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Tag Archive: Lizzy Caplan


Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest big-budget movie that has arrived at Netflix could have been on par with prior Netflix movies The Cloverfield Paradox or Bright.  These are science fiction movies that have something to offer viewers, yet they probably would disappoint most if you paid to see them in the theater.  As much as the marketing for these Netflix films is trying to convince subscribers these are the “real deal,” the new sci-fi movie Extinction brings the discussion home again.  The Cloverfield Paradox had a broad, fairly well-known cast and significant production values.  Bright relied on the charisma of star Will Smith with a solid performance from Joel Edgerton working through some hefty prosthetic make-up.  So they had that minimum quality for first-out-of-the gate films for newcomer movie house Netflix.  But despite the well-known genre star cast of Extinction, the latest Netflix sci-fi movie just isn’t strong enough.  Remember the rack of B-movie sci-fi films at the old movie rental stores?  Sadly, that’s where this one would have been filed.

Michael Peña plays the father of two girls in a future Earth.  He’s having problems dealing with violent nightmares that are too real to merely be in his mind.  His wife, played by Lizzy Caplan, and their friends, all think he’s crazy.  When an invasion on par with War of the Worlds arrives in the middle of a dinner party, the father attempts to use the bits he can recall from the dreams to keep his kids and wife alive, and try to understand the menace approaching from the skies.  Peña and Caplan are not given enough to do, not enough to make us want to cheer them on, as director Ben Young drags the audience through very carefully selected architectural layouts, platforms, pathways, futuristic buildings, all slowly panning and following people walking, doing mundane things that people do.  For an entire hour nothing happens.  Luke Cage’s Mike Colter plays Peña’s boss, and when hell breaks loose you get the feeling that roles once owned by Keith David can now be handed over to Colter, as Colter becomes that take-charge leader.   But his scenes are few.  The standout performance in the film is by British actor Lex Shrapnel (K:19: The Widowmaker, Captain America: The First Avenger) who steps in to assist the family after the first barrage.  His performance brings some much-needed life, albeit too late.  But the actors just aren’t enough to save the film.

You can’t blame the cast for this one.  The slogging story doesn’t gain any momentum until the last 30 minutes, and then it must rely on a gotcha to even get viewers’ attention to stay around for the last act.  The film probably suffers from a young director and an unsalvageable script by the Oscar-nominated writer of the similarly thin and derivative screenplay for Arrival, Eric Heisserer, among others.  And it lacks a much-needed sci-fi or action flick musical score–the one thing that might have given some energy or passion to the first hour (The Nelson Brothers are listed as composers, but someone must have edited out most of their music).  At only an hour and 35 minutes, the movie drags to feel like a full 2 hours, yet the thin story could have been told in a 20 minute episode of a show like Black Mirror.  Worst of all, Extinction is devoid of any humor–an essential element of the best tense sci-fi action thrillers.

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With $2 billion put toward new content, a record stock price, and critical acclaim–this year it leads the Emmy count with 112 nominations–Netflix now dominates television.  In addition to the great new series and its catalog of films, you can’t deny the satisfaction of avoiding theater crowds to watch first-run, cinema-worthy films streaming directly to your living room.  Because the low monthly fee is already locked in, Netflix stands right there with cable TV (whether served via coax, wireless, or your old home phone line), with the largest volume of content up against those hundreds of channels it competes against.  So even if each new first-run movie on Netflix isn’t the next Oscar winner (yet–see Emmy reference above) or even the next pop hit like Avengers: Infinity War, for what feels to many like “practically free new movies,” it’s easy to give the next Netflix movie a try.  So far we’ve liked War Machine, Cloverfield Paradox, and even the strange mash-up Bright.  The next film in the sci-fi variety has the cast and an interesting trailer to make giving it a try a no-brainer.

The movie is director Ben Young’s Extinction.  Normally a plot like this might be the stuff of merely passable made-for-TV movie fare, but now is the perfect time for Michael Peña to be the lead in his own action film, right when audiences are still excited about his great work in Ant-Man and The Wasp.  He’s a future Earth everyman, only in a very Philip K. Dick twist he’s having nightmares that he believes to be premonitions of a dire future.  We get to see Luke Cage himself, Mike Colter, co-starring outside the larger-than-life superhero realm along with Lizzy Caplan, known for her roles in Cloverfield, Tru Calling, Now You See Me 2, Orange County, and Freaks and Geeks.

We always have room for another alien invasion flick, and the method of arrival in the first trailer for the film seems similar at first blush to the falling-from-the-sky visitors in Attack the Block.  But these visitors appear to be the bipedal variety of sci-fi alien.  Whatever else there is to learn we’ll need to wait to find out in the movie.

Check out the trailer for Extinction:

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Radcliffe NYSM2 Harrelson NYSM2 Asia

An international room of mirrors is stretching around the world this week to promote the sequel to 2013’s Now You See Me.  Lions Gate Entertainment released a volley of posters internationally featuring the cast members from the film for Now You See Me 2.  Along with the returning cast of Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, and Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, and Jay Chou round out the all-star cast.

Now’s a good time to catch the original.  It’s a fun romp that we reviewed previously here at borg.com.

Caplan NYSM2 Ruffalo NYSM2

If you missed out on the trailer, check it out here.

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Magic trick Now You See Me

It must be hard to portray the art of being a magician on the big screen.  The latest effort is The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, and Clash of the Titans’ director Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me previewed earlier at borg.com here.  It has much to offer by way of entertainment, the best reward being the cast, which manages to nail that very Las Vegas magic act schtick of “showmanship” that you only see in a good magic act.  But can you give a theatrical audience a convincing magic show–actually trick us and surprise us in the same way someone like David Copperfield can make the Statue of Liberty disappear right in front of you, or how Teller distracts as Penn causes the very thing you’re staring at to disappear right before you?

Apparently you can’t do that in the movies–or at least no one has dazzled us in that way yet.  But you can at least give us a good show letting us see different styles in which magicians practice their art.

Magic Act Now You See Me

Two recent contenders for the top of the “movies about magicians and magic” list are not at risk of leaving the top because of Now You See Me.  The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and The Prestige, starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, and Scarlett Johansson released opposite each other in 2006, take on the same themes.  But if you’re deciding between the two we think The Illusionist, from director Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergent) is the better film, over the very typically over-the-top effort by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, Inception) in The Prestige.  It’s the payoff of Now You See Me that doesn’t quite cut it, despite some fun theatrics along the way.

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Eliza Dushku Tru Calling

Between 2003 and 2005, Fox aired one of the best supernatural thrillers to date. Fans of Eliza Dushku, missing her superb performance as vampire slayer Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, could get their fix with Tru Calling.  After years of sitting on the shelf Tru Calling is finally being re-broadcast Wednesday nights on the Chiller cable network.

Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, Medium meets Groundhog Day.  Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders.

Tru Calling is one of those forgotten series that made our borg.com10 TV series that didn’t make it (but should have)” list back in 2011.   Lots better than Dushku’s role on Dollhouse, Tru Calling also was the first time we noticed many current genre favorites.  Tru’s co-worker mentor in the morgue was played by The Hangover‘s Zach GalifianakisMatt Bomer (White Collar, Chuck, Space Station 76) played Tru’s boyfriend.  But several more actors were barely known then, and featured in guest spots on the show.

Tru Calling

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