Tag Archive: kickass women


Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Review by C.J. Bunce

Both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Mummy were good reboots of franchises, one of a 1960s television series, the other intended to bring forward the Universal Studios Monsters for another generation, but the lack of attention by audiences brought the franchises to a standstill.  Snake Eyes–G.I. Joe Origins, which premiered in theaters in July after a 16 month pandemic delay, is another good re-start of a franchise, and hopefully nothing stands in the way of Hasbro moving ahead with the planned G.I. Joe–Ever Vigilant, originally slated for a 2020 release.  Especially if you’re a fan of the comics and animated series versions of G.I. Joe, you won’t want to miss the home release of Snake Eyes–G.I. Joe OriginsIt’s a solid film, faithfully explaining–as the titles states–the origin of G.I. Joe ace operative Snake Eyes. 

If you know the helmeted, silent ninja from the comics or animated show, you also know he is inextricably linked to that COBRA ninja in white garb, Storm Shadow; audiences will get the story of why each of these sworn brothers finds his way to opposing sides in the ongoing battle of good guys vs. bad guys.  You won’t see any “kung fu grip,” although the Japanese martial arts choreographed fight scenes are well done, if toned down from more serious martial arts films.  You also won’t yet learn why Snake Eyes goes silent–much is left for one or more sequels.  But everyone does have “life-like hair.”  And it may just leave you shouting, “Yo, Joe!”  (That’s a good thing).

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Monster Hunter Jovo

Review by C.J. Bunce

Possibly the biggest surprise of Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson’s latest action spectacle Monster Hunter is that Milla Jovovich isn’t the title character. That role goes to Furious 7’s Tony Jaa, a Mandalorian-meets-Bone Tomahawk or Predators brand of survivor and monster hunter, who Jovovich and a band of soldiers in our time meet after they get sucked into a portal to a very different place.  The plot of this latest adaptation of a video game series is like Planet of the Apes, with a team falling into a world of beasts that are a cross of Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers.  It has a Ray Harryhausen look, which is good for those who like vintage monster nostalgia, but perhaps not so good for those after impeccable, cutting-edge visual effects.  In the opening scenes we meet Jovovich as Captain Artemis, a believable unit commander leading soldiers in Humvees looking for a missing squad.  For the most part this is a showcase of the Resident Evil heroine in action mode with bits of goofy humor, with Jaa’s Hunter showing off his stealth survival.  But really it’s about framing the star actress in increasingly cooler action shots.  Monster Hunter is now streaming on Starz, Hulu, and other platforms, and you might want to check it out.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Many movies showcase gangland violence in the action genre, but very few in the way of writer-director Timo Tjahjanto.  His 2018 blood and guts masterpiece The Night Comes for Us is the kind of movie for audiences looking for the satisfaction you get from a big rollercoaster, the kind they provided in action films in the 1970s and 1980s starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.  It’s so heavy on violence you might get the feeling someone found a spare makeup department with extra buckets of fake blood in between horror movie projects.  Yet among the visual spectacle (you may duck a few times in your living room not to get splattered) Tjahjanto knows how to build a story and characters into one heckuva fun payoff.

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If you’re discussing the most compelling and amazing action movie franchise actresses, you’re going to begin with Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton.  But quickly you must count Milla Jovovich, whose track record at the box office is hard to match, thanks to her role as Alice in the Resident Evil series.  But she’s also revealed her badass prowess in classics like The Fifth Element and Ultraviolet, and she keeps adding to her amped up, tough-as-nails characters.  This year that means taking on the role of Lieutenant Artemis in Monster Hunter, an adaptation of the online fantasy-action game.  In one word, that overly-used phrase is apt here: Epic.  The first trailer for the film (below) is very Starship Troopers meets Jurassic Park.

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AlteredCarbon_S2_MainTrailer

Review by C.J. Bunce

The first season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon was a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rivaled the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel.  Based on Richard K. Morgan’s novels, the series is centered around Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies.  That conceit allows Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors, which, as demonstrated in Season 2, can allow the series to continue indefinitely much as Doctor Who’s regeneration mechanism allows replacement Doctors.  So how does a series fair when it replaces the lead after the first season?  Can it keep up the intrigue and interest for viewers?

The first season asked: What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Unfortunately, the second season falls a bit short.  Although it wisely was paired down from ten to eight episodes for its second season (season one couldn’t keep up the action and would have benefited from some good editing), the series just doesn’t capture the same magic.  Anthony Mackie′s assumption of the role of Kovacs in the year 2385, years after the events of the first season, is more of a re-hash of what we saw Joel Kinnaman do with the character last season.  Mackie is usually one of the best parts of any project he tackles (The Adjustment Bureau, Captain America: Winter Soldier), but the story and dialogue here are not as sophisticated as in the inaugural effort, and Mackie is always intense, his acting dialed up to eleven, much different than his character in the first season.  Simone Missick, who we loved in Marvel’s Luke Cage, provides an interesting new cyborg character for the Altered Carbon universe as Trepp, but it didn’t quite catch up to the passion of Martha Higareda’s driven cop Kristin Ortega last season.  But where the series shines is in its supporting cast of characters, many returning from last season.  The result is like comparing the first season of the Battlestar Galactica reboot with the last–good television–even if it’s not as gritty and exciting as the first season, it still may be the best sci-fi series on television this year.

Poe Dig 301

Foremost is Chris Conner back as the artificial intelligence who has taken inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe, a bodyguard of sorts looking out for Kovacs (Mackie) in his new body (called a sleeve).  Conner brings to the series the same kind of compelling look at the trouble of incorporating humanity into robots or cyber-creations, the same type of battle of sentience in the non-living as conveyed by Robert Picardo as the emergency medical hologram in Star Trek Voyager.  In this season Poe is in trouble–his matrix is broken and he needs to reboot, which he does not want to do because that would mean he would forget Lizzie (Hayley Law), a key character of last season, and a memory stored in his digital mind.  Not rebooting means he makes mistakes that could hinder Kovacs’s ability to stay hidden from his pursuers.  But there is hope for Poe, and that comes in the form of another creation, another artificial intelligence, an ancient storage “archaeologue” unit called Dig 301, played by Dina Shihabi, who nicely substitutes as a futuristic love interest for Poe.

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Halloween is going to be upon us before we know it.  It was only three months ago that we got our first look at the new Halloween movie, and today Universal Pictures released a second trailer.  I had a friend momentarily confuse Sigourney Weaver and Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis today, and I think there is a good reason for that: Curtis has been the Scream Queen for 40 years and this latest trailer seems to indicate this next movie may be what the franchise needs to give Curtis’s character full badass screen hero status.

In case you missed it, take a look here at borg.com at the prior trailers for the run of the Halloween films showing Strode’s appearances.  Strode is one of those heroines audiences love to see return, as proven by her multiple appearances from a variety of writers and directors.  Like Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, Curtis has created and re-created one of genredom’s enduring characters, even if that character is usually running from a crazed killer.  Like fans hope for Hamilton’s return as Connor again next year in a new Terminator movie from James Cameron, in the latest trailer for the new Halloween, Curtis looks tougher and smarter, and more badass than even shown in the first trailer.

In the real world it is public knowledge that Curtis and Weaver are close friends.  Can you imagine walking into a restaurant with these two women having a normal lunch sitting across from you?  You’d either feel very safe or keep looking over your soldier for something bad to happen.

Get ready for Halloween with this great trailer with Curtis’s character–40 years in the making–taking charge:

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The crazed killer in the William Shatner Captain Kirk mask returns.  Again.  Much has been said about John Carpenter’s 1978 horror flick Halloween.  It launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis and an entire genre of movies.  Curtis is back for more in the eleventh film in the franchise, this Halloween’s holiday horror release, Halloween.  Yes, that makes the third movie titled only Halloween.  A plus for horror fans is Nick Castle returning as Michael Myers–the first time since 1978.  Castle has had an interesting and varied career, directing films including The Last Starfighter, and writing films like Escape from New York.  Even better, this sequel disregards everything but the original: Halloween 2 (1981), Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) (the only film not about Michael Myers), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Halloween (6): The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and the reboots Halloween (2007) and Halloween 2 (2009).  So forget that stuff about Myers being Strode’s sister.  Or Myers being dead.  Or Strode being dead.  It didn’t happen.  And best of all, John Carpenter is back, this time as executive producer and composer (cue the creepy piano keys now).

Laurie Strode is one of those heroines audiences love to see return, as proven by her multiple appearances from a variety of writers and directors. Like Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise as Ellen Ripley and Linda Hamilton in the Terminator franchise as Sarah Connor, Jamie Lee Curtis has created and re-created one of genredom’s best loved cinematic heroines. Like fans hope for Hamilton returning as Connor again next year in a new Terminator movie from James Cameron, in the trailer for the new Halloween, Curtis looks only edgier, and, well, more badass than ever before.

This will be Curtis’s fifth time playing Laurie Strode.  First was Curtis’s first appearance as Laurie Strode in the original film.  Keep an eye out for film audience’s first look at Curtis as Laurie Strode, plus Carpenter movie staple Donald Pleasance (Escape from New York, Halloween 2, 4, and 5), a young P.J. Soles (Stripes, Law & Order), and an even younger Kyle Richards (The Watcher in the Woods, ER).  Curtis was back one more time–we thought, in 1981 as Carpenter and Debra Hill tried to bank on the original’s success with Halloween 2, finding Strode stalked by Michael Myers in a hospital (with an appearance by The Last Starfighter’s Lance Guest).  Twenty years later Curtis returned as Strode again, this time teaching at a private school, and protecting her son from the return of Michael.  The 1998 sequel is pretty good for a horror sequel, and so is the trailer (keep an eye out for Curtis’s real-life Mom or horror icon Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Fog), Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, and four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams).  And Curtis then came back another last time five years later in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, possibly the lowest point in the franchise (yep, that’s Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff in the trailer).  Strode returned to confront… her brother (?) Michael and he didn’t seem to make it out of Halloween H20, and Laurie didn’t make it out of Halloween: Resurrection.  Now we forget all that:  Donald Pleasance’s psychiatrist character did shoot and wound Myers, and he’s been in jail since.

Check out clips of their last stands and film trailers featuring Curtis below–you can really see comparisons like those between Linda Hamilton’s transition from Sarah Connor in The Terminator and Terminator 2 comparing Curtis as Strode in Halloween (1978) versus Curtis as Strode in 2018.  But first here is the trailer to the latest, director David Gordon Green’s Halloween:

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The best is back next month.  Television’s best comic book adaptation to date, the Emmy-winning Marvel’s Luke Cage, is returning next month as Season 2 arrives on Netflix.  Can Season 2 match the one-two punch of the first season?  It looks like we’re going to get a return of everything fans are after:  More Mike Colter protecting the streets of Harlem as “Power Man” Luke Cage.  The first trailer for the 2018 season is out and we’re learning a lot about what to look for in June as the next season is released on Netflix:  Supercop badass Misty Knight (Simone Missick) is bringing a new weapon to the law with her own cybernetic arm.   Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard is taking her place as leader of the underground criminal element.  Luke’s pal Bobby (Ron Cephas Jones) is back with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple to watch over Luke.  And even Theo Rossi’s master manipulator and henchman “Shades” Alvarez makes an appearance in the trailer.

The challenge of all superhero tales ultimately is the same:  How intriguing and compelling is the villain?  Season 1 had Shades and Mariah, Frank Whaley’s cool bad cop Detective Scarfe, Erik LaRay Harvey’s sinister Diamondback, and the awesome and gritty Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth.  With Scharfe, Cottonmouth, and Diamondback out of the picture, we’re getting a new villain: Quarry’s Mustafa Shakir is Bushmaster.  Showing Cage there’s always someone bigger and stronger to come along, Bushmaster surprises our hero with equal strength and power.

Does Bushmaster hail from the same mad science that created Cage, or is someone new behind the scenes?

Take a look at this first trailer for Season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At the beginning of Daniel Craig’s first foray as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig redefined Bond as viewers were taken back to his first kill, the event that earned Bond his 00 status.  The scene instantly set the standard for the modern fight-or-die scene.  This is the exact level of hand-to-hand combat viewers will be treated to in the new summer release, Atomic Blonde.  Charlize Theron terrifically portrays what everyone always wanted to see: a woman in the role of James Bond.  Sure, she has a different name, but Theron is believable just the same as a spy being interrogated by heads of MI6 at the end of a mission.  As she tells her story, in every way she convinces us that she could go head-to-head with, and maybe even knock out Craig’s tough and bloody version of the Brit master spy.  Only don’t think this is a typical Bond movie.  It isn’t.  It’s layered, more like The Usual Suspects or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, only better–less cerebral and more fun.  And Theron chalks up another badass cinematic heroine, resulting in a film that is easily worth the admission price.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City from Oni Press, Atomic Blonde follows the original, focusing on several nations’ spies trying to recover a secret list of agents being smuggled out of East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a no-nonsense top-level spy, with attitude and style, battered and bruised from some recent epic encounter when we meet her at the beginning of the movie.  She’s being interrogated and debriefed by both British and American agency heads, with John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Big Lebowski, Monsters, Inc.) as the American and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Doctor Who) as the Brit.  What unfolds is a smartly constructed Cold War thriller, more complicated than Ian Fleming but not as complicated as John le Carré, but enough so that it may lose viewers a few times along the way.  Ultimately Broughton finds herself trying to smuggle out of the country a German officer who memorized the secret spy list, played by Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, The World’s End).  The rewards and payoffs come not only at the resolution but in several scenes along the way, as Theron punches, kicks, hammers, fires, splatters, mows down, stabs, punctures… everything but bites her way through dozens of bad guys trying to kill her.  The violence is extreme, but it all works–it’s great fun much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Chuck Norris’s blockbuster rampages in the 1980s–and it’s not gratuitous like a Quentin Tarantino bloodbath (blown-off heads aside).

The Atomic Blonde of the title comes from Broughton’s short, 1980s style hair, and that length allows us to see that much of the time Theron is actually doing her own punching, and taking plenty of punches, from all these men.  She’s quicker, and she prepares herself for many of her punches and bruises by soaking in a tub of water filled with ice cubes–a concept that helps her more than once throughout the film.  The story and action really kicks in as Broughton begins to smuggle Marsan’s character out of the country and as the steps are laid out in a subplot involving her mission to assassinate Satchel, a double agent known for selling secrets to the Soviets.  It’s exciting like the real-life story told in Ben Affleck’s hit film Argo, where a spy smuggled a group of would-be hostages out of Iran in 1980.  Atomic Blonde has less subtlety and nuance than Argo, but Atomic Blonde similarly displays an early, retro style of storytelling compelling enough to keep viewers interested.  Does it feel like a comic book adaptation?  Sure.  Like History of Violence and Road to Perdition.  In fact Broughton could be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass all grown up.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It is a study in East meets West, or at least it tries really hard to be.  Visually The Great Wall will likely be the most beautiful film you see this year.  The worldbuilding is on a grand scale, epic, and worthy of the historic monumental icon of China.  The intelligently thought out military structure and interplay of weapons, color, purpose, props, and costumes is second perhaps only to Peter Jackson’s Tolkien world fantasy films.  The costumes are exquisite–detailed, rich, stylized, ornate, and simply phenomenal.  But like many big movies this year, it is a weak story that keeps The Great Wall from its potential.

If you’re a fan of classic action films from China, you will have no problem jumping right into the action of The Great Wall.  But if you’re easily distracted by new things, you probably should skip this one.  Its style of storytelling and dialogue are unique for a mainstream Western release so it is understandable why the film had problems attracting audiences here, even beyond all of the politics that accompanied its release (the objection of some in Matt Damon’s lead role, a Caucasian lead in a medieval, epic story about China–whitewashing as discussed with respect to Doctor Strange–similar to criticisms when Tom Cruise was the lead in a Japanese-focused story in The Last Samurai).  And if you don’t like subtitles, you probably won’t be drawn to The Great Wall.  But you’d be missing something spectacular.  So many features make the biggest budget film in China’s history worthy of at least one viewing.

You’ll find much telling instead of showing, something better films of the Western tradition endeavor to avoid.  You’ll witness soldiers marveling at what by all counts is an epic military battle, but then they actually state as much.  It’s a quirky thing that will probably make the average Western moviegoer shudder a bit.  Yet if you look beyond the almost characteristically Eastern movie abrupt dialogue shifts, interspersed tangent story elements and nonlinear style, you’ll find some great takeaways.  Like one of the year’s best, badass heroines in Tian Jing’s swashbuckling Commander-turned-General Lin Mae–a powerful dragon killer in command of the entire Chinese army whose cliff-diving daredevilry and death-defying air balloon war machines evoke the best World War II movie action sequences.  The martial arts stuntwork is like that of no other movie this year.  The special effects are impressive, especially the interplay of set construction and battle scenes and heretofore unseen methods of combat and destruction used to defend the wall.  The purely CGI creations–WETA and Industrial Light & Magic’s mythic Tao Tei dragons–look real, and they even have their own layered culture with the ability to plan an intelligent battle strategy.

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