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Tag Archive: kickass women


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 Tarentino 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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Review by C.J. Bunce

Twenty years ago this weekend, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was handed back to China by the United Kingdom as the last act of the old British Empire, without incident.

The anniversary of this transfer of power coincides with the release by Hard Case Crime of one of crime fiction readers’ most eagerly awaited events: the final novel of Donald E. Westlake.  The result surpasses all expectations from one of America’s most celebrated authors:  the adventure of Ian Fleming, the complexity of Michael Crichton, the surprises of Stephen King, the thrills of Peter Benchley, the pulse of John Grisham.  A taut thriller, gripping, heart-pounding, and jaw-dropping, Forever and a Death is Donald E. Westlake saving his best for last.  Forever and a Death is his never-before-published new novel–a James Bond story of sorts–with an intriguing backstory.  Tapped to write the second James Bond film to feature Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Westlake created a compelling story of international intrigue revolving around the return of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.  Because of the success of GoldenEye, the uncertainty of a smooth transfer of power of Hong Kong, and a distaste by the Chinese market for Bond,  the Broccoli family and the Bond franchise machine amicably parted ways with Westlake.  But he then reworked his story in secret, leaving behind at his death in 2008 a stunning action adventure, only snipping the world famous spy from the story.

The result is one of the most intelligent, loathsome, and shrewd Bond villains you’ll ever meet, Richard Curtis, an enormously wealthy business mogul who has amassed a network of corporations across the globe that will allow him to carry out his every wish.  When he is booted from Hong Kong at the transfer of power, he becomes fixated on a power play to destroy Hong Kong as payback.  As with many wealthy CEOs, Curtis is charismatic and influential.  He has encircled himself with individuals who are beholden to him for their own wealth and they would do anything to maintain his and their own lifestyle.  And that includes murder.  Not as preposterous as many Ian Fleming constructions, the method Westlake creates for Curtis is completely believable: using a series of carefully calculated explosions, a soliton wave will be created that will shake the very foundation of Hong Kong and reduce the entirety of the city–skyscrapers, homes, and millions of lives–to sediment.  Westlake introduces his male protagonist to show us the way, a trusted engineer named George Manville (a partner in action with Bond in the original treatment).  Kept in the dark about the ultimate goal, Manville completes the first test on a small abandoned island near Australia that he believes to be part of a plan to make the island into a lavish resort.  But when an environmental group tries to stimy Curtis’s test, a headstrong activist and diver emerges, a woman named Kim Baldur (who would become, to a small extent, Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies) dives into the ocean and swims for shore to stop the operation.  Unfortunately for her, Manville neglected to incorporate a kill switch to the project, and she is swallowed by the wave and what would have been a superb Honey Ryder-esque Bond girl is left for dead.  And this is only the introduction of the novel.

Artist Paul Mann completing the original artwork for the cover of Forever and a Death (from Illustrated 007).

Westlake peppers his story with completely unique characters, and readers will find they empathize with even the most minor of them as they are subjected to Curtis’s gruesome tactics.  You may need to remind yourself to breathe as well-meaning whistleblowers find themselves in Hong Kong’s underbelly just as Curtis begins to carry out a plan to walk away from his destruction with a haul of gold bars that rest in the bank vaults beneath the city.

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Not since the Marx Toys line of accessory-laden “Noble Knights” action figures in the late 1960s and early 1970s have we seen a toy line that looks this much fun.  It’s the new Mattel Barbie line of Wonder Woman collector line “dolls,” but let’s call them what they are, action figures that measure up to any mid-range price-point doll or action figure on the market.  Even more fun, these Amazon warriors will stand tall over your other 12-inch action figures.

Sure, Mattel is targeting this new line at the “adult collector” (although the figures are listed as recommended for 10 and up).  But what girl or boy isn’t going to appreciate the great armor designs, and the attention to detail in the shields and swords?  No doubt with the critical acclaim and popularity of the new film–already netting more than $103 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. and $223 million internationally–this series is poised to be the toy line of the summer.

 

Each individual figure–Diana, Antiope, and Hippolyta–includes headdress, boots, armored gauntlets, shield, and sword.  Diana and Hippolyta also include capes and Antiope includes bow, arrows, and quiver.  A two-pack is also available, featuring Diana in a different design and Steve Trevor.  Designer Bill Greening blended the face designs to keep the classic Barbie and Ken look while also reflecting the images of actors Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and Chris Pine.  All figures include fully articulated sculpts.

Check out these images of the full designs, plus click on each image below for more information on each and to purchase these new Barbie figures while they are still available (Wonder Woman is sold out on many sites):

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In The Italian Job Charlize Theron played a tough and edgy thief.  In Aeon Flux she was a decisive assassin.  In Snow White and The Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War she was a ruthless, evil queen.  In Mad Max: Fury Road she was a rebel road warrior.  This year she adds another badass to her repertoire, an anti-hero named Lorraine Broughton, in the 1980s Cold War movie Atomic Blonde.  Theron gets to play Jason Statham in any number of action films.  Or the latest James Bond type.  A bit Jack Reacher or John Wick.  Or Van Damme in his heyday.

Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood wish they had moves like Theron’s portrayal of a cold-blooded spy in this new action spy thriller from stunt man-turned-director David Leitch (John Wick, Dead Pool 2).  The latest trailer reveals a stylish, gritty, crazy-fun flick that any fan of Theron will be after.

The latest movie to be based on a graphic novel, Atomic Blonde is from Antony Johnston’s 2012 book.  A great supporting cast boasts John Goodman, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, and another great actress taking Hollywood by storm:  Star Trek Beyond and The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella.

Check out this trailer for Atomic Blonde:

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