Tag Archive: Ludwig Göransson


Review by C.J. Bunce

Jawas, Ugnaughts, and Bounty Hunters… oh, my.

With three episodes in and a new episode dropping today on the new Disney+ streaming service, it’s time to dig into the latest entry in the Star Wars universe.  Great music, callbacks to prior Star Wars elements, and the best alien creations of any sci-fi or fantasy that have come along in years provide fans a lot to talk about.  With a complete story arc, and what is essentially a new, full-fledged Star Wars movie in the A Star Wars Story vein, The Mandalorian might be the greatest innovation in the Star Wars saga since the original movie that started it off back in 1977.

If there are faults in The Mandalorian, it is in its faithfulness to George Lucas’s world building.  Sometimes that includes clunky, simple dialogue.  Sometimes that includes characters with names that lack creativity (such as a mercenary named Greef, since a General Grievous wasn’t enough).  Sometimes that includes lack of rich character development and layered storytelling.  That said, there is so little fan service in the major creative franchises, so that when–at last–someone is listening to fandom, and the people pulling the strings grew up with the original trilogy like they did (I’m talking about you, Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau), and they artfully deliver in such a satisfying way, well, the perceived faults just don’t seem to matter.  The Mandalorian is the dream of every kid who lived through Star Wars in multiple viewings in the theater in 1977.  Every kid who played with a Jawa in a plastic Kenner Sandcrawler.  Every kid who had action figures of Boba Fett, IG-88, and Bossk, battling each other, and mashed up his/her Ugnaught action figure from The Empire Strikes Back with a patrol dewback toy from the first movie.  And every kid who still thinks Boba Fett can’t be surpassed as the word “cool” is defined, despite lots of variants on the character in the prequels and animated shows.  All that plus so, so many Easter eggs to find.

But The Mandalorian probably couldn’t have happened before now.  It relies on the effectiveness of Roger Christian’s lived-in distressed look of buildings and objects replicated so well in Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One in 2016.  It relies on the confidence that the Western is not dead, as tried on for size in Ron Howard’s Solo in 2018.  And it even skips over The Empire Strikes Back to find what may be a simple Western story framework as seen in Lucas’s original Star Wars, itself an interpretation of Akira Kurosawa and Jin Yong’s legendary heroic adventures.  In good writer style, it has all those beats needed so that the first three episodes could have been released with only little tweaks in theaters, and shown on the big screen, as a standalone.  Say, The Mandalorian: A Star Wars Story, as a major motion picture.  You need a good story and good writing, regardless of genre, to grab viewers.  This first tale may not be complex, but compare it to the first three episodes of any other sci-fi or fantasy series or any movie, and it’s The Mandalorian that rises above the rest.

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Is that Bossk?

The trailers look just like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story, which both reflected so much the original Star Wars from 1977 more than the other entries in the franchise.  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 second trailer for the new streaming series The Mandalorian, that means more Carl Weathers–who we saw in August’s first public trailer and April’s “sizzle reel” at the annual Star Wars convention.  Along with Giancarlo Esposito and that toughest of older tough guys in movies, director and Jack Reacher villain Werner Herzog, we have plenty to look forward to.  As the norm these days, unfortunately to watch this series you’ll need to subscribe to another streaming platform, this time that’s the Disney+ streaming service (or… once the Blu-ray arrives should you not want to feed the Disney machine any further).

So check it out–your next look at The Mandalorian, plus five new official posters:

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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

For a movie that had some pretty rough previews, including Tom Hardy as a journalist with some indecipherable dialogue and a scientist who mispronounced a key word in the story, the end result may come as a surprise: Venom is actually a pretty good movie.  Do we credit a great post-production and re-shoots, including a complete redo of the strange “symbiote” explanatory scene, or does Sony need to simply work on improving its movie trailers?  Frankly all that matters is what made it to the screen.  Fans of the comic book anti-hero and villain, of alien invasion movies, of that unique character design from co-creator artist Todd McFarlane, of Tom Hardy, and non-traditional superhero movies, you’ll have to work to find anything wrong with this movie.  It’s a good Halloween month monster movie and you don’t need to know anything about the character or Marvel Comics to jump right in.  But you just might want to check out the comics after you see it.  Like Frank Miller caused Daredevil to become popular, McFarlane made Venom big in the 1980s.  Unlike McFarlane’s movie Spawn, an R-rated film that was too dark for mainstream audiences, the PG-13 rating for Venom makes this movie accessible to everyone.

A mix of the classic alien invasion flick, the horrifying McFarlane character look, with the grimy city vibe like the Detroit of Robocop, Venom has elements that make it feel like it belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, regardless of its origin as a Sony film.  As for quality and delivery, it falls somewhere above Blade, Iron Man 2 and 3, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk movies, and Spawn, X-Men 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse, and somewhere below Hellboy and Deadpool.  For most fans of adaptations of comic books on the big screen, that will be enough.  Full of good humor moments, the film doesn’t take itself seriously.  We meet the archetype from 80 years of superhero comics with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, an Everyman, a down-and-out guy who can never get a break who gets caught making a few mistakes.  Usually this archetype ends up captured by Batman (or insert other superhero here) and thrown into the slammer, but this time he encounters a body shifting alien presence that merges with him, blending the best and worst of both beings.  Beginning with a crash landing as a SpaceX-inspired ship returns with some specimens from outer space, we eventually meet four alien beings, the lowliest of rank who calls himself Venom.  Merged with Eddie, Venom needs to eat living lifeforms to continue on and he doesn’t grasp the subtleties of only killing bad guys just yet.  Audiences will get to watch these aliens, the symbiotes, body-shift through several random characters (like Denzel Washington’s character in the movie Fallen), including the key cast and an animal or two–and it’s mostly great fun.

Venom is probably a rare time audiences will see Michelle Williams in a stock role.  Usually every part she takes on results in an Oscar-worthy performance, but it’s nice seeing her do something less dramatic.  And she gets some great scenes directly with Venom (including an Easter Egg scene that points straight back to the origin of the character originally discussed between Marvel Comics editor Jim Salicrup and writer/co-creator David Michelinie).  This may be Tom Hardy’s best role since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (where he was the only good thing in the movie), as he at last gets to play a spectrum of emotions and demonstrate a broad acting range.  Despite what we heard in the movie trailers, his regional American accent is spot on in the final cut and his dialogue is delivered clearly–none of that crazy speech we saw him bring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises Not hiding behind make-up or masks as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, or Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy again proves he’s one of the best actors around.  The sound department gets it just right–Hardy’s voice is also the voice transformed into the monstrous, demonic sounding Venom, and it’s unique and effective.  No doubt some elaborate work went on behind the scenes for Hardy-as-Eddie to be arguing with Hardy-as-Venom.  Some of the best lines, and laugh-out-loud moments come from Venom, reminiscent of Gollum and Sméagol.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ryan Coogler, the young writer-director of the excellent Rocky sequel Creed, has put his Creed star Michael B. Jordan against Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42 and Thurgood Marshall in last year’s film Marshall.  The result?  The next great Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther, opening this weekend in theaters everywhere.  Boseman is back as King T’Challa, the suave and poised Black Panther of the comic books who audiences first met in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.  The new film fills in the blanks of T’Challa’s origin story, populated with a dozen of the best characters from any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, matched to some of today’s best actors.  On the heels of last year’s wildly successful surprise hit Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther is just as good if not better, but completely different.  It’s a more serious tale, a one-off in the MCU similarly spliced into the ongoing Avengers narrative as was done with 2016’s supernatural Doctor Strange.  It also supplies a new, rich superhero mythology populated primarily with black characters–a film first featuring a black superhero title character in a major studio release.  Coogler’s layered, multifaceted film is even more successful at accomplishing what Zack Snyder tried to do last year with the DC Universe film Wonder Woman, which first put a woman in a title role in a major superhero movie.  Coogler makes great strides with Black Panther, not just a mere first step.

Beginning with a father teaching his son about a hidden country in Africa called Wakanda, we learn that a powerful resource called vibranium gives the people of this land incredible power, which they hide from the known world.  The story is straight out of Shakespeare or Roman and Greek histories: three princes compete for the throne of Wakanda when the King dies in a terrorist attack at the United Nations.  Boseman’s T’Challa is the heir-apparent who is challenged for the throne first by Prince M’Baku (Winston Duke), then by Jordan’s Erik Stevens, a special forces soldier from the States whose death toll in battle earned him the nickname Killmonger.  Not just a one-note villain found so often in superhero movies, Erik has his own complex backstory that converges with T’Challa’s efforts to capture the film’s villain, Ulysses Klaue (pronounced “claw”), one of Marvel’s best villains yet, played by Middle-earth native Gollum and The Planet of the Apes’s series’ star Andy Serkis.  Although his antics are unique, here Klaue is the crazed villain you’d expect from a superhero story.  Erik also assumes a villain role, but his story and particularly his life in parallel to the new King is more biblical in its roots.  Erik’s father is N’Jobu, a compelling supporting character at odds with Wakanda, played by Marshall co-star and Supernatural’s Sterling K. Brown, and his past sets up a compelling tragedy arc within the film for Erik.

For those who go to superhero movies for badass superheroics, it’s the women of the film that fill that niche.  Our own early borg.com nominee for the annual badass heroine of the year goes to the fan-favorite actor from The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira, as Wakanda General Okoye.  Her steely resolve and loyalty alone is enough to get us to race back to the theater to watch her all over again in the theater tomorrow.  A Wakanda spy and confidante of the King is Nakia, played by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book star Lupita Nyong’o, a fierce and savvy ally.  But a favorite of the film for many will no doubt be T’Challa’s young sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright (Doctor Who, Ready Player One, Humans, The Commuter).  The film doesn’t completely find its voice and reach full throttle until Shuri lets out a howl in a conversation with her brother.  By that point the entire audience is onboard.  Shuri is very much derived from Q in the James Bond movies, supplying her brother with the latest tech.  After movie audiences got a peek at what a woman would look like as James Bond with South African actress Charlize Theron as a superspy in last year’s Atomic Blonde, those looking for the first black James Bond need go no further than Boseman’s smooth and stylish take on T’Challa Coogler even inserts a spectacular casino mission scene straight out of 2012’s Skyfall, and borrows another great character from the Bond playbook with The Hobbit and Sherlock actor Martin Freeman as a very, very Felix Leiter-esque American CIA agent named Everett Ross.  A scene pitting Freeman opposite Serkis again will be a fun reunion for fans of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.

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