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Tag Archive: kick-ass women


It’s time for borg.com‘s annual look at the year’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons, and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2017 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a pregnant gunfighter, a mutant mental patient, a double agent, a space pilot, an alien security officer, a pregnant former psychopathic killing machine, a cyborg assassin, a mythic warrior, a maverick mercenary, a warrior, a commander of armies, an alien slave turned teacher, an angry young mutant, and a teenage high school reporter.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2017:

Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp).  Melanie Scrofano not only played Wynonna Earp as pregnant in this year’s second season, she actually was.  And that didn’t slow her down, defeating all the evil Revenants in the town of Purgatory, and incorporating the discomfort of pregnancy made for great comic release all season long.  Who had the tougher task, Earp or Scrofano?  Either way, the series showed it’s a keeper and Earp the sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter we continue to love.

Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok).  As cool and powerful as Cate Blanchett’s Hela was in this year’s pinnacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the real scene stealer in Thor: Ragnarok was Tessa Thompson’s surprising new tough heroine, Valkyrie.  Cocky?  Yep.  And she backed up that confidence with mad fighting skills and brains–enough of a combination to help Thor & Co. save the people of Asgard and get some revenge for the Valkyries who lost the original battle against Hela.  As much as any other character, we’re looking forward to more of Valkyrie in next year’s ultimate team-up Avengers: Infinity War.

Luv (Blade Runner 2049).  If Blade Runner 2049 is remembered for anything, it should be Sylvia Hoeks’ badass Replicant oddly (ironically?) named Luv.  First unassuming, polished, and pristine in her mannerisms, she later reveals she can be the next best thing since Sarah Connor and the Terminators.  Luv is a fierce, brutal borg whose villainy became the high point of the film.

Laureline (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).  Cocky yet sympathetic, loyal and determined, the space pilot 50 years in the making made it to the screen this year and Cara Delevingne delivered a surprise performance as the co-lead and equal half of Luc Besson’s science fiction space duo.  Her confidence was second to none, she stood up for what she believed and took what she wanted, and still had time to care for a lost rare species while making sure she protected her partner’s back.  We’d like to think she dropped the creepy egotistical Valerian in her next adventure, but she did exactly what she wanted to, and seemed to have one of those modern romances that worked for her.  Quirky, snarky, funny, and tough, she took out a room full of men with weapons and made it look like she wasn’t even trying.  Laureline has it all.

Helena (Orphan Black).  Of all the characters played by Tatiana Maslany in the series’ five seasons, who knew the sestra that would write the book on them all would be Helena, the once ruthless, psychopathic killing machine who once befriended a scorpion in prison?  This year Maslany wrapped up what must be the best role for a performer in the history of television.  No one has ever played so many parts in a series, and played them beautifully.  Each character had her moment, but Helena would make our list if she was in any series.

Antiope (Wonder Woman).  The opening minutes to this year’s DC film Wonder Woman finally adapted to film what comic book readers have seen all along–that the Amazons were a creation that should have been on the screen long before 2017.  The envy of them all was the brave and strong Antiope, played by Robin Wright.  It was the character that launched a thousand memes, and what greater way to illustrate the mentoring of Wonder Woman than via Wright’s ultimate warrior.

Commander Lin Mae (The Great Wall).  Jing Tian’s Lin, commander of the Crane Corps who takes charge of the Nameless Order and staves off the Tao Tieh, may be the year’s most dynamic and talented superhero–not technically a superhero, she looked superhuman in all her battle scenes.  She was decisive and cut through the nonsensical parts of the story.  Her aerobatic skill in defending the Great Wall, leading the largest military force ever, and saving her people in the process makes Commander Lin an easy entry on this year’s kick-ass list.

Betty Cooper (Riverdale).  It took 77 years but fans of Archie Comics finally got what they always wanted: a television series true to the characters generations have grown up with.  CW’s Riverdale gave viewers 1.5 seasons to soak up Archie and his pals with a tremendously well-written story team led by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but best of all was the casting of Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica.  Both were badass frenemies, but Betty’s story really allowed her to save the day time after time while taking the high road, even becoming a member of the Southside gang to help Jughead, and as intrepid school reporter, sleuthing out and taking down the town serial killer known as The Black Hood.

Trubel (Grimm).  When the Wesen become too much for Grimm’s Nick Burkhardt, the series’ other Grimm warrior Theresa “Trubel” Rubel came to the rescue.  Reserved and measured in her actions, she also never hesitated to take someone’s head off to protect her newly found family.  In the series finale this year she even took on Nick directly when she disagreed with his plan, only to help take down the Zerstörer after an ultimate confrontation team-up with the ghosts of Kelly and Marie, and Nick.  What we’d give for a Grimm spin-off with Jacqueline Toboni bringing her character into new adventures!

Syd Barrett (Legion).  Many viewers saw the twisted look at the X-Men in the new FX series Legion as the best of the superhero fare on television this year.  The highlight of the show was Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett, who became girlfriend to series lead hero David Haller.  Revealing a brutal dark side to being a superhero mutant, Syd’s powers won’t allow her to physically make contact with anyone, yet she makes it work anyway.  She’s willing to use her powers to switch bodies with anyone she touches to save those she cares about, even at great pain and loss.  Syd fights through her own doubts, uncertainty of reality, and those that have lied to her to break through and take what she wants.  She’s a fighter and triumphant, with only more battles ahead as season two is just around the corner.

Andrea/Andra’ath Quill (Class).  We only had eight episodes to get to know Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off series Class, but what we saw in Katherine Kelly’s alien slave turned teacher was the foundation for an incredible series that could have been.  Quill made the ultimate break from oppressor Charlie, the last surviving prince of an alien war.  That didn’t stop her from finding a way out, while taking care of the prince and the small class of would-be student heroes.  Quill could have taken the show in infinite directions had viewers supported the series more.  Regardless, Katherine Kelly’s Quill will always be remembered as a kick-ass heroine in a class by herself.

Lt. Alara Kitan (The Orville).  Who knew the next great science fiction series since Battlestar Galactica would be half comedy and produced by Seth MacFarlane?  Among the strife and misadventure, one crewmember had the greatest character arc in the series’ first season, and she was also the physically strongest person on the ship: Chief of Security Lt. Alara Kitan.  Halston Sage didn’t skip a beat in portraying a futuristic officer on a starship.  She didn’t begin the show as a leader, but learned the ropes and took us all along for the ride as she became that leader, revealing a sensitive and uncertain, very “human” side, who could still buddy around with the ship commander and save the day more than once.

Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde).  Next year will see a shift where the British treasure Doctor Who sees its first woman Doctor.  Who knows if something like that will ever come of the other Brit icon, James Bond, but the closest anyone has ever come to that was Charlize Theron’s hardened and savvy spy Lorraine Broughton in the film adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City.  Has any woman action star ever given this many punches in a movie ever?  She took a pounding as well, but ultimately came out on top with some shrewd tactics.  Lorraine Broughton–nobody does it better!

X-23/Laura (Logan/Logan Noir).  The biggest surprise of the year was the great piece of filmmaking that was Logan, and more specifically the black and white version that arrived in theaters in limited release, Logan Noir, the swan song for both of the X-Men we got to know over the years as Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier aka Professor X.  Incredible direction and cinematography created a film on par with any black and white classic.  But the young actress that the film could not have been successful without was the young Wolverine in training, Laura aka X-23.  What a fantastic actress was Dafne Keen as Laura that you almost forget it’s a little girl ripping all these bad guys’ heads off and digging her sharp claws into their skulls.  And in the next scene she’s nonchalantly eating a bowl of cereal, or acting angry because of something Logan said.  X-23/Laura was simply the best of the best of the list of kick-ass women characters revealed to movie fans this year.  Please, oh, please, Fox or Disney, let’s see Keen reprise the character again soon, huh?

And that’s it.  Keep coming back the rest of this month as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV and Best in Print, and our borg.com Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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jaylah-action

What better way to celebrate the strong, determined leader Leia Organa made famous by actress Carrie Fisher than to celebrate her legacy in the genre heroines of today?  What do most of the characters on this year’s list of Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines have in common?  Most have roles that could easily be swapped with a male.  Sure, you can have heroine characters who are written to largely rely on traditional female qualities, but women characters bending gender roles are breaking new grounds.  We met characters this year who were held back in their place in time by their status as women, and it is often that role that prompts them to gain the fire and passion necessary to become the heroine of their stories.  So we have both a dress-wearing, well-read 19th century Jane Austen character on our list, but also a space-faring criminal in combat boots, a sea captain, an alien survivor, an alien visitor, a warrior, a sorcerer, a group of clones, a gunslinger, two cops, a zombie, and a supernatural assassin.

In past years we were able to select our Best Kick-Ass Genre Movie Heroine and Best Kick-Ass Genre TV Heroine, but this year the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever, and instead of ranking them we’re highlighting the very best from an unprecedented slate of heroines, with characteristics to learn from and emulate.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong.  You’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, very human, resulting from trying circumstances, personal losses, and even death of friends and family.  But they all mustered up the strength to rise above it all.  These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2016:

Sara Huntsman

Sara (The Huntsman: Winter’s War).  Heroines can be medieval or fairy tale warriors, a trained Huntsman quick with a bow and arrow or two-handed swordplay.  Jessica Chastain’s Sara was never seen in Snow White and the Huntsman, but we quickly learned why Chris Hemsworth’s Eric was filled with despair when learning of her supposed death.  A loyal warrior to her queen, she must decide whether to join her excommunicated secret husband against the forces of evil or stand with Queen Freya and her manipulative sister.  A powerhouse trio of actresses, Chastain’s Sara rises above them all opposite Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in this great fantasy film.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  You already know Elizabeth Bennet as the eldest sister in the classic Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice.  An obnoxious mother harassing her, unlikely prospects for marriage, and an oppressive society with little opportunity to make her own choices.  Readers finally get to witness how the classic character might react when given opportunity–opportunity to learn Eastern mysticism and Japanese martial arts, and a role where she and her sisters and friends can fully defend their family and home from a zombie onslaught.  Lily James couples lacy dresses, Regency manners, and in-your-face, Quentin Tarentino-inspired kicks, with classic swordplay–and bloody beheadings.  If a war is coming, you want the likes of Elizabeth Bennet on your side of the battle lines.

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skybourne001covbaltimore-600x910    skybourne001covmidtown-600x923

It’s a useful story tool when used right: The historical talisman presented to a modern character who uses the power of that talisman to do harm or save the world.  We’ve seen it throughout The Librarian, Warehouse 13, Ray Bradbury Theater, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Highlander, Witchblade, Wynonna Earp, The Shannara Chronicles–it’s everywhere, and it’s timeless.  Frank Cho uses the same method to drive the story forward in his new five-issue, creator-owned, limited monthly series Skybourne.

Released this month from BOOM! Studios, Skybourne has what every comic book reader could want–Cho created the covers, the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new action heroine.  The title character Grace Skybourne has been compared to James Bond–she has Daniel Craig’s Bond’s lightning reflexes and ability to level a room with her little finger.  And she’s an agent every woman wants to be and every man wants to be with.  So the Bond comparison rings true.  Cho used covers originally intended for DC Comics’s Wonder Woman series for this series, and it may very well be true that Grace Skybourne–and Cho’s series–is the Wonder Woman series we all wish he’d write.

grace-skybourne-frank-cho

In Issue #1 we meet Grace Skybourne and witness her abilities firsthand as she eliminates one baddie Terminator style and gracefully slips through a cover-to-cover fight scene straight out of John Carpenter’s They Live.  And because this is a Frank Cho project–being tough doesn’t mean she can’t be gorgeous and feminine along the way.  She’s searching for the story’s MacGuffin: King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.  Be prepared for some surprises.  Most of her foes take her for granted, but not all.  Cho’s choreography of combat and layouts are clean, simple, and as superb as you’d expect.  And his humor is back as well.  Color work is nicely rendered by Marcio Menyz. Continue reading

han-solo-passes-the-torch-in-new-star-wars-the-force-awakens

Review by C.J. Bunce

Did J.J. Abrams earn or reject his Jar Jar badge?  Did we drown in re-hashed lines from the original trilogy?  Did Disney make the same mistakes as George Lucas made with his prequels?

When you get right down to it, we all had a pretty low threshold by which we were going to judge the success of the highly anticipated, overly over-marketed Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We knew it couldn’t match the original Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but it was Abrams’s challenge to see how high he could position the result of his efforts among the other four films.

So how did he fare?

Is the movie better than the prequels?

Is the dialogue better than George Lucas’s in the past films?

Did he hand off the story from the old guard to the new guard successfully?

Is The Force Awakens a modern sci-fi fantasy classic, or among the best films ever made?

Boyega and Isaac

After the jump, I’ll walk though my spoiler-light reaction to what is going to go down as the biggest money-making film of all time.

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Badass women Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Thus begins Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice.  But wait.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

That’s the beginning of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 horror adaptation “parody” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

P P and Z

One is an awesome classic about early 19th century class and society.  The other… sounds like fun, and if the movie adapted from Grahame-Smith’s other well-known novel, 2010’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, is any indication, this next flick is going to be a heckuva lot of fun.  And forget about the horror and zombies, the first trailer out of the gates makes this flick look like Jane Austen meets Hit Girl from Kick-Ass.

Just check out the trailer for yourself:

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Rita Vrataski Emily Blunt

When we first heard that Hiroshi Sakurazaka‘s novel All You Need is Kill was being adapted for the big screen we knew this was going to be a winner.  Then the studio changed its name to Edge of Tomorrow and revised a fair amount of the characters and story arcs and we weren’t so sure.  By the time it hit the video stores the marketing folks realized Edge of Tomorrow as a title was responsible for some of the deficiencies at the box office, and so they elevated the status of their tagline Live. Die. Repeat. in big letters on the video boxes making it nearly impossible to remember the title.  So here’s some good advice:  Forget about the marketing screw-ups.  Ignore it if you don’t like Tom Cruise’s personal life.  And just watch this movie.

Although the outcome of Emily Blunt’s branded “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski is different from Sakurazaka’s novel, Rita is the finest example of kick-ass female that has hit the movie screen.  Everyone should be watching Rita and getting inspired to take tai chi or tae kwan do.  I’ve compared Rita to Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley and stand by that comparison.  And it’s worth noting it takes a real person to do all these physical acts of prowess to bring these characters to the screen, which should add Emily Blunt to role models like Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver.

Edge of Tomorrow scene

Military men and women and anyone who likes World War II movies will appreciate the entire future military command setting in Edge of Tomorrow.  Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell is perfection, in a camp with Richard Jaeckel’s Sgt. Bowren in The Dirty Dozen or Warren Oates’ Sgt. Hulka in Stripes.  The D-Day-inspired battle scenes even rival the great work done by Steven Spielberg in the Omaha Beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan.

Rarely does good science fiction also manage to pull off laugh-out-loud humor.  Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) took a production that began without a full shooting script and pieced together something gritty and complete, offset with some of the funniest stuff put on film this year.  Cruise’s character Cage tries repeatedly to escape and find Rita early in the film and is repeatedly killed–including an incredible scene involving him rolling under a jeep.  Cruise is a great actor and entirely believable as his character grows–really selling his performance convincingly here as he does with most of his films.

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Kick-Ass 2 banner

If you like edgy superhero flicks and missed Kick-Ass 2 in theaters, it’s now available on Blu-ray and DVD.  If you liked the original, you’ll love the sequel.  Kick-Ass 2 pretty much requires you’ve seen the original Kick-Ass, a truly novel, unique, and interesting piece of filmmaking.  It’s a good film that takes an idea from a Mark Millar comic book series and propels it into a big-time action movie.  But Kick-Ass 2 does something rare–its success is being better than both the original film and Millar’s source material.  It’s a great superhero flick and a fun, awesome, over-the-top action movie, with villains you’ll want to see crushed and downtrodden heroes you’ll want to see persevere.

The caveat for the Kick-Ass franchise is you can’t be offended by a teen or pre-teen with a thorough and eloquent knowledge and use of George Carlin’s seven dirty words.  You’ll hear all of them.  Many times.  And if you can’t tolerate a big dose of over-the-top violence, pick another film to watch.  This probably rules out a big segment of the adult audience.  In another director’s hands, this would be a gimmick, even an annoyance, but Jeff Wadlow knows his characters and audience and deftly moves beyond the Whedon-Buffyverseworthy dialogue to a superhero film that can be both gritty and tongue-in-cheek, and manages to be on par with Stan Lee’s original Spider-man, only juxtaposing innocence against the worst of society to an in-your-face extreme.

Kick-Ass 2 movie poster

The only missing piece in Kick-Ass 2 is Nicolas Cage, who played Damon Macready, alias Batman-esque Big Daddy, in the original film.  Father to Chloë Grace Moretz’s Mindy, aka Hit Girl, events in the original explain his absence in this sequel.  But Kick-Ass 2 makes up for his absence with some other great performances from new additions.  One is Jim Carrey’s almost unrecognizable performance as an ex-mob enforcer turned superhero called Captain Stars and Stripes.  Carrey completely embraces the role of the leader of a league of good guys trying to take back their streets, and the result is one of his best performances–up there with his shape-shifting Ace Ventura, and zany Stanley Ipkiss aka The Mask.  The always superb John Leguizamo turns in a similarly good performance as a majordomo for the show’s villain, the returning Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) as Chris D’Amico.  Mintz-Plasse plays the evil villain bit for all it’s worth–he’ll make you cringe while you cheer for his imminent demise.

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