Tag Archive: Kodi Smit-McPhee


Review by C.J. Bunce

When Oscar gets it right, it highlights something about the current zeitgeist, not necessarily a mirror image of the social, literary, artistic, political, or technological achievements of the day, but at least a taste of it.  Do many of the nominees for the Academy Awards have that this year?  Ford v Ferrari, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Parasite, or The Irishman?  Did they last year?  How about a story about a person trying to make a name for himself, barely getting by, trying to pay his bills, experiencing a tough go at it before he realizes his dream?  Perhaps the biggest miss of this year’s ballot is one of those timeless stories of self-made success: Dolemite is My Name.

Dolemite is My Name is a biopic and a classic underdog story.  The seemingly ageless Eddie Murphy has his best leading role and best performance of his career, playing comedian, singer, actor, and film producer Rudy Ray Moore, who found his niche in cinema in the 1970s.  Murphy as Moore is like Richard Pryor at his best.  Murphy plays Moore as Everyman, pulling together his own outgoing nature from his 1980s stand-up performances and finessing them with the benefit of years of experience into a real, believable, even heroic character.  This is the same character type we saw resonate so expertly last year with Brent Jenning’s lead character struggling to succeed after putting years into a failed career in TV’s Lodge 49.  Murphy’s range of emotion, his subtlety, his depth of struggle and effort in every look and word is exactly why you have awards for acting in the first place.  This film is a smartly scripted drama with comedy notes, written by dynamic writing duo Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Man on the Moon, Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt).  It’s backed up with costumes, hairdos, music, cars, language, and an all-around fashion fest of 1975.  If you didn’t know better you’d think this was a Quentin Tarentino film, because it gets the retro production design just right, as he has been able to do so well.  Instead it’s Craig Brewer directing, the director of Hustle & Flow, the Footloose remake, and Empire series.

Supporting Murphy is a fantastic cast, beginning with Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, as an immensely entertaining and sympathetic single mom, brushing off her ex as Murphy’s Rudy Ray Moore watches and learns.  Moore invites her into his partnership.  He and his friends go to the movies for laughs and walk out nonplussed.  Moore knows he can do better.  So he tries to get financing and make a movie.  His selected production staff, and the actors behind them, makes for a dream assemblage.  Keegan-Michael Key (The Predator, Tomorrowland), Craig Robinson (Mr. Robot, Hot Tub Time Machine), Mike Epps (Resident Evil, The Hangover), Tituss Burgess (The Addams Family, 30 Rock), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Let Me In), plus familiar faces Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock, and Snoop Dogg make for a top tier cast.  When these people are working together in an old abandoned hotel converted to a film set, you witness the same kind of camaraderie as audiences witnessed in those barber shops in Do the Right Thing and Marvel’s Luke Cage. 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you have been watching closely, you may notice that streaming platforms, pay channels, and cable networks rely on hit movies for the bulk of their replays.  Try to find some of your favorites outside the mainstream on Netflix, for example, and you’re likely to find mostly films made since streaming itself started to be a thing.  Starz has been one monthly pay channel option that is slowly bringing back more obscure films from the past 50 years, films like Outland and Wolfen.  Another you may have missed is Let Me In from a decade ago, another of those rare genre-bending films that–if you’re lucky enough to just stumble across it–is the kind of film to remind you why you love genre films.  It stars twelve-year-old actors Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in powerful breakout performances, the same year Moretz would deliver one of the big screen’s best superheroine performances as the cute but foul-mouthed Hit Girl in the movie Kick-Ass with Nicolas Cage, and just after Smit-McPhee would co-star in the dystopian film The Road with Viggo Mortenson.

Is it horror, an early 1980s coming-of-age tale, a love story, crime-suspense, a story of an abusive father, or something more (as Starlord might say, “a bit of both”?).  If you enjoy not knowing what genre of film you’re jumping into, this is for you.  Like Midnight Special, Skeleton Key, 12 Monkeys, and The Others, much of the film will creep by before you even have any certainty as to what is “really” going on.  Writer-director Matt Reeves, who brought audiences the Cloverfield series and the latest Planet of the Apes movies and is working on The Batman for 2021, mixes some truly dramatic moments into Let Me In, while also adding the next must-watch for coming of age movies, suspense-thrillers, horror, and romance.  Just as James Mangold delivered a father-daughter love story in Logan, Reeves puts his own stamp on a compelling tale of a boy and the girl next door.

The clues Reeves delivers along the way will be more obvious to some than others.  Donnie Darko, Fargo, Logan, The Outsiders–Don’t be surprised if Reeves’ deftly drawn scenes evoke feelings from all sorts of big films.  Disturbing, poignant, triumphant, chilling.  You might even get twisted into feeling a certain sympathy for one of the film’s creepier characters.  A police detective played by Elias Koteas (Shooter, Zodiac, Gattaca) will have you think you’re following Mark Ruffalo’s character in another Zodiac movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After a few packed years of superhero movies, Dark Phoenix is going to be a target for comparison.  No single Marvel movie this year–including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame–really merits entry on a “best of the best” list, yet all had good, even great, moments, and easily belong in a top 25 superhero movie list.  Dark Phoenix now joins that group.  Instead of a galaxy-changing upheaval, first-time director and award-winning writer-producer Simon Kinberg marked the end of the X-Men movie saga with a personal story.  It’s a story of struggle and tragedy more attuned to the X-Men characters and the cinematic stories 20th Century Fox has told since we first met Patrick Stewart’s professor and Ian McKellen’s metal-manipulating frenemy way back in the year 2000.  Although it’s not as compelling and cinematic as James Mangold’s gold standard Logan or the incredible team-up in X-Men: Days of Future Past, actress Sophie Turner leads an emotional journey for her all-powerful Jean Grey that first began in X-Men: Apocalypse, really backing up that tagline from the movie posters: Every hero has a dark side.  They really meant it.

Kinberg wrote the original script for the Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, but he gets a lot closer to the spirit of the source material this time.  The key conflict mimics Marvel’s Jim Shooter and Chris Claremont’s reported struggle when they developed the character of Dark Phoenix, asking whether Jean Grey is irretrievably bad or bad only because she is possessed by a dark force.  At the same time most of the cosmic oddities are stripped from the comics story, but not all, pulling the necessary elements from the original tale in a more accessible way for audiences.  Jessica Chastain′s new villain and her compatriots from afar are very much the same as found in the comics, all but in name.  The opening act in particular is perfectly executed, beginning with a nicely cinematic launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and a return to the stealth fighter that Nicholas Hoult′s Beast had been building in X-Men: Apocalypse.  If you’ve seen the trailers or know the story then the subject of the scene is no surprise–a rescue of the astronauts aboard from a giant solar flare, directed by James McAvoy′s Professor X from Earth, but led in space by Jennifer Lawrence′s Mystique, who grew to be the front-line commander of the team in the last film.  The most entertaining superhero of all the X-Men movies is back, Evan Peters′ Quicksilver, this time using his speed and time-stopping powers to assemble the astronauts for rescue in the character’s third and final awesome show-stopper.  He’s accompanied by the teleport-wielding Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, providing actor Kodi Smit-McPhee the first of several key scenes that showcase his unique superhero, and round out a building arc for the typically background superhero.

The big takeaway from Dark Phoenix may be that it’s clear the material is capable of being recycled and resurrected many times, by different writers, directors, and actors.  Famke Janssen’s performance of Jean Grey was excellent in the original X-Men trilogy.  Sophie Turner’s performance is equally good.  In a few years we’ll see it all over again, which is pretty much what the Phoenix is all about.  Dark Phoenix will likely be accused of copying the empowered women theme of Captain Marvel.  In actuality Dark Phoenix was completed earlier, in October 2017, and if Dark Phoenix hadn’t been delayed by the Fox-Disney merger, the positions would no doubt be flipped to some extent.  The timing and similarities reportedly prompted Fox to go back and make some revisions.  But who says audiences can’t embrace two movies released within 90 days about the two most powerful superheroines in the Marvel pantheon?  Captain Marvel was able to generate far more buzz, and it’s a more upbeat story, so Dark Phoenix is unlikely to make a dent by comparison to that billion dollar box office hit.  But the acting and script for Dark Phoenix is probably a few degrees better, and the wrap-up of so many beloved characters makes Dark Phoenix a more important chapter for its franchise.

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Does every hero have a dark side?  It’s impossible Quicksilver has a dark side.  But we’ll find out in five weeks as the 12th film in the longest running superhero movie series sees its second-to-last film with the theatrical premiere of Dark PhoenixThe series that started with X-Men in 2000 began as a knockout with the stellar casting of Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ultimately interweaving two separate casts that would include the likes of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as a younger Magneto, and James McElvoy as a younger Professor X.  With eleven films across 19 years we’d meet our favorite (or second favorite) Marvel superheroes and supervillains shine in X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Every hero has a dark side.

This week post-merger Fox released ten new character posters for the new film spreading that message.

 

Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain.  Kinberg has promised Dark Phoenix will be a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga than seen in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Here are all ten posters:

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Dark Phoenix represents one of X-Men fans’ favorite classic X-Men stories.  We have already seen one take on the Dark Phoenix story, as Famke Janssen’s Jane Grey destroyed everyone she cares about in X-Men: The Last Stand, but after the timeline manipulation in X-Men Days of Future Past we learned again the lesson of the Terminator movies: The future’s not setThere’s no fate but what we make for ourselves–A common theme of comics, too, as characters are killed and reborn again and again.  Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain.  Kinberg has promised Dark Phoenix to be a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga.

For those of us who loved the X-Men movies, this is the winding down of a great era, highlighted by the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Ian McKellen as Magneto.  Who will ever forget one of the finest adaptations to film of any superhero from any comic book as Evan Peters became Quicksilver, defending his fellow mutants in the Pentagon?  And the high point of any superhero movie (from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or anyone else) must be the Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for Logan last year.  Like the competing films in the Avengers films, there were as many high as low points, but some greatness happened throughout X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

For Fox’s long string of connected X-Men films, this is the end.  Check out this final trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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Ever wonder how the studios make the determination to release one version of a trailer in the U.S. and a different version simultaneously elsewhere?  So do we.  Language differences aside, a few cultural distinctions would make sense sometimes, but infrequently.  But how do you explain it with a straightforward superhero movie?  We previewed the U.S. trailer last week here at borg for this summer’s X-Men movie Dark Phoenix.  It looked great.  Then we saw the international version.

The international version leaves out the introduction with a weepy superheroine Jean Grey, but instead offers a developing, linear short film summary that builds and teases like a good trailer should, reflecting the power and excitement the character Dark Phoenix is known for.  And it teases an incredible space shuttle scene.  This is the right trailer to get people into theaters.  Yet it’s not the trailer most Americans will see.

Take a look and see what you think.  Here’s the new international trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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It’s hard to believe the reboot cast of the X-Men franchise is at its fourth film with this summer’s 20th Century Fox release, Dark Phoenix Despite delays caused by studio mergers, this last film before who-knows-what will happen couldn’t look better, an exciting topper on the X-Men movie franchise.  With eleven of thirteen films released so far since the first film, X-Men, arrived with Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McKellen in 2000, it’s become the seventh highest grossing film franchise ever.  With a pretty stuffed superhero film market only getting bigger this year (the last of the Fox Marvel films, The New Mutants, follows in August), Dark Phoenix could be the film that dodges the hype, bringing a classic film story and legion of familiar characters into what will hopefully be a solid comic book story adaptation.  Since X-Men: First Class, James McAvoy‘s Professor X, Michael Fassbender‘s Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence‘s Raven, Nicholas Hoult‘s Beast, and (with X-Men: Days of Future Past) Evan Peters‘ Quicksilver are among the best actor/character combinations of all the superhero films.

One of the best parts of X-Men: Apocalypse was the re-introduction of Jean Grey, with Sophie Turner providing an engaging take of the character, along with what might be the best incarnation in any medium of the normally bland Scott Summers, improved upon by actor Tye Sheridan.  Argue it how you want, Marvel Comics has long established the most powerful superhero to be Jean Grey as Phoenix.  And yet among the weakest of the eleven films was X-Men: The Last Stand, the first attempt at revealing her power.  With Dark Phoenix, fans get to see another attempt.  Were the X-Men movies to be transferred a few years earlier into the Marvel Cinematic Universe of Disney, would we be seeing some version of Jean Grey in the position of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, poised to eliminate Thanos in Avengers: Endgame?  Or Deadpool, also, for that matter, who has similarly been nestled in the Fox version of Marvel and written to destroy Thanos before)?

Whatever the climax of Avengers: Endgame, it’s good to know another superhero movie awaits this summer.  Check out the new poster and this stellar new trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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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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It must be going forward if 20th Century Fox releases an actual trailer for the movie, right?  After the last contract is inked it may very well be that only thirteen “X-Men movies” were ever made, before Disney steps in and recombines the Marvel X-Men adaptations into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.  For those of us that loved the X-Men movies, this is the winding down of a great era of movies, highlighted by the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Ian McKellen as Magneto.  Who will ever forget one of the finest adaptations to film of any superhero from any comic book as Evan Peters became Quicksilver, defending his fellow mutants in the Pentagon?  And the high point of any superhero movie (from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or anyone else) must be the Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for Logan this year.  Like the competing films in the Avengers films, there were as many high as low points, but some greatness happened throughout X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Only two more films were in the works when negotiations for control of 20th Century Fox’s film group got closer to a deal this year: Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants.  We previewed The New Mutants trailer way back last October here at borg, announcing an expected release date in April 2018, which came and went (the release date currently reflects a long overdue August 2019 premiere in theaters).  At last, 20th Century Fox has released a trailer for Dark Phoenix.

Dark Phoenix represents one of X-Men fans’ favorite classic X-Men stories.  We have already seen one take on the Dark Phoenix story, as Famke Janssen’s Jane Grey destroyed everyone she cares about in X-Men: The Last Stand, but after the timeline manipulation in X-Men Days of Future Past we learned again the lesson of the Terminator movies: The future’s not set–There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.  

Along with the new official poster, check out this first trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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x-men-apocalypse-quicksilver-rescue-scene

Review by C.J. Bunce

Superheroes in movies and television.  It’s the entertainment explosion of the past ten years, beginning with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008.  Yet after only ten years, after so many Marvel lookalikes and too many dark Dark Knights, what superhero shows rise above the rest?  All fanboys and fangirls have an opinion.  The best part is that there truly is something for everyone.  Maybe you like Netflix’s cool and gritty Luke Cage.  Or maybe the CW parade of DC series is your thing.  If you’re like us, you love Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy over all the Marvel and DC team-up movies.  Maybe you like it all.  Director Bryan Singer created another X-Men entry that was released last summer, overlooked by many, but a solid entry in the X-Men cinema archive: X-Men: Apocalypse.  It’s streaming now on Amazon Prime, and it’s not to be missed, especially for Logan fans collecting all of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine appearances and everyone looking for a great superhero assemblage.

How often do superhero movies, or any other drama, sci-fi, fantasy, or action franchise movie, threaten stakes as great as the end of the world?  How many actually take you through an apocalypse?  X-Men: Apocalypse delivers the rampage and destruction you read about as a kid inside the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  If you enjoy seeing great superhero powers on the big screen, as with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver remains the defending champion.  He gets even more character development and screen time in X-Men: Apocalypse.

X-men plane

As kids we debated over what power would allow you to triumph over your superhero peers, and Singer must have done the same thing and landed with the same answer.  Speed.  Despite giving us the best superhero TV series of the 1980s and today with its two looks at Barry Allen/The Flash, DC Entertainment has not yet shown us all a speedster could do.  Will that happen in Justice League this year?  Any speedster work will be compared to Quicksilver.  Until that film hits theaters, X-Men: Apocalypse is worth a second look for Quicksilver’s big scene alone.  But there’s more.

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