Tag Archive: Quentin Tarantino


Anna movie pic

Review by C.J. Bunce

Luc Besson, master of the spy movie and the female assassin, created perhaps his best work in the genre with his 2019 action thriller Anna Poor distribution and studio problems caused the film to get only a minor theatrical release, but it’s at last widely available, streaming to anyone free on iMDB TV.  If you’re like most movie fans and missed it, you’re in for a surprise that rivals many similar action thrillers by one of the greatest writer-directors of our time, including his 1990 film Le Femme Nikita with Anne Parillaud (and its English remake, Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda), and the 1994 movie The Professional (Natalie Portman, Jean Reno).  Besson also wrote the screenplays for The Transporter starring Jason Statham (2002), Taken starring Liam Neeson (2008), and Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana (2011).  So he knows action, and that’s several assassins, spies, and action sequences in Besson’s personal dossier in additional to his greatest feats, the epic science fiction films The Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets It’s that last film he tapped for the star of Anna, a spy movie that’s not a retread on the director’s past work but a superb achievement, with a badass lead and story even better than another spy favorite, Atomic Blonde. 

Continue reading

thebigsleep 2  thebigsleep 4

Review by C.J. Bunce

The first thing to know about Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel The Big Sleep is that it was published three years after James M. Cain published the serialized Double Indemnity.  If your only knowledge of The Big Sleep is the big-screen adaptation directed by Howard Hawks starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with a screenplay written by the likes of Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner, you should go back and read the novel to see how wrong Bogart is for the lead detective Philip Marlowe.  Both the novel and significantly modified movie version are convoluted tales of murder and mayhem, but the novel is better than the film in many ways.  Its value is in its shocking subject matter for the 1930s and being an early entrant helping to establish hardboiled crime novels as a genre.  Readers were first put inside the brain of Marlowe in this story, which reads like an effort to adapt Cain.  Chandler also was a reader of Cain’s work and along with Billy Wilder, Chandler would adapt Cain’s Double Indemnity for the screen.  Still in print, The Big Sleep is available in trade paperback here at Amazon.

Eight decades after its first publication, how does Chandler’s novel hold up?

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s always exciting to work your way through a Philip K. Dick novel for the first time.  The singular futurist who created the worlds of Blade Runner, The Man in the High Castle, Minority Report, and Total Recall probably created his most spectacular characters, ideas, and fantastical places in the pages of his five volumes of collected short stories.  His 38 novels are an up and down journey through a man who allowed his personal crises to seep in, and often obstruct his imagination.  Most of these were science fiction novels, but his novels outside that genre are another matter.  One of these, written around the year 1956 about a disc jockey in the changing streets of 1950s San Francisco, is The Broken Bubble, one of the closest and earliest read-alikes you’ll find from this author to the energy and twists of a Quentin Tarantino movie, in a compelling read that world pair nicely with a popular, more modern dramatic read like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

With the second season opener “The Marshall,” I thought the new season would be more of the same (see my review here).  A bit light on plot, and so similar to a few episodes from the first season, I figured Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, & Co. were going to deliver some more good entertainment, but not take too many risks.  Not one week later I had to take that back, as the episode “The Passenger” delivered a spectacular single-story episode reminiscent of Alien and The Thing.  The fourth episode of the season, “The Siege,” was a return of characters from season one and more of the single most important, far-reaching draw for any age group or other demographic, Baby Yoda, given the name Grogu in last week’s episode.  But if you take a look at this season, especially episodes 11, 13, and 14, what you may find is the third greatest Star Wars movie.  Or at least your third favorite.  I’ll avoid spoilers for yesterday’s new episode “The Tragedy” below except to mention the director and that the episode blew me away, but let’s dig into this season so far.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Many movies showcase gangland violence in the action genre, but very few in the way of writer-director Timo Tjahjanto.  His 2018 blood and guts masterpiece The Night Comes for Us is the kind of movie for audiences looking for the satisfaction you get from a big rollercoaster, the kind they provided in action films in the 1970s and 1980s starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.  It’s so heavy on violence you might get the feeling someone found a spare makeup department with extra buckets of fake blood in between horror movie projects.  Yet among the visual spectacle (you may duck a few times in your living room not to get splattered) Tjahjanto knows how to build a story and characters into one heckuva fun payoff.

Continue reading

Living Dead cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

“By removing the head, or destroying the brain.”

It’s the message delivered to England residents in Shaun of the Dead by the news service on how to deal with the impending zombie threat.  And the same rule applies to the killing of zombie ghouls in the long-awaited sequel to the original zombie classic, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead.  That’s right, writer Daniel Kraus picked up a story begun by George A. Romero decades ago to create a behemoth of a follow-up to the movie series in a 654-page novel, The Living Dead: A New Novel It’s scheduled to arrive in bookstores and online June 9 (update: moved to August 4), and borg has previewed an advance copy thanks to publisher Tor Books.  Romero, who passed away in 2017, was the modern horror auteur, known as the “Godfather of the Dead” for his works including the films Creepshow, Monkey Shines, and an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Half, in addition to several zombie/ghoul sequels.  He inspired countless horror directors, including Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead.  But his 1968 black and white creepshow is what he is known best for.  In conjunction with Romero’s estate, Kraus wrote the bulk of the novel based on more than 100 pages of story and notes from the acclaimed horror writer and director, described in an author’s note to the novel.

The nuance and 1960s style of Night of the Living Dead is long gone in The Living Dead, replaced with a fully modern zombie spectacle–think 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead.  But its framework of characters destined to have intersecting paths is like a Quentin Tarantino movie, and this is the kind of story anyone could see him adapting to the screen.  Kraus takes a Romero story treatment of what starts as “some kind of bird flu thing” and attacks it from numerous vantage points, including the unique viewpoint of the thoughts of the dead as they re-emerge as zombies.  Characters that take center stage in separate encounters include: Puerto Rican squadron pilot Jennifer Pagán, who fights off “turned” military personnel aboard the USS Olympia aircraft carrier, Karl Nashimura, a master helmsman aboard Pagán’s ship, Chuck Corso, an ambitious journalist who has never been taken seriously until he intercepts a White House internal communication reflecting a frightening turn of events, Etta Hoffman, an archivist worker in a Census Bureau records center, whose access to death data documents what could the final years of humanity, and Greer Morgan, a young resident of a mobile home park in rural northwest Missouri who knows how to use a bow and arrow.

But the best of the novel tracks the actions of Luis Acocella, an assistant medical examiner in San Diego who experiences the first encounter with a patient affected by a strange new virus that seems to be reanimating the dead.  The story of he and his assistant Charlene, would have made a superb story, even if the rest of the chapters had been stripped away.  Although many zombie tales are strictly fantasy horror, the author makes some effort to provide a science fiction basis for the virus’s study.

Continue reading

Are Snakes Necessary

Review by C.J. Bunce

The director of The Untouchables, Scarface, Carrie, and Mission: Impossible and writer/director of screenplays for more than a dozen noir thriller films including Body Double, Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, Obsession, and Femme Fatale has penned his first novel.  Along with former New York Times editor Susan Lehman, celebrated movie writer/director Brian De Palma delves into a story of intrigue behind a fictional 2016 senatorial campaign in the new political thriller Are Snakes Necessary? arriving in two weeks from Hard Case Crime.  The modern pulp noir follows intersecting characters in a smarmy world of cheating, lying, and murder, from Las Vegas to Washington to Paris.

A senator and his majordomo encounter a woman from the senator’s past at an airport, and the senator is eager to welcome her daughter as an intern to document his campaign.  Meanwhile, a struggling photographer gets mixed up with the trophy wife of a wealthy businessman in Las Vegas.  Two married couples–a cheating wife and a cheating husband–the wife a victim of spousal abuse seeking to get out, and a politician with a sick wife staking out his next conquest.  And somehow they all come together during a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, based more toward the underlying novel, which was set in France (I reviewed the novel a few weeks ago here at borg).

In a way Are Snakes Necessary? is De Palma taking a stab at doing his own play on Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski.  Fans of The Girl on the Train, Chinatown, State of Play, and the sleazier shelf of 1970s era pulp crime novels will go for this one, along with fans of De Palma’s films.  More about 20th century sexual politics than 21st century sexual politics and less about a political campaign, the snakes in the title are the men who continue to get away with manipulation, lies, and sometimes murder.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

From Hong Kong to the U.S. and Australia to Uganda, Australian director Serge Ou and writer Grady Hendrix track the scope of the Hong Kong kung fu movie industry and its pop culture influence on the world in the documentary Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks, now streaming this month on Netflix.  Splicing interviews with kung fu legends of the past with new discussions with martial artists and actors influenced by them, Ou offers up a surprisingly rich look at how and why kung fu movies gained an international following that continues to this day via Jackie Chan comedies, the Matrix movies (with a sequel due in theaters next year), and new television series like Wu Assassins and Iron Fist. 

Beneath what is in essence an overview of the genre is a smart mixture of social and cultural commentary on a global phenomenon centered on an artform mixing athleticism, dance, and grace.  Kung fu made its way to American audiences with Tom Laughlin in Billy Jack, and into millions of homes via the Kung Fu series.  This was paralleled by Bruce Lee movies and lesser films (they call them Bruce-sploitation) from China and U.S. studios, direct-to-video crotch-kicking and “squirrel-grabbing” action on VHS tapes in video stores, heroines leading the way as a sub-genre, eventually moving to black and inner city audiences embracing the culture, starting with martial artist and actor Jim Kelly (who co-starred with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon), re-emerging later as an influence on hip hop music.  The genre got even bigger boosts with Jackie Chan heavy-stunt comedies, followed by The Matrix and the Academy Awards arrival of the genre with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Chinese co-productions with other nations, and actors of Chinese background in the mainstream outside of Asia would eventually come along.

Viewers meet (or revisit) early kung fu icons Cheng Pei-Pei and Sammo Hung in new interviews, along with Billy Banks, who would turn the genre into his own fortune via the creation of the Tae Bo workout, early American female kung fu star Cynthia Rothrock, martial artist Richard Norton, plus from the 21st century shows, Iron Fist actor Jessica Henwick, Wu Assassins actor JuJu Chan, Doctor Strange actor Scott Adkins, and Marvel stuntwoman and choreographer Amy Johnston, among others.  It’s all interspersed with great action sequences and other clips from more than 100 films.  A theme underscoring much of kung fu movie history is a distinct lack of safety standards, with more than one participant in the documentary stressing that Hong Kong kung fu movies couldn’t be made anywhere else for that reason.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Is there a great movie to take your spouse for your anniversary?  Ready or Not may be the one.  An atmospheric Gothic story that doubles as dark comedy and horror-lite cautionary tale, it’s a fun flick that will get you in the mood for the holiday–Halloween, that is.  It’s about a wedding, about marriage, and marrying into a new family.  And in-laws.  It’s also about the dark side of families, the skeletons in the closet.  Australian actress Samara Weaving plays Grace, and we meet her on her wedding day, marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien), a young man who has tried to extricate himself from his eccentric family.  But now he’s back.  He warns his new bride that his family has a “first night” tradition, requiring her to participate in a game.  First she must draw a card and all she must do is play the game.  To her surprise, statistics of chance kick in and she draws the single dreaded card, for “Hide and Seek.”  The house rule for this game is the new member of the family is the target, and it’s a game played to the death.  Is the family crazy, or is there some real dark force behind their madness?

As you might guess from the trailers, it’s like Quentin Tarantino bought the rights to direct a Clue remake and merged it with another Kill Bill sequel and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.  Credit the setting with much of Ready or Not′s atmosphere, filming at mansions Casa Loma and Parkwoods Estate in Ontario.  Behind the action of characters running through the house is expert production design by Andrew M. Stearn (Chicago, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killjoys) and costumes (including a noteworthy wedding dress that devolved over the course of the film) by Avery Plewes (The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Discovery).  Fans of the classic creep-fest Wicker Man take note: This is another film about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Samara Weaving shows she’s ready to take on the big roles going today to the likes of Margot Robbie and Emma Stone.  A big high point of the film is the mix of quietly haunting and jumpy, rousing music, thanks to composer Brian Tyler (Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Aliens v. Predator: Requiem, The Final Destination, The Expendables, Thor: The Dark World).

Most of the fun comes from a supporting cast of familiar faces.  Genre TV watchers should recognize Orphan Black’s Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano, playing a hysterical sister and brother-in-law.  Other familiar faces include Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) as the bride’s mother-in-law (MacDowell seems to conjure Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill here), her husband is Clear and Present Danger’s Henry Czerny, with Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, Orphan Black), Hanneke Talbot (iZombie, Star Trek Discovery), and John Ralston (Haven, Reign) rounding out the key players.  The most interesting is the bride’s new brother-in-law, played by Shazam!’s Adam Brody.

Continue reading

It’s like Quentin Tarantino bought the rights to direct a Clue remake and merged it with another Kill Bill sequel and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.  Whichever way it ends up, the creators of the late summer release Ready or Not know how to make a great movie trailer.  Disney’s new production arm Fox Searchlight, known for independent, horror, and comedy films, looks to have produced a clever idea: a horror film with quirky dark Tim Burton-esque black comedy in a traditional mystery setting.  Make that two trailers, both a good greenband trailer and a good redband trailer.  Check out both trailers below.

Australian actress Samara Weaving (Ash vs Evil Dead, Picnic at Hanging Rock) plays bride Grace, whose new husband, played by Mark O’Brien (Arrival, Warehouse 13), belongs to a family with an eccentric tradition.  The bride must draw a card and survive the game on the card to pass the test and join the family.  She chooses “Hide and Seek” and the family grabs their weapon of choice and proceed to try to kill her.  In the backdrop is this great mansion, backed with production design by Andrew M. Stearn (Chicago, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killjoys), and costumes by Avery Plewes (The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Discovery).  There’s not much not to like here, except the splattery blood and gore and language that won’t be for every audience.  For everyone else this looks like plenty of goofy fun.

Some high points not to overlook are the Canada actors TV watchers should be familiar with, especially Orphan Black’s standout funnyman Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano.  Other familiar faces include Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day), Henry Czerny (Clear and Present Danger), Adam Brody (Shazam!), Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, Orphan Black), Hanneke Talbot (iZombie, Star Trek Discovery), and John Ralston (Haven, Reign).  Ready or Not is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, with a screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy.

Here are both the PG-13 and the R versions of the trailers for Ready or Not:

Continue reading