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Tag Archive: Liam Neeson


Review by C.J. Bunce

This is what I was hoping for in Jonas Åkerlund’s movie Polar, the brutal Mads Mikkelsen dark action movie that was more wannabe Zack Snyder than anything interesting, fun, or thought-provoking.  Cold Pursuit is something like Polar.  You’ll feel the cold, sure.  But director Hans Petter Molland′s take on dark comedy is a little more subtle, less “look at me and all the carnage I can fit on a screen and have my characters laugh about.”  But Cold Pursuit is also not the Coen Brothers’ Fargo.  And that’s a good thing if you don’t worship Coen Brothers movies.  It’s also a good thing if you like Fargo only a little bit.

What the heck am I talking about?  Unlike a lot of films that go direct to streaming services, this was a theatrical release.  You can tell the difference.  So it beats out most direct-to-Netflix, Amazon, etc. fare.  But Cold Pursuit was marketed and billed more like a dark comedy.  Only it’s not very funny.  But it’s an enjoyable, satisfying revenge flick.  So blame the marketing.  Cold Pursuit is a steady, measured drama about a resourceful snowplow driver near Denver, played by Liam Neeson (sporting a Han Solo at Hoth parka), who is successful at his job, but less successful with his family relationships, including communicating with his wife, played rather blandly by Laura Dern (it’s the part, not the performer).  When their son is murdered by a low-level member of the local drug community, Neeson’s character, Nels Coxman, first tries to kill himself.  When he learns his kid wasn’t really involved in drugs he begins relentlessly pursuing everyone involved in the world that killed his son, aiming for the top, which reaches back to an anal-retentive, self-absorbed, young, wealthy kingpin called Viking back in the city, played expertly vile by Tom Bateman (Murder on the Orient Express).  This is when the movie takes the action turn.  Bateman plays that villain you love to hate and really want to see get a comeuppance.

Dozens of named characters get killed in different ways throughout the picture (I thought about counting the bodies but didn’t).  Each cleverly gets their own pre-sound era cinema “tombstone” as they are marked off the list (including their religion–oddly irrelevant but humorous).  Even if it’s a little spoliery (yes, that’s the correct spelling) to know it, if it helps get people to see the movie then it’s worth knowing that Neeson’s character is not a criminal type or tough guy, but calls forth that familiar guy from the Taken movies to open ample six-packs (several) of whoop-ass on the bad guys.

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It’s not so much that Disney and Lucasfilm put together a movie based on every kid in the 1980s’ favorite background character, because George Lucas already made a movie about that guy, his dad, and a whole army of lookalikes.  It’s hard to find a cooler character than Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, until Lucas delivered on the fan service and inserted him into the original, special edition of Star Wars.  It’s not only that.  Or that, like Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s clearly a full-fledged space Western.  Or that fans get to see familiar elements of the franchise again, like carbon freezing, speeder bikes, scout walkers, patrol dewbacks, familiar bounty hunters, and Imperial bunkers hidden in the forest.  And it’s not that the lead is played by its rising young actors known for badass characters, Pedro Pascal and co-star Gina Carano.  Or that the series features a story by genre favorite Jon Favreau, with a host of episode directors like Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi, or noted Star Wars animaster Dave Filoni, or Solo director Ron’s daughter, actor Bryce Dallas Howard.

Well, it’s that, but not only that.

It’s that added gravitas that Star Wars is better at than possibly any other franchise.  It’s adding those dynamic, major character actors in supporting roles who make the magic happen sometimes even from the corner of the screen, from the likes of Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Christopher Lee, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, Linda Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Max von Sydow.  Would Star Wars be Star Wars without the characters these actors brought to life?  Definitely not.

For the latest trailer for the new streaming series The Mandalorian, that means Carl Weathers–who we saw in April’s “sizzle reel” at the annual Star Wars convention (yet to be posted by Lucasfilm, but check out a watchable version below), with a first look at Giancarlo Esposito, and that toughest of older tough guys in movies, director and Jack Reacher villain Werner Herzog.  Not seen in this trailer, but expected to be added to the list, is Nick Nolte, who we can imagine could get us to that similar kind of character as Woody Harrelson or Paul Bettany in Solo.

So check it out–your next look at The Mandalorian:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What defines the Men in Black the best?  The neuralyzer?  The Noisy Cricket?  The suits?  Or maybe its the sunglasses.  1997, 2002, 2012, and 2019.  Plenty has changed in 22 years since the first Men in Black movie, but readers of a new book on all four films in the MiB franchise will learn a lot hasn’t changed.  As part of the release of the latest entry in the series, Men in Black International, Titan Books partnered with Columbia Pictures to put together Men in Black Films: The Official Visual Companion to the Films, an oversized, chrome, hardcover guide spanning the creation of the MiB universe and each film from the original comic books to the new movie.

Writers Lisa Fitzpatrick and Sharon Gosling interview the directors, writers, visual effects crew, and other artists and actors from each movie to find out why the series has resonated with sci-fi audiences.  Moving between images from the film, the characters, and plots, to what happened behind the scenes to develop the ideas from page to final film, readers will get two views of the films: one in-universe and one real-world.  It’s told chronologically, giving equal treatment to each film.  Along with stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, James Brolin, and now Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, you’ll see familiar characters from the past played by Tony Shalhoub (Galaxy Quest), Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water), Luke Cage stars Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter (Luke Cage), and Rip Torn (Defending Your Life), and you’ll meet new characters played by Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson.

The writers find lots of common threads with the first three films because of the overlap in creators, so look for some deep dives into the moviemaking process from director of the first three films, Barry Sonnenfeld, producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes (and how they coordinated ideas with executive producer Steven Spielberg), production designer Bo Welch, set decorator Cheryl Carasik, and, of course, Rick Baker, monster (and alien) maker, plus dozens more.  It’s all a nostalgic look back to some of the major creators that guided the look of Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s.  It includes commentary from comic book creator Lowell Cunningham and the several writers that had a hand in the screenplays.  From the great futuristic props to those sunglasses and black suit changes, every major talent behind the camera gets to share where the ideas came from, with full-color photographs documenting the production steps along the way.

Here is a look inside Men in Black Films: The Official Visual Companion to the Films, courtesy of Titan Books:

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If you agree 2017’s Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok was the best of the bunch, and you don’t get enough of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson this month in Avengers: Endgame, just wait a little longer.  In June, Men in Black International arrives, and the next trailer for that fourth film in the Men in Black franchise is here.  Check it out below.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones first created the fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the three films, only to be eclipsed by the man who would be Thanos–Josh Brolin–as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role Rip Torn played as the character Zed in the earlier films.

Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out.  Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers back in December for Men in Black International (check ’em out here).  Here’s the next:

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No one could have predicted when the original Star Wars won six of ten Academy Awards in 1978 that a new Star Wars film would be nominated 41 years later.  At the end of 2019 all will be known–with Episode IX to be released in December the entirety of George Lucas’s nine-part Star Wars saga will be complete.  Although the Skywalker family and its legacy is done, Disney and Lucasfilm will be sure that Star Wars is very far from over.  But expect this year to be full of nostalgic products looking back over the course of the four decades since we first saw the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…”  Two movie souvenir compilation books will take Star Wars fans across the film franchise.  Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide presents interviews and photographs behind and in front of the camera from Ron Howard’s film.  And today Star Wars: The Saga Begins arrives in book stores, taking a rare look back at the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  We have previews of both books for you to check out below.

In Star Wars: The Saga Begins readers will find articles collected from Star Wars Insider, the magazine that has provided fans with the latest fandom and news since 1994.  In September 1997 with Issue #35, fans got their first glimpses at what would follow the original trilogy, as publisher and fan club president Dan Madsen provided updates in each issue with producer Rick McCallum.  Unfolding until 2005 and beyond, Star Wars Insider provided first looks at new prequel ships, characters, and locations.  Interviews explained what was happening behind the scenes of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith from the likes of director George Lucas, actors Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Logan, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Brian Blessed, plus concept artists Ralph McQuarrie and Doug Chiang, composer John Williams, costume designer Trisha Biggar, sound designer Ben Burtt and many more.  Star Wars: The Saga Begins is packed with concept artwork and prototypes of creatures and props, plus storyboards and costume designs.  And it has hundreds of photographs.

A similarly designed look at Solo: A Star Wars Story can be found in Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide Readers will find Star Wars Insider interviews and profiles from director Ron Howard, writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, actors Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, and Thandie Newton, plus composer John Powell, creature maker Neal Scanlan, and costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon.  The Ultimate Guide is full of good detail shots of the Millennium Falcon and sections featuring the newly designed Imperial armor and ships created for the film.

Here are previews from each book, courtesy of Titan:

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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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Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones created a fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the first three films in the Men in Black series.  But they were eclipsed by an even funnier performance by Josh Brolin as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role Rip Torn played as the character Zed in the earlier films.  Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out, with new agents for the fourth movie in the franchise coming your way next year, Men in Black International.

Thor: Ragnarok star Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers this week for Men in Black International.  Which do you like best?  One features Agent M already as an agent, the other U.S. version shows her joining the agency.  Take a look:

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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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Following the success of last year’s Studio Ghibli Fest, animated film distributor GKIDS and Fathom Events are bringing back to U.S. theaters nine critically acclaimed films throughout the year for Studio Ghibli Fest 2018.  Starting this weekend the series will feature both dubbed and subtitled versions of Studio Ghibli classics, beginning with a 10th anniversary screening of the fan-favorite family adventure Ponyo (2008) on March 25 (dubbed), 26 (subtitled), and 28 (dubbed), with original actors Tomoko Yamaguchi, Kazushige Nagashima, and Yuria Nara in the subtitled version and Cate Blanchett, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, and Matt Damon in the dubbed version. In a spin-off of the Hayao Miyazaki story Whisper of the Heart, the character Baron re-emerges in The Cat Returns (2002), back in theaters April 22 (dubbed), 23 (subtitled), and 25 (dubbed), with stars Chizuru Ikewaki, Yoshihiko Hakamada, and Aki Maeda in the subtitled version, and Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, and Tim Curry in the dubbed version.  Miyazaki directs his tale of a pigman pilot bounty hunter in Porco Rosso (1992), back in theaters May 20 (dubbed), 21 (subtitled), and 23 (dubbed), with original stars Shûichirô Moriyama, Tokiko Katô, and Bunshi Katsura Vi in the subtitled version, and Michael Keaton and David Ogden Stiers in the dubbed version.

Studio Ghibli’s village of magical raccoon dogs fight back in Pom Poko (1994), in theaters June 17 (dubbed), 18 (subtitled), and 20 (dubbed), starring Shinchô Kokontei, Makoto Nonomura, and Yuriko Ishida in the subtitled version, and Clancy Brown and J.K. Simmons in the dubbed version.  One of Miyazaki’s most thrilling films, the legendary Princess Mononoke (1997) is back July 22 (dubbed), 23 (subtitled), and 25 (dubbed), starring Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, and Yûko Tanaka in the subtitled version, and Minnie Driver, Clare Danes, and Gillian Anderson in the dubbed version.  Director Isao Takahata offers one of the finest World War II stories in all of cinema in his gut-wrenching Grave of the Fireflies (1988), back in theaters August 12 (dubbed), 13 (subtitled), and 15 (dubbed), starring Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, and Akemi Yamaguchi in the subtitled version, and Adam Gibbs and Emily Neves in the dubbed version.

Everyone’s favorite gentle giant cat is back September 30 (dubbed), October 1 (subtitled), and October 3 (dubbed), when My Neighbor Totoro (1988) returns, starring Hitoshi Takagi, Noriko Hidaka, and Chika Sakamoto in the subtitled version, and Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, and Tim Daly in the dubbed version.  Perhaps Miyazaki’s most acclaimed film, the fantastical, spiritual, riveting epic Spirited Away (2001) is in theaters October 28 (dubbed), 29 (subtitled), and 30 (dubbed), starring Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, and Mari Natsuki in the subtitled version, and Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, and James Marsden in the dubbed version.  And finally, a boy and girl search for a floating castle in Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky (1986), in theaters November 18 (dubbed), 29 (subtitled), and 20 (dubbed), starring Keiko Yokozawa, Mayumi Tanaka, and Kotoe Hatsui in the subtitled version, and Anna Paquin, Mark Hamill, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, and Mandy Patinkin in the dubbed version.

Here is a quick preview of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018:

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Of this Fall’s onslaught of movie trailers accompanying holiday releases, one of the better previews is for a new action film starring Liam Neeson called The Commuter.  At first look it has multiple reasons you may want to check it out.  Foremost is Liam Neeson as the film’s star, if you haven’t already had your fill of his edgy character in the Taken hostage films.  Despite the perception Neeson’s performances aren’t always the same, yet he always brings authority to his characters.  The Commuter looks like it could be a sequel to Source Code, but it’s not.  It co-stars Source Code star Vera Farmiga, and the setting is also a train and a man being tasked with a life-or-death challenge during the train ride.  Source Code was a brilliant science fiction movie (which also starred Jake Gyllenhaal), but this one is straight-up action/mystery.

This type of popcorn movie distraction/escape is often all that you need–think in terms of films like Unstoppable and this year’s surprise hit The Foreigner.  The film comes from Orphan (which starred Farmiga) and Unknown (which starred Neeson) director Jaume Collet-Serra.

The Commuter also features a solid supporting cast, with Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Phantom of the Opera), Elizabeth McGovern (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Kick-Ass), and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park).

Here is the first trailer for The Commuter:

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