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Tag Archive: James Franco


Review by C.J. Bunce

The early 2018 release Alien: Covenant is now streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and other streaming services.  It is the second act of a two-part story focusing in major part on the android* named David, the continuation of non-human humanoids we first encountered in the Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film Alien with Ash, and later Bishop, and others.  Continuing David’s quest from Scott’s follow-up, 2012’s Prometheus (yes, this is that “sequel to a prequel” we discussed here at borg back in 2012), David has embarked on a search for the creation of mankind prompted by his creator, Peter Weyland, played by Guy Pearce.  David’s cold, deliberate calm is disturbing–he is a robot, he is emotionless, despite improvements on earlier models that make him appear kind, even sincere.  Yet, as we learned in Prometheus, David is little, if any, evolved more than the decision-making by HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Is David’s ruthlessness carried forward into Alien: Covenant?  You’ll need to watch the movie to find out.  There you’ll meet an upgraded version of David’s android design.  Also played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, the android Walter replaces David as assistant to the humans in Alien: Covenant as they embark on a mission to settle a colony in deep space, led by James Franco‘s Branson, Billy Crudup‘s Oram, and Katherine Waterston‘s Daniels.  In a great dual performance by Fassbender, Walter encounters David as the story progresses.  And that’s where David’s Drawings come into play.

Disturbing and grotesque.  David, as part of his quest from Weyland, studies, researches, and documents lifeforms he encounters.  Many of these are in the form of sketches, sketches that can be found on the screen in the film, and in the new bound portfolio volume called David’s Drawings, from production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton (see our preview below).  The artwork is meticulous, like something out of Gray’s Anatomy So the drawings are both in-universe props, and a real-world document of the filmmakers.   In more than 200 images, the boxed set (featuring a hardcover of drawings and a second volume including interviews with the artists) features the complete arc of his journey from David’s studies of flora and fauna, to his more sinister experiments on creatures, and the film’s most disturbing, surprise revelation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Although the first chapter in the anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will have you thinking the new straight-to-Netflix movie is more of the same from the Coen Brothers, the subsequent chapters may have you think again.  It just may be the most thought-provoking, subdued, and effective film from the entire catalog of Coen Brothers films, and it may even eclipse Bone Tomahawk and the Coens’ own True Grit as this century’s best Westerns–at least in parts (and it’s a leap ahead of Quentin Tarentino’s past two efforts).  Netflix’s Mudbound was nominated this year in major categories (but didn’t win) and the studio brought in one documentary Oscar, but can this new Coens release bring Oscar home to Netflix for a major, large-scale production?

The common thread of the film is classic Americana: 19th century settlers possessed a kind of unique grit, and they paid a steep price, in unique and unglamorous ways, to build a nation.  The film chronicles six fictional fails and near fails that might have happened (mostly), presented as chapters of an anthology dime novel.  The first chapter follows the title character, a goofy but sure-shootin’ singing cowboy played by Tim Blake Nelson, in a story that will have many thinking this movie is another Western parody like 1985’s Rustler’s Rhapsody (it is not).  The next chapter follows a determined thief (James Franco) unsuccessfully robbing a bank in an era before the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment (in a mash-up inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”).  Another story finds a young woman (Zoe Kazan of the famed film dynasty in a masterful performance) on a frontier wagon train just trying to make it to the next town.  The least of the tales comes off more as a one-note Aesop’s Fable, as Liam Neeson‘s character carts a young limbless orator (played eloquently by well-known Harry Potter actor Harry Melling) from town to town carnival style for money.  To round off the anthology, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, and Tyne Daly star in a John Ford-inspired stagecoach bit that would be good source material for a stage play.

But the best of the chapters is an adaptation of a Jack London story about an old gold prospector, a character study starring Tom Waits.  His performance could be seamlessly spliced into any of the best classic Westerns.  And it’s the kind of acting achievement that should earn Waits a supporting Oscar nod, if the Academy gets in lock-step with Netflix as a legitimate moviemaking studio.  The other performance worth Oscar contention is Chelcie Ross‘s trapper in the stagecoach segment.  His rambling story and delivery is laugh-out-loud funny, and you can almost see in the eyes of Rubinek and Daly a real struggle to hold back laughs.

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It was last year’s funniest new comedy.  In the crazy modern world where a television series can have two seasons in one year, Angie Tribeca returns to TBS tonight with the first episode of its third season.  Season One and Two were full of cameos, including Bill Murray, Heather Graham, and James Franco, and this season is no exception.  In the next ten episodes of the half-hour police procedural comedy, you’ll find Star Trek star Chris Pine as a Hannibal Lecter-inspired criminal and Academy Award winner Natalie Portman (Star Wars prequels, Marvel Cinematic Universe) as a NASA scientist who doesn’t quite fit any of the squad members’ expectations.

Rashida Jones is back as the show’s lead Tribeca, the Leslie Nielsen of the latest incarnation of a Police Squad!-level spoof of gritty dramas.  She has fantastic comedic timing and would also fit right in as the lead of any serious show.  The entire cast is a well-choreographed sight-gag machine, including Tribeca’s partner J. Geils, played by Hayes MacArthur (How I Met Your Mother, Medium), Jere Burns (Burn Notice, Breaking Bad, Justified) as the loud-mouthed lieutenant, Chet Atkins, with comedian Deon Cole as cop DJ Tanner, partner Officer David Hoffman played by Jagger the shepherd dog, Andree Vermeulen as the medical examiner, Dr. Scholls, and Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-man 2, Justice League Dark) as coroner Dr. Edelweiss.

It’s the series comedy queen Carol Burnett referred to as “the best, most wonderful, stupid hysterical show”.  Check out these previews for Season 3 of Angie Tribeca:

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alien-covenant

Directed by Ridley Scott and written by John Logan, Alien: Covenant is coming to theaters this summer.  It is another of those rare and unusual films:  The prequel that is also a sequel.  It is the sequel to Prometheus (2012), so it is the second installment in the Alien franchise chronologically, prequel to the original Alien (1979), and the sixth movie produced in the series.

The film tracks a colony ship, the Covenant, which arrives at a habitable planet and finds Michael Fassbender’s cyborg David, who we last saw at the end of Prometheus.  Fassbender plays dual roles, as the Weyland Corporation’s creation is also a member of the Covenant, as seen in the below preview.

alien-covenant-trailer

Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, and Guy Pearce return from Prometheus in Alien: Covenant.  New players include James Franco, Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Billy Crudup (Watchmen), Danny McBride (Superbad, Fanboys), Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight), Carmen Ejogo  (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Amy Seimetz (Stranger Things), Jussie Smollett (Revenge), Callie Hernandez (Machete Kills, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Nathaniel Dean (Farscape), and Alexander England (Gods of Egypt).

Check out this unusual preview, the first five minutes of the film: Continue reading

alien-covenant-clip

On Christmas Eve 20th Century Fox released the first trailer for Ridley Scott’s next gory chapter in the Alien cycle, Alien: Covenant.  In a bit of a deja vu, only four years ago we saw the first trailer and images of Ridley Scott’s touted reboot of the Alien franchise in the 2013 theatrical release Prometheus.  Like the trailer for Prometheus, we are left scratching our heads.  Alien: Covenant is the sequel to Prometheus, and prequel to the original Alien, yet the trailer makes the new film look an awful lot like the original Alien.  Is Scott really releasing a cloaked remake of Alien, banking on some idea similar to the formula J.J. Abrams succeeded with in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a remake of sorts of the original Star Wars)?

Assuming the trailer reflects the final film, which admittedly is not always the case, Alien: Covenant may appeal to fans of the horror and sci-fi shocker Alien.  But what about the fans of the Alien sequel Aliens, which focused more on the action above the science fiction and horror components?

crudup

Viewers are left to assume that blood-and-gore horror is going to take center stage in Alien: Covenant, although we’ll no doubt get some bits and pieces of sci-fi and some action along the way.  The story revolves around the crew of the colony ship Covenant.  The crew encounters a planet that is not what it seems and a familiar face–Michael Fassbender’s synthetic borg David, survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.

Check out this trailer for Alien: Covenant:

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Angie Tribeca Season One DVD

When we first reviewed Season One of TBS’s new hot comedy Angie Tribeca back in January here at borg.com we could hardly wait for Season Two to arrive.  Angie Tribeca was released Netflix-style Sunday, January 17, 2016, with an all-at-once binge watch marathon.  The first ten episodes provided the flavor of nonstop laughs that we haven’t seen since Leslie Nielsen’s Police Squad! and re-watching the episodes and the special features on the soon-to-be-released DVD release this week made us believers all over again.  The series is laugh-out-loud funny like no other show on television.

The special features on the DVD, which is being released May 17, 2016, give viewers an idea of how difficult this kind of comedy is to create.  We figured the secret to the show’s unique humor was the writing by the funny husband-wife duo of Steve Carell and Nancy (ex-Saturday Night Live’s Nancy Walls) Carell and their staff, but it may be more than that.  Star Rashida Jones explains that as easy as it is to watch and laugh at the comedy on the show, the technical requirements to get the comedy right takes plenty of planning and coordination.  The features also include a sneak peek at Season Two.

David Hoffman and DJ Tanner

You know something funny is going on when you read ad copy for the series, like “Finally!  A show about cops!”  Jones makes a great cop–she could easily fold into a dramatic role on any TV police procedural.  But she also has great comedic timing and is a solid series lead.  Plenty can also be said for the rest of the cast, including Jere Burns (Burn Notice, Breaking Bad, Justified) as the textbook, loud-mouthed lieutenant (named Chet Atkins), Tribeca’s partner J. Geils (yes, there’s a theme here with the names), played by Hayes MacArthur (How I Met Your Mother, Medium), comedian Deon Cole as cop DJ Tanner, partner Officer David Hoffman played by Jagger the shepherd dog, with Andree Vermeulen as the medical examiner, Dr. Scholls.  Gravitas and legitimacy is provided by Alfred Molina as coroner Dr. Edelweiss.  As Burns says in interviews on the DVD, playing the characters with earnest–like Molina performing with the seriousness you might see by a Shakespearean actor–makes the humor work.

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Radcliffe NYSM2 Harrelson NYSM2 Asia

An international room of mirrors is stretching around the world this week to promote the sequel to 2013’s Now You See Me.  Lions Gate Entertainment released a volley of posters internationally featuring the cast members from the film for Now You See Me 2.  Along with the returning cast of Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, and Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, and Jay Chou round out the all-star cast.

Now’s a good time to catch the original.  It’s a fun romp that we reviewed previously here at borg.com.

Caplan NYSM2 Ruffalo NYSM2

If you missed out on the trailer, check it out here.

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Angie Tribeca clip

TBS’s new comedy series Angie Tribeca was released Netflix-style Sunday, January 17, 2016, with an all-at-once binge watch marathon.  Season One provided the flavor of nonstop laughs that we haven’t seen since Leslie Nielsen’s Police Squad! was yucking up the airwaves back in 1982.  That same “I can’t believe this is so funny,” laugh-out-loud, Abrahams, Zucker & Zucker-inspired comedy is back.

Streaming online for each episode of Season One expires today so put aside three or four hours and check it out now at the TBS website here.  Carol Burnett, who called in to the live marathon hosted by the show’s stars in between episodes, surprised the cast, and nailed it, calling the show “the best, most wonderful, stupid hysterical show I’ve seen in a while”.  What was the secret to the show’s success?  As usual it’s the writing.  Top writing, in fact, by the funny husband-wife duo of Steve Carell and Nancy (ex-Saturday Night Live’s Nancy Walls) Carell and their staff, who tapped into something else we haven’t seen in a while–humor that isn’t mean and ugly, just well-paced and all-out fun.

David Hoffman and DJ Tanner

Fans of Peggy Lipton from The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks might not be able to help making comparisons of Lipton to her daughter, series star Rashida Jones, who plays the title character.  Jones makes a great cop–she could easily fold into a dramatic role on any TV police procedural.  But she also has great comedic timing and is a solid series lead.  Plenty can also be said for the rest of the cast.  We already know Jere Burns from his role as the nasty villain Anson Fullerton on Burn Notice (and dozens of appearances on other popular series from Breaking Bad to Justified).  But who would have thought he’d be so endearing (and, yes, funny) as the textbook, loud-mouthed lieutenant (named Chet Atkins)?  Tribeca’s partner is J. Geils (yes, there’s a theme here with the names), played by Hayes MacArthur (How I Met Your Mother, Medium), comedian Deon Cole is cop DJ Tanner (and his partner Officer David Hoffman is played by Jagger the shepherd dog, who Cole communicates with in a very Han Solo and Chewbacca way), with Andree Vermeulen as the medical examiner, Dr. Scholls.  Gravitas and legitimacy is provided by none other than Alfred Molina as coroner Dr. Edelweiss, always in a state of physical torment–or not.

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Art of the Films Planet of the Apes cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

We all know the apes win and rule the Earth from the original novel and film Planet of the Apes.  But how do they get there?

Not intended as a post-apocalyptic story as much as a chronicle of the birth of an ape civilization, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its July 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are films that manage to have no villains–by design–where the viewer can empathize with both the human and ape characters equally based on the characters’ histories and individual viewpoints.  Writers Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell have created a deluxe volume documenting the art and design of both movies with the newly released Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes.

The Planet of the Apes reboot was an outgrowth of the technologies emerging from Weta New Zealand’s work on The Lord of the Rings franchise, coupled with Andy Serkis’s experience playing Gollum as a motion capture character, and later the giant gorilla King Kong, Serkis was uniquely suited for the role of the sci-fi classic character Caesar from the original novel and film.  The crew credits the acting and chemistry of Serkis and co-star James Franco in part with the success of the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Andy-Serkis-Dawn-Planet-Apes

The challenge for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?  For the first time in film history, digital characters finalized in a post-production process would be realized by total performance motion capture of actors initially, and not on a separate green screen soundstage, but alongside live-action characters on a standard movie set as well as on location.

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Oz the Great and Powerful fireworks

Happy New Year!

Disney is back again trying to replicate the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland with a similar classic fantasy effort, Oz the Great and Powerful.  If you’re not a fan of prequels you will probably avoid this one as it is a prequel to the greatest fantasy film of all time, The Wizard of Oz.  The plus is that this film will adapt L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz so those loyal to the fourteen Oz novels may appreciate this effort.  The other plus is that it will be helmed by director Sam Raimi who knows fantasy films as well as anyone, having directed the Spider-man film trilogy and serving as producer of Timecop, Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Xena Warrior Princess, and Legend of the Seeker.

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

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