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Tag Archive: Dan Stevens


Review by C.J. Bunce

The new courtroom drama and biopic Marshall hits theaters across the U.S. beginning today.  Director Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang, House Party) recounts a case in the life of Thurgood Marshall, one of the leading U.S. Supreme Court Justices in the history of the bench.  We meet Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman, midway through the beginning of his career as lawyer and civil rights crusader.  After he already sued one law school for discrimination and graduated from another, he began defending individuals that were targeted as criminals based on race, and at the beginning of the film Marshall is struggling to justify to the NAACP, the organization that employs him, that his ongoing fight is worth the resources of the group.  Marshall needs a win for his own reputation and for the NAACP.  Plus, there is a man accused of a crime whose life is at stake.

The biggest surprise in the new courtroom drama is the risk-taking by Hudlin and Boseman in showing Marshall from his introduction not as humble and endearing, but cocky, abrasive, and confident.  Not the quiet Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird, or the lazy and arrogant Lt. Daniel Kaffee of A Few Good Men, the film establishes upfront that the young Thurgood Marshall, the future first African-American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, was already a brilliant and savvy attorney and outspoken and fearless even early in his career.  We only learn of the difficult rise he had in his life before the film takes place via stories told by Marshall to local counsel Sam Friedman, played by Josh Gad, as the case procedure unfolds and more facts surface.  Echoing his performance as Jackie Robinson in the biopic 42 (reviewed here previously at borg.com), the Marvel Studios Black Panther actor plays Marshall as decisive and determined.  The audience has no doubt he’s going to succeed, but the drama is in how he makes the system work for him and his client, risking Friedman and his firm or anything else that gets in the way, to get a favorable verdict.

Before Marshall won 29 of 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, before he successfully argued the landmark 20th century case Brown v. Board of Education–the famous school desegregation case–Marshall had to learn how to win with the deck always stacked against his clients.  The message is historically important and delivered without the preaching that often accompanies biopics.  But it would have served Marshall’s legacy better had Hudlin, and writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff, selected a case with universal impact.  Like the obvious: Brown v. Board of Education.  The matter-specific case selected instead is a bit unfortunate from a storytelling standpoint because it so closely mirrors the case in To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the great American novels of all time and also one of the great American films about jurisprudence and race.  Those familiar with Harper Lee’s 1960 novel may feel some deja vu.  But there’s no mimicry here per se, Lee’s novel was derived from an actual case from 1936 and State of Connecticut v. Spell was a real case that is used to attempt to showcase Thurgood Marshall, the man, the lawyer, and the civil rights crusader, in an introductory sense.  But the question remains: Why select a Marshall case that the master lawyer didn’t even get to argue?

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This one looks like it could be the next holiday classic.

Although he’s had theatrical roles in 2013’s The Fifth Estate, 2014’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, 2016’s Colossal, and this year’s Beauty and the Beast remake, Dan Stevens is better known for his British TV roles like Matthew Crawley throughout the run of Downton Abbey.  But the genre world really took notice of Stevens this year when he headlined a new X-Men TV series, playing David Haller, a crazed wielder of superpowers on FX’s new series Legion.  His next role takes him back to jolly old England and a character that can’t possibly be more classic and British: Charles Dickens himself.

Although the last time we saw someone play the part of Charles Dickens in a major film it was Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Stevens’ off-kilter, frenetic kinetic sense, and quizzical expressions make for an intriguing take on Dickens in the first preview for The Man Who Invented Christmas.  Stevens looks like he’s channeling Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein in one scene from the movie’s first trailer.

And we get to see Academy Award-winning actor and Shakespearean great Christopher Plummer (Twelve Monkeys, Up, Wolf, Dragnet, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Somewhere in Time, Return of the Pink Panther, The Sound of Music) join the likes of Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, and Bill Murray as Ebenezer Scrooge.  This take on Scrooge focuses on Dickens writing the novel A Christmas Carol and getting a spell of writer’s block.  And speaking of Finney, the view of the film in the preview looks like a mash-up of style from the comedies Tom Jones and Shakespeare in Love

Here’s a fun preview for The Man Who Invented Christmas:

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Many think kaiju movies–Asian giant monster flicks featuring Godzilla, Mothra, and the like–are comedic in their own right.  Right or wrong, at some point a worldwide disaster apparently brings along its own laughs.  Melodramas, rampaging monsters, usually devoid of a solid plot, kaiju still claims millions of loyal members in its fan base.

A new U.S. film with the look of a J.J. Abrams Cloverfield production or even Attack the Block is coming your way in 2017.  Colossal, screening at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, is a monster movie, but probably more of a parody of the giant beasty films.  It’s close enough that the company owning the right to the actual Godzilla movies sued the filmmakers of Colossal during production (a confidential settlement was reached in 2015).  Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway stars as a rather ordinary woman who happens to have a psychic connection with a giant monster ripping apart the streets of Seoul, South Korea.

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Is there an audience for a Godzilla meets Being John Malkovich mash-up?

Take a look at this trailer for Colossal:

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Will it be #1 at the box office in 2017?

Previewed last year here at borg.com and teased even earlier here, the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, starring the Harry Potter series’ Emma Watson as Belle, is on its way to theaters this year.  Disney just released a new television spot and theatrical poster showcasing leads Watson and Dan Stevens and the all-star cast.  You can’t understate how significant this film will be for Disney this year at the box office, with the potential to rival both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: Episode VIII, based on early responses to the first release of images from the film.

An Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast is arguably the finest Disney production to come from the studio in its more than ninety year history, and no actress today has such a large and devoted fan following as Watson.  More than 20 million viewers saw the first teaser, and nearly 30 million viewers watched the first trailer.  Watson’s first major genre role since Harry Potter will make this a big box office winner for Disney.

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This is the first time audiences get to see Watson singing as Belle.  She evokes Julie Andrews in a very The Sound of Music-inspired setting.  Here is the new trailer for Beauty and the Beast:

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It’s interesting that 20th Century Fox is not calling the new FX channel series Legion, X-Men: Legion, although it at least is carrying the X-Men symbol as part of the title art.  Netflix’s Marvel series Daredevil was already a recognizable brand, and once onboard it was easy for fans to try on the next series, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.  But Legion may get lost in the shuffle of a half-dozen DC Universe series and Netflix’s cornering the market on Marvel serials.  To be successful Legion will need to be good, and good enough to succeed based on word-of-mouth, just as Luke Cage was able to take off with viewers earlier this year.

Legion, as a character, hails from writer Chris Claremont and legendary comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz from the New Mutants comic book in 1985.  Legion is David Haller (played by Downton Abbey actor and the new Beauty and the Beast star Dan Stevens), the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier.  Legion is one of those superheroes who can take on others’ abilities (something like the adaptive powers of Sylar and Peter Petrelli in Heroes, the Charmed Ones in Charmed, the X-Men universe Sentinels, The Borg from Star Trek, or Doomsday).  This is related to his schizophrenia or similar mental disorder–as a mutant it means each personality is tied to Haller manifesting different powers.  Which means we have the foundation for what could be a pretty open-ended playground for the series writers.

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Legion’s cast includes Scott Lawrence, Mackenzie Grey, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Jean Smart, Katie Aselton, Jeremie Harris, Bill Irwin, and Amber Midthunder.

Check out these trailers for Legion:

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An Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast is arguably the finest Disney production to come from the studio in its more than ninety year history.  Coming next year to the big screen is a new, live-action version of Beauty and the Beast (teased earlier this year here at borg.com), starring the Harry Potter series’ Emma Watson as Belle.  Academy Award-winning screenplay writer Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Chicago, the Twilight series) is directing the picture.

Despite press accounts to the contrary, don’t look for an adaptation of the classic fairy tale, but a close adaptation of the animated Disney film (as the original did not have the talking furniture or most of the other characters created for the 1991 film).  Just like the first teaser was quite pretty as set design goes, so is this fuller trailer.  More than 20 million viewers watched the first teaser, so make no mistake:  Emma Watson’s first major genre role since Harry Potter will make this a big box office winner for Disney.

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The previews remind us of the grand production of Phantom of the Opera back in 2004, a sleeper, but a visual spectacle, too.  Jacqueline Durran (Pride and Prejudice) adapted the animated costumes for the film, which look close but not quite as amazing as the 1991 animated versions.  Everything else looks like this could be a near scene-for-scene copy of the 1991 version except in the animated movie Belle had dark brown hair and a distinct, different hair style from other “Disney princess” characters that set her apart from the rest of the blonde fairy tale leads, something you’d think Disney would have kept the same at least for cross-marketing its toy tie-ins.

Who doesn’t love each new appearance of Kevin Kline?  He’s featured prominently in this new trailer.  Check it out:

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Beauty adn the Beast teaser A

You probably saw the television series starring The Terminator’s Linda Hamilton and pre-Hellboy Ron Perlman.  You’ve also probably seen the Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast–arguably the finest Disney film in its animation vault.  Coming next year to the big screen is a new, live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, starring the Harry Potter series’ Emma Watson as Belle.  Academy Award winning screenplay writer Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Chicago, the Twilight series) is directing the picture.

Despite press accounts to the contrary, don’t look for an adaptation of the classic fairy tale, but an adaptation of the animated Disney film as the original did not have the talking furniture or most of the other characters created for the 1991 film.  The first teaser trailer dropped this week for the 2017 release, and viewership surpassed Star Wars: The Force Awakens with more than 91 million views in its first day of release.  You haven’t watched it yet?  We have queued up this very pretty teaser for you below, after the break.

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Dan Stevens (Night at the Museum 2, Sense and Sensibility) co-stars as The Beast, and the rest of the cast is full of familiar genre favorites.  The Hobbit’s Luke Evans is the swaggering Gaston, Kevin Kline (Dave, Silverado) is Belle’s father Maurice, the Star Wars prequels’ Ewan McGregor is Lumiere, the candelabrum (originally voiced by the late Jerry Orbach), Stanley Tucci is the harpsichord, Audra McDonald (Kidnapped) is the wardrobe, and anglophiles will be happy to see The Hobbit and X-Men’s Ian McKellen as Cogsworth the clock and Emma Thompson (Much Ado About Nothing) as Mrs. Potts, the teapot.

Check out this popular first trailer for Beauty and the Beast:

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