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Tag Archive: Netflix


Review by C.J. Bunce

Start with the obvious comparison: Marvel’s Iron Fist.  If you were disappointed with that series, get ready for what you probably wanted.  It’s called Wu Assassins, and the ten episodes of the new direct-to-Netflix series arrived late this past summer.  Wu Assassins weaves so much into its ten very different chapters of its storytelling, you’ll quickly find it’s not only an American attempt at a wuxia martial arts heroes show–it bends the genre into a supernatural, urban fantasy story with characters on the brink of their unique brand of apocalypse, with several Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grimm parallels.  And lots of lots of great hand-to-hand fight scenes.  This may not measure up to being the next Buffy or a top Chinese tale like Legend of the Condor Heroes, but as a watch-alike, it far surpasses the Buffy spinoff Angel, as well as most of the Marvel Netflix series.  If Netflix can pull together series like Wu Assassins, especially with absolute writing freedom and without the need to rely on some existing brand like DC or Marvel (or anything Disney), then its future is secured.

The world of Wu Assassins begins in our world today, as we meet Kai Jin, played by 36-year-old Indonesian actor and burgeoning martial arts pro, stuntman, and fight choreographer Iko Uwais.  Kai is a young master chef who wants to own his own food cart in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  This is a Chosen One story, and Kai is introduced to a world where the Chinese philosophy of wuxing is interpreted to rely on human masters of the elements of this world (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) who can exist both in this realm and a supernatural otherworld.  In the middle of an already difficult life, Kai is tapped as the Wu Assassin and he is told by a bellwether and instructor from the otherworld named Ying Ying, played by Celia Au (Lodge 49, Iron Fist, Gotham), that he must kill the Fire Wu, who just happens to be Kai’s adoptive father, known by most as Uncle Six.  He’s not just any dad, as Uncle Six, played masterfully by the scene stealing Byron Mann (The Expanse, Arrow, Smallville, Dark Angel), is also the head of the Chinese crime family, the Triads.

Kai’s Buffy-esque band of friends includes a restaurant owner named Jenny Wah (Li Jun Li, The Exorcist, Quantico), her drug-adled brother Tommy (Lawrence Kao, Sleepy Hollow, The Walking Dead), and Kai’s oldest friend Lu Xin (Lewis Tan, Iron Fist, Deadpool 2), who is a suave up-and-coming thief of high-end cars.  Spliced into the story is a San Francisco cop played by The Vikings queen Katheryn Winnick, a badass on a motorcycle who knows her own street fighting and inadvertently witnesses the magic of the otherworld while undercover trying to bust gang activity at China Basin.  These lead characters are just the beginning, as the series packs in a few seasons’ worth of ideas, and all of it is great fun.

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Joel Edgerton, best known for his role as Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels and co-star of Midnight Special, and David Michôd direct of 2017’s direct-to-Netflix Brad Pitt movie War Machine, have come together to write the latest adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V, in the new direct-to-Netflix drama, The King.  Michôd directs the film with Edgerton co-starring.  Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar, Homeland) stars as the man who would be King Henry V, who seeks the advice and confidence of Edgerton’s Falstaff.

This is the first major film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V with an American actor as the King.  The best received version was the Oscar-winning 1989 version, titled Henry V, starring Kenneth Branagh in a classic take on the King in contrast to Chalamet’s much younger appearing character.

The next Batman, Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), plays the French Dauphin, with Ashes to Ashes and Mission: Impossible’s Sean Harris as William, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Ready Player One) as King Henry IV, and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp (Yoga Hosers) as Catherine of Valois.  Critics in Europe have criticized both Chalamet and Pattinson for their affected accents, Chalamet’s British English and Pattinson’s French.

Here is the trailer for Netflix’s The King:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not a lot of new movies strike the right balance between horror and comedy, but if you’re looking for a solid Halloween movie to watch with your spouse and older kids, The Babysitter is a good pick, and if you subscribe to Netflix, you don’t need to fork out a rental fee.  Actually a Netflix produced release from only 2017, The Babysitter has a great cast of rising stars, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, and it doubles as a coming of age movie.  What it’s not, is a Clive Barker-esque slasher flick, or full of real-world slaughter and shocker scenarios like so many modern horror movies–it’s an easy fantasy to entertain you and the family for ninety minutes.

Directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol aka McG (Supernatural, Chuck, Terminator: Salvation, Charlie’s Angels), The Babysitter is a day in the life of pre-teen Cole, played by The Christmas Chronicles’ Judah Lewis (an absolute ringer for C. Thomas Howell in E.T. and The Outsiders), a kid who is probably too old to have a babysitter, but he doesn’t mind because she’s a much older and attractive teenage hottie,  played by Samara Weaving.  Weaving is fast becoming a big name in movies, after a string of horror roles including this summer’s Ready Or Not, last year’s series Picnic at Hanging Rock, and before that, Ash vs. Evil Dead (she’s also known for her role in the Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and is soon to star in the Bill & Ted sequel and she’s playing Scarlett in Snake Eyes, the next G.I. Joe movie).  Weaving’s character Bee is a great friend to Cole–basically a big sister–who knows his friends are jealous of his relationship with a “hot” high schooler, but his real friend and love interest is the same-aged girl across the street, Melanie, played by young Emily Lind, a kid actor who has been making TV series (Medium, Revenge, Eastwick) and movies (Doctor Sleep, Replicas) for more than a decade.

One night while Bee is babysitting Cole, Melanie convinces him to stay up late and spy on what Bee and her friends are doing in the house after he falls asleep.  When Cole sneaks down to take a peek, he quickly learns that Bee and a group of teen friends (played by Robbie Amell (The X-Files, The Flash), Bella Thorne (Scream, Amityville: The Awakening), Andrew Bachelor (Angie Tribeca, The Mindy Project), and Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect, Jem and the Holograms)) are conducting a ritual human sacrifice.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everyone likes Paul Rudd, right?  Rudd is the center of a new comedy-drama on Netflix that began this weekend, Living with Yourself And his fans won’t be disappointed.  The same struggling character reaching for success–but just missing it–in shows like Ant-Man, Anchorman, and Clueless is back, but this time his character is actually characters, plural, and, like Ant-Man, this show has a sci-fi twist.

In fact you could spend the 3.5 hours of the eight episode, half-hour series spotting all the sci-fi tropes picked up in the script by Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show).  It all begins with a twist on Orson Scott Card’s short story Fat Farm (found in Isaac Asimov, George R.R. Martin, and Martin Greenberg’s collection, The Science Fiction Weight Loss Book).  In that story, a person goes to a secret clinic to lose weight, not realizing he is actually being cloned, and the “real” him shuffled off to a work farm for the rest of his life, while “new him” returns to his life slim and trim not knowing the difference.  In Living with Yourself, it’s Rudd’s character Miles who is unhappy not with his weight but his underachievement and overall dissatisfaction with himself.  A co-worker puts him onto a pricey spa that can solve his problems, which turns out to be a third-rate, pop-up cloning shop, where, unknown to clients, they get replaced with like-new clones of themselves and their old selves get suffocated and buried in the woods.  The cloning tech isn’t quite so refined so Miles experiences something like Total Recall’s schizoid embolism–instead of killing Miles’ older self, he wakes up in a shallow grave and must confront his new, cloned self.

This all plays out like another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Twins, with old Miles left to forge ahead with his stale, unrefined DNA and new Miles “cleaned” and ready to conquer the world.  But this is just in the first half hour.  If you stay around for all eight episodes (and Rudd is fun playing two characters, so why not?), expect to catch scenes straight out of Multiplicity, Gattaca, Rachel Rising, The Last Jedi, Harry Potter, even Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and more.  Rudd’s performance in dual roles is done so much in the actor’s laid back style that the double duty goes unnoticed, seamlessly, until the two halves confront each other in the season finale.  It’s not that kind of complex, award-winning visual effects work we saw from Tatiana Maslany as a dozen-plus characters in Orphan Black, but it doesn’t need to be.  The series hits on the classic internal struggle of man versus self, but this is first and foremost a comedy.

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Happy October!

Your annual list of scary, ghostly, spooky, creepy, slashery, and generally monstrous films is back.  The goal?  Not to miss your favorite Halloween movies in October, and maybe find some new favorites.  You’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and modern.  Syfy′s “31 Days of Halloween” is back, along with Freeform′s “31 Nights of Halloween” (which continues to be a dozen or so movies played over and over all month, with some kind of world record to be set with its too-many-to-count airings of Hocus Pocus).  As always AMC doesn’t kick in with its “Fear Fest” until October 14, and as with last year you can get caught up on The Walking Dead, and The Terror all airing throughout the entire month (you’ll have to check the AMC website for the last week of the month, as they don’t release their listings this far in advance).  Best of all, TCM hosts Godzilla with 17 movies airing Fridays in October, and 41 horror classics on Thursdays–really your best bet for the season.  You’ll find this year another Stephen King movie marathon, some Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Vincent Price, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger.  Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month so you may want to check the Disney website for updates.

We’ve bolded some of our recommendations and asterisked other notable events in October.  If you missed last year’s new Halloween movie with Jamie Lee Curtis, find it streaming on Vudu and other services–it’s not to be missed (and you can catch all the past entries in the series on AMC).  Also, if you missed Netflix’s latest seasons of Stranger Things or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, now’s a great time to catch up.  And with showings of both Predator and Hellboy movies, you might as well catch the new releases on Vudu, The Predator and Hellboy (2019).

All month long on streaming services and premium channels like Netflix and Starz you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more, plus series like The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  If all else fails, you can find your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (all these are highly recommended, and you can catch many of these airing this month, too).  Need more recommendations?  Check our past recommendation lists here.

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything, especially useful for many of the marathons, which often play in reverse order (?!).  All times listed are Central Time:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Your next creepy movie for fall is waiting for you now on Netflix.  It’s director Stacie Passon′s 2018 adaptation of award-winning author Shirley Jackson′s 1962 mystery thriller, We Have Always Lived in the Castle And although it is not technically a story about one of our favorite horror tropes, creepy little girls, you will meet two very creepy young adult sisters who live alone on the hill at the edge of town with a secret that may not be all that secret.  Taissa Farmiga (The Nun, American Horror Story) stars as Mary Catherine Blackwood, called Merricat, the stranger and younger of two siblings, with Alexandra Daddario (White Collar, True Detective) as the older sister, Constance.  No doubt inspired by the acquittal in the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, the movie (as with the original novel) takes places six years after the poisonings of the sisters’ parents, with Constance as the sole suspect.  Who really poisoned them?

Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland) delivers possibly his finest performance as Uncle Julian.  Present at the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law, Uncle Julian was also poisoned, but survived with an addled mind and failing body.  Constance seems to have never recovered from the accusations, and the townspeople certainly will not let the family forget.  Constance has a smile fixed as she goes about surviving each day, a PTSD victim ready to snap at any time.  Merricat is left to venture out once a week to get groceries and get lambasted by all those that looked down upon the family for their wealth and scandal.  Yet Merricat is happy with the status quo, burying her father’s possessions to ward off evil spirits and bad fortune.  As she tells us as narrator, Constance is the most precious person to her in the world.

But the sisters’ world comes crashing down as a cousin, played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Winter Soldier), appears in a sports car and begins taking over the house.  Worse for Merricat, Constance seems to be falling in love with him, and the new couple begins to make plans for the future.  In a world of oddities out of Great Expectations, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, can anyone in the house find normalcy or have any hope of getting their lives back?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the criticisms so far into the third trilogy of Star Wars movies (the third and finale episode, The Rise of Skywalker, is due out this December) is not making the most of the original cast.  This seems to go double with fan expectations for Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.  This is not some fault of fandom, it’s how Lucasfilm prepped its fans with great futures for Skywalker and his family, delivered via Timothy Zahn’s original sequel trilogy and then decades of brilliant stories via Dark Horse Comics.  There you’d find Luke Skywalker, grown into the role of Jedi Master, was everything you’d want from the hero we met in the movies.  Now fans can see that future in a History channel series streaming on Netflix, if they only bring along a little imagination.  That series is Knightfall.

The series follows a re-imagined history of the Knights Templar at the dawn of the 14th century.  If you ignore the historicity, good or bad, and see the film as a fantasy tale of knights in conflict and knights in training, you can see why the Jedi Knights were derived from these historic figures.  The Star Wars influence comes full circle as Mark Hamill himself joins the cast as a master knight named Talus in Season 2.  Here is that very same Luke Skywalker as you might have imagined him from Zahn and Dark Horse’s storytelling, war-weary and battle hardened, as he storms his way into the tale, leading and training knights, sometimes Mr. Miyagi style, sometimes with swords, sometimes with surprising methods.  Tilt your head a bit, cover one eye–do what you need to do–but some of Luke Skywalker’s best scenes as a Jedi Knight are in this series.  The very best is Talus’s final scene.  Mark Hamill, and Luke Skywalker, never were cooler than in his final conflict on the series.

Fantasy emphasis over history aside, for those students of the Middle Ages you’ll find a mix of truth and cinema twisted for story purposes, but overall this is that series about knights and swords, the Pope and the twisted King (they’re all twisted, always) and the beautiful Queen that you’re looking for.  The story follows hero Tom Cullen (The Five, Downton Abbey) as Landry, a wise but conflicted Knight Templar, whose band of trusted brothers botch protecting the Holy Grail, the same biblical cup so many medieval tales are based upon, but more of a McGuffin for this version of the tale.  Landry’s band of knights, Pádraic Delaney (The Tudors) as Gawain, and Simon Merrells (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Ashes to Ashes) as one of the best knights you’ve seen onscreen as Tancrede lead viewers from enough intrigue to keep them coming back for more.  Olivia Ross (War & Peace) is particularly engaging as Queen Joan, one of the only women characters in the series, and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) is great fun to watch as the regal yet conniving Pope Boniface VIII.  Of the bad guys, you’ll love to hate Ed Stoppard (Zen, The Frankenstein Chronicles) as King Philip (again, all kings are bad), and Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey, Charmed) as his on-again, off-again confidante and henchman.  As Cullen’s Landry and the Queen of France fall in love, how both the knight order and the King handle the aftermath is the conflict that plays out over 18 episodes, with the backdrop of a coming battle between France and England beckoning.

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There was always the possibility that you get the opportunity to step into the cornfield in Field of Dreams and find it isn’t all that pleasant.  That seems to be the case with In the Tall Grass, an adaptation of a Stephen King and son Joe Hill novella.  The movie is arriving direct to Netflix in a few weeks and the trailer looks like prime viewing material for the Halloween season.

It’s anyone’s guess how much or little it will follow the 2012 novella, but the trailer has a nice and creepy closed room mystery vibe, with a touch King’s original foray into the field, 1977’s Children of the Corn and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening.  The horror movie street cred comes from versatile actor Patrick Wilson, who took on The Phantom of the Opera before joining the Watchmen, faced aliens in Prometheus, and cannibals in Bone Tomahawk, before his co-starring role in Aquaman.  Now he’s the top horror film pick as a staple of the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises with four Conjuring films so far (and another coming next year).

In the Tall Grass is directed by familiar TV filmmaker Vincenzo Natali (The Returned, Orphan Black, Wayward Pines, Luke Cage, The Strain, American Gods, Lost in Space, Westworld) and co-stars Laysla De Oliveira (Locke & Key, iZombie) and Rachel Wilson (Charmed, Impulse), with spooky music by Mark Korven (The Lighthouse).

Check out the trailer for In the Tall Grass:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nothing in my lifetime in the fantasy genre has had an impact as great as Jim Henson, his creations, and influence.  That stretches to The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, tangent puppet creations like Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, and Henson’s masterwork, the 1982 holiday release The Dark Crystal.  So nothing could be greater than to revisit The Dark Crystal in a new incarnation, and not only find the people behind it got it right, but set a new standard in storytelling along the way.  No visual storytelling medium is older than puppetry, and nothing reaches inside you like a story told with creations you know aren’t real, yet when done exceptionally well they convey every emotion as if they were real.  The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, now streaming on Netflix, sets a new bar because it expands on the original film’s story, bringing to life a larger, fully fleshed-out world and a timeless tale that firmly installs the name Henson (Jim and daughters Lisa and Cheryl) as equal to fantasists like the Grimms, Kipling, Milne, Howard, Tolkien, Lewis, Beagle, Harryhausen, Lucas, Jackson, and Rowling.  “Wonder” should be the Henson family hallmark.  Beyond that, the series surpasses the best fantasy of television and big-screen productions, so from here on audiences may ask comparatively, “Yes, but does it convey the emotion and wonder The Dark Crystal series created?”

Dynamic, thrilling, suspenseful, and full of action, mythology, sorcery, good and evil, despair and triumph, swashbuckling adventure, unimaginable beauty and love for nature and community, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance presents better than anything before what every other fantasy before it seems to stumble on: Stakes.  The preparation of the viewer for a world of dire fantasy stakes couldn’t have been more artfully revealed.  What is at stake in the film isn’t just another “end of the world” story, but something that reaches in and makes you believe a stack of rocks can be lovable, the innocent can rise against the darkest evil, where the world of humans and their conflicts is not a consideration, and where you may find you want a hug from a giant spider.  Glorious, ground-breaking, faithful to the original, with thousands of creators making a film in a spectacularly difficult way, it more than fulfills its promise.

You could heap all sorts of praise on the series, beyond Netflix for betting its money on a prequel, the Hensons and original visionary family the Frouds, beyond director Louis Leterrier, writers Jeffrey Addiss, Will Matthews, and Javier Grillo-Marxuach, haunting music by Daniel Pemberton, the spectacular assemblage of voice actors, from Simon Pegg and Warrick Brownlow-Pike (who perfectly resurrected Chamberlain the Skeksis, one of fantasy’s greatest villains) to Donna Kimball and Kevin Clash (resurrecting fantasy’s greatest sorceress, Aughra).  The unsung heroes will be those puppeteers and the designers of the production, the puppets, the costumes, and props.  There’s not a big enough award for this series or its many creators, artists, and artisans, and all that had to come together to make it.  A glimpse behind the scenes can be found in a must-see feature following the ten episodes of the series.

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You may have gulped it down in one sitting or maybe you think it’s so good you’re (like us) enjoying this new series slowly, but there’s no doubt Netflix′s original series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will be a contender for the best series of the year in any category.  Lisa Henson and The Jim Henson Company have created something special here, and we’re now seeing some of the first tie-ins from this reboot of The Dark Crystal franchise, which began only two years ago with Caseen Gaines’ authoritative look at Henson, his inspiration, and his original Thra creations in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History (reviewed here at borg).  If you’re enjoying the new series, you’ll want to dive in to learn about the Hensons and how they created the world of Thra from the very beginning.

Funko has six 3 3/4-inch action figures to add to its earlier The Dark Crystal collection (first discussed here in 2016, these figures sell for top dollar on the aftermarket, with a few still on Amazon like Jen, Kira & Fizzgig, Chamberlain, Aughra, Landstrider, Garthim, and UrSol).  For the new TV series Funko’s first wave of figures have better sculpts and paint work than the prior series.  They feature gelflings Deet and Rian, Hup the podling, Aughra the Oracle, the Hunter Skeksis, and a Silk Spitter (see larger images below, and click on the names to learn more and order these at Amazon, currently about $10 each).

 

The tie-in books to choose from truly have something for all ages.  Look for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra, Heroes of the Resistance: A Guide to the Characters of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and Aughra’s Wisdom of Thra.  Below, check out a 10-page preview of the beautifully detailed behind the scenes art book The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra Each book is now available for pre-order from Amazon, and the publisher descriptions of each book is included below:

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