Tag Archive: Mark Strong


Review by C.J. Bunce

DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers began to take a shift in their superhero movie franchise with last year’s more adventurous Aquaman.  With Shazam! the studios proved that a movie based on DC Comics characters could be every bit as good as the source material, and more satisfying than their past big budget efforts.  True to the spirit of the characters and the story going back to the original Captain Marvel that was so successful in the 1940s, director David F. Sandberg found the sweet spot with Shazam!  Just as seen on the big screen, now on home video Shazam! balances good fun with the requirements of demanding modern audiences.  With the heart of the 1978 Superman and the Tom Hanks hit movie Big, the movie is the best of what DC has to offer in live action entertainment (check out my review of the film earlier at borg here).  Worthy of the film itself, the new home release offers a trove of special features.

The film’s first strength is screenwriter Henry Gayden′s lighthearted story.  It’s all about heart and family bonds, but it also has its action, and even for its comparatively modest $100 million budget, the movie relied extensively on practical effects for its key action sequences.  All of the scenes with Shazam, his extended family, and the villain Dr. Sivana featured a mix of actors and stunt professionals, with far less reliance on the CGI in so many recent DC and Marvel films.  So many of these scenes are showcased in the features that it’s apparent the 1,000 effects filmed for the third act in the final 12 weeks of shooting required something like the strength of Shazam to accomplish.  As director Sandberg remarks in the bonus features, the production had very little slippage in their timetable.  And the success can be seen in the final edit.

Some of the best content on the home release examines how the lead actors filmed their aerial scenes.  Comic fans and fans of stars Zachary Levi and Mark Strong will appreciate their knowledge of the history of the characters they played.  Levi initially submitted screen tests to play a grown-up version of Billy Batson’s foster brother Freddie, and it was apparent immediately to Sandberg he needed to take the lead role.  Strong, who already played a great Sinestro in the less well-received Green Lantern movie, continued to add to the wealth of powerful live-action supervillains, bringing gravitas to the production, reflected in the final cut of the film.  His acting prowess while being transported as if soaring across the sky with cables in front of a green screen (instead of rendering him entirely in CGI) reflects a versatile, impressive thespian who can do his craft in whatever environment is thrown at him.  But fans of the film will find more than 37 minutes of deleted scenes really make the home version a must-watch.

So what all is in the home release?

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Despite every other war of the 20th century being well covered, audiences are still waiting for the great modern movie to depict World War I in a realistic and believable way.  Will Sam Mendes′s next film be the answer?  The director of Road to Perdition and successful James Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre is next bringing us 1917, with Universal Pictures releasing its first trailer for the film this week.  The film follows two British soldiers at a key point in the war.  Soldiers Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) must complete a mission that takes them across enemy lines to deliver a vital message that could save another band of British brothers from walking into a trap.

If the two young stars of Game of Thrones and Captain Fantastic don’t excite you, then the actors that anchor the film might.  Looks for supporting characters played by a current Who’s Who of British film: Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit), Colin Firth (Kingsman, The King’s Speech, Pride and Prejudice), Mark Strong (Kingsman, Shazam!, Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, Green Lantern), Daniel Mays (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ashes to Ashes, The Bank Job, Doctor Who), and Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Spectre, The Hour, Saving Private Ryan).  

Beyond that, the cinematography shown in the trailer, filmed by the great Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Skyfall, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049) should get you across the line.  And finally a film depicting the era has the clothing right, thanks to Academy Award-winning designer Jacqueline Durran (Darkest Hour, Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Beauty and the Beast).  With music by Thomas Newman (Real Genius, The Great Outdoors, Finding Nemo, The Adjustment Bureau, Skyfall, The Highwaymen), this is quite promising.

Take a look at the trailer for the new Sam Mendes film, 1917:

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After seeing Jim Henson and Frank Oz‘s The Dark Crystal return to theaters back in 2017 for its 35th anniversary, we were reminded why the movie kept up its status as the best live-action, high-fantasy film for two decades–until the arrival of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series.  The set for Aughra′s beautiful pinnacle of all set pieces–the location of that mechanical wonder called the Orrery–showcased a fantasy creation that has yet to be surpassed in any film.  We first mentioned Netflix green-lighting the return of The Dark Crystal universe way back in 2017 here at borg, as the studio began work on the ten episode series The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceAt last the first trailer has arrived (below) and the arrival date for the first season: August 30, 2019.  The best part?  Fizzgig is back, along with Aughra (voiced by Donna Kimball (Community)) and a re-creation of her incredible Orrery, and Henson’s vile Skeksis, complete with that familiar, creepily sniveling voice.  And as with the 1982 movie, the series uses puppets, which were created by Jim Henson Co.’s Creature Shop and Brian Froud, the original conceptual designer — there will be no CGI in the series.

Taron Egerton (Robin Hood, Rocketman, Kingsman series) will be playing the voice of Rian, Nathalie Emmanuel (Furious 7, Game of Thrones) is the voice of Deet, and Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass, Split, The New Mutants) is the voice of Brea (above)–making up the trio to lead the film as Gelflings.  Other Gelfling characters will be voiced by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series), Emmy winner Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, The Riches, Treasure Island), BAFTA nominee Mark Strong (Shazam!, Green Lantern, Kick-Ass, Kingsman series), Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones (Doctor Who, Harry Potter series, Marvel movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Golden Globe nominee Caitriona Balfe (Super 8, Outlander), plus Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games series, Captain America: The First Avenger), Shazad Latif (The Commuter, Black Mirror, Star Trek Discovery), and Theo James (Underworld series).

Voicing the Skeksis and urRu (or “Mystics”) are BAFTA winner Mark Hamill (Star Wars, The Flash, and Kingsman series, Batman animated series), Golden Globe nominee Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery), BAFTA nominee Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Wars series), Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key (The Predator, Tomorrowland), Emmy nominee Harvey Fierstein (Hercules, Independence Day), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The BFG), Ralph Ineson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Kingsman, and Harry Potter series), and Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live).  Other voice roles will be performed by the puppet actors.

Wait no longer–check out this great first trailer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Make no mistake, Billy Batson aka Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (aka Shazam since 2012) has always been the most difficult to fold into the DC pantheon of superheroes.  With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman–the trinity at the top of DC Comics for so long–audiences always know much of what those characters are going to bring to a story even before they walk into the theater.  To be fair, Billy wasn’t a DC original, shuffled much later into the DC universe because of some decades-long legal tedium.  Billy Batson is a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero, so the trailers have been compared to Penny Marshall’s Big, another story about a kid suddenly dealing with being grown-up.  And that is, indeed, part of Shazam!  The movie is also part origin story, because although Shazam! adheres to Billy’s origin story going back to the 1940s (just as Captain America: The First Avenger adhered to its source material), much of the audience that saw the character in his heyday–when he was even more popular and well-known than Superman–aren’t around to make up the target moviegoing audience.  But Big and an origin story is just the beginning.

You know it when you watch a movie unfold and realize something great is happening.  DC Entertainment–the movie guys–finally paid attention to DC Comics–the actual writers and artists who built the character from the ground up–and at last delivered what this comic book reader has always wanted.  Shazam!, the story, Zachary Levi‘s superhero, and a new young actor named Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s friend Freddy–are fantastic.  The magic, wonder, and heart of DC Comics is finally back in the theaters.  It’s a gamechanger for the DC universe, because it finally steps away from Zack Snyder’s dark and brooding Justice League and returns it to the roots of DC Comics and DC At the Movies that we first got a taste of with Christopher Reeve’s first Superman and Michael Keaton’s first Batman.  So if the executives at DC are paying attention, and audiences agree once the film hits general release April 5, this could be an opportunity for a switch-up–an excuse to build a new Marvel-level superhero film universe around the new, amazingly fun and appealing superhero characters in this film.

At its core, the story by new screenwriter Henry Gayden updating a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer, Goosebumps) is about a foster family and the importance of family, so don’t think this is another frivolous superhero movie to be easily dismissed.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s loaded with emotional beats, and it’s all heart.  What do kids care about, and what are they afraid of?  The film takes some time to look seriously at these things.  It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny in spots, expect some snorts, too.  But look for some emotional pangs along the way, on par with an oft-forgotten superhero movie that may have more heart than any other, the 1980 John Ritter sleeper (and one of my favorites) Hero At Large.  Which makes Shazam! also a movie for fans who count Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles among their most favorite superhero movies.

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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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After seeing Jim Henson and Frank Oz‘s The Dark Crystal return to theaters last winter for its 35th anniversary, we were reminded why this movie kept up its status as the best live-action, high-fantasy film for two decades–until the arrival of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series.  The set for Aughra’s beautiful pinnacle of all set pieces–the location of that mechanical wonder called the Orrery–showcases a fantasy creation that has yet to be surpassed in any film.  We first mentioned Netflix green-lighting the return of The Dark Crystal universe last year here at borg, as the studio began work on the ten episode series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.  No other news has surfaced publicly about the series until this week.  We now have the first three images of the three lead character Gelflings, and an award-winning roster of voice actors.  And good news for The Dark Crystal fans: Aughra will be returning, voiced by Donna Kimball (Community).

Taron Egerton (Robin Hood, Eddie the Eagle, Kingsman series) will be playing the voice of Rian (below, left), Natalie Emmanuel is the voice of Deet (below, right), and Anya Taylor-Joy is the voice of Brea (above)–making up the trio to lead the film.  Other Gelflings will be voiced by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series), Emmy winner Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, The Riches, Treasure Island), BAFTA nominee Mark Strong (Shazam!, Green Lantern, Kick-Ass, Kingsman series), Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones (Doctor Who, Harry Potter series, Marvel movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Golden Globe nominee Caitriona Balfe (Super 8, Outlander), plus Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games series, Captain America: The First Avenger), Shazad Latif (The Commuter, Black Mirror, Star Trek Discovery), and Theo James (Underworld series).

And it doesn’t stop there.  Voicing the Skeksis and urRu (or “Mystics”) are BAFTA winner Mark Hamill (Star Wars, The Flash, and Kingsman series, Batman animated series),Golden Globe nominee Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery), BAFTA nominee Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Wars series), Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key (The Predator, Tomorrowland),  Emmy nominee Harvey Fierstein (Hercules, Independence Day), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The BFG), Ralph Ineson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Kingsman, and Harry Potter series), and Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live).  Other voice roles will be performed by the puppet actors.

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shazam

Several images have leaked from the studio over the past few months showing Zachary Levi in a supersuit close to the classic Captain Marvel outfit first seen on the cover of Whiz Comics Issue #2 in 1940, more than 78 years ago.  Levi will star in a comedy take on the DC Comics character next spring in Shazam!, a film that  has sounded so far like equal parts Tom Hanks in Big, John Ritter in Hero at Large, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way. 

Which will it be?  I think we can scratch Jingle All the Way, but the trailer for Shazam! showcases a scene right out of Hero At Large, and, of course, it has the feel of Big.  Both great things, and great for DC movies.

Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, Kingsman, Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes) and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Wayward Pines, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) will co-star in the movie with young actor Asher Angel as Billy Batson.

Check out the trailer for a movie outside the usual DC Comics movie universe, Shazam!:

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Actor and Kansas City Royals baseball fan Paul Rudd stars in a new World War II movie premiering next month.  He plays real-life professional baseball Morris “Moe” Berg in this espionage thriller from director Ben Lewin (Please Stand By).  The movie adapts the true story of the catcher who became a World War II spy.  The Boston Red Sox player was a private figure when, in 1944, the U.S. government’s wartime intelligence agency enlisted his services.  His mission:  To go behind enemy lines in Europe to assassinate the Nazi’s chief nuclear scientist before the Germans develop an atomic bomb.  IFC Films is marketing the film as a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

The film stars Rudd along with Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man, The Illusionist, The Amazing Spider-man 2), Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Kingsman, Shazam!), Jeff Daniels (Good Night, Good Luck, Radio Days), Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA, Layer Cake), Tom Wilkinson (Valkyrie), Guy Pearce (Alien: Covenant, Iron Man 3), and Wonder Woman’s Queen Hippolyta, Connie Nielsen.  Adapted from a book The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, by Nicholas Dawidoff, with a script by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan, Thor: The Dark World), the film has a similar look and feel to other recent World War II espionage thrillers, like Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie and Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game. 

 

Production design is by Academy Award-winning designer Luciana Arrighi (Howard’s End, Remains of the Day).  Costumes were designed by Joan Bergin (The Prestige, In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot, Vikings).  Three-time Oscar winning composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) created the musical score.

Here’s Paul Rudd starring in the trailer for The Catcher Was a Spy:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service (reviewed here at borg.com) starts as you’d hope for, immediately slamming viewers into high gear with a frenetic car chase featuring BAFTA-winning actor Taron Egerton’s Brit spy Eggsy, defending himself from a kidnapping with the same level of over-the-top superhero moves that saved him from similar threats in the first film.  After the introduction of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which opens this Friday nationwide, the film loses the freshness and style of the original and shifts from a faithful James Bond homage to Bond as it might be interpreted by the Coen Brothers.  Where the original careened into the stuff of a Quentin Tarentino film in its major action sequences, the sequel shifts into a quirky blend of gore, explosives, and caricatures that moves beyond Bond homage to more of an Austin Powers parody.

The sequel offers up a top tier cast.  BAFTA winner Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Stardust, Kick-Ass, Green Lantern, John Carter, Zero Dark Thirty) returns as Merlin and–no surprise from the trailers–Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Shakespeare in Love, Pride and Prejudice) is back as agent Galahad and Edward Holcroft (Wolf Hall) returns as rejected Kingsman Charlie.  Audiences saw both die in the original.  Firth is picture-perfect in every scene, as if he was always destined to have a 007 role.  Holcroft, who you might easily mistake for Chris Evans, offers up a more fleshed out character this round, and he gets some of the better one-on-one battles against Eggsy, complete with a nifty Swiss Army multi-functional borg arm.

New to the world of the Kingsmen are their American spy agency counterparts.  The leader is played by Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, RIPD, Hell or High Water, Tron, True Grit, Iron Man) in a classic Southern-accented delivery, appearing for a few brief scenes.  Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), whose moustache makes him a ringer for a 1970s Burt Reynolds, breaks out in his performance as an agent with some mad lasso skills.  And true to form, genre favorite Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street) shows up with the swagger of a Southern lawman, but in only the briefest of scenes, much like his smaller roles in G.I. Joe: Retribution and Hail, Caesar!  The U.S. spy squad is full of Hee Haw-vibed caricatures of Americans, albeit echoing Joe Don Baker’s drawling U.S. roles in three Bond movies (The Living Daylights, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies).  The women have the better parts in Kingsman: The Golden Circle:  Academy Award winner Halle Barry (X-Men series, Catwoman, Monster’s Ball) is the American “Q” with the nicely Ian Fleming name of Ginger Ale–the former “Bond girl” flipping sides this time from Bond co-lead and love interest (Die Another Day) to the current Ben Whishaw I.T. guru role.  And Academy Award winner Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Children of Men) is the film’s villain, a drug kingpin named Poppy–a strange, comic books-meet-Coen Brothers baddie bent on world domination, with scary calm Jack Nicholson Joker insanity and a 1950s chic.  We’ve seen some Bond villains far out there, but Moore’s Poppy is one who could out-crazy them all.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2014 spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, is coming to the theaters in a few weeks.  If you didn’t see the original, it was probably because of its rather uninspired title.  But don’t wait any longer.  Kingsman: The Secret Service is a blast.  And it’s streaming right now.  Kingsman: The Secret Service stars Colin Firth as a secret agent in a new brand of 007 series, as he attempts to recruit the next member of the Kingsman organization, the son of a former agent, played by Taron Egerton.  It’s stylish.  It’s wall-to-wall action.  It’s part dark comedy.  And its over-the-top violence is operatic and epic.  The last time we had this much fun was watching Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live.

For those hoping Firth would ever be tapped as Bond, this is every bit that, only Firth’s master spy has moves like no Bond ever had.  One scene provides so much hand-to-hand combat you’d think you were watching Kill Bill, and the Quentin Tarentino influence doesn’t stop there.  You’d almost think the retired director was the ghost director behind the mayhem in the film’s climactic battle.  It’s just as well, as actual director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) proves again he knows the action genre.

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle is up there with the best.  Her missing lower legs (no, we never learn why) were replaced with steel blades, blades that can kill–and very much do.  Think of Bond girls played by Famke Janssen and Grace Jones, and Boutella fits right in.  Every bit the combat equal to Firth and Egerton’s spies, Gazelle is practically a character missing from Tarentino’s Kill Bill movies. Continue reading