Tag Archive: Michael Shannon


When we created last year’s preview of 2020 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best, mainly because what were to be the big box office hits were delayed to 2021 because of the covid pandemic.  All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, an impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.  Ultimately we think the Best Movies of 2020 will stand up against any other year.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back tomorrow for our best on television and later this week for our print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2020:

Best Film, Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Drama, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Writing, Best Suspense/Thriller, Best Retro Fix The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime).  The man of many hats, writer-director-producer-editor Andrew Patterson dazzled us this year with the sleeper sci-fi film The Vast of Night, from Amazon Prime.  Amazon hadn’t before stunned us with a feature film, but this one sure blew us away.  We knew this was the #1 science fiction offering of the year at first viewing, but when we went back and watched films again, it also stood out as the clear winner for top prize.  Part American Graffiti, part The Twilight Zone and The X-Files, and filmed as faithfully to the era as a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece (with Orson Welles flair), this story sneaks up on the audience thanks in part to its two talented young lead actors.  The script is impeccable and rich, dotted with great jargon that dances artfully like music from the characters’ lips.  Expert Chilean cinematographer Miguel Menz adds just the right lighting and camera angles for a film we hope can get recognized by the Oscars, if only so we can see more of these filmmakers and actors in the future.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Film: Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Netflix).

Best Borg Movie, Best Superhero Movie, Best BorgBloodshot (Sony Pictures).  The story of slain soldier Ray Garrison provided the year’s best look at life as a borg.  What do you do with cybernetic enhancements, how do you use them, and what toll does take from your humanity?  Jeff Wadlow’s story really kicked in once the audience slides into the plot twist.  The Six Million Dollar Man didn’t get to decide to get his bionics, and neither does Ray.  Once you give up control of yourself to someone else, more and more of you vanishes.  Especially if the person in control is using you as a tool of evil.  The best superhero films tend to be about the B-level superheroes, and Bloodshot proved that true again this year.  Honorable mention for Best Superhero Movie: The New Mutants (20th Century Studios).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Three years ago at borg we previewed a quirky holiday film on its way to theaters called PottersvilleIt’s now on Netflix and one you might come across while looking for your next Christmas movie.  Universally panned by critics, it still has some charm and is a step up from the average Hallmark made-for-TV holiday flick.  It’s a quiet and evenly paced film highlighted by the performances of Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Midnight Special and Man of Steel) and Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Halloween, Jurassic World).  And it’s about Bigfoot.  But it’s not quite a “family film.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The 21st century contest was whether The Current War or The New Mutants was going to be delayed longest before their inevitable release (The Current War for the Weinstein scandal and The New Mutants for the Disney-Fox merger and now the COVID-19 pandemic), and so The New Mutants wins–or loses–still with no release date.  At least The Current War–technically The Current War: Director’s Cut, was worth the wait.  Particularly if you put aside the inevitable choices in historical interpretations of the real-life historical figures and facts involved and instead marvel at the nicely realized cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung (Hotel Artemis), production design by Jan Roelfs (Gattaca, 47 Ronin, Ghost in the Shell), costumes by Michael Wilkinson (Justice League, Tron: Legacy, Watchmen), snappy writing and pacing thanks to Michael Mitnick, and a fantastic cast of familiar genre actors, adding The Current War to your streaming list is an easy choice.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Like an episode of Monk or Murder She Wrote, the next film from writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is a straightforward mystery.  Knives Out comes in on the heels of the similar looking Ready Or Not, and it’s a mash-up of sorts, aiming to have that ensemble cast variety of the last Thanksgiving movie release mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, while trying to bring back the nostalgia of the famous comedy whodunnit movie, Clue.  It’s the 85th birthday of the family patriarch and the families of his three children arrive to celebrate.  The next morning the patriarch is found dead.  Arriving in theaters next week and marketed toward the Thanksgiving holiday crowd, Knives Out turns out to be a mixed bag.

The reason to check it out is as you’d expect: the cast.  The cast choices would be a dream assemblage for any film.  James Bond Daniel Craig facing off against Captain America Chris Evans?  Legend Christopher Plummer delivering a performance as good as his last Oscar-winner?  Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Toni Collette playing against type?  And top it off with Don Johnson, poised to have his own career second wind as a leading man.  But the real star performance comes from Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049).  de Armas, a ringer for a Tru Calling-era Eliza Dushku, plays a nurse to Christopher Plummer’s character.  Incredibly charming and engaging, de Armas is also given the biggest opportunity to show the most emotional range in the film.  A plus for Bond fans, this movie will serve as a preview of sorts for movie audiences of No Time to Die, as de Armas plays the next “Bond girl” opposite Daniel Craig’s master spy in theaters next spring.

Not a recommended movie for taking on a date, and ultimately a questionable choice for Thanksgiving, one of the conceits (which may take viewers outside the realm of reality) is a character who vomits with each lie.  By the end of the film it becomes an in-your-face gross-out, making viewers watch one character… covered… for an entire scene.  As a story element this “human lie detector” is also a writers’ crutch, a trick that skips over some story challenges viewers would normally be able to work through on their own.

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Today we have three fall movies to preview, one from a film long-completed and scheduled to arrive in theaters way back in 2017, another a new look at an old property, and a third featuring a modern crime story about a tough cop.  First up is The Current War, a film we first previewed here at borg way back in January 13, 2018.  Movie studios have fallout, collateral damage–call it what you like– from industry shifts, whether cancelations following mergers or projects braking during sex scandals.  The latter was the reason for the initial delays for The Current War, a late production of The Weinstein Company.  The star factor is nothing to sneeze at, with a slate of stars now popular for their superhero roles leading the way:  Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) plays Thomas Alva Edison, Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) is George Westinghouse, Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise) is Nikola Tesla, and Tom Holland (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is Samuel Insull, an early General Electric co-founder.  Will this film electrify audiences or were the delays a sign it’s going to have a rough go of it?  The earliest we’ll know is October, when it finally arrives in theaters.

Raise your hand if you loved the first reboot movie adaptation of the 1970s-1980s TV classic series Charlie’s Angels?  No?  That one starred Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu.  Unfortunately it was more parody than homage, more wacky than the action drama that made the original such a success with audiences 40 years ago.  Another reboot is on its way, titled again Charlie’s Angels, and somehow this version with its next generation of film stars and removal of melodrama and humor at first blush seems to have more in common with the original.  It stars a very upbeat styled Kristen Stewart (Twilight series) plus newcomer Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott (Power Rangers, Aladdin).  The credits circulating so far list a slate of actors playing Bosley, including the film’s director Elizabeth Banks (Brightburn, Hunger Games series), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek Nemesis), and Djimon Hounsou (Captain Marvel).  Weren’t we just talking about this movie Wednesday?

And last for today is Black and Blue, another October 2019 release, starring James Bond’s Moneypenny, Naomie Harris, as a British rookie cop caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The trailer for this film looks like a lot of 1980s cop movies, which might be a good thing.  As with the other films previewed today, look for even more actors in tis film from the superhero spheres, including Luke Cage’s Mike Colter and Captain America: Winter Soldier’s Frank Grillo, plus Fast & Furious regular Tyrese Gibson.

So let’s check out these new trailers:

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The most pervasive actress of the past two years, along with the stars of two of today’s biggest box office and critically acclaimed hits are all coming your way in May when HBO’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi classic, Fahrenheit 451, arrives.  Sofia Boutella, star of every other box office champ in the past few years–the lead actress in Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and The Mummy, and #2 actress in Atomic Blonde–will play nature-loving Clarisse McClellan.  But don’t look for her except for a passing frame in the first teaser released this week.

You will see the actor behind the villainy of Man of Steel and The Shape of Water, Michael Shannon, again pouring on the evil, this time as Captain Beatty, the steely smart but twisted Fire Captain.  And the actor behind the villain of the current #1 box office hit Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan, will portray the initially complacent protagonist of the story, the fireman Guy Montag.

Ray Bradbury‘s most famous work and a pinnacle of 20th century literature and social criticism, Fahrenheit 451 is filled with symbolism and messages no generation should forget.  Ramin Bahrani serves as both writer and director for the series.  Another familiar face to science fiction aficionados, Keir Dullea, plays the Historian in the series.

Check out this first look at HBO’s series Fahrenheit 451:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Guillermo del Toro’s At Home With Monsters was an eye-opening look at the depths to which the renowned fantasy film director has gone to immerse himself in the creative process, revealing images of his own personal collection of the strange, creepy, and unique from scree-used artifacts to oversized recreations of the Universal Monsters that inspired him early on.  The book (reviewed here at borg.com) was a great entryway to prepare readers and audiences for his latest film, The Shape of Water, nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and reviewed earlier here this week.  The latest look into the mind of del Toro explores this movie from its inception to the final filming decisions.  It all can be found in Insight Editions’ new volume The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times, by Gina McIntyre.

In a year that saw a failed re-launch of the Universal Studios famed monster movies with the first installment The Mummy (reviewed here), it would be del Toro who brought forth a worthy retelling of sorts of that studio’s Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The idea for a story of an Amphibian Man and Beauty and the Beast story where the creature is united with a mute janitorial worker began in 2011 in a simple conversation.  As time went on del Toro and screenplay co-writer Vanessa Taylor built a story, and del Toro singled out actors for key roles.  First and foremost was Sally Hawkins as lead character Elisa, who oddly enough was writing her own story about a mermaid that didn’t know she was a mermaid.  del Toro and Hawkins began working together at that point.  As with his other films, del Toro creates biography sheets for his characters.  Included in McIntyre’s book are tipped-in pages of some of these biographies, allowing readers and writers to examine how much the actors were given about their roles as backstory.

Along with the genesis of the story, The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times examines the creation of the four suits worn by Doug Jones as the creature.  Hawkins, Jones, and co-stars Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Michael Shannon, all describe their takes on their roles, their work with del Toro, and their interaction with other performers.  McIntyre includes interviews with del Toro, the key cast and production crew, including insight rarely seen in behind the scenes movie books, like rationale for costume designs, provided here by costume designer Luis Sequiera.  del Toro not only significantly backed the production for years financially, he was involved in every key decision in the film.  He kept costs down by in part utilizing the sets for the television series The Strain.  

The book examines the unique color palette that audiences will take away as a hallmark of this film.  A highlight is the discussion of the black and white scene from the film, unthinkably shot in a single day.  Much of the film relied on old-school practical effects, including actual underwater filming with Doug Jones in costume, but del Toro also incorporated digital effects for the more dangerous scenes and clean-up work.  The multi-year process for designing and revising the creature suit from clay to prosthetics, foam, and rubber is well documented in the book.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With the unique signature of the only director that could pull off a film like The Shape of Water, have no doubt it is worthy of a parade of Oscar recognition.  As for direction The Shape of Water is a triumph for Guillermo del Toro’s sheer bravery in choices.  As for acting it’s the perfect mix of the four top acting tiers: a superb performance in a challenging role by a lead actor and actress, and a superb performance in a challenging role by a supporting actor and actress.  del Toro’s story, too, is novel, soaring and magnificent, even if it may be derivative of many fairy tales, folklore, and past fantastical films.  In fact it’s del Toro’s intelligent reimagining of stories from Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast on a backbone of films like King Kong, Splash, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon that lends some familiarity and authenticity to its story and characters to touch audiences.  Ultimately the finely crafted assemblage is greater than the sum of its parts, forming the stuff of those classic best pictures of the year of decades past.

The idyllic early 1960s is stripped of its patina to a very real and difficult world beyond the happy families as seen in the slick marketing and television shows of the day, at least for the average person trying to find their way.  A mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) work in a quasi-government corporate facility as janitors.  When a Fed named Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings a gilled, man-like creature (Doug Jones) he captured in South America to the facility for study, Elisa covertly befriends it.  When Strickland and his military cronies decide it’s time to vivisect the creature, Elisa enlists a friend in her apartment complex (Richard Jenkins) to try to get the creature to safety, with even Zelda and a lab researcher (Michael Stuhlbarg) joining along in her plan.

The tragedy of Oscar season is the lack of nomination for Doug Jones, the modern Man of a Thousand Faces (and bodysuits), who has played every character in commercials from McDonald’s Mac Tonight to one of the terrifying Gentlemen of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Marvel’s Silver Surfer, to the star of del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, and ghosts in his Crimson Peak and Abe Sapien in his Hellboy series, and he is currently headlining Star Trek Discovery, again in prosthetics.  It is a truth that no other actor has the experience and physical skill and talent required to perform in the roles he is sought out for, and his “Amphibian Man” in this film is a showcase of his singular grace, elegance, and style.  His understanding of animal movements and reactions is impeccable.  Sally Hawkins, seen in countless performances (a standout in Fingersmith, Layer Cake, Tipping the Velvet, Blue Jasmine, where she was also nominated for an Oscar, and Never Let Me Go, among other films, and even a bit part in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), perfectly captures a life in silence and a hopeless romantic.  Her piercing stares at Strickland nearly slice him in two.  Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures, Snowpiercer, Medium, The X-Files) plays Zelda for laughs for the most part, and her ramblings about her lazy husband and her support of Elisa are wonderful.  Richard Jenkins (Silverado, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Witches of Eastwick, Wolf, Absolute Power, Into Thin Air, Jack Reacher, Bone Tomahawk, LBJ) takes on a role as neighbor Giles, a part like nothing audiences have seen him play before, a down on his luck ad man, he is boxed in from gaining the love that he seeks.  del Toro makes it possible for each moviegoer to see himself/herself in each of these characters.

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It was the 19th century struggle for the supremacy of electricity, pitting Thomas Alva Edison against George Westinghouse.  Now it’s a new movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit), Michael Shannon (Midnight Special, Man of Steel), and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men series, Mad Max: Fury Road).  Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Michael Mitnick, The Current War looks like the kind of historical piece that should drive fans of Cumberbatch’s BBC work right into theaters.

Cumberbatch will play Edison, Shannon will play Westinghouse, and Hoult will play Nikola Tesla.  Spider-man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland is Samuel Insull, one of the co-founders of Edison General Electric, and Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alien: Covenant) is Westinghouse’s wife, Marguerite Erskine.

The film was originally scheduled for release on December 12, 2017, but then it was changed to November 24, and it’s been put on indefinite delay.  The hesitation purportedly wasn’t for reasons of the film’s content, the frequent cause of many delayed films being re-edited or re-tooled at the last minute.  This film hails from The Weinstein Company, and like many projects from that studio, distribution was disrupted because of owner Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal.

Check out this trailer for The Current War:

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A quirky new holiday film is on its way to theaters next week.  Pottersville is next in the line of light-hearted regional comedies populated with plenty of familiar faces.  Genre fans can find Midnight Special and Man of Steel’s Michael Shannon as a friendly businessman who gets mistaken for Bigfoot when he gets drunk and stumbles through town in a gorilla costume.  This sets up an opportunity to perpetuate the story as a way to bring tourists into the town, a town which has fallen on hard times.

The trailer for the film is filled with holiday cheer and that unique blend of kooky characters and winter spirit you only find in the odd (stress on the word “odd”) attempt at a holiday keeper.  Or on the Hallmark Channel.  The man of many faces, Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Star Trek Nemesis) stands out in particular in the trailer as the town’s dopey sheriff.

The rest of the cast includes Firefly, Man Men, and Life’s Christina Hendricks, Ant-Man and Jurassic World’s Judy Greer, Night at the Museum and Bob’s Burgers’ Thomas Lennon, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman’s Ian McShanePottersville gets a bit of a jump on another holiday film for the season, The Man Who Invented Christmas starring Dan Stevens (previewed here at borg.com).

Check out the trailer for the new holiday film Pottersville:

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