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Tag Archive: James Earl Jones


Review by C.J. Bunce

This weekend one of the greatest American film classics celebrated its 30th anniversary across the U.S.  Thirty years later and Phil Alden Robinson′s Field of Dreams still holds up.  But thirty years is a long time, and my umpteenth viewing for Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies theatrical release for Father’s Day netted even more new thoughts about one of my all-time favorite movies.  I can’t think of a better Father’s Day movie, but if you missed it in the theater this weekend, you have one more day and two showings to catch it before it goes back in the vaults until its next anniversary.  Find out more about tomorrow’s two screenings and find your local participating theater at the Fathom Events website for the anniversary event here.  TCM host Ben Mankiewicz adds some film trivia before and after the screening–he’s a great host for these anniversary events.

Not even two minutes pass before Kevin Costner′s Ray Kinsella hears the ghostly words from afar that set the story into motion: If you build it, he will come.  From there, Robinson’s tightly written, major re-work of the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe is non-stop magic (check out my retro review of the novel here at borg earlier this year where I compare it to the film).  It’s accompanied by James Horner′s sweeping, emotional score that will jerk you around from ghost story surprise to epic cross-country adventure and back to quiet, pastoral personal drama.  You can go back and scratch your head over the actual films that won Academy Awards over Field of Dreams for 1989–it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score.  You’ll find Field of Dreams is the only film that stuck with audiences three decades later, airing almost weekly now on cable channels, confirming its place in the Library of Congress’s film recognition and at the top of the American Film Institute’s rankings more than once.

It’s the rare film like Field of Dreams that begs for there to be an Academy Award for best casting.  Margery Simkin, the casting director for films from Beverly Hills Cop to Top Gun to Star Trek Discovery deserves a salute for getting every role just right.  Kevin Costner never veers from pure immersion into this new farmer wanting to follow his gut instincts.  Amy Madigan plays the perfect supportive partner and wife to Ray.  Gaby Hoffman is smart for her age as Ray’s daughter and a true credit to the film.  Director/writer Phil Alden Robinson should share in the brilliant updating the novel character from real-life J.D. Salinger to the fictional Terence Mann–audiences know James Earl Jones so well from Star Wars, yet here we get the benefit of his powerfully emotional eyes and that broad smile and laugh.  I always look forward to Ray Liotta′s steely stare, his knowing calmness, and his snarky laugh-out-loud dismissal of Ty Cobb.  Keeping with the novel and my take from past viewings, Archie Graham brings the magic home as the crucial piece of the puzzle driving the story to its end, played young and eager in a 1920s mindset by the great Frank Whaley and in his later years as a wise small-town doctor by film legend Burt Lancaster.  The quaint beauty of Dubuque, Iowa, made for the perfect backdrop to film Graham’s hometown of Chisholm, Minnesota, for these scenes.

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Seven years ago the writers at borg came up with our top ten favorite fantasy movies (take a look at my list here).  I’m happy to see that my list hasn’t changed much.  Two of my top ten fantasy movies are returning to theaters nationwide for limited showings.  First, Field of Dreams (my #6 favorite), is back next week, followed in July by The Muppet Movie (my #3 favorite).  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Field of Dreams will be in theaters for Fathers’ Day, an opportunity to share the ultimate story of believing in yourself and trusting your instincts with a new generation.  It’s scheduled to appear at more than 600 theaters.  Then celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Muppet Movie, Fathom Events is partnering with The Jim Henson Company and Universal Pictures to show the classic big-screen debut of the Muppets on more than 700 screens nationwide.

Fathom Events joins Universal Pictures and Turner Classic Movies to bring Field of Dreams to theaters Sunday, June 16, for showings at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. local time, and Tuesday, June 18, at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time.  Director Phil Alden Robinson′s re-write of W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe (reviewed here at borg), features three of cinema’s most fantastic characters coming together: reclusive author Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), baseball player Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley) and “Shoeless Joe” Jackson (Ray Liotta).  It was nominated for six–and made three–of the American Film Institute’s lists of the top American films of all time, including being named the all-time #6 top fantasy film.

For two days only this July, The Muppet Movie returns with screenings on Thursday, July 25, and Tuesday, July 30.  The Muppet Movie will play at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. (local time) each day.  Following the international success of the television show The Muppet Show, which at its peak aired in more than 100 countries, Muppets creator Jim Henson took a creative risk to have the characters star in their first motion picture.  The result, directed by James Frawley, became a box-office hit, starring Kermit (performed by Henson), Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear (performed by Frank Oz), Gonzo (performed by Dave Goelz) and his chicken Camilla (performed by Jerry Nelson), Scooter (performed by Richard Hunt), and dozens of other favorite characters.

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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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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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Before Greg Berlanti became a household name, responsible for creating, writing, or producing hit television series like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Riverdale, he created a successful drama for the WB network that would help propel his career forward–Everwood.  What could have been a flop on paper–a family drama about a widower who takes his career as a neurosurgeon and his son and daughter to a small town in Colorado to start again–became an engaging and enjoyable series with an electric cast and powerful writing.  The entire four seasons, all 89 episodes of the 2002-2006 series is now streaming via CW Seed online for free.

Treat Williams (The Empire Strikes Back, 1941, The Phantom, White Collar) starred as Dr. Andy Brown, an immensely successful big city neurosurgeon who, while intruding on the turf of the pompous local family doctor, Dr. Harold Abbott, played by Tom Amandes (Arrow, Fairly Legal, Leverage), begins to become an invaluable and influential member of the community.  Standout in the cast was Debra Mooney (Dead Poets Society, Tootsie) as Dr. Abbott’s mother Edna, whose snarky attitude was perfect as she helps the new doctor with his clinic across the street from her own son’s competing clinic.  Stephanie Niznik (Star Trek: Insurrection, Enterprise) played Dr. Brown’s friendly neighbor Nina, and Brenda Strong (Dallas) played Dr. Brown’s late wife in flashbacks.

But Everwood, which has not been available on any previous streaming service, will probably be best known for the breakout roles of two Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star Lord Chris Pratt and Captain America’s love interest Sharon Carter from Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, Emily VanCamp.  VanCamp and Pratt had significant roles on Everwood.  Portraying Dr. Abbott’s teenage kids, VanCamp was Amy, the target of affection of Dr. Brown’s son Ephram (Gregory Smith, selected for the role over Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki), and Pratt was Ephram’s not-so-bright new friend, ironically named Bright.  Both actors shined in these early performances (and were a real-life couple for several years).

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rogue

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.

sci-fi-fix

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.

huntsman2

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.

magnificent-seven-banner-2016

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.

Stranger Things cast

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.

darth-vader

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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chris-pratt-moneyball

It’s that time of year again.  The 2016 World Series is now in full swing with the first game a sweep by the Cleveland Indians.  How will the Chicago Cubs fare in Game 2 tonight?  If you’re not in the baseball frame of mind yet, we have five of the all-time best baseball movies you can stream right now for free or for less than four dollars on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.  Most of these can also be rented on Netflix.  And let’s face it–everyone should own our fifth movie on the list.

Have you seen them already?  Then you know these great films can be watched over and over again.

Let’s start with a classic:  Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees from 1942.  The movie recounts the then-recent personal triumph and tragedy of what baseball as an American pastime has created over and over for more than a century: baseball players as American icons.  Pride of the Yankees shows the personal side of being a famous baseball player, and features real-life legends Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey, all playing themselves on-screen.  Academy Award winners Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan co-star.  If you want to see classic baseball from a contemporary view, this is your movie.  Although the story is certainly bittersweet and a tear-jerker, it reflects baseball as more than just a game.

pride-of-the-yankees-babe-ruth-gary-cooper

The most recent movie on our list is Moneyball, from 2011, a modern classic we’ve already watched over and over.  Moneyball reveals the game as a modern business.  The conflict between playing the game as classically envisioned and the game as seen from an analytical angle is wrestled with from the real life mostly true story of the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as he turned the team around in its 2002 season.
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Walken Poe The Raven

The Witching Hour of All Hallow’s Eve has just passed.  It is time to pick your poison, so to speak.

It is time to listen to the many readings by celebrities of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem, “The Raven.”  The poem actually takes place in December, so there’s no wrong time to listen to the poem again and again.  Thanks to a new audio version uploaded this weekend by Sean Astin, we were prompted to search for other famous voices, and we found many interesting celebrities to choose from, many from long ago.  Oddly, we found no famous actresses voicing the creepy story–if you know of any please add them to the comments above.

So which do you want to hear first?  Why not give an ear to all?  As you listen try thinking of the actor, or of that actor’s many roles, from Samwise Gamgee to Gomez Addams, from Saruman to Dracula or Sherlock Holmes, the Headless Horseman or Johnny Smith, Max Schreck or Lucius Fox, and from Darth Vader to Captain Kirk or the alien known simply as Q…

The Raven

Have a listen to one or all.  Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

 

Sean Astin

 

John Astin

 

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Star Wars Rebels Darth Vader Season Two

If you missed the first season of Star Wars Rebels, now is the time to find out what you have been missing.  Last year we reviewed Season 1 here at borg.com.  Far better than the animated Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels ups the ante with animation that conjures the original series like nothing we’ve seen since Return of the Jedi.  And with original trilogy actors Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz and James Earl Jones returning to their roles, it’s something that fans have only dreamed about–until now.  Disney released an early look at Season Two this past week with the one-hour season premiere and you still can catch it in one of its many re-airings this week.

The series takes place five years before Star Wars: A New Hope, following the crew of a resistance vessel bringing their battle to the Empire.  Season Two will expand the role of Darth Vader, voiced again this season by James Earl Jones.  This is Vader like we have not seen him before–a veteran of villainy well beyond the untried Jedi youth once known as Anakin Skywalker.

If you’re iffy about the new Star Wars universe under Disney, this may be what brings you back into the fun of what was the original Star Wars we all remember.

SW Rebels

Just check out several previews and behind the scenes clips below for a taste of what’s coming later this year and then check your local listings for Disney X D to watch a re-broadcast of the one-hour premiere of Season Two.

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Lando in Star Wars Rebels

We initially had some trepidation when it came to the new Disney animated TV series, Star Wars Rebels, set five years before the original Star Wars movie (A New Hope) and 14 years after Episode III.  We reviewed the first movie length pilot episode here, now available on DVD at Amazon.com here.  Focus on the younger character Ezra and the more cartoony silliness initially pointed to kids as the target audience for the show.  But as the series gained its stride, it became not only a good tie-in for diehard Star Wars fans, but something real, honest to goodness, Star Wars canon fans can be excited about, with its inclusion of original trilogy cast members as voice actors.  And its primary and supporting cast work will have you wanting to watch it again and eagerly anticipate Season Two when it returns to Disney XD at your next binge session.

The high point surprised us: The return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in an adventure before The Empire Strikes Back.  If you hate the fact that his primary role in the original trilogy was as a betrayer of Han Solo, you can finally see why Han previously was friends with him.  Sure, he was an opportunist even back then, but he was also skillful and suave, and, believe it or not, much cooler than he was portrayed in the movies.  That’s something worth seeing.

Star Wars Rebels C-3PO

But it didn’t stop with Billy Dee Williams.  The first episode, “Droids in Distress,” featured the return of Anthony Daniels as the voice of C-3P0.  In the ninth episode the great and powerful Frank Oz returned to voice the part of Yoda, in “Path of the Jedi.”  And how about James Earl Jones as Darth Vader again?  You can’t really get more canon than that.  Well, at least until we see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker (and not only just hear them) return in Episode VII later his year.

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