Tag Archive: Netflix


Who knew audiences would be more excited about the next Netflix movie than whatever is coming to theaters?  Shelter at home is changing a lot of things, but one thing for certain is Netflix can hardly fill the ongoing demand this year for the next theatrical quality movie release.  Charlize Theron headlines what looks like Atomic Blonde meets Assassin’s Creed, with a pinch of Aeon Flux, Mad Max: Fury Road, 6 Underground, and Extraction in her next action movie, The Old GuardConsistently building on her last action hero performance to create the next, best action heroine, Theron’s new film is a mash-up of action and fantasy.

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It’s a graphic novel that can’t be easy to translate to either the big or small screens, yet the first episode of a new TNT television series gets off to a good start.  First a series of graphic novels we discussed five years ago here at borg, then a movie starring Chris Evans (reviewed here and discussed here), the futuristic, post-apocalypse universe of Snowpiercer is now here and the first episode wastes no time maneuvering its very allegorical existence into something intriguing.  Academy Award-winning actor Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Alita: Battle Angel, The Princess Bride) takes the baton from the movie cast’s Tilda Swinton in the leading female role, a different twist than you’ll expect if you’re familiar with the previous incarnations.  And though he’s not Chris Evans (who is?)–who starred in the film–male series lead Daveed Diggs (Ferdinand, Zootopia, Star Wars Resistance) jumps right into this insane, preposterous setting and gives it all to make you think it’s real.

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When my wife bought me the six seasons of Community I secretly wondered if she was trying to kill me–because I’d laughed so hard watching episodes of the show before I frequently thought I was going to pass out.  I hadn’t seen an episode when I watched their big panel at Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con in 2012, but since became a fan.  “Six seasons and a movie” was their mantra, and they almost made it.  We’ve seen no sign of a movie yet, especially with the success of Donald Glover (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Spider-Man: Homecoming), and ongoing rise in the careers and clashing schedules of Alison Brie (GLOW, BoJack Horseman), Ken Jeong (Magnum, PI, Scoob!), Jim Rash (The Descendants, Harley Quinn), Yvette Nicole Brown (Avengers: Endgame, Mom), Joel McHale (The X-Files, Stargirl), Gillian Jacobs (Love, Come Play), and Danny Pudi (Powerless, The Argument).  But then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and now many of our favorite creators and performers are bringing a full-on assault against isolation via podcasts and other online videos.  And it’s not a movie, but it is a welcome surprise: A table read of a classic episode of Community with the main cast is coming your way–with The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal, as a guest.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Thor’s gotta Thor.  In the first scene of the new Netflix action drama Extraction, we catch up with Chris Hemsworth in Australia jumping off a Brazil-esque cliff with the same nonchalance he applied to cut the head off of Thanos.  Here Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, an ex-soldier turned mercenary with nothing left to live for, taking on his next assignment–a suicide mission for anybody else that he accepts with that bravado the actor regularly taps into whether he’s saving a Starfleet ship in Star Trek (2009) or the Earth from aliens in Men in Black International.  This is another role perfectly suited to Hemsworth’s charm and humor, although the humor part is dialed back this round.

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altered-carbon-resleeved

Review by C.J. Bunce

Audiences have seen some great animated films in recent years, with movies upping the ante on technology and visual magic, whether in Ferdinand or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse or Spies in Disguise or Klaus.  Netflix’s new anime movie, a sequel to its live-action, futuristic, sci-fi hit Altered Carbon, takes animation and visual effects even further.  Altered Carbon: Resleeved is part Blade Runner 2049, part Marvel’s The Punisher (season two), and part Wu Assassins.  Live-action action sequences are rarely as thrilling as those choreographed in this film.

As with the live-action Altered Carbon, the inspiration from Syd Mead’s trademark futurism is all over this film, and that world looks just as stunning in anime form.  The storyboarding and layouts, the surprise screen angles, wipes, and character movements are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the details are at times life-like and three dimensional.  The story and execution is a vast improvement on the second season of the live-action show, which was a really good season of episodes to begin with.

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Two years after the end of season two we catch up with Takeshi Kovacs, resleeved and working a job for Mr. Tanaseda, who has him pursuing a girl named Holly, a tattoo artist with cybernetic eyes and pawn of the yakuza, who carries some critical secrets.  Working for CTAC is Gena, a badass agent carrying secrets, who clashes with Kovacs early on.  It’s two days from an ascension ceremony–the anointing of a new mob boss–and in that time Kovacs must figure out why Mr. Tanaseda has set him on this job.  The anime film, available with English subtitles or dubbed, has a new hotel and a new concierge named Ogai (voiced in the dubbed version by Chris Conner, who plays the concierge, Poe, and hotel manager in the live-action series).  Ogai is a holographic Japanese man loyal to the new boss, but fond of Holly.  Fans of the series will find his hotel to have equally exciting defensive feature’s as Poe’s hotel, The Raven.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What appeared via advance marketing like it was going to be another film from the back side of the video store rack or film school-level sci-fi movie actually ends up as an acceptable sci-fi/superhero B-movie.  Code 8, which just arrived on Netflix, began back in 2016 as a short film project by Canadian cousins Stephen Amell, famous as CW’s Arrow, and Robbie Amell, who played CW’s Firestorm.  The project then went on to accumulate nearly $3.5 million of crowd-funding to make this feature length film, from first time writer-director Jeff Chan.  Ambitious is a fitting description of the film, which has overall low production levels, yet at points it offers some quality sci-fi tech via android cops and superpowered humans.  But its best feature is the promising young lead, as the more popular Stephen Amell takes a backseat to his cousin, Robbie Amell (ARQ, The Tomorrow People), whose charm and authenticity have him upstaging everyone scene after scene, including his cousin.

Robbie Amell plays 26-year-old Connor Reed, one of a rare breed of superpowered humans in a near-present day alternate Earth, with the story set in the fictional Lincoln City, some 90 years into a world of X-Men-inspired superhumans, all with varying types of powers.  Connor is a Class-5 “electric” meaning he can wield incredible jolts of power to use as a carpenter or to defeat high-tech security in a heist taking the form of android cops.  Connor’s mother, played by the versatile Kari Matchett (A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Leverage, Wonderfalls), is dying, and so he makes the decision to use his powers for evil to earn tens of thousands of dollars in gang money for a needed operation.  Class struggle is a theme handled here similar to District 9 and Elysium, with the discrimination beats of AlienNation and Bright, and the superpowers presented here bring out the vibe of Brightburn (minus the horror).

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The town has its own gangsters, centered around a drug called Psyke, including a mid-level, up-and-comer played by Stephen Amell named Garrett, who takes on Connor when he needs the extra power (literally) for a job.  The real-life cousins’ chemistry is instant, and Connor joins a crew of characters, one with the power to melt metal played by Locke & Key’s Laysla De Oliveira, a deaf superhuman with incredible strength played by Vlad Alexis (X-Men: Apocalypse), and a young woman with the power to heal played by Kyla Kane (Channel Zero).  Levels of crime lords mean power plays, and that makes everything messy for everyone.  Crime requires crimefighters, which sets the stage for the second best part of the movie, The Fast and the Furious’s Sung Kang with his always cool vibe, this time as the key cop on the case.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Timing of the debut of a horror genre series on Friday the 13th isn’t that much of a clever stretch, unless your series is about a plague and it’s launched on this particular Friday the 13th.  It’s a shame that with most people staying home there won’t be a water cooler to circle around to discuss Netflix’s latest and greatest release.  That’s the second season of Kingdom, the fantastic, epic tale of villagers in medieval 16th century South Korea dealing with a deadly plague.  Check out my review of the first season here at borg.  I am a bit envious of those who get to watch the first and second season together, because there are subtle hints in the first season that will have a greater impact if you remember them as the many twists and surprises are unveiled.  “Ripped from the headlines,” about a zombie series?  Who would have thought that was possible?

And yet it is.  The first strange irony is that the production was South Korea’s first international release via Netflix, with its topic mirroring people from differering statuses coping with a sweeping virus, government incompetence and mismanagement, and the disparate treatment of economic classes.  Unprepared for what lies ahead, a king is infected with a plague that renders him uncapable of leading.  A group of thug-like mobsters takes the opportunity to position their candidate to take the throne–only he is not ready to lead.  In fact, he doesn’t even exist–yet.  The actual person best able to lead–the rightful heir to the throne, a prince played in classic Shakespearean stateliness by Ju Ji-hoon–has been pushed aside and exiled.  He soon learns his people are threatened by a novel virus–a virus that restores the dead, but not as their former selves.  That was in the first season.  In the new season we learn that the truth behind the virus is even stranger than we could have expected.  As a physician (played by the excellent Doona Bae) struggles to find a cure, the heir to the kingdom attempts to save his people and return to seize the throne from the young, ruthless queen (played by Kim Hye-jun), who is at least partly to blame for his plight.

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The result is a second season that matches the success of the first–the best zombie show you’ve ever seen, while also seizing the opportunity to bring a certain gravity along by steeping the story in a historical context.  And now that many have lived a few days with the threat of a deadly virus at bay, you may find the series takes on its own different, unexpected, heavy level of drama.  You might agree the nature of the threat in the series makes for the least “fantasy” version of a zombie story you’ve yet seen on film or television.  Kingdom is as much science fiction as fantasy, but it’s like that science fiction you’ve seen from Stan Lee superhero creations, and all his character origin stories resulting from misapplied science.  You’ll also find plenty of heroes and villains.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever longed for the easygoing action movies from the 1970s like Smokey and the Bandit and Every Which Way But Loose, you may want to check out the new Netflix movie Spenser Confidential Like those films it has the big screen leading actor in Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job, Shooter, Ted), playing the familiar Robert P. Parker character Spenser, the amiable co-star with Winston Duke (Black Panther, Us) as partner Hawk, the mouthy lead actress in Iliza Shlesinger (Instant Family, Forever 31) as Spenser’s ex Cissy, the snarky elder voice in Alan Arkin (Argo, Gattaca, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Sesame Street) as Spenser and Hawk’s mentor, and even the cute animal friend presence via a friendly hound dog (that’s Pearl).  And a cool ride (here, a primo 1984 Buick Riviera).

Just like with the big screen movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (reviewed here at borg), viewers should forget about what they’ve read in the novels or experienced in the 1980s TV series starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks.  This is a trademark Mark Wahlberg movie, and he’s in familiar territory–Boston–and Wahlberg’s own real-life stint in jail brings a certain authenticity to his performance as a tough guy with a big mouth who can hold is own against much bigger thugs, emerging from the slammer.  Wahlberg’s character has bits of the roles he’s taken on in The Departed (cop), Shooter (strategist), The Italian Job (planner), The Perfect Storm (driven), 2 Guns (drugs), The Other Guys (buddy cop), even Ted (Bostonian), and the film comes from director Peter Berg, who audiences have seen team up with Wahlberg before in Mile 22, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, and Lone Survivor.

Wahlberg’s ex-cop is a good guy who must act when he sees someone in trouble, which in turn gets him into trouble.  The story in Spenser Confidential is neither complex not action-packed.  But Arkin and Shlesinger add some humor to what is very much an extended episode of early 1980s prime time television.  It has the same quality that makes us keeping coming back for more in the reboot Magnum PI series and the new Stumptown series–actors we like, characters we like, and an easy mystery to solve.

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It’s the kind of movie worth returning to the theater to see.  Sean Connery had The Hunt for Red October to represent the long-time James Bond actor showing that even with gray hairs he was as great a leading man as any actor–ever–in a dramatic role.  With 2017’s political thriller The Foreigner, Pierce Brosnan, with his own grey beard of the Marko Ramius variety, at last got to prove he, too, had talent well beyond his work as Bond.  And audiences have never seen Jackie Chan in a role as he played in The Foreigner, delivering the kind of performance that should have earned him Oscar consideration.  It’s been 2.5 years, and at last The Foreigner has made its way to Netflix for a wider audience to marvel at these actors’ performances and David Marconi’s top-notch script in the vein of Tom Clancy and Ken Follett, based on a novel by Stephen Leather.

The Foreigner features the return to the big screen of the two maturing lead actors: 63-year-old international martial arts action star Jackie Chan in his first major English film role since 2010’s remake of The Karate Kid, and 64-year-old international action star Pierce Brosnan, who, despite several smaller roles hadn’t headlined a major hit since his last stint as Bond in 2002’s Die Another Day.  But The Foreigner is more–it’s a triumph–for the actors and for the action genre, providing a showcase of acting talent supported by a solid story that doesn’t miss a step from beginning to end.  What was marketed like it would be another entry in the nature of Transporter or Taken, it’s actually a great follow-up to Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger.  Timely, riveting, and satisfying on every front, we recommended it here at borg as it arrived in theaters as Oscar-worthy.

Both stars have an entire portfolio of performances they tap into, that they use to foster believability in their characters.  Jackie Chan has already shown audiences he has the physicality to portray an ex-special forces soldier with brains and savvy, part MacGyver and part Rambo, although it typically accompanies his trademark smile and a film full of laughs.  With his grueling physical feats in film after film, he must be the hardest working actor anywhere.  But in The Foreigner we see Chan convey a full spectrum of emotions as he portrays Mr. Quan, a happy, proud father who is devastated and left to seek out the people behind his daughter’s murder.  He’s immensely believable and gives audiences one of the best revenge stories in decades.  Think of the days of Chuck Norris fighting back in a decade of “payback” roles–but Chan brings an added level of authenticity and sincerity.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Only mere seconds into Farmageddonthe next big production from frequent Oscar-winner and stop-motion pioneer Aardman Animations–and viewers will feel the pangs of their favorite classic Steven Spielberg movies, complete with a magical score that has all the beats of a John Williams-esque adventure, thanks to composer Tom Howe.  This is a return to the lovable Aardman underdog Shaun the Sheep, star of several series and films who we last saw on the big screen in 2015’s Shaun the Sheep movie.  But this time our lovable wooly hero encounters an alien visitor and the resulting effort by directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan with writers Jon Brown, Mark Burton, and Nick Park may be Aardman’s most effective, most lovable, and most far-reaching crowd-pleaser to date.  A direct-to-Netflix presentation, it also stands a chance at being a contender for best full-length animated film at next year’s Oscars.

Shaun the Sheep steps in for Spielberg’s Elliott in this modern close encounter with a lovable extra-terrestrial named Lu-la, so adorable that she may even make Baby Yoda go “awww.”  The impeccable stop-motion animation viewers expect from Aardman is here, as well as the cast of endearing anthropomorphic farm animals, but the heartfelt story, unthinkably successful chemistry between clay characters, exquisite visual effects, lighting, and cinematography, and an emotional score make for a triumph of sci-fi and family storytelling, proving a common language is not necessary to understand relationships between someone that might be a bit different.  Here that’s a sheep and an alien, but the story is effective enough that kids (and attentive adults) will apply the message to everyone.  In fact, Aardman proves language isn’t necessary at all–the story is told entirely without spoken English dialogue, relying on expressive visuals, animal voices, and sound effects, making it truly internationally (or intergalactically) enjoyable.

This fun new sci-fi/fantasy adventure begins with a dog guarding his sheep–a motley but crafty band who live at the farm including Shaun–followed by a great homage to Looney Toons classic barnyard antics as the show establishes the farmyard bond between sheep and dog and dog and man.  The man and dog– The Farmer and Bitzer–show Aardman going back to its roots, what first made the filmmaker internationally known through its award-winning shorts.  Wallace and Gromit could be cousins to this man and dog duo, and anchoring the film with the ensemble here again (as with past Shaun stories) instead of going off in a different direction was a wise choice.  It takes a special combination to merge classic animation with expert laugh-out-loud comedy situations, and the creators at Aardman are the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the spirit and creativity of Jim Henson.  The story is sweet and can appeal to a variety of audiences.  The older crowd can try to spot all the influences, and the young at heart can marvel at Farmageddon′s sheer joyous presentation.

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