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Tag Archive: Rufus Sewell


Amazon Prime released its first trailer for the final season of The Man in the High Castle, our pick for last year’s best sci-fi TV series here at borg.  Last fall’s season three finale, “Jahr Null” (Year Zero), included a set inspired by 1960s sci-fi films where an experiment led by an alternate history Josef Mengele could forever imprint a Nazi-won World War II on any and all timelines.  The Liberty Bell was melted down, and the Statue of Liberty was destroyed, falling into New York Harbor.  Luke Kleintank’s Joe Blake and Rupert Evans’ Frank Frink are now out of the story, as Jason O’Mara’s Wyatt Price steps in to fill the void in the rogue hero department.

Helen and the girls have left Rufus Sewell’s John Smith, and Himmler is taken down in an assassination attempt.  Did he live or die, and does that mean Smith becomes Fuhrer?  With Germany’s move on the Japanese States thwarted, a revolution has gained traction out West, and Alexa Davalos’s heroic leader Juliana has finally figured out how to travel like Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s Tagomi.

Yes, a lot was resolved, but we’re also set up for much more in this coming season.  Will Laura Mennell’s Thelma Harris take on a greater role now that Bella Heathcote’s Nicole Dörmer was sent back to Germany for flaunting the law?  And what is the mysterious relationship in another timeline between Juliana and John Smith?

Check out this first look at season four of The Man in the High Castle:

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC).  No other series touches on the ramifications of technology, specifically the perils of an onslaught of real-world cyborg technology, like AMC’s Humans.  This year three characters stood out, including Gemma Chan’s Mia, the cyborg Synth from past seasons, who sacrificed everything for the liberty of cyborgs in the UK.  Then there was Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss, a Synth who refused to live segregated from the humans, opting instead for a normal life for the cyborg son she assumed care for.  And Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, a human lawyer who fought so hard for the cause of the Synths all year, only to throw away all the good she had done, failing the first real challenge that was presented to her.  This year’s best TV borg is shared by Synths Mia and Karen, as each showed the uphill battle any future outsider must overcome when faced with humans.

Best Sci-fi TV SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  What had been a two-season build-up all came together in the series’ third season with the audacity of killing off key characters, wisely adhering to the framework of the source Philip K. Dick novel.  The use of science fiction to tell an often gut-wrenching array of subplots and unique characters has set up a fourth season with plenty to address.  Exciting, smart, scary, and even fun, it is an unusual science fiction show that isn’t merely trigger-happy sci-fi.  Honorable mention: Humans (AMC), Counterpart (Starz).

Best New TV Series, Best Reboot, Best Ensemble CastMagnum PI (CBS).  If you would have told us a year ago our favorite show this year would be a reboot of Magnum, p.i. starring Suicide Squad’s Jay Hernandez and an actress in the iconic role of John Hillerman’s Higgins, we wouldn’t have believed it.  And yet, even as diehard fans of the original, we had to acknowledge that many elements of the reboot series were even better in the new series.  With the dangerous risk of taking on a beloved property, the production maintained loyalty to the original while making it fresh, scoring Magnum PI high marks on all counts.  Every character was smartly written–suave and confident Magnum, energetic Rick and TC, and a savvy Higgins–every actor was perfectly cast, and each show was another round of nostalgic fun for fans of the original.  Best New TV Series Honorable mention for Best New TV Series: Counterpart (Starz), Lodge 49 (AMC).

Best Series, Best Drama, Best ComedyLodge 49 (AMC).  Lodge 49 told two stories: a darkly serious drama of real people dealing with real-life 2018 adversity, and the other a comedy farce like no other.  Hanging over our heads was the idea that this was going to be a fantasy show, complete with secret codes, hidden rooms, and psychic visions.  If you’re looking for all the elements of great fantasy the hint of it all could be found throughout this series.  And yet it wasn’t fantasy at all.  An oddball Cheers?  A southern Twin Peaks without the Lynchian weirdness?  Star Wyatt Russell’s hero Dud could be dismissed as a typical young man with no vision, or maybe he’s that idealist that everyone needs to strive to be.  Maybe we’ll learn more about that next season.  Honorable mention for Best Drama: Counterpart (Starz).  Honorable mention for Best Comedy: Baskets (FX).
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Philip K. Dick‘s  The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963, and is widely considered his best work.  Some of his 44 novels and 121 short stories have been adapted to film, including 10 in the past year in the series Electric Dreams (previously reviewed here at borg), and big screen films Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, Paycheck, Next, A Scanner Darkly, and Screamers.  None of those better reflect the depth of Philip K. Dick’s genius than the Amazon television series The Man in the High Castle Season 3 is available this month on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.  In his novel the series is based on Dick delved into the science fiction trope of the alternate history, a parallel world showing a view of a different 1960s after World War II.  Often mislabeled as merely a story where Nazis won the war, the fact is the novel focuses substantially on the shared Japanese victory and the resulting assimilated culture in the United States some 20 years later.  Series director Daniel Percival and a host of other directors and writers expand upon the novel–and the parallel world–into something much bigger, and something much greater.  To call The Man in the High Castle a loose adaptation of the novel is a disservice–the series conjures the spirit of Dick’s unique vision faithfully and one can imagine Dick endorsing the expanded elements were he still with us.  The novel is always the backbone of the series (even in this third season’s fifth episode “The New Colossus” viewers are brought back to a cornerstone scene from the novel).  As with Dick’s book, the series is an inspired, even noble use of science fiction.

Amazon debuted its film studio potential with the pilot for the series in January 2015, followed that November by the first season, developing not only the lead characters in the book–antique dealer Robert Childan (Brennan Brown) and Japanese Pacific States trade minister Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa)–important secondary characters are expanded, too, including struggling jewelry maker Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), his wife (girlfriend in the series) Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) who would venture off to meet the mysterious title character (Stephen Root), their friend and co-worker Ed McCarthy (D.J. Qualls), Nazi spy Joe Blake aka Joe Cinadella (Luke Kleintank), and the enigmatic Nazi attaché Rudolph Wegener (Carsten Norgaard).  Added to these eight characters by series creator Frank Spotnitz are former U.S. soldier-turned rising Nazi officer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and his family, Inspector Kido–a cold and ruthless Japanese enforcer (Joel de la Fuente), and Nicole Dörmer (Bella Heathcote), a rising propaganda director.  The characters were fleshed out in 2016 in the show’s second season, with chemistry among the cast, plus high stakes life-and-death risks that raised doubt that viewers’ favorite characters will survive from episode to episode–all reason to keep coming back for more.  With this new season, viewers have now been able to examine the tentacles of a Fascist state as it infiltrates and annihilates both the average worker and the ruling elite–nobody really wins, everyone loses.  Historical parallels to the real world are left for the viewer’s interpretation.

Through Sewell’s Smith we see the inevitable doom awaiting everyone under a Fascist regime–that even the leaders aren’t exempt from application of their code of terror and hatred (Smith as a top official still lost his son for his “inferior” DNA via a genetic anomaly), from Frank Frink we see the struggle to survive for any member of the citizenry who is not of the “preferred” race, through Joe Cinadella (aka Joe Blake) we see how quickly a Nazi can be brainwashed into disregarding life, through Wegener we see the difficulty of defiance and resistance against a giant, stifling regime in power, through Dörmer we see the arrogance and cost of hubris, from Kido we see that torment and terror under an autocratic regime knows no bounds, Childan illustrates the complacency of a detached, disengaged middle class, through Tagomi we see the struggle of a single peacemaker among a field of lunatics, and through Juliana and Ed we see the possibility of hope through commitment and determination–but will they succeed or fail?.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Man in the High Castle was Philip K. Dick‘s most critically acclaimed novel, which says a lot for his parallel history World War II tale when stacked up against his other brilliant short stories and novels (that’s 121 stories and 44 novels in all).  It’s also the first of his stories to become a big-budget television series, premiering in 2015 with the well-received pilot for The Man in the High Castle.  Amazon Studios proved it can make a drama on par with any other network or studio in its first two seasons, and at San Diego Comic-Con the studio announced the series renewal for a fourth season.  This past week Amazon released a great preview for the next season (see it below).  So you now have a full month to get caught up on the first 20 episodes before Season 3 arrives on Amazon Prime in October.

The series is well worth your time.  The first season was a bit of a slowly building story, providing all the twisty elements to take viewers in a believable way into a parallel version of Earth’s past where the Nazis and Japan were victorious in WWII and America was divided up between them.  As gritty a dystopian show as anyone could muster, the back half of each season is reward enough to stick with the series, even for viewers not especially in the mood for the bleak subject matter.  The winner of two of eight Emmy Award nominations, the series begins in 1962, long after the end of the war–long enough for a new culture to have been solidified across the regions of North America.  The series leads created the best performances you’ll find on television: Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Mist, Defiance), as Juliana Crane, an American whose actions are pivotal for the future, Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Zen), a former American soldier who becomes one of the Nazi leaders in the former States, Joel de la Fuente (The Adjustment Bureau, The Happening) is stunning as the most ruthless of characters, the Japanese leader of the Pacific region of America, and an incredibly nuanced performance of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Lost in Space, Star Wars Rebels, Grimm, Heroes, Alien Nation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) as trade minister for Japan based in San Francisco–a brilliantly layered character like nothing you’ve seen.

Building on Dick’s original ideas and expanding on them is what the series does best, blending the best of the old (like keeping Tagawa’s character having a special power to see an alternate version of the world from the novel) and the new (like using film footage vs. books to inspire actions).  The writers nicely integrate updates and new characters into the series.  Who is the Man in the High Castle?  You’ll just have to watch to find out.  Look for a stellar supporting cast, two fantastic season finales, and a great set-up for the show’s third season.  Fan-favorite genre actors in the show include Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Lexx, Fingersmith, Charmed), Luke Kleintank (Bones), DJ Qualls (Supernatural), Rick Worthy (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica, 12 Monkeys, Supernatural, Haven, Warehouse 13), Callum Keith Rennie (The X-Files, The Dead Zone, Tru Calling, Battlestar Galactica), Daniel Roebuck (Lost, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Grimm, Quantum Leap), Tate Donovan (Memphis Belle, Argo, Shooter), and many more.

Here is the latest trailer for the third season of The Man in the High Castle:

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victoria-coleman

Actress Jenna Coleman’s Clara, the cheery and sweet companion on BBC’s Doctor Who, moves on this year as a new companion joins the series in her place.  But Coleman is already off to new things, and first up is portraying young Queen Victoria in a new BBC series beginning tonight on PBS’s Masterpiece.  Victoria is a large-scale costume drama focusing on 18-year-old Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent and from her rise in power through her marriage to Prince Albert.  It includes an extensive romance thread–the unrequited love between Victoria and Lord Melbourne, played by Rufus Sewell.

Coleman’s Queen Victoria is both strong and passionate, and Melbourne as played by Sewell–known for countless roles in productions including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Zen, Eleventh Hour, The Legend of Zorro, Pillars of the Earth, A Knight’s Tale, Dark City, and most recently, Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle–exhibits those good qualities and the more frustrating bits found in Jane Austen’s Lord Darcy from Pride & Prejudice.

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The costumes, props of royalty, location filming, and production sets are not surprisingly lavish.  Victoria has the hallmarks of another successful BBC/PBS series, taking on the popular Downton Abbey timeslot.  Episode One tonight is 120 minutes, and the first season of the series continues for seven episodes this year.

Here are previews for BBC’s new series Victoria:

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Man in High Castle Rushmore drop

Good news for you fans of Philip K. Dick novel film adaptations, or those who, like me, thought the pilot was not too shabby, as reviewed previously here at borg.com.  Amazon Studio’s The Man in the High Castle got picked up for a season–at least ten episodes–and it’s coming your way next month.

The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history story where Nazi Germany and Japan defeat the Allies in the second World War.  The acting really carried the pilot.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (The Librarians, Heroes, Alien Nation, License to Kill, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) plays Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese official who must warn Japan that Hitler is dying and will soon be replaced with one of his even less amiable lieutenants (Goebbels, etc.) who is likely to drop an Atomic bomb or two on Japan.

highcastle

Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, Defiance) plays Juliana Crain, a judo/Aikido instructor who receives a strange movie reel (in the novel, a book) titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy from her activist sister before she is gunned down by Japanese officials.  Her boyfriend in the TV series (and ex-husband in the novel) is played by Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Fingersmith).  He is taken prisoner at the end of the pilot, for his association with Juliana and her sister’s apparent treasonous acts.  Rufus Sewell (Zen, A Knight’s Tale, Eleventh Hour) makes an appearance as the ultimate villain–like many of his past roles–this time an unsympathetic Nazi military officer who tortures a rebel civilian without a glimmer of emotion.

Check out this preview then take a look at the first episode:

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Magic trick Now You See Me

It must be hard to portray the art of being a magician on the big screen.  The latest effort is The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, and Clash of the Titans’ director Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me previewed earlier at borg.com here.  It has much to offer by way of entertainment, the best reward being the cast, which manages to nail that very Las Vegas magic act schtick of “showmanship” that you only see in a good magic act.  But can you give a theatrical audience a convincing magic show–actually trick us and surprise us in the same way someone like David Copperfield can make the Statue of Liberty disappear right in front of you, or how Teller distracts as Penn causes the very thing you’re staring at to disappear right before you?

Apparently you can’t do that in the movies–or at least no one has dazzled us in that way yet.  But you can at least give us a good show letting us see different styles in which magicians practice their art.

Magic Act Now You See Me

Two recent contenders for the top of the “movies about magicians and magic” list are not at risk of leaving the top because of Now You See Me.  The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and The Prestige, starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, and Scarlett Johansson released opposite each other in 2006, take on the same themes.  But if you’re deciding between the two we think The Illusionist, from director Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergent) is the better film, over the very typically over-the-top effort by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, Inception) in The Prestige.  It’s the payoff of Now You See Me that doesn’t quite cut it, despite some fun theatrics along the way.

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The Man in the High Castle Times Square

Review by C.J. Bunce

The more I read Philip K. Dick’s novels, and I’ve read roughly half, the more I want to take a highlighter to paragraphs throughout his works that keep me coming back for more.  Oddly enough, those tidbits I liked best from his Hugo Award-winning, 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle, didn’t make it into the Amazon Studios pilot released this month on their streaming service.  Enough of his framework is there, however, to make science fiction fans, especially alternate history fans, want the new studio to pick up the series and show us what more they can do with this unique work.

The Man in the High Castle generally is considered Dick’s best work.  The TV pilot and novel follow a small cast of characters living their average lives in a world where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II.  The superpowers have divided America, leaving a neutral zone of sorts in between, and this arrangement is the key political focus of the story.  In the novel, life is more mundane and the vile realities more subtle.  In the TV series the theme is more like Red Dawn–the studio must think modern audiences need that over-arching theme of American rebellion for the show to take hold.  A key element missing from the pilot is the Japanese desire for American nostalgia.  A key character in the novel, an antique salesman named Robert Childan, is absent from the TV version.  It’s this character I was most fascinated with in the novel, so it was a strange watching the story progress without his contribution.

Davalos The Man in the High Castle

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Colin Firth british spy

We’re always on the lookout for the next James Bond.  Three years ago we here at borg.com nominated Rufus Sewell here and Paul Blackthorne (Arrow, Dresden Files) and Jason Isaacs (Awake, Harry Potter) here.  Fortunately Daniel Craig doesn’t appear to be giving up his Walther PPK or Aston Martin anytime soon.  But what about the British number one heartthrob, Colin Firth?

Now we at least have an idea of what Firth’s Bond might look like with the preview to the 2016 release Kingsman: The Secret Service this week.  Admittedly we first thought this trailer was for a remake of the classic British spy series The Avengers, with Firth as John Steed.  Ralph Fiennes, the newest M in the James Bond franchise, was the latest to don the famous bowler hat and umbrella for that role.  Firth would have been a good choice for that role, but he also seems to be summoning a little foppish Peter Sellers from the original Casino Royale, too.

Kingsman Secret Service

Based on the six issue comic book mini-series Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class), this latest spy flick has Firth mentoring a street-kid for possible inclusion in a secret spy society.  That mentoring makes this movie give off a vibe like another great coming of age flick of years past, The Freshman, starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick.  If Kingsman is half as good as that film, we’ve got something to look forward to.

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Ben Walker as Lincoln

Would the real Abraham Lincoln please stand up?

With all that has been written and all the photographs we have of Abraham Lincoln, moviemakers keep trying to convey their own visions of the one and true 16th U.S. president.  Americans have such a revered image of Lincoln that Hollywood has rarely portrayed him.  Famed director John Ford’s brother Francis played Lincoln in a 1913 production called When Lincoln Paid.  In 1930 Walter Huston, father of famed director John Huston, portrayed Lincoln in D.W. Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln.  But the two best-known and best-loved performances were by Henry Fonda in John Ford’s 1939 production of Young Mr. Lincoln, and Raymond Massey in 1940’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois.  In 2012 we saw two major movies with Lincoln as the lead character, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis, and Benjamin Walker as a younger Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  The latter was dismissed by critics as fluff for the most part, instead heaping praise on the big Spielberg film.  This is unfortunate, because in any other year Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter might have received a better reception.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter poses the purely fantasy idea that Abe Lincoln was not only a politician and patriot but an apprentice hunter cleaning up the countryside to avoid the spread of vampires throughout the U.S. before and during the Civil War.  Gettysburg wasn’t just about conquering the Southern rebellion, it was about defeating the vampire-laden confederacy.

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Where Daniel Day-Lewis opted to play Lincoln as craggy and gruff, more so than Raymond Massey portrayed him in Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Benjamin Walker’s take is much closer to Henry Fonda’s pleasant and forthright everyman from Young Mr. Lincoln.  Despite Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter offering up an admittedly male, historical version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, director Timur Bekmambetov went well beyond what you’d normally find in a film so blatantly tied to a gimmick, that of screenwriter/novelist Seth Grahame-Smith following up his earlier well-received mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  In fact, pushing aside for a moment the vampire hunting, the film offers an admirable view of the president, and in particular his relationship with Mary Todd.  And that is saying a lot for a film that is part axe-waving and vampire killing.

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