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Tag Archive: Helen Mirren


Review by C.J. Bunce

The biggest action film of the summer is easily the most enjoyable film of the year.  That’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a movie that gets so many genre formulas right it just can’t miss.  Certainly one of the better entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, it knows what works and uses it.  That’s a sure-bet cast of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, Mission: Impossible–Fallout’s Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba in the ultimate badass role as a James Bond spy gone bad with Superman powers, lots of futuristic cyborg tech, and an understanding of why audiences come to the movie theater in the first place.  Hobbs & Shaw is a movie for people who like movies.

The trailers gave audiences a glimpse at what to expect, and they delivered on all promises: laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, nonstop action, road races and camera angles that the franchise is known for, and lots of surprises and callbacks, and a script that doesn’t take itself seriously.  There’s something for everyone here.  If you’re after only the fast cars, action, and speed of the franchise, this entry measures up.  And that family drama that the regular franchise leads Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster built the franchise on is here, too.  This time that includes digging into the past between Statham’s Deckard Shaw and sister Hattie, played by Kirby, and Helen Mirren back again as their mother (Luke Evans’ brother Owen from the last film may or may not be mentioned this time), and Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is pals with his young daughter at home and returns to the family he left behind years ago in the Samoan Islands.

But stuntman-turned-director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, John Wick) and script writers Chris Morgan (writer of five prior Fast & Furious films) and Drew Pearce (Hotel Artemis, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) know why audiences are really buying tickets, and you just need to drift over their previous film credits to see why they were tapped for Hobbs & Shaw.  Hattie is a badass equal to Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde (Theron also co-starred in the most recent sequel), any of the four lead characters could give Leitch’s John Wick a run for his money, and moviegoers will hardly remember last year’s much-lauded Mission Impossible: Fallout’s action scenes after they see this.  (A few casting spoilers follow).

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It’s no surprise the movie studios are releasing trailers more frequently this time of year.  In the weeks leading up to San Diego Comic-Con, just as studios are holding back more genre and “pop culture” trailers to showcase in San Diego, they’re giving audiences a peek now at everything else.  We have five new trailers today, three for films we haven’t yet previewed, and two are new trailers for films you already know about.  What do they all have in common?  They all feature stars from the British realm.

So what’s new from Keira Knightley (why doesn’t she have an Oscar yet?), Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith, and Katherine Kelly?  You’ll find them in the political thriller Official Secrets, based on the story of Katherine Gun, who leaked a secret memo exposing an illegal U.S. spying operation.  The Good Liar stars master thespians Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen in a swindler story about meeting online.  Luke Evans and Ed Skrein lead a new World War II historical drama in MidwayAnd from the two films you’ve probably heard of:  Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren, and Eddie Marsan all star in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate and Damian Lewis plays Steve McQueen in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  

  

Finally, don’t forget, another Brit, Tom Holland, stars in next week’s latest Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Check out these trailers:

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The master of the assassin sub-genre is back again.  You may know him for writing and directing The Fifth Element (starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (starring Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan), but you may also know Luc Besson as the writer and director of the 1990 film Le Femme Nikita with Anne Parillaud (and its English remake, Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda), and the 1994 movie The Professional (Natalie Portman, Jean Reno).  He’s also written the screenplays for The Transporter starring Jason Statham (2002), Taken starring Liam Neeson (2008), and Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana (2011).  Then he tied together his science fiction sense with his trademark badass woman leading role in 2014 with Lucy, starring Scarlet Johansson.  That’s several assassins, spies, and action sequences in Luc Besson’s personal dossier.

Besson is writing and directing his next film, too.  It’s called Anna, and he’s tapped the actress behind the unforgettable alien woman from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sasha Luss (who played the ill-fated Princess Lïhio-Minaa) as the title character.  From its first trailer (check it out below), Anna seems to be part Red Sparrow and part Atomic BlondeOr another La Femme NikitaBut it’s going to be very difficult for fans of spy movies to differentiate this latest entry from Atomic Blonde, especially if the film is really structured as revealed in the trailer.  It looks like it could be a remake, but it isn’t.

Some credibility and gravitas come from the presence of Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, whose own badass spy and assassin role in RED and RED 2 should come to mind.  Other actors in the film include Luke Evans (The Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit series) and Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Tron: Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises).

Here’s the first trailer for Luc Besson’s Anna:

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When we created last year’s preview of 2018 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with 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 Movies of 2018.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this month for our TV and print media picks, and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our movie picks for 2018:

Best Film, Best Drama – Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox).  For the epic historical costume drama category, this biopic was something fresh and new, even among dozens of movies about bands that came before it.  Gary Busey played a great Buddy Holly and Val Kilmer a perfect Jim Morrison, and we can add Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee’s work as Freddie Mercury and Brian May to the same rare league.  But it wasn’t only the actors that made it work.  Incredible cinematography, costume and set recreations, and an inspiring story spoke to legions of moviegoers.  This wasn’t just another biopic, but an engaging drama about misfits that came out on top.  Honorable mention: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Retro Fix, Best Easter EggsSolo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm).  Put aside the noise surrounding the mid-year release of Solo before fans had recovered yet from The Last Jedi, and the resulting film was the best sequel (or prequel) in the franchise since the original trilogy (we rate it right after The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars as #3 overall).  All the scenes with Han and Chewbacca were faithful to George Lucas’s original vision, and the new characters were as cool and exciting, and played by exceptional talent, as found in the originals, including sets that looked like they were created in the 1970s of the original trilogy.  The Easter Eggs scattered all over provided dozens of callbacks to earlier films.  This was an easy choice: no other science fiction film came close to the rip-roaring rollercoaster of this film, and special effects and space battles to match.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Movie: Orbiter 9 (Netflix).

Best Superhero Movie, Best Crossover, Best Re-Imagining on Film Avengers: Infinity War (Disney/Marvel).  For all its faults, and there were many, the culmination of ten years of careful planning and tens of thousands of creative inputs delivered something no fan of comics has ever seen before:  multiple, fleshed out superheroes played by A-list actors with intertwined stories with a plot that wasn’t all that convoluted.  Is it the best superhero move ever?  To many fans, yes.  But even if it isn’t the best, its scope was as great as any envisioned before it, and the movie was filled with more great sequences than can be found in several other superhero movies of the past few years combined.  But teaming up Thor with Rocket?  And Spider-Man with Doctor Strange and Iron Man?  That beat all the prior Avengers team-ups that came before (and anything offered up from the other studios).  It’s easy to brush off any given film with so many superhero movies arriving these days, but this one was the biggest, grandest, and greatest made yet and deserves all the recognition.  Honorable mention: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures Animation), Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Columbia Pictures).  No movie provided more laugh-out-loud moments this year than last winter’s surprise hit, a sequel that didn’t need to be a sequel, and a video game tie-in for a fake video game.  A funny script and four super leads made this an easy pick in the humor category, but the Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired adventure ride made for a great fantasy film, too.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Movie: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel), Ready Player One (Warner Bros./Amblin).

Best Movie Borg, Best Borg Film – Josh Brolin’s Cable, Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox).  Brolin’s take on Cable ended up as one of those great borgs on par with the Terminator from the standpoint of “coolness” factor.  But the trick that he wasn’t really the villain of the movie made him that much more compelling in the film’s final moments.  Ryan Reynolds was back and equal to his last Deadpool film, and his Magnificent Seven/Samurai Seven round-up of a team was great fun.  If not for all that unwinding of what happened in the movie in the coda, this might have made the top superhero movie spot.  But Deadpool 2 was a good reminder there is something other than Disney’s MCU to make good superhero flicks.

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarentino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorsese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I love ghost stories at the movies.  Whether it’s lighter faire like Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie, a favorite version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or the Disney favorite The Watcher in the Woods, or darker stories, like Guillermo del Toro taking on the Gothic mystery genre in Crimson Peak, count me in.  We’ve reviewed some good ghost stories here at borg.com, including The Woman in Black, the aforementioned Portrait of Jennie and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and television series like Marchlands, Lightfields, and Wynonna Earp From the ghost pirates and pirate ghosts in the Pirates of the Caribbean series to the ghost army in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, a good ghost story must have a believable visual take on the actual spectres, but it also needs to provide an appropriate level of spooks and an interesting story.   Ghosts have been featured in romps like R.I.P.D., Ghost Rider, Beetlejuice, and Ghostbusters, darker ghost tales like The Crow and The Others, and even romances like Always, and City of Angels.  Some great, some only good, I count all of these worth watching.  Critics rarely give credit to the genre, with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense as an exception.  But count Winchester, now in theaters, as one of the good ones.

Although the ghost story is a subgenre of horror, if you lean more toward slasher flicks, monster gore, and terror (think Saw or Scream series), if you want to scream out loud in the theater, and true ghost stories aren’t really your thing, Winchester may not be for you.  But if you want a nicely creepy setting, a throwback style ghost story movie, and a cast of excellently realized characters, Helen Mirren’s Sarah Lancaster, Jason Clarke’s Dr. Price, Sarah Snook’s Marian Marriott, and Eamon Farren’s Ben Block make the cut.  This is not just a pile-on of gotchas you’d find in a typical teen slasher film, but it’s peppered with jumps and starts.  Its setting, its costumes, and its roots in reality will keep you on the edge of your seat, but it also flows at a steady pace.  A simple tale with a few twists, Winchester is most on par with The Woman in Black, but it also dabbles in the realm that will appeal to many fans of The Sixth Sense–even the plots share some similarities.

Do you like haunted houses?  The famed real-life Winchester haunted house in San Jose is the right place for the ultimate haunted house tale.  The truth of Winchester only adds to the suspense and intrigue:  Heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester became one of the world’s wealthiest women of the 19th century.  Her husband died in 1881 and she then proceeded to spend her fortune on a sprawling mansion over the next 38 years, a mansion that was never finished.  And why?  Some evidence indicates it’s because Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her.  Lore of the house is that she built extra rooms onto her mansion to trick the ghosts.  She was a bit of a recluse and known by those near her to be superstitious, and this is evident with the number 13 appearing throughout the house windows, such as rooms with 13 panes of glass, ceilings with 13 panels, and staircases with only 13 steps.  And workers removed and added new rooms to the mansion until her death in 1922.  Where there are gaps in the story, the directors–the Spierig Brothers–fill in the blanks visualizing the mythos of Sarah Winchester’s supposed vision of the truth, asking the question: If her superstitions are related to her strange house design, what story could explain this unique house?  Despite the inclusion of ghosts, nearly everything can be explained by science, and much can be left to the viewer to make his/her own call.  But if you’re game, couple an heiress who truly believes she is cursed and a doctor whose own past demons and drug use make him susceptible to some suggestions of a supernatural nature, and you’ll find an intriguing ghost story.

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For “truth is stranger than fiction” it’s difficult not to stumble over the story of Sarah Winchester.  Mysteries of the Museum, America’s Castles, and every series that has ever taken viewers on an excursion to America’s supposedly haunted houses has covered the story.  Heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester became one of the world’s wealthiest women of the 19th century.  Her husband died in 1881 and she then proceeded to spend her fortune on a sprawling mansion over the next 38 years, a mansion that was never finished.  And why?  Because Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her.  She built extra room after room on her mansion to trick them into not finding her.  And she had new rooms added to the mansion until she died.  And this story is all true.

Next month the great Helen Mirren (RED, Hitchcock, The Queen) steps into the shoes of Sarah Winchester in the new drama horror film, Winchester.  One of genredom’s pervasive actors, Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genesys, Farscape, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Everest) plays a doctor looking into Winchester’s outlandish claims for the Winchester business.

The mansion still exists and is now a tourist attraction called the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.  Check out the website here.  For fans of Supernatural–show creator Eric Kripke gave Sam and Dean their last name because of Kripke’s interest in the Mystery House.

The film adaptation appears to take the ghost story into the realm of Guillermo del Toro’s ghost story Crimson Peak.  Check out previews for the new movie, Winchester, after the cut:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s interesting that the publicity folks for RED 2 have stressed in their latest movie trailer no Robots, Monsters, or Superheroes.  Although we’re not so sure RED 2 isn’t chock full of its own breed of superhero, it’s true you’ll find no monsters or robots here.  RED 2, previewed at borg.com here, is definitely not like any other film creating waves this summer.  But it is the most fun you’ll have at any movie this year.

You don’t need to ask, for example: Were too many people killed in the movie’s finale (as with Man of Steel)?  Or lower your normal standards a bit to allow yourself to just plain have fun watching a giant robot take on a giant monster from the ocean’s depths (as with Pacific Rim).  Or struggle with friends over whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch was cast appropriately as a sci-fi villain (as with Star Trek Into Darkness).  With RED 2, you don’t have to think about all those things that distract you from just having a good time.  Do the heroes kill a lot of people in RED 2?  You bet, and we like it that way.

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What RED 2 will make you do is think about where it stands in the line-up of the best of Bruce Willis’s movies.  When was the last time you saw such a good Bruce Willis film that made you work through that analysis?  The reality is that Bruce Willis’s performance as retired spy Frank Moses in RED 2 is up there with his first run as John McClane in the original Die Hard, and we haven’t seen him play a character this cool since Pulp Fiction.  Pull up your Netflix queue and take a second look at him in Striking Distance, Twelve Monkeys, and The Fifth Element and you might just add RED 2 to your list of Best of Bruce keepers.

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Red movie poster

RED 2 is coming to theaters July 19, 2013, and we’ve previewed it earlier here at borg.com.  If you missed the original in the theaters you’re not alone.  The marketing for RED didn’t do much to help–advertised as retired assassins getting back together, the appeal was hard to grasp.  Yet if it had been revealed as a dream cast spy caper in the realm of the Ocean’s Eleven series, it might have drawn a wider audience.  Whatever the box office take on the original, it doesn’t matter as a sequel will be soon here, and it’s a good time to go back to the original available everywhere on video and even on basic cable programming.  If you do, you’ll find a fun flick that will likely cause you to look forward to RED 2 come July.

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Not a lot of sequels featuring action heroes over 50 look as good as the new trailer for RED 2, the sequel to the 2010 action movie RED, about Bruce Willis’s Frank Moses bringing his band of retired assassins back together.  Bruce Willis?  Again?  You’ve got to hand it to Bruce–he is making more movies than anyone half his age and he’s just not letting up.  Since the first movie RED in 2010 he has starred or was featured in twelve movies, including The Expendables and The Expendables 2, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, A Good Day to Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retribution, and coming soon, the adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For.

Just look at the great cast in RED 2 and decide for yourself who to be more excited about.  Returning with Willis from the last film is John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Mary-Louise Parker.  This time around they’ve brought in Anthony Hopkins playing against type as a wacky jailed friend from the past.

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