Tag Archive: Hiroyuki Sanada


Before you go out and read the novel the movie Bullet Train is based on, check out my review here at borg from last year.  Perhaps the English edition is a poor translation of Kotaro Isaka’s novel Maria Beetle, but I’m thinking it’s just simply a dry novel with a good title.  Either way, for a title like Bullet Train, it was lacking in many ways.  Happily, the first trailer for the movie adaptation starring Brad Pitt looks nothing like the novel, which was an homage to Thomas the Tank Engine cartoons (seriously!).  In the movie trailer Pitt appears like he’s stepping back into the role of Cliff Booth, that badass brawler from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (who was even better in Quentin Tarantino’s novel than in the film) So the good news is director David Leitch, known for actual action content like Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw, and John Wick, seems to be disregarding the book and focusing on what audiences would expect from that title: a big action movie.

Full of style and color (and action!) backed by a Japanese version of the BeeGees’ Staying Alive–check out the trailer for Bullet Train:

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After the first of our two pandemic years, when we created last year’s preview of 2021 movies we admit we thought the year was looking iffy from a movie standpoint–so many films delayed or held back, others expected but canceled early in production, etc.  All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, a smaller but still impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.

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.

Come back tomorrow for our best print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2021 here and Best TV of 2021 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2021:

Best Superhero Movie  Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony). Overlooked like the original Venom, sharp writing and faithful adaptation of the comics made for the best, most fun superhero movie of 2021.  Runner-up: Black Widow (Disney).  Despite the delays it was worth the wait, and it stands as a rewatchable and fun movie. Honorable mention: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney), a great tie-in to characters from throughout the MCU.

Best Action/Adventure Film, Best Visual Effects: Jungle Cruise (Disney), another Disney rollercoaster ride translated to the screen; a film that surprised us as the next incarnation of a Raiders of the Lost Ark-level adventure.  Runner-up: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney).  A solid martial arts adventure, a bus scene out of Speed, and great finale action.

Best Film, Best Drama, Best Director (Simon Stone), Best Cinematography (Mike Eley) – The Dig (Netflix).  A powerful film, exploring life at the precipice of change, missed and almost missed opportunities, the fleeting nature of life, and the survival of humanity through what we leave behind.  Runners-up for Best Film: The Courier (Amazon), Black Widow (Disney), one of the MCU’s best contributions.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level you know exactly what to expect when you select a movie based on a video game.  Any film worth its production costs needs to bring general audiences into the world, the director and writers need to then build that world, establish heroes, fight battles, provide over-the-top action and effects, and the hero(es) must achieve some kind of goal.  The stakes are high, often the fate of the entire world.  And that rarely leaves room for character development.  Entries include Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Monster Hunter, Prince of Persia, Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slew of Pokémon movies, and they go back decades to the original concept film Tron, which had a video game at its center that players didn’t get to play until after the movie.  Lesser rated entries include movies like Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter, and In the Name of the King.

This year’s big-budget release Mortal Kombat, both a remake and a reboot and adaptation of a series of martial arts fantasy games going back to 1992, leans heavily into Asian action movie culture.  It arrives in a growing marketplace for API and AAPI films, in a year including Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.  

So where does Mortal Kombat land in comparison?

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Bullet Train cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill is an example of a spectacular Japanese novel that translated perfectly to the English language and Western audiences in the movie adaptation, Edge of Tomorrow, later renamed Live. Die. Repeat.  Kotaro Isaka’s Bullet Train, initially re-titled from its original name Maria Beetle, is the next Japanese novel on its way to the big screen, not starring Tom Cruise but Brad Pitt, expected to arrive in theaters next year.  It’s not what you’d expect, which is good or bad, depending on your tastes.  Despite that evocative title, it’s surprisingly not an action thriller.  It’s billed as social satire, like the French graphic novel turned Chris Evans movie and TV series, Snowpiercer, and that’s pretty much what readers should expect from Bullet Train, the novel, arriving in its first English edition in U.S. book stores next week.  If Snowpiercer was your thing, you may want to pre-order Bullet Train now here at Amazon.

The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Unstoppable, Murder on the Orient Express, Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, Von Ryan’s Express, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Silver Streak, Source Code, and yes, Snowpiercer, are the top 10 movies you probably think of featuring train action (oh, and don’t forget the original action movie, 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, discussed here and remade several times, plus props are due for train flicks The Commuter and Trading Places).  In each of these, a train goes out of control, or it gets highjacked, or hit by an avalanche, someone is kidnapped or killed, or the train is the target of a terrorist attack–all the kinds of dangers that couple well with a fictional speeding train.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Moviegoers either love or hate Zack Snyder movies.  His latest, Netflix’s Army of the Dead (reviewed here), is very different from the typical movie he directs, which includes 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League.   Despite taking on a heist movie and a zombie picture in a major action movie, he wrote, directed, and took over the camera for Army of the Dead.  The result was a mash-up that may appeal to regular Snyder fans or anyone else.  This month to accompany the film, Titan Books released Army of the Dead: The Making of the Film If you liked the movie, and especially if you’re a fan of the horror genre and zombie films, you will want to check it out.

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ARMY OF THE DEAD

Review by C.J. Bunce

Zack Snyder finally did it.  Despite taking on a heist movie and a zombie picture in a major action movie, he wrote a script and delivered the type of action blockbuster he has not yet been able to create.  Army of the Dead is his first movie to get it right, a load of tropes, a mash-up of genre ideas, a tightly written story with a great cast, and wall-to-wall fun.  Not a comedy like Shaun of the Dead or iZombie, Army of the Dead features the right amount of humor for this story, while incorporating all the expectations of any fan of the father of the genre, George A. Romero.  Rivaling the incredible action and effects in 6 Underground, it also rises to become one of Netflix’s most promising productions.

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It’s a question that goes back to Doom, if not before:  Why make movie adaptations of video games?  Easy answer:  “Why not?”  Or “easy money.”  So why are so many so lackluster, in story, and often in production values?  The triumphs mark the exceptions, from Tron and Tron: Legacy to the Resident Evil series, and a fine enough effort by Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander in two efforts to get a Tomb Raider film series to take hold, for starters.  Then there’s Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, Street Fighter, Wing Commander, and worse (at least Prince of Persia: Sands of Time had some fun in it).  Often listed among the worst of them all is 1995’s Mortal Kombat, a film that couldn’t be saved even by casting Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa as the charismatic villain or casting an ex-Bond girl (Talisa Soto).  It’s those same characters and apparently plot that will get a retry this spring with the big-screen reboot Mortal KombatHowever this movie features leads of the stellar martial arts marvels The Night Comes for Us and Wu Assassins, and the special effects are light years ahead of the prior films.  Check out the first trailer for the movie below.

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