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Tag Archive: Netflix


Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s the largest direct to television film yet made, the $90 million new Christmas weekend Netflix-only release Bright.  And it’s a welcome addition to the world of mash-ups.  It’s a fantasy, action, police procedural.  It’s a Will Smith movie and a high-octane Assault on Precinct 13 and Training Day-inspired shoot-’em-up.  It’s The Lord of the Rings meets Adam-12.  And it’s also like a new film in the Alien Nation series or an episode of the short-lived Syfy series Defiance.  The biggest downfall is that the opportunities for new stories within its massive world building merits more than just a one-shot story.

Joel Edgerton is fantastic as an Orc LAPD officer named Nick Jakoby who’s partnered with a human cop named Daryl Ward, played by Will Smith.  It’s a parallel world where the past 2,000 years of Earth history have been blended with the trope world of classic high fantasy stories.  Evil little fairies annoy and harass and cause mischief.  Elves are refined and tend to run everything.  Dragons fly unassuming across the night sky.  Orcs are the dregs of society and humans are stuck somewhere in the middle.  A Bright can be of any race, and federal agents responsible for magic are attempting to make certain a certain evil Bright is not reunited with a magic wand–an event that could return a dark power to annihilate the planet.

When Daryl and Nick pick up a Bright carrying a magic wand, gangs of humans and Orcs will stop at nothing to possess the wand–a rare object that can grant its owner any and every wish.  But only a Bright can handle a wand, and like the One Ring from The Hobbit series, the temptation to take the wand is great–too great for some poor saps without self-control.  The movie moves into a full-length action chase scene, with Daryl and Nick mirroring the cops in a very similar situation from Alien Nation.  And also like Alien Nation, the subtext is a reflection of all of the ills of society.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Superhero adaptations seemed to experience a coming of age this year.  After one appearance after another as a Wolverine fans all expected to see, Hugh Jackman finally gave us something entirely new.  Gritty and real, Jackman’s swan song as the ageless superhero in Logan took comic book movies into an incredible new place–a modern classic, a drama with depth and an unparalleled fierceness.  The DC Universe continues its consistently entertaining productions on the CW Network.  And although this year’s new FX series Legion succeeded in telling a different kind of superhero story, its convoluted and frenetic storytelling and visuals often felt like an indecipherable muddle, and the eagerly awaited Marvel team-up Defenders just didn’t gel.  Then comes Netflix’s unlikely comic book adaptation series The Punisher.

It may be less of a trick to take a lesser known character and make him or her approachable, and easier to foul up a well-known commodity, but The Punisher provides engaging drama and compelling storytelling for TV watchers whether or not you’re familiar with its source material.  And its one of the finest examples of the new wave of superhero TV–not that The Punisher aka Frank Castle portrayed by the craggy Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) has any superpowers.  He is somewhere near the Batman or Green Arrow superhero type, an on-again, off-again anti-hero with special forces–and MacGyver-esque–mad skills, he is a vigilante bent on avenging his wife and kids’ murders (refer to his origin in the Daredevil series) and eliminating those that ruined his life.  Or sometimes those that just get in his way.  Bernthal possessed the mystique of Roddy Piper’s put-upon everyman construction worker in They Live.  Bernthal’s Castle is brutal, angry, tormented, tortured, unrelenting.

He was counterbalanced in the series’ first season by soldier/opportunist-turned-CEO Billy Russo, played convincingly by Ben Barnes (Westworld, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), who rises to the top of his list, a painful result for Castle since they were practically brothers in the squad where Castle’s life was turned upside down.  Castle is practically a walking dead man, he has nothing to live for, nothing good to look forward to, no purpose left that he can discern.  He’s believed to be dead, living a miserable life of PTSD flashbacks and recurring dreams of his lost family.  His methods of revenge break all societal mores, yet actor Jon Berthal’s phenomenal portrayal of grit and resolve make his character easy to root for.  Even despite the real-world violence he dishes up along the way.

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Wrapping up this spectacular and anniversary-filled year of the best of classic genre films will be a Fathom Events screening of Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s The Dark Crystal.  Another member of the class of 1982, this one slipped in during the holiday season, and it’s anniversary screening will be heading to a theater near you in February.  It’s been an unprecedented year that was almost a weekly opportunity to see the best nostalgic trips into the past, with 1982 films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Blade Runner, and The Princess Bride celebrated its 30th anniversary, while Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrating its 40th in theaters, and audiences in Europe attended screenings celebrating the whopping 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It seems Disney refrained from partaking in the big screen retrospectives: no Star Wars (40) or Tron (35) anniversary theatrical screenings were to be found, but maybe it’ll happen in five years for the next benchmark year.  But it ultimately didn’t matter–this year of classic movies couldn’t be beat.

We recently revisited Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal with a groundbreaking look at the film and co-directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, a new deep-dive into the film reviewed here at borg.com.  According to Henson’s daughter Cheryl Henson, The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson’s most personal work.  This is a great time to have The Dark Crystal fresh in our memory, as we expect to see a 10-episode Netflix series hopefully by the end of 2018.  The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance does not yet have a release date.

Yes, we’re just as excited as Fizzgig–The Dark Crystal was the reigning favorite fantasy film of all time for many before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings came along.  The ambitious story of The Dark Crystal takes place in the world of Thra, which has been torn by a fracture in a great magic crystal, which caused two races to be created: the tranquil Mystics, or urRu, and the evil Skeksis, who all but destroyed Thra’s native species, the Gelflings.  The Mystics have summoned Jen, one of the last surviving Gelflings, to find the lost piece of the crystal.  The quest sends him on an unbelievable adventure that can restore harmony and peace to Thra.  The film features performances by Jim Henson as Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick), Kathryn Mullen as the Gelfling Kira (voiced by Lisa Maxwell), Frank Oz as the astronomer Aughra (voiced by Billie Whitelaw), and Dave Goelz as Fizzgig (voice of Percy Edwards), with Henson, Oz, and Goelz also performing as the Skeksis.  Kiran Shah also performs the body of Jen, Kira, and Aughra.  With a screenplay by Dave Odell (The Muppet Show), The Dark Crystal also features a majestic score by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Labyrinth).  Along with Yoda creator Frank Oz, the film was produced by Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all, let’s be clear:  For goodness sake don’t read anything anywhere about this new season of Stranger Things if you haven’t seen it yet.  Pin this and come back when you have.

There are many problems with shows that drop at once as with the Netflix original series (other channels have done this as well).  For simple discussion purposes, whether you’re on social media, whether you’re a critic or commentator, or whatever, you don’t quite know when it’s time to delve into a discussion of a show.  The other thing is that from a cultural standpoint, how many times have you defined a period of your life with reference to a season of a television series?  I grew up as a kid with the networks and a black and white television, followed by the introduction of cable channels and color TV sets.  Much of my memory can be tied to the Magnum, p.i. and Simon & Simon years, the Buffy years, the Voyager years, the Chuck years, etc.  With one-drop seasons that you gobble up in one bite versus savoring over a few months, that kind of life reference may drift away.  Is it important?  Not really, but it’s mildly interesting that we may be in some kind of transitional phase, from a pop culture standpoint.

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Still here?  Let’s chat about Stranger Things, Season Two.

As a lover of all things retro, and an uber fan of John Carpenter movies, I thought the first season of Stranger Things was a great first season.  But I wasn’t convinced it was the real deal–that the Duffer Brothers were going to be able to pull it off again in a second season.  After the anticipation and wait, I couldn’t have been happier with the result–except for one factor, but more on that later.  In fact I think Season Two was better than Season One.  Probably not lots better, but enough that I had more fun with the show this round.

So what did I love about Season Two?

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smith-and-friend

We first previewed Bright last winter here at borg.com.  It’s a police procedural.  It’s high fantasy.  It’s even an urban fantasy.  And it’s a supernatural action movie.  In Bright, the December release starring Will Smith, we get to see a mash-up of the science fiction classic Alien Nation and the short-lived Karl Urban series Almost Human.  This time the lead cop, played by Will Smith, is not partners with an alien but an Orc.  That’s an Orc of Middle Earth fame played by Joel Edgerton, the co-star of last year’s brilliant film Midnight Special (and you may know him as young Uncle Owen from the Star Wars prequels).  It has the look of John Carpenter’s They Live and Attack on Precinct 13.

So get ready for fantasy–not science fiction, other than the parallel Earth–a Los Angeles where Humans, Orcs, Fairies, and Elves have lived and co-existed throughout our history.  It’s good ol’ classic fantasy, so there’s an epic quest for a talisman–a wand–a powerful and illegal wand, and the two LAPD cops are searching for it as they protect a female Elf.  And Will Smith gets to wield a sword.

ward-sword

Bright is directed by David Ayer (director of Suicide Squad, Fury, Street Kings, and writer for Training Day, The Fast and the Furious) and written by Max Landis (Victor Frankenstein, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), with co-stars Noomi Rapace (Alien: Covenant, Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Edgar Ramirez (The Girl on the Train, Domino), Dawn Olivieri (Heroes), and Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad).  

Here’s the latest trailer for Bright: 

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Don’t those pumpkins look like they have seen better days?  This weekend Netflix released the final poster (above) for the second season of Stranger Things, on its way to Netflix this Friday.  Last year’s blend of 1980s sci-fi and horror returns one year later, and as the poster suggests, a focus of season two will be young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who was absent for most of the first season, sucked away into the “Upside Down.”  And Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown) looks… angry.

Netflix also added two new features on the Web to help fans of the show get ready for the season premiere.

A retro-style free Stranger Things video game is available now for download.  You can find it on both Google Play here and via iTunes here.  Here’s the description from game creator BonusXP:  It’s 1984 all over again. Stranger Things: The Game is an action adventure game true to the games our heroes would have played back in the day.  Explore Hawkins and its surroundings. See your favorite locations like Mirkwood Forest and Hawkins Lab.  Uncover exciting areas you’ve never seen before!  Solve puzzles with the unique abilities of each character.  Lucas can nail anything with his Wrist Rocket.  Nancy has a whole set of bats to swing this time.  Collect all the Eggos and Gnomes you can lay your hands on.  You never know what they might unlock.

You can look forward to some new, driving beats, along with some haunting sounds from the Stranger Things season 2 soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.  As with last year’s soundtrack, the duo provides funky techno arrangements in the style of John Carpenter.

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iBoy is a 2017 Netflix original movie that may appeal to fans of Unbreakable and Attack the Block starring Bill Milner (Dunkirk, X-Men: First Class) as Tom, a teenager in London readying for exams, who is friends with Lucy, played by Maisie Williams (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) who he has been infatuated with but never asked out.  After he finally works up the nerve he arrives at her apartment to find masked thugs attacking Lucy’s family and raping her.  His instinct is to run and call the police, but they shoot him in the head as he’s running away and they leave Tom for dead.

A dark and serious film with a sci-fi twist, iBoy is based on the 2010 novel by Kevin Brooks.  The film does not stretch much beyond its title, but it does offer up a British teenage thriller where the two survivors (Lucy of rape and Tom of the hole in his skull) grow together to help each other with their trauma, using sci-fi as a storytelling device.  The sci-fi element makes Tom a superhero in the realm of Bruce Willis’s masked vigilante in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable or Rami Malek’s hacker Elliot in Mr. ROBOT.  When the bullet hit Tom’s head it went through his smart phone, leaving bits of the phone technology in his brain permanently, too dangerous to be surgically removed.  Those bits soon allow Tom to tap into the electrical power and communications grid and he learns quickly how to harness his power to avenge the pain caused to Lucy, who stays home from school and doesn’t want to leave her apartment.  But Maisie Williams’ Lucy gets her own opportunity for revenge once the higher steps of the criminal underworld ladder begin to hone in on Tom as the mastermind that is putting them in jail one by one.

More drama than thriller, the film offers up a fairly simple plot, yet those intrigued by the life of teens in a big European city in the realm of Attack the Block’s street thugs will see that drugs and guns cause trouble for inner-city kids everywhere.  The visual sci-fi element–Tom pulling data from people and machines from all across the city–is nicely done, and the production overall is something better than a typical made-for TV film.

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Of course the big highlight of October will not be a film at all, but the premiere of the entire second season of Stranger Things on Netflix, coming October 27.  But Netflix is also finally adding the time travel/horror/coming of age Donnie Darko to its streaming service, coming October 11.  Lifetime will premiere its remake of Disney’s The Watcher in the Woods, starring Anjelica Huston, on October 21.  Fans of the classic Universal Monsters will get their fix this month from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) throughout the month.  And Freeform (formerly ABC Family) has the modern classics and “family” viewing horror films including animated and mainstream films like Monsters, Inc., Frankenweenie, The Addams Family, and Sleepy Hollow.  You’ll find a run of Boris Karloff movies today on TCM, a Stephen King marathon on AMC on October 14, and a Tim Burton marathon on Freeform on October 23.

AMC does not post its television schedule more than two weeks in advance, so you’ll need to check your local listings for the annual AMC FearFest, but we do know it runs from October 23-31, and usually features a marathon each day, so you can probably expect a day each of films from Halloween, Freddy and Jason, Chucky, and Leprechaun films.  This year’s FearFest includes the following horror films: Halloween (1978), Halloween 4, Halloween 5, Halloween 6, Halloween H2O, Halloween II (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Freddy vs. Jason, Friday the 13th Part IX: Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Child’s Play, Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky, Annabelle, Thinner, Dreamcatcher, Dawn of the Dead (2004), Land of the Dead (2005), House of the Dead 1&2, House on Haunted Hill (1999), Return to House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax (2005), Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Army of Darkness, Van Helsing, Lake Placid, Slither, and the Leprechaun franchise (last year’s Fest included Leprechaun 1-4).  Syfy Channel and Spike listings are posted below through October 17–listings are not yet available beyond that.  Chiller–the year-round horror network, carries its standard slasher fare, plus some better modern horror classics this month.  Chiller’s listings are reported only about two weeks out, so listings below are through October 14.  Spike begins some good Halloween classics on October 13.  Syfy is hosting its 31 Days of Halloween event again this year.

Other Netflix films coming this month related to the horror genre include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ghost Patrol, 13 Demons, and Cult of Chucky, now available, Stephen King’s The Mist season one (October 24), and the bloody Quentin Tarentino Western The Hateful Eight (October 25).  TCM is highlighting horror on Tuesdays this month.  Freeform’s annual 13 Nights of Halloween kicks off October 19.  Starz Encore Suspense is another way to stream Halloween films this month.  Their inventory includes Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, Death Proof, Don’t Breathe, Rosemary’s Baby, The Funhouse, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, and entries from Final Destination, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Children of the Corn, Hellraiser, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Grudge franchises–and horror and suspense films are part of the channel’s daily schedule here.

Definitely cable channels and Netflix will have plenty for every taste and all ages this month, and this is before all the channels have published their end of month schedules.  So start with today, browse the selections and set your DVR now.  All times listed below are Central Time.

Tuesday, October 3
1:00A  Island of Lost Souls (1932) TCM – Charles Laughton, Bela Legosi
2:30  The Black Cat (1934) TCM – Boris Karloff, Bela Legosi (Edgar Allan Poe adaptation)
3:45  The Invisible Man (1933) TCM – Claude Rains
10:00  The Creature from the Black Lagoon – Starz Suspense
11:00  The Hollow – Syfy
12:00P  Pulp Fiction – AMC
1:00  Hollow Man 2 – Syfy
3:00  Hollow Man – Syfy
4:00  Old 37 – Chiller
5:30  Exorcism of Emily Rose – Syfy
6:00  All Cheerleaders Die – Chiller
7:00  Frankenstein (1931) TCM – Boris Karloff
8:00  Apartment 143 – Chiller
8:30  Bride of Frankenstein (1935) TCM – Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester
9:00  Drag Me to Hell – Syfy
10:00  The Mummy (1932) TCM – Boris Karloff
10:00  Old 37 – Chiller
11:00  The Mothman Prophesies – Syfy
11:30  The Wolfman (1941) TCM – Lon Chaney, Jr.

Wednesday, October 4
12:00A  All Cheerleaders Die – Chiller
1:30  Scream of the Banshee – Syfy
2:00  Apartment 143 – Chiller
5:30  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Syfy
8:00  The Mothman Prophesies – Syfy
10:30  Dead Still – Syfy
12:30  The Exorcism of Emily Rose – Syfy
3:00P  Drag Me to Hell – Syfy
4:00  Fender Bender – Chiller
5:00  Resident Evil: Afterlife – Syfy
6:00  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – El Rey
6:00  The Boy – Chiller
7:00  Insidious: Chapter 3 – Syfy
8:00  Wrath – Chiller
10:00  Fender Bender – Chiller
11:00  Dead Still – Syfy

Thursday, October 5
12:00A  The Boy – Chiller
1:00  Ghost Storm – Syfy
2:00  Wrath – Chiller
3:30  Silence of the Lambs – El Rey
6:00  Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Syfy
8:30  Holes – AMC
9:00  Ghost Storm – Syfy
11:00  Silent Hill – Syfy
11:30P  Total Recall – AMC
1:30  Resident Evil: Afterlife – Syfy
3:30  Insidious: Chapter 3 – Syfy
4:00  ATM – Chiller
5:30  Blade Runner – Syfy
6:00  Indigenous – Chiller
8:00  John Dies at the End – Chiller
10:00  Blade Runner – Syfy
10:00 ATM – Chiller

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We saved the best for last: Netflix’s full trailer for Stranger Things, Season 2.  If you thought the trailer previewed earlier here at borg.com for Ready Player One didn’t provide an adequate 1980s retro fix, then you’re in store for something awesome.  Dragon’s Lair!  Vincent Price and Thriller?  A nicely creepy vibe from The Sixth Sense, only here, “I see Demogorgons.”

The cast from season one is all here, plus some new.  At Hall H today at San Diego Comic-Con creators The Duffer Brothers, and returning cast Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), David Harbour (Chief Hopper), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), and Joe Keery (Steve Harrington), were joined by new cast members Sean Astin as Bob, Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens, and Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink, as two siblings.

Wait no longer, check out all the great 1980s vibes, John Carpenter and Stephen King style, with the next Stranger Things trailer, straight from Comic-Con today:

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