Tag Archive: Now streaming


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

For every new movie you watch, you need to go back and see a classic, right?  If The Hunt for Red October is Star Trek in the ocean, then Outland is The Sand Pebbles in outer space.  A predecessor to science fiction staples like Total Recall, Blade Runner, and Firefly, Outland is still one of the best depictions of what life actually may be like working aboard a space vessel, once modern technology figures out how to get past that zero gravity issue.  Isolation rarely has been portrayed as believably as directed here by Peter Hyams (Timecop, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, The Star Chamber, Amazing Stories).  The 1981 Academy Award-nominated classic, Outland is now streaming on Starz, Hulu, Amazon, and Vudu.

Audiences never saw Sean Connery so average as he was playing Marshal William T. O’Niel.  In a very low-key role more frequently seen played by someone like Steve McQueen, Connery is a federal cop in space, assigned to the titanium ore mining outpost Con-Am 27.  He was selected because he was likely to phone in his job, and not ruffle feathers.  But he finds himself when he learns the outpost is a haven for drug smuggling and worse, using drugs to work crews to their deaths, all part of a cover-up.  The film’s own predecessors were any number of cop shows, and it has themes from Westerns, too, especially High Noon, another lone lawman trying to take out a local band of ruffians–and another man with marital problems.  Critics accused the film of being thin, but it’s exactly why the film works so well and holds up well still today.  In many ways the film is better, and even scarier, than Alien and Total Recall, proving you don’t need monsters to be truly alone and unprotected from life-threatening elements in space.

O’Niel’s only help is from Frances Sternhagen (Doc Hollywood, Cheers, The Closer) as Dr. Marian Lazarus, a no-nonsense crewman who is sympathetic to O’Niel as the newbie having to dodge the unfamiliar “way things are done.”  Dr. Lazarus is one of sci-fi’s least known but toughest sci-fi heroines, and her chemistry with Connery as comrade-at-arms is superb.  Another crew member is played by sci-fi and Western veteran James Sikking (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, MD), who would continue for decades to play similar roles.  And the baddie of the bunch is played by your favorite film Frankenstein, Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, Johnny Dangerously, The X-Files, Everybody Loves Raymond).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The most twists and turns, the most clever story arcs, and the most faithful adaptation of a comic book series you’ve seen so far.  After a great first season but a ho-hum sophomore season, the creators of the third season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina kicked every aspect of the show into high gear, making for the best season of any series so far on the streaming provider (yep, including that first season of Stranger Things).  So often it’s easy to binge watch every new series.  But the best you reserve to savor, and each episode of the third season was like a good movie.  More magic, more of the supernatural, and more gold nuggets from centuries of folklore took these established characters and made them shine in exciting new ways, giving us the rare third season that bettered earlier seasons.  Great characters, great stories, great actors, and great writing as the witches of Greendale must fend off an attack by pagans that could mean the end for them and the mortals over eight action-packed episodes.  The season should put the series on anyone’s contender for best series of the year, even if we are only at February–it’s probably Netflix’s most riveting season of programming so far.

Has anyone done this before?  I’m talking about Robert Aguirre-Sacasa.  From the pages of Archie Comics, in 2014 Aguirre-Sacasa took Sabrina Spellman, a 50-year-old supporting character, and with a lot of love and dedication, and the visuals of artist Robert Hack, made her relevant for comic book readers in a new millennium in the pages of Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Then he took her story to television and created a hit show to match, and kept it going for three seasons (with a fourth season due by year end).  Has any comic book series received this expert an adaptation and a singular champion of a classic character?

In front of the camera, Kiernan Shipka owns her title character and performs at the level of an actress who’s been doing it for 25 years.  Stunningly confident, she carries a swagger when called for as if Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger or some other big movie star’s badass character walked onto the set.  Viewers believe her because she knows this character, able to flip from several versions of a put-upon, angsty high school teen to a genuine leader, fierce manipulator, and ferocious force to be reckoned with–even the forces of evil know to stay out of her way.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With all the Netflix series being rolled out this year, October Faction might get overlooked.  It’s the latest monster series based on a comic book and it arrived on Netflix this past weekend.  Based on Steve Niles and Damien Worm’s graphic novel/comics of the same name, both the TV series (created by Sleepy Hollow and Stargate’s Damian Kindler) and the comics are a darker spin on The Addams Family–the comics even darker than the TV series, which is closer in tone to Riverdale, Charmed, and Stranger Things than, say, Grimm or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Unfortunately it’s not as well-constructed or visualized as any of those series, but it may be worth the time for fans of horror or stories of students with super powers.  It’s the super powers angle that demonstrates how closely linked superhero series are with supernatural and horror stories in the 21st century–Swap out a few words, monsters for malevolent aliens and witches and warlocks for superheroes and you’ll find October Faction has the same story beats as, say The Umbrella Academy or The Boys.  October Faction has an easier to digest, more accessible story than both of those series although the production values lack a certain tightness in editing and cinematography style.  It also could use a soundtrack that better matches the charging, creepy pitches found in Netflix’s three trailers for the series.

This is a story about a husband and wife and their twin 17-year-olds, and how the twins handle learning their parents belong to an age-old network of monster hunters.  Tamara Taylor (Bones, Altered Carbon, Lost, Serenity) is really in the driver’s seat as Deloris, the mom who always seems to have the right firearm close by, joined by husband Fred, played by J.C. MacKenzie, a character actor TV audiences have seen in dozens of police procedural series and movies, including The Irishman, The Departed, The Shield, and Hemlock Grove, as a father who is looking forward to a rest from the monster work.  If you agree MacKenzie is a ringer for a younger Matthew Modine, you might convince yourself October Faction is a prequel to Stranger Things (he also evokes Ed Begley, Jr.).  MacKenzie’s casting is an odd choice, like starring old school Fred MacMurray or Robert Young as a modern, mouthy murderer of monsters.  But he might grow on you.  The kids are more interesting: Newcomers Aurora Burghart plays Viv, an angsty teen who sketches morbid miscellany and can’t understand why she sees things before they happen, and Gabriel Darku is Geoff, her gay brother who is lost leaving behind his old friends for the family’s most recent relocation–and who also thinks he sees the deceased dead.

The level of horror and gore is about that of Shaun of the Dead, enough to establish genre while not becoming a full-on slasher show.  At first this appears to be another story of the Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers variety–black and white good and bad guys and monsters that are evil because ugly, unfamiliar, and different things are always evil.  Fortunately the story catches up in time and the theme becomes that of fellow monster series Grimm, that not all monsters are bad, and sometimes humans are the worst threat of all.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you have been watching closely, you may notice that streaming platforms, pay channels, and cable networks rely on hit movies for the bulk of their replays.  Try to find some of your favorites outside the mainstream on Netflix, for example, and you’re likely to find mostly films made since streaming itself started to be a thing.  Starz has been one monthly pay channel option that is slowly bringing back more obscure films from the past 50 years, films like Outland and Wolfen.  Another you may have missed is Let Me In from a decade ago, another of those rare genre-bending films that–if you’re lucky enough to just stumble across it–is the kind of film to remind you why you love genre films.  It stars twelve-year-old actors Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in powerful breakout performances, the same year Moretz would deliver one of the big screen’s best superheroine performances as the cute but foul-mouthed Hit Girl in the movie Kick-Ass with Nicolas Cage, and just after Smit-McPhee would co-star in the dystopian film The Road with Viggo Mortenson.

Is it horror, an early 1980s coming-of-age tale, a love story, crime-suspense, a story of an abusive father, or something more (as Starlord might say, “a bit of both”?).  If you enjoy not knowing what genre of film you’re jumping into, this is for you.  Like Midnight Special, Skeleton Key, 12 Monkeys, and The Others, much of the film will creep by before you even have any certainty as to what is “really” going on.  Writer-director Matt Reeves, who brought audiences the Cloverfield series and the latest Planet of the Apes movies and is working on The Batman for 2021, mixes some truly dramatic moments into Let Me In, while also adding the next must-watch for coming of age movies, suspense-thrillers, horror, and romance.  Just as James Mangold delivered a father-daughter love story in Logan, Reeves puts his own stamp on a compelling tale of a boy and the girl next door.

The clues Reeves delivers along the way will be more obvious to some than others.  Donnie Darko, Fargo, Logan, The Outsiders–Don’t be surprised if Reeves’ deftly drawn scenes evoke feelings from all sorts of big films.  Disturbing, poignant, triumphant, chilling.  You might even get twisted into feeling a certain sympathy for one of the film’s creepier characters.  A police detective played by Elias Koteas (Shooter, Zodiac, Gattaca) will have you think you’re following Mark Ruffalo’s character in another Zodiac movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones established the franchise with their original story of sci-fi agents tracking down aliens among us in Men in Black.  But who knew the franchise could be as fun as Men in Black III, bringing in Josh Brolin to create a memorable young version of Jones’ Agent K?  That was until this year’s Men in Black: International, pulling in the look and feel of the past films all under the capable leadership of Emma Thompson′s Agent O.  This time we meet the head of the London office, High T, played by Liam Neeson.  And the lead agents are just as much fun as Agents K and J.

From the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor and Valkyrie actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are reunited on the big, and now small, screen, as Men in Black: International makes its way to home streaming services.  Thompson is Molly, who as a little girl observes her parents being nebulized by Men in Black agents after a sighting of a curious fuzzy alien.  Molly helps keep the alien out of sight of the agents, and he leaves, thanking her with an alien salutation she never forgets.  In fact she becomes obsessed with the alien and aliens, and commits her entire life toward making her way into the Men in Black where she, too, can save the world and learn about all of the life in existence “out there.”

She applies to both the CIA and FBI, but no such luck, they think she is crazy–as does everyone else.  So she uses her smarts to track down the apprehension of an alien, and makes her way into the U.S. branch, where she meets Agent O.  From there she gets provisional status, as Agent M, and is sent to partner with the London’s top agent, Hemsworth’s Agent H.  Agent H couldn’t be cockier, and he and High T go way back, having saved the world before together.  Agent M and H’s first mission:  Protect an alien–an old friend of Agent H–on holiday on Earth.  Sounds simple enough, until everything goes wrong.  At the center of it all is a previously hidden use of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nothing taken away from the work of actor Joseph Fiennes in the romance-comedy Shakespeare in Love, but in the 2019 biopic All is True, it’s hard to imagine any actor as perfectly cast as William Shakespeare himself than Sir Kenneth Branagh.  In one conversation between Branagh’s Shakespeare and Sir Ian McKellen′s Earl of Southampton, the quiet beauty of language and craft they convey will make you think no two people were better suited to their art.  Taking a cue from the subtitle of Shakespeare’s final play, Henry VIII–the play being performed when Shakespeare’s Globe Theater caught fire (pro tip: don’t put stage cannons in your scripts)–All is True takes Shakespeare from there to his death, as he quits writing and returns to his home, his wife, and their two daughters to retire.

Ghosts of his past catch up with Shakespeare, as the rural village of his birth does not forget the scandals of his family’s past and present, silly things today that meant everything to English society in 1613.  One of those ghosts is that of his son, Hamnet, the twin of his younger daughter, who died in real life of unknown causes at eleven, and which is expanded upon for dramatic sake in this story by writer/comedian Ben Elton (Much Ado About Nothing).  Elton’s script smartly stitches together what history knows about Shakespeare and his family after his plays and what is probable or at least possible, providing a faithful, glorious look at what someone who knew his own legacy in his own time might have done next.  Branagh reflects the kind of ego that must have been behind the man.  Shakespeare neglected his family for years, and his youngest daughter, played by Kathryn Wilder (Ready Player One), lets him know it.

Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, 18 years his senior in real life, is played as impeccably as audiences would expect from Dame Judi Dench, and although 26 years his senior in real life it all works seamlessly.  Branagh is hardly recognizable at first, until his undeniable voice takes over, thanks to a prosthetic nose that never leaves any doubt that Branagh conjured the ghost of Shakespeare for this performance.  Equal to the performance is the year’s best cinematography by Zac Nicholson (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society), who frames every scene as if it were an adaptation of an original oil painting by Johannes Vermeer or Rembrandt van Rijn.  His use of light–especially his scenes shot by candlelight to mimic chiaroscuro–is magical.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Prime viewing for October and the Halloween season, and a movie you probably skipped in the theater, is the rebooted Hellboy, now on home video.  Far better than critics would have led you to believe, director Neil Marshall′s Hellboy is every bit loyal to the Dark Horse Comics character, stories, and mythos.  Both Mike Mignola and Mike Richardson produced this third film in the series, and if you don’t agree it matches the quality of the first Hellboy you’ll likely agree it’s better and more memorable than its sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

In fact this Hellboy–this time with Stranger Things’ David Harbour in the red, sawed-off horns and hammer arm–is that kind of dark, violent, monster movie that would have appealed to fans of Freddy Krueger or Hellraiser in the 1980s.  It has that same kind of hard R rating that would have prompted 12 to 16-year-old boys to sneak into the theater to see what they were missing.  So if you don’t care for the kind of monster movie with innocent victims getting ripped apart by giant demons, re-stitching a witch together, watching another creepy witch and her cauldron of kid stew, and making it through several blood-bursts and beheadings, backed with a never-ending volley of F bombs, by all means run away now.

This isn’t Ron Perlman’s kinder, gentler demon.  But this presentation more closely matches Mignola’s stories, including steeping this tale in a variety of classic lore.  Here that means the vile Baba Yaga as villain, complete with her chicken-legged mobile house, and a film full of twisted King Arthur legend.
Missing is Doug Jones’ wonderful Abe Sapien, or Selma Blair’s fire-wielding friend Liz.  Trying to make up for that is the booming presence of Ian McShane (Magnum, p.i., Dallas, The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Deadwood) as Hellboy’s father, and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil series, The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet) as a banished witch trying to return to the present to smite out humanity with a plague.  Both McShane and Jovovich are good in anything, as they are here, even when the special effects aren’t up to that Peter Jackson quality we all hope for.

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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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Review by C.J. Bunce

This is what I was hoping for in Jonas Åkerlund’s movie Polar, the brutal Mads Mikkelsen dark action movie that was more wannabe Zack Snyder than anything interesting, fun, or thought-provoking.  Cold Pursuit is something like Polar.  You’ll feel the cold, sure.  But director Hans Petter Molland′s take on dark comedy is a little more subtle, less “look at me and all the carnage I can fit on a screen and have my characters laugh about.”  But Cold Pursuit is also not the Coen Brothers’ Fargo.  And that’s a good thing if you don’t worship Coen Brothers movies.  It’s also a good thing if you like Fargo only a little bit.

What the heck am I talking about?  Unlike a lot of films that go direct to streaming services, this was a theatrical release.  You can tell the difference.  So it beats out most direct-to-Netflix, Amazon, etc. fare.  But Cold Pursuit was marketed and billed more like a dark comedy.  Only it’s not very funny.  But it’s an enjoyable, satisfying revenge flick.  So blame the marketing.  Cold Pursuit is a steady, measured drama about a resourceful snowplow driver near Denver, played by Liam Neeson (sporting a Han Solo at Hoth parka), who is successful at his job, but less successful with his family relationships, including communicating with his wife, played rather blandly by Laura Dern (it’s the part, not the performer).  When their son is murdered by a low-level member of the local drug community, Neeson’s character, Nels Coxman, first tries to kill himself.  When he learns his kid wasn’t really involved in drugs he begins relentlessly pursuing everyone involved in the world that killed his son, aiming for the top, which reaches back to an anal-retentive, self-absorbed, young, wealthy kingpin called Viking back in the city, played expertly vile by Tom Bateman (Murder on the Orient Express).  This is when the movie takes the action turn.  Bateman plays that villain you love to hate and really want to see get a comeuppance.

Dozens of named characters get killed in different ways throughout the picture (I thought about counting the bodies but didn’t).  Each cleverly gets their own pre-sound era cinema “tombstone” as they are marked off the list (including their religion–oddly irrelevant but humorous).  Even if it’s a little spoliery (yes, that’s the correct spelling) to know it, if it helps get people to see the movie then it’s worth knowing that Neeson’s character is not a criminal type or tough guy, but calls forth that familiar guy from the Taken movies to open ample six-packs (several) of whoop-ass on the bad guys.

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