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Tag Archive: Netflix


  

Among the best of the free swag at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was scoring a copy of the ashcan* issue that previewed this month’s new Stranger Things comic book series from Dark Horse Comics.  The series will be published in four issues, all beginning this month.  This year’s go-to comic book writer Jody Houser is writer on the series, with artwork by Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, and Lauren Affe.

Not only is this new story retro in every way like the series, Houser takes us back inside the events of Season One, following Will and his journey through the Upside Down.  Don’t worry–the rest of the kids are part of the story, too.

Look for four covers for the first issue, created by Aleksi Briclot, Kyle Lambert, and Rafael Albuquerque, with a variant series for all four issues with nifty retro-Scholastic book order-style, tattered back-pocket paperback-inspired covers, created by Patrick Satterfield.

  

Now you can download the entire 16-page preview issue from the publisher–free!  Then check out our first look at all the cover artwork for Issues #1, #2, and #3, including covers from artists Greg Ruth, Steve Morris, Matthew Taylor, Grzergorz Domaradzki, and more (including a brilliant M.C. Escher-inspired creation), courtesy of Dark Horse.

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Filmed on location in Scotland, a 14th century biopic is coming to Netflix in November.  Chris Pine is turning from Jack Ryan and Captain Kirk to Robert the Bruce, the legendary King of Scots, a national hero of Scotland and one of the most famous characters of Scotland’s history, revered to this day for regaining Scotland’s independence from England in 1314.  Netflix released its first trailer for the film, Outlaw King, which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, and see a limited theatrical release before airing on the streaming service.

If you think it looks like Braveheart, that makes sense.  The films cover common territory and events–Angus Macfadyen played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart opposite Mel Gibson’s William Wallace.  Wallace will not be a key player in Outlaw King.  This film covers the low points in Robert’s battles during 1298 to 1306 and his initial victory against England.  Spoiler?  Nope, you can’t spoil an event in the history books that happened 700 years ago.

Director David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) returns to direct Pine in this story based on actual events, which also stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Kick-Ass), Florence Pugh (The Commuter), Stephen Dillane (Darkest Hour, Game of Thrones), Tony Curran (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World), Alastair Mackenzie (Monarch of the Glen), James Cosmo (Shetland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Braveheart), Callan Mulvey (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Sam Spruell (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Snow White and the Huntsman), and a large Scottish supporting cast and production team.

Get your kilt.  Here’s the first trailer for Chris Pine in Outlaw King:

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In three weeks we’ll see the return of Danny Rand to Netflix, continuing the ongoing Marvel television universe we last saw in this summer’s excellent sophomore season of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  Finn Jones’s martial arts master and corporate exec Danny Rand–the Immortal Iron Fist–returns in season two of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Netflix just released its first trailer for the season, providing a glimpse at what fans of the Marvel franchise can expect.  More action is takeaway No. 1.

The first season of Marvel’s Iron Fist was a bit rough after a dark season of Daredevil, a spectacular first season of Jessica Jones, and a knockout first season of Luke Cage.  Compared to the other series it approached its origin character with a slowly building story, with co-lead Colleen Wing, played by Jessica Henwick, carrying most of the emotional and dramatic excitement through the season.  A heavily corporate boardroom plot with siblings Joy and Ward Meachum (played by Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey) didn’t help matters.  Not even the inclusion of genre-favorite David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) could lift the ho-hum plot.  And the parallels in Iron Fist and CW’s Arrow were plentiful starting with the similarity of the leads.  Marvel’s The Defenders then brought together Rand, Cage, Jones, and Daredevil’s Matt Murdock, but when the characters even acknowledged they didn’t want to be a team that projected to viewers a team-up that wasn’t quite ready.

So can Iron Fist re-engage this season?  Star Trek and Men in Black III’s Alice Eve appears briefly in the trailer as supervillain Typhoid Mary.  Mike Colter and Finn Jones’ brief team-up as the classic Power Man and Iron Fist hinted at something fans would love to see much more of.  Although we don’t see Colter in this first trailer we do see Simone Missick’s Misty Knight will at least return for an episode–something to look forward to.  Fans of G.I. Joe won’t be able to resist comparing the conflict between that series’ Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to Danny Rand and this season’s rival Davos aka Steel Serpent, played by the returning Sacha Dhawan.

Take a look at this first look at Season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The right mix of writing, acting, art direction, and music come together in Orbiter 9, a direct-to-Netflix Spanish film that really has it all.  Like the critically-acclaimed Midnight Special, saying too much about the plot will give away too much of what is compelling about this film.  But you can be sure to find a tense piece of science fiction derived from those classic tales of great writers of the past like Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Philip K. Dick.  It’s a tale of future Earth where Earthlings have ravaged the planet, so, like recent sci-fi entries Passengers and the Lost in Space reboot, the only chance for humans is to embark on long voyages to distant worlds.

Clara Lago (The Commuter, The Librarians, LEX) masterfully plays Helena, a young woman left on board a spaceship heading from Earth to a distant colony who encounters an engineer named Álex, coming to repair the ship’s oxygen system, played by actor Álex González (X-Men: First Class).  We learn from a video image Helena is re-watching that her parents left her alone three years ago when the oxygen system broke down–their math showed that with Helena flying alone the oxygen could still get her to Celeste safely.  Raised on the ship since birth, she has never met another human.  She is diligent in her daily rituals, including exercise, with a determination to complete her mission prompted by her parents’ sacrifice.  But after Álex’s arrival, everything changes.

More believable than prior visions of the future in this sub-genre (Passengers, Moon, the Cloverfield series), Orbiter 9 may pull its tale in part from classic Greek sacrifice mythology or closed-room mysteries like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, and wrestles with the limits of sacrifice, for family or others–again, a concept addressed in many past sci-fi stories, Star Trek in particular (think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Suddenly Human” in Star Trek: The Next Generation and “Child’s Play” from Star Trek Voyager).  Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?  Orbiter 9 attacks this question in many surprising ways.  And unlike many a recent sci-fi film, it’s story belongs in a full feature format like this–it’s not just another short story dragged out to fit a movie-length format.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest big-budget movie that has arrived at Netflix could have been on par with prior Netflix movies The Cloverfield Paradox or Bright.  These are science fiction movies that have something to offer viewers, yet they probably would disappoint most if you paid to see them in the theater.  As much as the marketing for these Netflix films is trying to convince subscribers these are the “real deal,” the new sci-fi movie Extinction brings the discussion home again.  The Cloverfield Paradox had a broad, fairly well-known cast and significant production values.  Bright relied on the charisma of star Will Smith with a solid performance from Joel Edgerton working through some hefty prosthetic make-up.  So they had that minimum quality for first-out-of-the gate films for newcomer movie house Netflix.  But despite the well-known genre star cast of Extinction, the latest Netflix sci-fi movie just isn’t strong enough.  Remember the rack of B-movie sci-fi films at the old movie rental stores?  Sadly, that’s where this one would have been filed.

Michael Peña plays the father of two girls in a future Earth.  He’s having problems dealing with violent nightmares that are too real to merely be in his mind.  His wife, played by Lizzy Caplan, and their friends, all think he’s crazy.  When an invasion on par with War of the Worlds arrives in the middle of a dinner party, the father attempts to use the bits he can recall from the dreams to keep his kids and wife alive, and try to understand the menace approaching from the skies.  Peña and Caplan are not given enough to do, not enough to make us want to cheer them on, as director Ben Young drags the audience through very carefully selected architectural layouts, platforms, pathways, futuristic buildings, all slowly panning and following people walking, doing mundane things that people do.  For an entire hour nothing happens.  Luke Cage’s Mike Colter plays Peña’s boss, and when hell breaks loose you get the feeling that roles once owned by Keith David can now be handed over to Colter, as Colter becomes that take-charge leader.   But his scenes are few.  The standout performance in the film is by British actor Lex Shrapnel (K:19: The Widowmaker, Captain America: The First Avenger) who steps in to assist the family after the first barrage.  His performance brings some much-needed life, albeit too late.  But the actors just aren’t enough to save the film.

You can’t blame the cast for this one.  The slogging story doesn’t gain any momentum until the last 30 minutes, and then it must rely on a gotcha to even get viewers’ attention to stay around for the last act.  The film probably suffers from a young director and an unsalvageable script by the Oscar-nominated writer of the similarly thin and derivative screenplay for Arrival, Eric Heisserer, among others.  And it lacks a much-needed sci-fi or action flick musical score–the one thing that might have given some energy or passion to the first hour (The Nelson Brothers are listed as composers, but someone must have edited out most of their music).  At only an hour and 35 minutes, the movie drags to feel like a full 2 hours, yet the thin story could have been told in a 20 minute episode of a show like Black Mirror.  Worst of all, Extinction is devoid of any humor–an essential element of the best tense sci-fi action thrillers.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s such a strange thing to see over and over.  Whether it’s Broadchurch, Marchlands, Lightfields, Thirteen, The Missing, or Requiem, the British television studios can’t stop making series based on the story of a missing child.  And it’s not just the Brits that can’t get over the genre.  Americans tend to do it with a supernatural bent, in shows like Twin Peaks, Stranger Things, or Riverdale.  But finally they may have got one right, compelling characters, a solid mystery with twists, turns, and surprises, and the missing factor of most series in the genre, a satisfying ending.  That’s Harlan Coben’s ten-part series now streaming on Netflix called The Five.

Smartly directed by Mark Tonderai, who has directed episodes of TV series including Doctor Who, Black Lightning, Gotham, Time After Time, and Twelve Monkeys, The Five takes the story of a five-year-old who disappeared on an outing with his older brother and his three friends, and turns it into something completely fresh and compelling.  Twenty years later in modern day England, the DNA of the missing boy is found at the crime scene of a murder of a local woman.  The news upends the lives of the missing boy’s brother, a lawyer and part time P.I. played by Tom Cullen (Orphan Black, Downton Abbey), his separated parents played by Geraldine James (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Maloney (Mr. Selfridge, Henry V), and his three friends: a cop who is the son of the detective on the original case played by O-T Fagbenle (Doctor Who, The Handmaid’s Tale), a doctor who has returned after years in the States played by Sarah Solemani (Bridget Jones’s Baby), and a protector of street kids at a local shelter, played by Lee Ingleby (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).

Every player in this tale is a mess.  The cop can’t balance work and life and must care for a father with Alzheimer’s, the doctor is figuring her way through a failed marriage and early stages of addiction, the shelter manager cares a bit too much about protecting kids on the streets, and the brother of the missing boy runs the route where he lost his brother every day, unable to get past his loss.  As a police procedural, Fagbenle and detective Caine, played by Hannah Arterton (Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders), make for a solid policing duo, while Cullen and Ingleby are a great sleuthing team of private investigators.

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Thanks to some fine writing and acting in Season 2 of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things, actor Joe Keery’s character Steve Harrington did a 180 degree switch from Season One and became one of two heroes of the second season (that other hero of course was Sean Astin’s Bob Newby).  But as seen in a teaser released this week for Season 3, poor Steve gets to go through every teenagers’ worst hazing ritual, working the part-time fast-food job.  Worse yet, he somehow got pulled into co-starring in a local commercial in the Stranger Things town of good ol’ Hawkins, Indiana.

It looks smartly spot-on for a vintage local mall commercial.  Starcourt Mall is sure to be the location for some supernatural activity next year when the series returns.  You only wish they’d found a way to get the rights to Happy Joe’s Pizza, but, heck, this new shop will pass for Bresler’s 33 Flavors or Baskin-Robbins.  And isn’t that what everyone’s reaction is?  Asking: What does this mall have that “my mall” had?  So this commercial shows us Claire’s, The Gap, Orange Julius, Regis Hair Salon, Radio Shack, JC Penney, Waldenbooks, Zales, The Original Cookie Co., Wicks ‘n’ Sticks, Burger King, and Sam Goody (our Midwest city malls didn’t have these last three).

The actress is Maya Hawke playing new character Robin, in the teaser released on the series’ Twitter feed.

Before we show the teaser, a quick heads-up: Stranger Things fans who visit San Diego Comic-Con this week should check out Dark Horse Comics’ booth #2615, where they can get a free copy of a new Stranger Things comic book.  That’s a panel from the comic above.

Here’s the teaser commercial for Season 3 of Stranger Things:

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With $2 billion put toward new content, a record stock price, and critical acclaim–this year it leads the Emmy count with 112 nominations–Netflix now dominates television.  In addition to the great new series and its catalog of films, you can’t deny the satisfaction of avoiding theater crowds to watch first-run, cinema-worthy films streaming directly to your living room.  Because the low monthly fee is already locked in, Netflix stands right there with cable TV (whether served via coax, wireless, or your old home phone line), with the largest volume of content up against those hundreds of channels it competes against.  So even if each new first-run movie on Netflix isn’t the next Oscar winner (yet–see Emmy reference above) or even the next pop hit like Avengers: Infinity War, for what feels to many like “practically free new movies,” it’s easy to give the next Netflix movie a try.  So far we’ve liked War Machine, Cloverfield Paradox, and even the strange mash-up Bright.  The next film in the sci-fi variety has the cast and an interesting trailer to make giving it a try a no-brainer.

The movie is director Ben Young’s Extinction.  Normally a plot like this might be the stuff of merely passable made-for-TV movie fare, but now is the perfect time for Michael Peña to be the lead in his own action film, right when audiences are still excited about his great work in Ant-Man and The Wasp.  He’s a future Earth everyman, only in a very Philip K. Dick twist he’s having nightmares that he believes to be premonitions of a dire future.  We get to see Luke Cage himself, Mike Colter, co-starring outside the larger-than-life superhero realm along with Lizzy Caplan, known for her roles in Cloverfield, Tru Calling, Now You See Me 2, Orange County, and Freaks and Geeks.

We always have room for another alien invasion flick, and the method of arrival in the first trailer for the film seems similar at first blush to the falling-from-the-sky visitors in Attack the Block.  But these visitors appear to be the bipedal variety of sci-fi alien.  Whatever else there is to learn we’ll need to wait to find out in the movie.

Check out the trailer for Extinction:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel has diversified its creations on film and television so much that anyone can find a series or film that grabs them and surprises them with action, drama, strong characters, superheroics and great storytelling.  It’s going to be a subjective call for anyone, but the depth of every storytelling component in two seasons of Marvel’s Luke Cage makes it our nomination for the best superhero series yet.  With all that a comic book fan could want (except maybe supersuits), Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage, now on Netflix, rises to the occasion again.  The writers, actors, and other creators of Luke, his partners, and the crimelords of Harlem, could hold their own against any of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  A “best of” list of the villains of Marvel adaptations will no doubt have Loki and Killmonger from the movies fighting for top spots, but it also must now have Season One’s Cottonmouth Stokes, and this season’s trifecta of villains:  Bushmaster McIver, Shades Alvarez, and Mariah Stokes.

We compared Season One–which was borg.com’s Best TV Superhero Series of 2016 along with Cage actor Mike Colter and Misty Knight actor Simone Missick taking top acting kudos for the year–to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and again, Season Two is worthy of that comparison.  All the key social and cultural issues affecting every-day people inside or outside New York City neighborhoods, from the 1960s and today, work their way into the storytelling of the series.  The season kept its fresh approach with a new director at the helm of nearly every episode, while maintaining its focus thanks to Cheo Hodari Coker penning the overall story and leading the series as showrunner.  The show’s style is unique.  Even more than in Season One, nearly each episode featured the setting of the nightclub Harlem’s Paradise with an incredible performer on-stage with a relevant song to the episode.  Where a modern take on 20th century Speakeasy-inspired jazz and blues was the background for Season One, music derived from the roots of hip-hop and the heritage of key show characters in Jamaica defines the style this time.  This was topped off in the last episode with a song performed by Rakim that echoed Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s 1970s retro-funk series theme.

Family roots and legacies left behind top the season’s themes.  Along with the drama, the superheroics were present in Cage’s Power Man persona and new villain Bushmaster’s exquisitely choreographed battle scenes.  Charismatic actor Mustafa Shakir, who isn’t Jamaican, is perfectly convincing with the accent as Johnny “Bushmaster” McIver, and like Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk and series star Colter, Shakir looks like a superhuman with no need for any superhero costume.  And yes, Shakir performed most of the fabulous stunt fights with Colter, with training incorporating capoeira fighting, aptly selected for the series from its focus on power, speed, kicks, and spins.  Looking for the best superhero genre one-on-one battles at the movies or on television?  They can be found in Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  It’s even more refreshing because the series casts aside the current lazy trope in cinema of slow-motion action sequences, which can pull you out of the momentum of the action every time.

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