Tag Archive: Rebecca


When we created last year’s preview of 2020 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best, mainly because what were to be the big box office hits were delayed to 2021 because of the covid pandemic.  All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, an impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.  Ultimately we think the Best Movies of 2020 will stand up against any other year.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back tomorrow for our best on television and later this week for our print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2020:

Best Film, Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Drama, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Writing, Best Suspense/Thriller, Best Retro Fix The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime).  The man of many hats, writer-director-producer-editor Andrew Patterson dazzled us this year with the sleeper sci-fi film The Vast of Night, from Amazon Prime.  Amazon hadn’t before stunned us with a feature film, but this one sure blew us away.  We knew this was the #1 science fiction offering of the year at first viewing, but when we went back and watched films again, it also stood out as the clear winner for top prize.  Part American Graffiti, part The Twilight Zone and The X-Files, and filmed as faithfully to the era as a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece (with Orson Welles flair), this story sneaks up on the audience thanks in part to its two talented young lead actors.  The script is impeccable and rich, dotted with great jargon that dances artfully like music from the characters’ lips.  Expert Chilean cinematographer Miguel Menz adds just the right lighting and camera angles for a film we hope can get recognized by the Oscars, if only so we can see more of these filmmakers and actors in the future.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Film: Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Netflix).

Best Borg Movie, Best Superhero Movie, Best BorgBloodshot (Sony Pictures).  The story of slain soldier Ray Garrison provided the year’s best look at life as a borg.  What do you do with cybernetic enhancements, how do you use them, and what toll does take from your humanity?  Jeff Wadlow’s story really kicked in once the audience slides into the plot twist.  The Six Million Dollar Man didn’t get to decide to get his bionics, and neither does Ray.  Once you give up control of yourself to someone else, more and more of you vanishes.  Especially if the person in control is using you as a tool of evil.  The best superhero films tend to be about the B-level superheroes, and Bloodshot proved that true again this year.  Honorable mention for Best Superhero Movie: The New Mutants (20th Century Studios).

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Happy holidays!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2021!  But wait!  Next year’s list sure looks a lot like the the films we previewed last December.  The covid pandemic has delayed hundreds of film projects, but some made it through.  When you walk back through last year’s list and compare it to movies released after theater lockdowns, you get some insight into how Hollywood thinks.  Big movies and movies predicted to be successes were universally held back, while less popular films were released to low box office returns from theaters that remained open, and yet other films went directly to home streaming or related media platforms.

Last year we pulled 85 of the hundreds of films then slated for the 2020 movie calendar.  The first two dozen made it to theaters (films like Underwater, Dolittle, and Birds of Prey) before the national shift began on March 11 with news of the NBA reacting to the pandemic by suspending pro basketball–the first national awareness of the scope of the problem.  Suddenly we saw Vudu and other home platforms coming to the rescue for our entertainment fix, adding a new Theater at Home option, which captured movies like Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emma, Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, and the animated Scoob!  Disney began an interesting tiered release of Mulan, which for half the year showed a studio doing its best to maximize returns on what would have been a key release in any other year.  After another delay The New Mutants made it briefly to theaters followed by home release after three years of getting kicked aside as the last vestiges of the Disney-Fox merger were shaken out.  Other films, like Vast of Night, Extraction, The Old Guard, Rebecca, Radioactive, and Fantasy Island safely premiered on Netflix and Amazon Prime, with Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction standing out as the clear popular winner–the entire world needed some new entertainment and after what would only be the first of several months of shelter-at-home, it tentatively filled the void.

So our predictions for the year’s big genre films were flat wrong, every single one except Mulan was delayed to 2021, including Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Black Widow, No Time to Die, a new Fast & Furious, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, and superhero flicks Venom 2, Eternals, and MorbiusWonder Woman 1984 is expected to have a theatrical release by year end.  Altogether 35 of last year’s 85 movies previewed on our annual list are back again below, plus we found more than 35 new genre films we think will appeal to borg readers.

So what’s left and what’s new?

Grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2021.  Then compare the below list to our 2020 list, and look back to the 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list.  Last year we noticed studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services, and the pandemic only stepped up that migration.  Note:  Warner Bros. has reported it will issue its 2021 releases simultaneously on HBO Max.  Netflix has mostly dramas slated for 2021, but a few genre films are in pre-production, so expect a few surprises throughout the year.  Amazon Studios has fewer, most partnerships with Blumhouse Productions.

As we learned well this year, many of these films will have revised release dates, and even get pushed to 2022.

January

Mortal Kombat Based on the video game.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.  HBO Max.

Wrath of Man Next Jason Statham action flick.  New!  Tentative release date: January 15, 2021.

The French Dispatch.  Wes Anderson and his familiar actors in new quirky film about journalists.  New!  January 28, 2021.

The DigA film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan.  January 29, 2021.  Netflix.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A year after he directed an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, Alfred Hitchcock would direct his adaptation of an even more memorable du Maurier novel, Rebecca.  His 1940 film would be the only Hitchcock film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Rebecca, a remake, premieres this week on Netflix.  For its fall releases the popular streaming studio nicely split up the male leads of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., putting Henry Cavill in Enola Holmes and Armie Hammer in Rebecca, even using the same mansion for both films.  For Rebecca, Netflix plucked ex-cast members from Mr. Selfridge and some other genre favorites of British TV.  So how does the new Rebecca compare to Hitchcock’s masterpiece?

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A year after he directed an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, Alfred Hitchcock would direct his adaptation of an even more memorable du Maurier novel, Rebecca His 1940 film would be the only Hitchcock film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.  It is a Hollywood classic, a perfect Gothic romance masterpiece starring Joan Fontaine as the mousey Cinderella-esque Mrs. de Winter, opposite Laurence Olivier as the controlling but dashing Maxim de Winter.  There’s a dark secret at Maxim’s sprawling estate called Manderley.  The great future dame Judith Anderson played Mrs. Danvers, creating one of those screen villains in that club of scary, loathsome manipulators that includes The Wicked Witch of the West, Maleficent, Dolores Umbridge, Mrs. Emerson, and Nurse Ratched.  Now 80 years later, relatively unknown director Ben Wheatley (Doctor Who, Free Fire) is bringing his own adaptation to Netflix next month.  So who is being cast in the key roles this time?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With the 1868 novel The Moonstone, author Wilkie Collins created what is widely considered to be the first modern English detective novel, creating the key beats that would thereafter make up the framework for the genre.  In his earlier work, the 1859 Gothic “sensational” novel The Woman in White, Collins created a suspense thriller that stands up to rich classics including his contemporary Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Bleak House, all while steeped in the realities of being a 19th century woman documented a decade earlier by Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre, and later, Daphne du Maurier in Rebecca.  The BBC 2018 adaptation of The Woman in White, streaming now via Amazon Prime, rises to the top of recent British mystery series, a compelling execution that will keep you guessing until the final scenes.    Continue reading

 

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Most people know Daphne du Maurier as a suspense writer, creator of psychological and gothic thrillers like Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and My Cousin Rachel.  But what often gets overlooked is her great science fiction, exploring the boundaries between the known and familiar, and the disturbing edges of twentieth century scientific progress.  Her classic post-war story “The Birds” was transformed into a Hitchcock horror film that bears only superficial similarity to the isolation, drama, and sheer apocalyptic gloom of the original, in which residents of an English coastal village watch their doom coming ever closer, thanks to terrifying radio news updates, and is well worth a read (perhaps not now… or perhaps particularly now, depending on your predilections!).

Her 1969 novel The House on the Strand explores the psychological effects of time travel, through the lens of unlikeable characters doing uninteresting things.  The time machine in du Maurier’s novel is a drug (or “concoction,” as she calls it), or a series of drugs, whose differing effects are never fully (or even partially) explained.  Dick Young is an out-of-work publisher housesitting for an old college chum for the summer, in an old house on the Cornish coast (setting of so many of du Maurier’s stories).  The old college chum, Magnus, has been experimenting with a time-travel drug, and urges Dick to make his own “trips” into the past.

 

What follows is a dense tapestry of Cornish landscape and history, although the details and characters take some considerable time to sort out, and Dick never interacts with any of the figures he observes.  His instant attachment to the characters of the past is only slightly explained in contrast to his wife (whom he dislikes).  A midpoint plot twist introduces a potential murder plotline, and du Maurier definitely keeps the reader guessing (or perhaps hoping) what might happen next.  None of my expectations were ultimately borne out, to my disappointment, and the main character never grew any more sympathetic.  There is a comeuppance, of a sort, at the very end, satisfying in its own way.  It’s easy to read this as an inspiration or forebear for later time travel stories to come, especially Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, set in the same time period, or Michael Crichton’s Timeline. 

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2020.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 85 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  Ghostbusters: Afterlife Scarlett Johannson solo in Black WidowA new James Bond movie, No Time to DieVin Diesel in Bloodshot and a new Fast & FuriousThe original Tom Clancy novel series is finally continuing with an adaptation of Without Remorse Comic book adaptations are in less supply in 2020, but look for Venom 2, Wonder Woman 1984, Eternals, The New Mutants, Morbius, Birds of Prey, The Old Guard, and did we mention Black WidowCompare the below list to our 2019 list and even the 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list, and your takeaway may be seeing the studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services.

Do you like sequels?  There are far less coming to theaters in 2020 than in 2019, but many more remakes of movies, books, and TV shows are on the way.  In fact, with all the blockbusters in 2019, 2020 looks pretty tame as the cinema marquee is concerned.  Some films don’t have locked in release dates yet: Amazon Studios and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for the following 2020 releases (those we know you’ll find on the calendar below):

  • 7500, a film about a highjacked airplane, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Amazon Studios)
  • The Dig, a film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan (Netflix)
  • Horse Girl, Alison Brie stars and directs this story about an awkward girl who fuses her dreams with reality (Netflix)
  • Jingle Jangle, an animated Christmas story with the voices of Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, and Hugh Bonneville (Netflix)
  • Louis Wain, biopic of the 19th century artist starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, and Andrea Riseborough (Amazon Studios)
  • The Old Guard, adaptation of comic book story, starring Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, a film about Marie Curie, starring Rosamund Pike and Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)
  • Rebecca, adaptation and remake of the Daphne Du Maurier classic novel, starring Lily James, Keely Hawes, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Armie Hammer (Netflix)
  • Welcome to Sudden Death, sequel to Jean-Claude van Damme 1995 movie starring Michael Jai White (Netflix)
  • The Willoughbys, animated adaptation of the Lois Lowry book, with voices of Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, and Jane Krakowski (Netflix)
  • Wonderland, murder conspiracy mystery starring Mark Wahlberg, Allan Arkin, and Colleen Camp (Netflix)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2021.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2020 (and some you might not!):

January

The Informer – Thriller, starring Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Common, and Clive Owen – January 10.

Underwater – Thriller, stars Kristin Stewart in underwater horror story – January 10.

Dolittle – Family/Comedy, stars Robert Downey, Jr. in remake of the classic, with voices of Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes, and Michael Sheen – January 17.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Like an episode of Monk or Murder She Wrote, the next film from writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is a straightforward mystery.  Knives Out comes in on the heels of the similar looking Ready Or Not, and it’s a mash-up of sorts, aiming to have that ensemble cast variety of the last Thanksgiving movie release mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, while trying to bring back the nostalgia of the famous comedy whodunnit movie, Clue.  It’s the 85th birthday of the family patriarch and the families of his three children arrive to celebrate.  The next morning the patriarch is found dead.  Arriving in theaters next week and marketed toward the Thanksgiving holiday crowd, Knives Out turns out to be a mixed bag.

The reason to check it out is as you’d expect: the cast.  The cast choices would be a dream assemblage for any film.  James Bond Daniel Craig facing off against Captain America Chris Evans?  Legend Christopher Plummer delivering a performance as good as his last Oscar-winner?  Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Toni Collette playing against type?  And top it off with Don Johnson, poised to have his own career second wind as a leading man.  But the real star performance comes from Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049).  de Armas, a ringer for a Tru Calling-era Eliza Dushku, plays a nurse to Christopher Plummer’s character.  Incredibly charming and engaging, de Armas is also given the biggest opportunity to show the most emotional range in the film.  A plus for Bond fans, this movie will serve as a preview of sorts for movie audiences of No Time to Die, as de Armas plays the next “Bond girl” opposite Daniel Craig’s master spy in theaters next spring.

Not a recommended movie for taking on a date, and ultimately a questionable choice for Thanksgiving, one of the conceits (which may take viewers outside the realm of reality) is a character who vomits with each lie.  By the end of the film it becomes an in-your-face gross-out, making viewers watch one character… covered… for an entire scene.  As a story element this “human lie detector” is also a writers’ crutch, a trick that skips over some story challenges viewers would normally be able to work through on their own.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Notorious isn’t just the name of an Alfred Hitchcock film, it describes the reputation of the acclaimed director over the course of his 55-year career.  Over the course of his films he would become famous for not only the blonde actresses in his films, but his misogynistic, voyeuristic, fetishism themes and content.  A precursor in many ways to Quentin Tarentino, Hitchcock nearly 40 years after his death is as popular as ever, with his film Vertigo still on many critics’ lists as the best American film of all time.  Those who view his films are left to wonder how much of the content of his films were the man, and how often was he simply selling what moviegoers were looking for–something new, something surprising, something stylish, and something shocking.  The flip side of Hitchcock viewed as provocateur is the fact that his films always featured a strong lead woman–sometimes from the opening scene and other times by film’s end–and the actress was often the only name marketed above the title, including some of the most fierce and compelling women characters ever filmed.

Scotland author Caroline Young takes a compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films in her new book Hitchcock’s Heroines, a photograph-filled hardcover from Insight Editions.  Young, author of Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, Tartan & Tweed, and Style Tribes, sources interviews with the actors as well as interviews with Hitchcock to gain a better understanding of what motivated his work.  He spent the first half of his career–represented by the first half of the book–developing the style he would come to be known for by the time of his 1954 success Rear Window, culminating in his ideal production team: costume designer Edith Head, production designer Robert Burks, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and editor George Tomasini.  Hitchcock knew that most of his audience were women and believed that in the 1940s-1960s women usually determined what movie a couple was going to attend.  So the appearance of his leading women was as important, if not more important, than any other part of the film.  He also had an eye for using color and wardrobe as part of his storytelling tools, perhaps changing a character’s muted-toned costumes to striking and contrasting by film’s end to represent a character’s change in mood, strength, or growth.

Hitchcock’s Heroines is a superb source of costume sketches, costume designs, and production stills spanning Hitchcock’s directorial career.  Young includes with her discussions of each actress and corresponding character the costumes and costumers, which amounts to a history of Hollywood costume design artists, including Jean Peron, Dolly Tree, Joe Strassner, Marianne, Irene, Edward Stevenson, Vera West, Gilbert Adrian, René Hubert, Howard Greer, Edith Head, Christian Dior, Milo Anderson, Moss Mabry, Helen Rose, Harry Kress, Rita Riggs, Helen Colvig, and Julie Harris, although it was also not beyond Hitchcock to source his own vision from off-the-rack wardrobe from Western Costume Company or Bergdorf Goodman. Hair style and hair color is also a recurring theme Young pursues in the book.

Young references an interview from 1931 where Hitchcock discussed selecting actresses for roles: “The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience.  Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex.”  It is noteworthy that Hitchcock was not always responsible for who starred in his films–Young cites instances where studio head David O. Selznick directly cast Hitchcock’s leading actors.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

An exciting new Gothic suspense thriller has arrived in the new Netflix series Requiem.  Like any great mystery–and it seems even more so in this sub-genre–you never can tell what kind of story you’re in until the very end.  Clues are everywhere if you only look at what is right in front of you.  Call it a psychological thriller, call it a ghost story, call it a police procedural, call it another X-Files entry, call it outright horror, Requiem is a British production that, unlike so many past British series, it’s arrived for American audiences as quickly as it premiered in England.  And one of the great things about Netflix is it’s now bridging that gap of time that has so often taken British television series years to arrive in the States.  We don’t know their trick but we love it.  Requiem is as creepy, as atmospheric, and as chilling as anything you’re going to see this year.

Fans of the original The Watcher in the Woods will appreciate Requiem for many reasons, including getting that obligatory British estate nestled in the far-off woods so very right.  Viewers familiar with the Gothic genre will find themselves transfixed, scrabbling to follow clues and guess before the final episode the true nature of the darkness in the story.  The beauty of the script, acting, and setting is that you probably won’t be able to figure it all out.  It’s that good.  Expect a few “I didn’t see that coming” utterances and a satisfying ending.  Is this just another procedural crime drama about a missing child?  Something like The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, Hinterlands, Shetland, or this year’s Netflix release, Collateral Or something with a more supernatural twist like British series Marchlands, Lightfields, The Secret of Crickley Hall, or a litany of creepy ghosts, haunts, and other fears from the big screen across the decades, like Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing, Gaslight, The Lady Vanishes, or The Woman in Black, like the film adaptations of the Daphne du Maurier novels My Cousin Rachel, The Birds, and Rebecca, or adaptations of Gothic classics Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Turn of the Screw, or Great Expectations?  Maybe this is a modern horror tale wrapped in Gothic dress, like The Boy, The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Others, The Fog (and other John Carpenter classics), Skeleton Key, the Oscar winner Get Out, this year’s film Winchester, or Guillermo del Toro’s modern creation inspired by the classic Gothic thriller, Crimson Peak Or maybe it only has the atmosphere of the above productions.  

Virtuoso cellist Matilda Grey (Star Trek Beyond, Black Mirror, and Never Let Me Go’s Lydia Wilson) is readying a London premiere with her musical partner Hal (Game of Thrones’ Joel Fry).  But her world falls apart when her mother Janice (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and Spaced’s Joanna Scanlan) commits suicide.  At her mother’s home she finds a hidden box of secrets that reveals her own past may not be what it seems, and she and Hal find themselves trying to come to terms with Matilda’s loss in the seemingly unpronounceable Welsh town of Penllynith.  Something wicked this way comes, or does it?  Is everyone just caught up in an old missing persons case from years ago and the quirky lore of an old village?

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