Tag Archive: Mulan


dnd-fizbans-treasury-of-dragons

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, the latest Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook heading your way from Wizards of the Coast, is the closest of any 5th Edition volume to the original books from when I was a teenager in the 1980s.  If you know even a little kid who is fascinated with dragons, this is the book to drop into their hands.  They may not understand it all, but it’s stuffed full of wonderful dragon artwork and enough worldbuilding lore to open the eyes of any kid interested in fantasy.  For D&D gamers already playing, it contains character-building tools to make your hero steeped in dragonkind, and for dungeon masters, it provides some fun options to incorporate more Dragons or dragons (they’re different) into your next adventure, whether you’re wandering into the Forgotten Realms, Oerth of the World of Greyhawk, Krynn of Dragonlance, Eberron, or pretty much anyplace else.  You can pre-order Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons with the standard cover by Chris Rahn here at Amazon now, or order the alternate “soft-touch” edition by Anato Finnstark from your local game shop.

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If you love Smaug, Puff, Norberta, Alduin, Elliott, Balthromaw, Spike, Falkor, Stanley Steamer, Stegoman, Gleep, Saphira, Porunga, H.R. Pufnstuf, or Lockheed, or you came to love dragons from Dragon’s Lair, Dragonslayer, or Dragonheart, How to Train Your Dragon or Game of Thrones, whether your favorite is Haku from Spirited Away, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, or the kaiju King Ghidorah, or you were reeled into the dragon realm from watching Mulan’s Mushu or Sisu from Raya and the Last Dragon, or you had your first encounter in Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Pokémon, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons provides all the lore and stunningly expansive details on everything you want to know about dragons.

So what’s inside?

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Shang Chi pics

We got our first peek at Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings here at borg this past April.  The new, full-length trailer reveals a plot that has the feel of Wu Assassins, and only a few days since the Snake Eyes trailers, with Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on video, and a new Kung Fu series airing on TV, audiences are getting new opportunities to watch AAPI actors shine.  While you’re in the vibe, don’t miss the live-action Mulan, the historical horror zombie series Kingdom, the action movie The Night Comes for Us, the fantasy wuxia series Legend of the Condor Heroes, the animated movie Over the Moon, the supernatural graphic novel Ghost Tree and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, the overview of martial arts in the movies in Iron Fists and King Fu Kicks, and the Bruce Lee documentary Be Water Long-time comics readers will know Shang-Chi as the Master of Kung Fu from the pages of 1970s Marvel Comics by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin.  Originally the son of Fu Manchu, the character was an attempt by Marvel to create a monthly like the Kung Fu TV series after they failed in their bid to get the adaptation rights.

Check out the new trailer below for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

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Raya a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first animated movie created during the pandemic, with 900 creators working together to make a full-scale feature film from home.  The result is the best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.  The entirely computer animated film also sports three strong female lead characters and is backed by an all female technical leadership team.  The result is a movie blending elements of Asian culture on par with Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fantastical elements of The Lord of the Rings.  Count Raya and the Last Dragon among the creative works that shine brightly despite the adverse conditions of 2020. 

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Kung Fu pic

Review by C.J. Bunce

Put away what you remember (if anything) about the 1970s Kung Fu television series.  You didn’t really watch the series for David Carradine, did you?  If you were like most of the viewers, you probably showed up for the martial arts.  CW Network’s new reboot of Kung Fu is for that same audience, but it also casts a wider net.  Wednesday night Olivia Liang showed up to take the new series, CW’s Kung Fu, by storm.  You can compare it to the similar-vibed, live-action Mulan, some of your favorite recent martial arts series that have the same dramatic beats like Wu Assassins, or you can compare it to series like Charmed, Smallville, Stargirl, or Riverdale.  Fans of all these shows will get a kick out of the ease at which the CW has brought a young Chinese-American hero into our must-watch DVR queue with college student-turned-Shaolin warrior Nicky Shen.  She’s a completely modern, updated Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she brings with her an interesting supporting cast while pulling some intrigue into the story via elements of classic Chinese mythology and history.  It’s fantasy, and its supernatural, and there’s swinging kicks and swordplay you’re not going to want to miss.

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Kung fu 2

When you can take the affidavit from my hand, you are ready.

Not everything gets done right the first time.  Take the 1970s television series Kung Fu.  Based at least in part on an idea from martial arts legend Bruce Lee, the series was the #1 show in the U.S. in 1973.  But casting David Carradine over Lee seems nothing short of lunacy in hindsight.  While Lee’s heirs later continued his vision in Cinemax’s The Warrior, the series that became Kung Fu is getting a reboot, a re-imagining, or a redo next month as Olivia Liang takes the lead role as Nicky Shen in CW’s Kung FuWell-timed to follow the success of the similar-vibed live-action Mulan and some of our favorite recent martial arts series like Wu Assassins, the series follows a Chinese American college student who travels to China and is taken under the wing of a Shaolin master.  She returns to San Francisco with a new purpose.  Nicky looks like a superheroine in the first trailers for the series, which makes the CW network of Arrowverse fame a good place to air the series.  The new series also seems to have the slow-motion martial arts effects the original Kung Fu was known for (the same later used in the Six Million Dollar Man).

Check out some great first trailers for the series below.  Continue reading

Raya and the Last Dragon is the next animated Disney movie, coming later this winter.  Every new look at the film is more exciting than the last, and this is shaping up to be the next Mulan or MoanaRaya and the Last Dragon is entirely computer animated.  It features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classically designed visual fantasy homage to The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn.  Other cast lending their voices to the film include Gemma Chan (Humans, Captain Marvel) as Namaari, Raya’s chief rival and frenemy, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) as giant warrior Tong, and Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy) as Raya’s father.

Here’s the second trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon:

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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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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Despite delays in releases due to the covid pandemic, nothing kept Hollywood from including great female characters on the screen, even if that meant moving movies to the small screen for a while. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2020 compares?  Here are 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add masked superheroines, a CDC epidemiologist, aliens, assassins, martial artists, warriors, cyborgs, a telephone operator, an engineer, a bounty hunter, and a frog and a pig–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020:

Bo-Katan Kryze (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).  In the animated series she would let nothing stand in her way. In a galaxy with villains like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Grand Moff Gideon, we’re lucky to have Bo-Katan on our side. Leading a team to find the Darksaber and restore Mandalore, she’s also willing to enlist a lone straggler, and help him for his efforts. With Katee Sackhoff, the actress behind Starbuck, in the armor, the coolness factor goes up by a factor of 100. Great heroines are great leaders, and, like Bo-Katan, they wield an incredible arsenal of skills. (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Nicole Haught in Wynonna Earp

Sheriff Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp).  Katherine Barrell’s tough, savvy, and friendly sheriff is one of the best reasons to watch Wynonna Earp, now four seasons running. She’s the girlfriend of Wynonna’s sister Waverly, she is plugged into the local supernatural happenings, and she’s always available to lend a hand, when she’s not carrying out her sheriff duties. She’s an investigator who is loyal, driven, and smart. She’s also fun and friendly, making her the heart of the series. In a show about supernatural people, she holds her own as law enforcer simply by her own human wits. (Syfy)

Seven of Nine (Star Trek Picard).  More than forty years of Star Trek have revealed some exceptional women leaders. This year we were lucky to see the re-appearance of one of the best, a character who was captured as a child and trapped in what amounts to a technological cult. With the help of a strong captain, Seven was able to break free, and re-learn what it means to be human. This year that meant helping a legendary former admiral, avenge the death of her closest friend, and fight for good long after her call to duty. (CBS All Access)

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Happy holidays!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2021!  But wait!  Next year’s list sure looks a lot like the the films we previewed last December.  The covid pandemic has delayed hundreds of film projects, but some made it through.  When you walk back through last year’s list and compare it to movies released after theater lockdowns, you get some insight into how Hollywood thinks.  Big movies and movies predicted to be successes were universally held back, while less popular films were released to low box office returns from theaters that remained open, and yet other films went directly to home streaming or related media platforms.

Last year we pulled 85 of the hundreds of films then slated for the 2020 movie calendar.  The first two dozen made it to theaters (films like Underwater, Dolittle, and Birds of Prey) before the national shift began on March 11 with news of the NBA reacting to the pandemic by suspending pro basketball–the first national awareness of the scope of the problem.  Suddenly we saw Vudu and other home platforms coming to the rescue for our entertainment fix, adding a new Theater at Home option, which captured movies like Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emma, Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, and the animated Scoob!  Disney began an interesting tiered release of Mulan, which for half the year showed a studio doing its best to maximize returns on what would have been a key release in any other year.  After another delay The New Mutants made it briefly to theaters followed by home release after three years of getting kicked aside as the last vestiges of the Disney-Fox merger were shaken out.  Other films, like Vast of Night, Extraction, The Old Guard, Rebecca, Radioactive, and Fantasy Island safely premiered on Netflix and Amazon Prime, with Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction standing out as the clear popular winner–the entire world needed some new entertainment and after what would only be the first of several months of shelter-at-home, it tentatively filled the void.

So our predictions for the year’s big genre films were flat wrong, every single one except Mulan was delayed to 2021, including Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Black Widow, No Time to Die, a new Fast & Furious, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, and superhero flicks Venom 2, Eternals, and MorbiusWonder Woman 1984 is expected to have a theatrical release by year end.  Altogether 35 of last year’s 85 movies previewed on our annual list are back again below, plus we found more than 35 new genre films we think will appeal to borg readers.

So what’s left and what’s new?

Grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2021.  Then compare the below list to our 2020 list, and look back to the 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list.  Last year we noticed studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services, and the pandemic only stepped up that migration.  Note:  Warner Bros. has reported it will issue its 2021 releases simultaneously on HBO Max.  Netflix has mostly dramas slated for 2021, but a few genre films are in pre-production, so expect a few surprises throughout the year.  Amazon Studios has fewer, most partnerships with Blumhouse Productions.

As we learned well this year, many of these films will have revised release dates, and even get pushed to 2022.

January

Mortal Kombat Based on the video game.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.  HBO Max.

Wrath of Man Next Jason Statham action flick.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.

The French Dispatch.  Wes Anderson and his familiar actors in new quirky film about journalists.  New!  January 28, 2021.

The DigA film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan.  January 29, 2021.  Netflix.

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Review by C,J, Bunce

With a brief pandemic year appearance in theaters that only netted box office receipts that were a third of the film’s costs, followed by a high-cost home release via Disney, at last Mulan has made it to the masses via home streaming platforms.  The welcome result: one of the best Disney live-action films in a long stream of remakes of classic Disney tales, and a truly inspiring story of heroism and girl power.  Performances by a top-notch cast deliver iconic, compelling characters, led by young actress Yifei Liu, director Niki Caro, and an elaborate production that will take audiences back 1,500 years to medieval China.  The effort delivers a strong message and a folk tale adaptation without a hitch, a film of sprawling scenery, martial arts action, and favorite Asian actors providing memorable performances.

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