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Tag Archive: Forest Whitaker


Review by C.J. Bunce

Ryan Coogler, the young writer-director of the excellent Rocky sequel Creed, has put his Creed star Michael B. Jordan against Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42 and Thurgood Marshall in last year’s film Marshall.  The result?  The next great Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther, opening this weekend in theaters everywhere.  Boseman is back as King T’Challa, the suave and poised Black Panther of the comic books who audiences first met in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.  The new film fills in the blanks of T’Challa’s origin story, populated with a dozen of the best characters from any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, matched to some of today’s best actors.  On the heels of last year’s wildly successful surprise hit Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther is just as good if not better, but completely different.  It’s a more serious tale, a one-off in the MCU similarly spliced into the ongoing Avengers narrative as was done with 2016’s supernatural Doctor Strange.  It also supplies a new, rich superhero mythology populated primarily with black characters–a film first featuring a black superhero title character in a major studio release.  Coogler’s layered, multifaceted film is even more successful at accomplishing what Zack Snyder tried to do last year with the DC Universe film Wonder Woman, which first put a woman in a title role in a major superhero movie.  Coogler makes great strides with Black Panther, not just a mere first step.

Beginning with a father teaching his son about a hidden country in Africa called Wakanda, we learn that a powerful resource called vibranium gives the people of this land incredible power, which they hide from the known world.  The story is straight out of Shakespeare or Roman and Greek histories: three princes compete for the throne of Wakanda when the King dies in a terrorist attack at the United Nations.  Boseman’s T’Challa is the heir-apparent who is challenged for the throne first by Prince M’Baku (Winston Duke), then by Jordan’s Erik Stevens, a special forces soldier from the States whose death toll in battle earned him the nickname Killmonger.  Not just a one-note villain found so often in superhero movies, Erik has his own complex backstory that converges with T’Challa’s efforts to capture the film’s villain, Ulysses Klaue (pronounced “claw”), one of Marvel’s best villains yet, played by Middle-earth native Gollum and The Planet of the Apes’s series’ star Andy Serkis.  Although his antics are unique, here Klaue is the crazed villain you’d expect from a superhero story.  Erik also assumes a villain role, but his story and particularly his life in parallel to the new King is more biblical in its roots.  Erik’s father is N’Jobu, a compelling supporting character at odds with Wakanda, played by Marshall co-star and Supernatural’s Sterling K. Brown, and his past sets up a compelling tragedy arc within the film for Erik.

For those who go to superhero movies for badass superheroics, it’s the women of the film that fill that niche.  Our own early borg.com nominee for the annual badass heroine of the year goes to the fan-favorite actor from The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira, as Wakanda General Okoye.  Her steely resolve and loyalty alone is enough to get us to race back to the theater to watch her all over again in the theater tomorrow.  A Wakanda spy and confidante of the King is Nakia, played by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book star Lupita Nyong’o, a fierce and savvy ally.  But a favorite of the film for many will no doubt be T’Challa’s young sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright (Doctor Who, Ready Player One, Humans, The Commuter).  The film doesn’t completely find its voice and reach full throttle until Shuri lets out a howl in a conversation with her brother.  By that point the entire audience is onboard.  Shuri is very much derived from Q in the James Bond movies, supplying her brother with the latest tech.  After movie audiences got a peek at what a woman would look like as James Bond with South African actress Charlize Theron as a superspy in last year’s Atomic Blonde, those looking for the first black James Bond need go no further than Boseman’s smooth and stylish take on T’Challa Coogler even inserts a spectacular casino mission scene straight out of 2012’s Skyfall, and borrows another great character from the Bond playbook with The Hobbit and Sherlock actor Martin Freeman as a very, very Felix Leiter-esque American CIA agent named Everett Ross.  A scene pitting Freeman opposite Serkis again will be a fun reunion for fans of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.

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Not likely to be the last we see of Star Wars animated television series from Disney, the successful four season run of Star Wars Rebels will wrap with its final episode March 5, 2018.  As each season has peppered fans with the official return of actors from the original George Lucas trilogy and prequels, as well as 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, at least one more major character will return in the series’ final seven episodes beginning next month.

Emperor Palpatine himself, Ian McDiarmid, joins original film cast members James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Warwick Davis, and Genevieve O’ Reilly, and an ultimate mash-up of actors from literally every major genre franchise, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gina Torres, Tom Baker, Brent Spiner, Jason Isaacs, Katee Sackhoff, Clancy Brown, Peter MacNicol, Sam Witwer, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.  McDiarmid reprises his role as the franchise’s top bad guy seen in the re-edit of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.  Although other original characters were voiced by new actors for characters like Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bail Organa, Darth Maul, Wedge Antilles, and General Dodonna, this is a rare treat in any franchise to see the return of an actor to an iconic role so many years later (that is, except the Doctor Who franchise, which has seen 7 of the original 13 actors who played Doctors return along with nearly every companion in the series’ 50 year history as part of Big Finish Productions’ 17 years of audioplays).

Sam Witwer provided the voice of Palpatine earlier in the series, but Lucasfilm pulled in McDiarmid for one last curtain call.  What will be the ultimate fate of Lothal, another loss like Scarif and Alderaan?  Will Ahsoka return?  Why didn’t we see Grand Admiral Thrawn in Rogue One?  Does Captain Rex live to fight at Endor in Return of the Jedi?  Fans of the series are waiting to see what happens to the key characters, the crew of The Ghost.  We know from Rogue One that Hera and Chopper survive.  Will Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, or Sabine make it out of Star Wars Rebels, too?

The end, and the answers to these questions are almost here.  Check out this new trailer for the final episodes of Star Wars Rebels:

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We had a first look at Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa, the ruler of the kingdom of Wakanda whose alter ego is the Black Panther, in last year’s great superhero mash-up Captain America: Civil War, and a teaser trailer back in June.  Next year Marvel Studios is giving Boseman his own solo movie in the big screen release of Black Panther, based on the comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four.  The latest preview of the film arrived today.

T’Challa must defend his kingdom from being torn apart by enemies outside and within.  Boseman, who portrayed both Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42 (reviewed here) and Thurgood Marshall in last week’s release of Marshall (reviewed here), brings along an impressive supporting cast.  Adonis himself, Creed star Michael B. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, and Andy Serkis is Klaw, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Forest Whitaker is Zuri, The Hobbit and Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is Everett K. Ross, and Green Lantern’s Doctor Waller, Angela Bassett is Ramonda.

Creed’s Ryan Coogler directs the film with Creed’s Hannah Beachler providing some impressive production design work and Ruth E. Carter (Marshall, Selma) created some incredible new costume designs for this new Marvel world.

Here is the latest trailer for Black Panther:

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We already got a first look at Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa, the ruler of the kingdom of Wakanda whose alter ego is the Black Panther, in last year’s great superhero mash-up Captain America: Civil War.  Next year Marvel Studios is giving Boseman his own solo movie in a film called Black Panther, as the comic book character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four A first trailer and poster (above) were released this past week.

We don’t know much about the plot for this new film, other than T’Challa must defend his kingdom from being torn apart by enemies outside and within.  Boseman, who was excellent as Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42, will have an impressive supporting cast.  Adonis himself, Creed star Michael B. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia and Andy Serkis is Klaw, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Forest Whitaker is Zuri, The Hobbit and Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is Everett K. Ross, and Green Lantern’s Doctor Waller, Angela Bassett is Ramonda.

Here is the first trailer for Black Panther:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A diehard science fiction moviegoer will probably find nothing new in last year’s nominee for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Arrival.  Nearly every minute of the film can be seen in countless episodes of science fiction television.  But it is the next drama cloaked in science fiction dress, trying to one-up Interstellar, Gravity, and Contact.  Following the Michael Crichton stylebook, Arrival gives us a problem (terrifying, giant squid-like, alien monsters referred to as heptapods we cannot yet understand) and brings in a team of experts to work to solve that problem.  The experts are linguist Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, and physicist Dr. Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner.  And that’s all–no other brilliant scientists play any role.  From a storytelling angle this allows more of a focus on the two characters, primarily Banks, but it also defies belief that one of twelve Earth-visiting space monolith ships is in the U.S. and only a M*A*S*H unit full of people are there to find the solution.  Those that are present are canned, stupid government wonks, including an intermediary military officer played by Forest Whitaker and others who shout a lot and want to bomb the aliens.  It all makes you want to cheer for the aliens.

To its credit Arrival deals head on with what is surprisingly one of the least pursued tropes in science fiction: communication with the aliens.

Every major sci-fi franchise tells us these aliens will be humanoid, but what if they aren’t?  Actually communicating with other beings once we have that first alien encounter has been seen from time to time, the best in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Darmok.  And who can forget those musical notes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Most of Star Trek, and other sci-fi, circumvents the communication issue with the story device of a universal translator or the equivalent, so the conflict of Arrival is refreshing.  Unfortunately the pursuit of the problem in Arrival could have been more interesting and compelling.  Instead the filmmakers made the choice to break away frequently, delving back and forth into an emotional character study.

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Star Wars Rebels officially crossed over into the Star Wars Cinematic Universe in December with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  The series’ plucky little astromech droid C1-10P or “Chopper” was seen at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4, and the series space vessel the Ghost was also seen docked there and in other scenes, including a scene with the Rebel Fleet making a jump to hyperspace, and fighting at the Battle of Scarif (no doubt there are some great opportunities here to replay Rogue One from the perspective of the crew of the Ghost).  At the same time, Grand Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy of sequels to Return of the Jedi is now firmly enmeshed into the Star Wars canon, and a new trailer teases even more events will bridge the original trilogy with the prequel trilogy.

It all begins with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s message–a warning–sent to the remaining Jedi after Anakin Skywalker massacred so many (along with Emperor Palpatine’s Order 66) in Revenge of the Sith.  Stephen Stanton, who is known for his ability to mimic Sir Alec Guinness’s voice, is the new voice of elder Kenobi.  Stanton has voiced other Star Wars roles, most recently as the Mon Calamari Admiral Raddus in Rogue One.  The second part of Season 3, continuing this week, will feature Mon Mothma on the Ghost, more Tarkin, and Forest Whitaker again taking on the role of Saw Garrera from Rogue One, albeit an earlier, less cybernetically modified incarnation.

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The trailer for Season “3.5” also shows a bipedal Darth Maul in the shadows of Kenobi’s bonfire.  It looks like it is time for a revisit of their battle in The Phantom Menace.  Watch closely for the guards surrounding Grand Admiral Thrawn, black-armored Death Troopers, which are apparently tied to the “Legends” (the old Expanded Universe) creation of a zombie trooper legion in the new Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide.  Death Troopers are also seen in Rogue One. 

Here is the preview of Star Wars Rebels 2017 episodes:

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What a year!  The world’s a changing place and no less so than with the welcome onslaught of new movies, television shows, books, comics, and everything else that entertained us in 2016.  All year long we tried to keep up with the best of what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  We watched all of nearly two dozen TV series, and enough of others to know we’d seen enough.  We watched dozens of new movies, reviewed more than three dozen books (and read even more), and kept up with dozens of comic book titles.  We witnessed the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Archie, and Captain America, the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Charles Schulz’s Great Pumpkin, Rocky turned 40, and it was the 30th anniversary of Aliens and Labyrinth.  And the Cubs finally won the World Series.

Today we reveal the best genre content of 2016–with our top categories from movies and television Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero Fix, Best Animated Fix, and Best Borg, followed by our Best in Movies picks.  The big winner was Rogue One, taking 13 spots, followed by Doctor Strange with three.  Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, our special look at Kick-ass Heroines of 2016, followed by our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.

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Best Sci-Fi Fix – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm).  Although the franchise is more space fantasy than science fiction, all the elements of the best sci-fi were crammed into Rogue One.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology.  A compelling story.  We’re wagering this film will be a classic we go back to for years to come, upsetting Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the third best of the eight films in the series.  It’s everything a sci-fi fan could want.

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Best Fantasy FixThe Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures).  Like Rogue One it was a prequel that was also a sequel.  Better than the original Snow White and the Huntsman, this early 2016 release provided a high-fantasy story rooted in the classic fairy tale, rewarding viewers midway with a surprise change-up.  Three tough female leads, four brave (and funny) dwarves, two epic quests, a fairy tale romance, and elaborate costumes and sets made for a perfect fantasy film.

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Best Superhero FixThe Magnificent Seven (MGM/Columbia Pictures).  When we first reviewed The Magnificent Seven we were surprised it had adapted the Yul Brynner version and Akira Kurosawa’s earlier Seven Samurai so well.  We were even more surprised at how well the cast, and cast of characters, worked together to create a true ensemble piece.  It rivaled every attempt by the studios to make a great superhero team-up, and, but for the Western garb and setting, it rates as the year’s best of the superhero genre.  Runner-up, a close contender for the win was the second appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver doing his speedster business slow-motion style again in X-Men: Apocalypse.

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Best Retro FixStranger Things (Netflix).  It’s a TV series that would have made a solid movie hit in 1982.  So many series appear unexpectedly these days with a full season ready to stream immediately.  Most demonstrate why they couldn’t cut it with the networks or a major cable channel.  Not so with some of Netflix’s series, especially the surprise hit Stranger Things.  With a nicely eerie soundtrack, title font, a Twin Peaks-meets Steven Spielberg coming of age film cul-de-sac for the setting, and  John Carpenter meets Stephen King vibe, it’s no wonder Stranger Things was the #1 talked about series this year.  Our favorite part, besides the young heroine of the show, was the attention to throwback clothes, toys, posters, and 1980s pop culture references.  It’s a series we’ll revisit in the future, and look forward to in its second season.

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Best Borg/Best Movie Villain – Darth Vader (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).  Darth Vader returned in his best scene of the franchise outside of The Empire Strikes Back in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It wasn’t James Earl Jones’s return to voice one of the best villains in the history of cinema that grabbed us, but the full-on rampage Vader takes to pursue the stolen Rebel plans in the film’s finale.  Director (and lifelong Star Wars fan) Gareth Edwards gave fans exactly what they wanted, utilizing an impressive UK creature actor Spencer Wilding to do his bidding as the imposing Lord of the Sith.  We also got a peek at what little of the man remained years after his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.  We saw inside his cybernetic suit of armor via a scene featuring him floating in a bacta tank.  Darth Vader remains one of the greatest borgs of all time.

Want to know who we picked for best in effects, soundtrack, and best sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and horror movies of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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Above all else, James Luceno’s new novel, Star Wars: Catalyst, A Rogue One Novel, is a sequel to Luceno’s well-crafted novel Tarkin (previously reviewed here at borg.com), another account of the Empire as it grew from the ashes left behind by the Clone Wars.  Surprisingly, Governor Tarkin is a major player in this novel, a prequel to this week’s worldwide theatrical release, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  As in Tarkin, Luceno adds another chapter in the detailed political and economic sphere of how various races are able to harness the energy necessary to power not only Star Destroyers, but this newly conceived idea of a planetoid battle station that becomes the first Death Star.

The corporate nature of the Empire, the scientists and power source behind the creation of the first of what would be three Death Stars in the Star Wars universe is laid out here, perhaps in more detail than the average fan would require.  Key to preparing for the movie, we meet four players of note.  Galen and Lyra Erso are scientists attempting to study and work on energy research outside the world of the military, but their refusal to choose sides lands them in prison and leaves them as pawns to be manipulated by rising officials in competing sects.  Galen’s longtime friend Orson Krennic is an opportunist and master manipulator, often at odds with Tarkin.  Rarely seen in Catalyst, but important because of her legacy as part of the Erso family, is young Jyn, a girl who will grow up to be the leading player in Rogue One.

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Orson Krennic and Galen Erso from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Catalyst serves as a useful bridge between two trilogies: Episodes I-III and Episodes IV-VI.  You’ll find numerous references to characters from the prequels like Emperor Palpatine, Mas Amedda, and Count Dooku.  Geonosis, the planet that factored into the Jedi battle in Attack of the Clones, also plays a key role in Catalyst.  And a secondary story about a smuggler named Has Obitt ushers in a new character called Saw Gerrera, a warrior who will be played by Forest Whitaker in the new film.

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In the latest trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, released today during ABC’s Good Morning America, we have even more teased scenes that make it impossible not to get excited for this incredible looking film.  Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) is tapped to lead a dangerous mission, and Forest Whitaker never looked better as an old rogue.  And check out the new movie poster.  Count the good guys.  Is this going to be another The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai inspired film?  The original Star Wars was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress.

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And Darth Vader, no longer hidden as another villain to the new story of Star Wars’ past.  But something tells us that appearance is going to be similar to Mark Hamill’s brief return as Luke Skywalker in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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But be warned:  The newest Star Wars entry fills in the remaining plot points, gives a clear look at Mads Mikkelsen’s key role in the story, provides more looks at costumes and landscapes, and introduces a few new characters, including what appears to be Eunice Olumide as a Rebel leader, more AT-STs, Death Star shots, and more Vader.

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Check out the latest trailer for the next big Star Wars flick:

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In the second trailer released today for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, during Thursday evening’s NBC coverage of the 31st Olympiad, so many teased scenes are revealed that it’s impossible not to get excited.  Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) is tapped to lead a dangerous mission, and Forest Whitaker never looked better as an old rogue.

And an old enemy, maybe new to these characters, makes an eagerly awaited appearance.  But something tells us that appearance is going to be similar to Mark Hamill’s brief return as Luke Skywalker in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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The newest Star Wars entry takes us to the darker corners of the galaxy, into the process of creating a saboteur capable of destroying an entire planet-sized cannon, and shows us new, detailed views of the TIE Fighter, Star Destroyer, AT-AT, Death Star, and some new transport and battle vehicles we’ve never seen.

Plus Alan Tudyk (Firefly, A Knight’s Tale) appears for the first time as the voice of a new droid.

Plenty of callbacks to the original Star Wars: A New Hope can be found here, from a new samurai Jedi (Donnie Yen) to a Grand Admiral Thrawn-inspired villain (Ben Mendelsohn), new environments, and Genevieve O’Reilly (who played the young Mon Mothma in Revenge of the Sith).

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Check out this second, perfect trailer for the next big Star Wars flick:

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