story of a completely illogical, unlikely, nearly impossible–even crazy–plan involving a mock sci-fi movie concocted to rescue them, and two friends back in the States who came together in 1980 to create a plan and convince President Carter to give the go-ahead to proceed with the mission.

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In light of the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 on DVD and Blu-ray (review coming soon), I watched the 2011 release by Warner Brothers Animation, Batman: Year One.  Batman: Year One is an adaptation of a 1987 regular run Batman title (Issues 404-407), released in graphic novel form as Batman: Year One.  Written by Frank Miller with art by David Mazzucchelli, the graphic novel often floats at or near the #1 spot on lists of the best Batman stories ever told, as well as the top 100 graphic novels of all time.  I’ve found the graphic novel to be better than Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, in part because it tells a classic Batman origin story and I prefer Mazzucchelli’s Gothic meets-noir-artwork in Batman: Year One to Miller’s scrawling style in Dark Knight Returns.

The animated film does a lot right, but misses in some areas, too.

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The taking of the U.S. hostages in Iran is one of the earliest events I remember, and it was the stuff of nightmares.  It was also the first big event I recall that started the daily newspaper counter, showing the days the hostages had been held.  What we didn’t hear on television were the stories of other Americans who had not been kidnapped but were stuck in Iran.

Based on actual events, Argo is the story of the Canadian Caper, the name given to a joint covert operation held by the governments of Canada and the United States whereby Canada sheltered six U.S. nationals who avoided capture as part of the larger group of hostages held under Ayatollah Khomeini.  Argo was the name of a fictional sci-fi movie concocted by CIA identity deception agent Tony Mendez.  If all would work as planned, he would sneak into Tehran, bringing new identification and other materials to create the new identities, then march the six hostages out in plain sight to the airport.

Editor’s Note: Check out our full review of Argo here.

Scene from Argo–the movie within the movie.

As told by Joshuah Bearman in a 2007 Wired Magazine article, nothing less than a stunning collaboration of unlikely Hollywood and entertainment names converged to create the ruse:  John Chambers, the Academy Award winning make-up artist for The Planet of the Apes, and Bob Sidell, the then Love Boat make-up artist who would go on to work on E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial.  Luckily a foundering production was under way that they could step into, a Roger Zelazny novel adaptation that had already seen concept drawings done by none other than Marvel Comics’ legendary artist Jack Kirby.  Chambers & Co. set up their offices in the facility just vacated by Michael Douglas, who had wrapped filming his own Oscar winner, The China Syndrome and began their work.

Several incredible stories have emerged from the international incidents of 1979 and 1980, not the least of which is the one-day presidential nominee Ross Perot, who led a successful rescue of employees of Electronic Data Systems from an Iran jail.  Perot’s story was most famously told in Ken Follett’s On Wings of EaglesArgo is another story of a similar effort.  The first movie preview is just out, and looks fantastic:

The preview alone really reflects some nice cinematography, art design, retro costumes, and make-up.  Will this be the big career defining next step for Ben Affleck?

Actual faked movie poster from the CIA concocted “film” Argo.

Affleck (Paycheck, The Sum of All Fears, Shakespeare in Love) directs and stars in the film, which is not surprisingly produced by George Clooney (the film has a lot of the look down from his movie Syriana), and Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck) and Affleck.  Affleck plays Mendez along with an all-star cast: Alan Arkin (Catch 22, Gattaca, So I married an Axe Murderer, Edward Scissorhands), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), John Goodman (Roseanne, The Big Lebowski, Always, Community, The Artist), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Escape from New York, Deep Space Nine), Richard Kind (Spin City, Leverage, The Station Agent), and Tate Donovan (Memphis Belle, Magnum, P.I.).

Can anyone say Oscar contender?  Argo hits theaters in October 2012.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

I’ve got to admit, I can’t get enough of movies based on the works of Philip K. Dick.  And even though I can’t imagine anyone playing Cohaagen better than the great sci-fi character actor Ronny Cox (Robocop, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate, Medium), I am sure Bryan Cranston (The Flash, X-Files, Breaking Bad, John Carter) will do nicely.  I’m talking about Total Recall–the new adaptation of Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” originally adapted 22 years ago into the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger at the peak of his acting career, which became a sci-fi classic.  Since last year when we saw the Columbia Pictures display across the street from the San Diego Comic-Con, revealing one of the future cops and police vehicles, we’ve been eagerly looking forward to this film.

Columbia just released a teaser for a trailer coming this Sunday.  That’s right–a teaser for a teaser.  Check it out:

You can also find some early marketing at the official Total Recall website.

Colin Farrell (Minority Report, Phone Booth, Daredevil), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Much Ado About Nothing), Jessica Biel (Stealth, Next), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Underworld, Pirates of the Caribbean), Ethan Hawke (Gattaca), John Cho (Star Trek)–that’s a pretty good cast with something for everyone.  And consistent with past envisioning of Dick’s future Earth, this teaser looks a good deal like the art design is similar to that used in Minority Report, which also featured Colin Farrell.  Still, at 30 seconds this one truly is a teaser in the truest sense of the word.

So we can look forward to even more this Sunday!  But the release date?  August 3, 2012.  Ugh!!  Enough teasing already.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com