Tag Archive: Sony Pictures


Morbius novel cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

As each new superhero gets his showcase in Marvel movies, we’re getting more and more lesser known characters pulled from the history of Marvel Comics to meet on the big screen.  As we stray away from the actual superhero headliners, the obscure come to the fore.  Probably the best of the darker, horror comics can be found in DC Comics, members of Justice League Dark, in recent years including Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, and Shade.  But it’s the feel of JLD you’ll find in Brendan Daneen’s Morbius, The Living Vampire: Blood Ties, a new novel in the Titan Books library of novel adaptations of Marvel Comics.  Taking place after the origin story of Marvel’s take on a “bat-man,” to be adapted in the pandemic-delayed, big-screen debut of Marvel’s latest monstrosity Morbius starring Jared Leto, this story gives an accounting of that “living vampire” first created 50 years ago in the pages of Spider-Man comics by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.

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Milla Jovovich’s badass superheroine Alice in the Resident Evil franchise, from 2002’s first film through five sequels–Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)–has given us the 21st century version of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner.  The tie-in to the Japanese survival/horror-themed video game Biohazard (renamed for the U.S. market) is a staple in the action movie genre–not only one of the world’s bestselling game series since arriving in 1996, it’s the world’s most successful video game tie-in movie franchise ever.  But Alice wasn’t a character in the Capcom Resident Evil games, and 14 years is a long run for any franchise, so it’s finally getting a reboot, and that yet-to-be-titled reboot is coming later this year with a great slate of some of our favorite genre actors.  This new film (from Sony Pictures) will be in addition to an eight-part Resident Evil live-action television series and an anime series (titled Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness), both coming to Netflix.

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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Despite delays in releases due to the covid pandemic, nothing kept Hollywood from including great female characters on the screen, even if that meant moving movies to the small screen for a while. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2020 compares?  Here are 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add masked superheroines, a CDC epidemiologist, aliens, assassins, martial artists, warriors, cyborgs, a telephone operator, an engineer, a bounty hunter, and a frog and a pig–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020:

Bo-Katan Kryze (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).  In the animated series she would let nothing stand in her way. In a galaxy with villains like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Grand Moff Gideon, we’re lucky to have Bo-Katan on our side. Leading a team to find the Darksaber and restore Mandalore, she’s also willing to enlist a lone straggler, and help him for his efforts. With Katee Sackhoff, the actress behind Starbuck, in the armor, the coolness factor goes up by a factor of 100. Great heroines are great leaders, and, like Bo-Katan, they wield an incredible arsenal of skills. (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Nicole Haught in Wynonna Earp

Sheriff Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp).  Katherine Barrell’s tough, savvy, and friendly sheriff is one of the best reasons to watch Wynonna Earp, now four seasons running. She’s the girlfriend of Wynonna’s sister Waverly, she is plugged into the local supernatural happenings, and she’s always available to lend a hand, when she’s not carrying out her sheriff duties. She’s an investigator who is loyal, driven, and smart. She’s also fun and friendly, making her the heart of the series. In a show about supernatural people, she holds her own as law enforcer simply by her own human wits. (Syfy)

Seven of Nine (Star Trek Picard).  More than forty years of Star Trek have revealed some exceptional women leaders. This year we were lucky to see the re-appearance of one of the best, a character who was captured as a child and trapped in what amounts to a technological cult. With the help of a strong captain, Seven was able to break free, and re-learn what it means to be human. This year that meant helping a legendary former admiral, avenge the death of her closest friend, and fight for good long after her call to duty. (CBS All Access)

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A little bit Robocop, a little bit Bionic Man, a little bit of every Marvel solo character origin story, and very Vin Diesel, the movie adaptation of the 1990s Valiant Comics Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated sci-fi/superhero Bloodshot was the first movie industry collateral damage from the pandemic because it arrived March 13 in theaters, the same weekend the U.S. federal government began responding and theaters began to modify their rules and ultimately close.   Which also made it the first for a studio to release at theatrical prices via the new “theater-at-home” option from Vudu and Amazon Prime.  The good news is it’s well worth full ticket prices, and would have been even better on the big screen.  It has all of the right beats we’ve seen in the past decade in the better movies adapting comics beyond the traditional superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel.  It also introduces fans of all things borg to the next squad of cyborg warriors worthy of sequels.

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A little bit Robocop, a little bit Bionic Man, a little bit Deadpool and Venom, a bit of The Punisher, and very Vin Diesel, the comic book adaptation of the 1990s Valiant Comics Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated superhero Bloodshot is finally making its way to theaters.  Sony Pictures released the first trailer for the film this week, and it has all of those components we’ve seen in the past decade from movies adapting comics beyond the traditional superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel.  The inclusion of nanites as part of Bloodshot’s powers make him the latest borg to make it to the big screen.  Whatever Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola or anyone else wants to say about superhero movies, these films are an art form in their own right, with their own language, look, music, editing, and story–just like every other genre of film.  Fans will be the only judge that matters when Bloodshot arrives early next year.

Diesel, who somehow seems to be the pick for Italian characters despite his own northern European roots, is a smart casting decision for Ray Garrison aka Angelo Mortalli (which fits Diesel so well), the new incarnation of the cybernetic warrior whose modified blood gives him regeneration abilities (think Wolverine) but also makes him controllable by others (think Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).  He has the action hero role solidly on his resume from his role as fast car driver and ex-con Dominic Toretto in seven (so far) Fast & Furious films and Xander Cage in two xXx films, and he brings sci-fi street cred playing Riddick in the Chronicles of Riddick series.  And, of course, he’s one-half of our favorite superhero duo, playing the voice of Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The movie co-stars Guy Pearce (hopefully more LA Confidential and less Iron Man 3), Eiza González (Hobbs & Shaw, Alita; Battle Angel, Baby Driver), Lamorne Morris (New Girl, Game Night), Toby Kebbell (Warcraft, Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes, Kong: Skull Island), Sam Heughan (Midsomer Murders, Outlander), and Talulah Riley (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World, Westworld).  Kick-Ass 2 writer Jeff Wadlow wrote this story, which will be directed by visual effects artists Dave Wilson.  Music was created by horror movie go-to composer Steve Jablonsky (Ender’s Game, Transformers series, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

As with Deadpool and Venom, this second tier character and footage is going to get superhero fans into theaters.  Here is the first trailer, with Vin Diesel starring in Bloodshot:

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If you agree 2017’s Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok was the best of the bunch, and you don’t get enough of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson this month in Avengers: Endgame, just wait a little longer.  In June, Men in Black International arrives, and the next trailer for that fourth film in the Men in Black franchise is here.  Check it out below.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones first created the fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the three films, only to be eclipsed by the man who would be Thanos–Josh Brolin–as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role Rip Torn played as the character Zed in the earlier films.

Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out.  Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers back in December for Men in Black International (check ’em out here).  Here’s the next:

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Quentin Tarantino‘s next film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, has so many reasons to give it your attention, where do we begin?  As heavily advertised, the “retired director” is back as writer and director on his ninth film, and every one of his films gains critical and popular acclaim–from Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight, they’re all notable for Tarantino’s unique brash and violent style.  Emphasize that style element because he tends to hit the right mark when searching out throwback vibes for his fans, whether via Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson in the 1970s in Jackie Brown or reaching back through time with 1950s nostalgia with John Travolta and Uma Thurman in a retro diner in Pulp Fiction.  So where will Tarantino turn for a film set in 1969?  Something violent in an era of unique style.  So the “Manson family” murders, of course.

The biggest risk for Tarantino (beyond being seen as exploiting a murder still in the national consciousness 50 years later) is casting some major actors, and some not-so-major actors, as actors from the past.  The easier question to answer may be “Who isn’t in this movie?”  In the leading role is Leonardo DiCaprio as a fictional character based on Burt Reynolds.  Brad Pitt co-stars as a character based on Reynolds’ long-time stuntman, Hal Needham.  Margot Robbie plays actress and Manson family victim Sharon Tate, who was married to Roman Polanski and pregnant at the time of her murder.  Dakota Fanning plays Squeaky Fromme, Bruce Dern plays the rancher that allowed the Mansons to reside on his land where they are believed to have planned the murders, and Lena Dunham plays another Manson family member.  Al Pacino plays a Hollywood agent, and from the Tarantino acting troupe, look for bit appearances by regulars Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen.  As a sad footnote, this will be the last film appearance of Luke Perry, who portrays real-life TV Western star Wayne Maunder, who died just this past November.

But the real challenge is casting Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee, Connie Stevens, and Mama Cass Elliot in the film–highly-recognizable icons.  Those roles go to Homeland and Life’s Damian Lewis as McQueen, Empire and Inhumans’ Mike Moh as Lee, Dreama Walker (Gran Torino) as Stevens, and Rachel Redleaf as Cass.  We only get a brief look at Redleaf and longer view of Moh as Lee (with a decent vocal impersonation) in the first trailer for the film–Lee had been working on a film with Sharon Tate.  Tarantino also invited in a league of children of well-known actors for his film, like Andie MacDowell’s daughter Margaret Qualley (IO), Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter Rumer Willis (Hawaii Five-O), Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter Maya Hawke (Stranger Things), Kevin Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith (Supergirl), Clifton Collins, Jr. (Star Trek 2009) grandson of Western actor Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, and one more relative, Tarantino’s wife, Daniella Pick (Pick Up, Exit).  

Along with real-world characters, Tarantino pulled in some familiar actors from the late 1960s and 1970s, including Nicholas Hammond, known for role as Peter Parker in TV’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a regular face from the 1970s and 1980s: Martin Kove (The Karate Kid), and Brenda Vaccaro (Airport ’77, Capricorn One).  And even frequent TV guest star Spencer Garrett is a ringer for any number of Disney film stars from the 1960s (and he’s the son of actress Kathleen Nolan (Magnum, p.i., The Incredible Hulk)).  There are many more familiar actors in this one, including James Marsden (X-Men), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), Lorenza Izzo (The House With a Clock in Its Walls), Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer favorite Danny Strong.  (With so many extras listed as Playboy Bunnies, it’s probably fair to expect a cameo from someone playing Hugh Hefner, too).

In case you missed it, here is the first trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

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Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones created a fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the first three films in the Men in Black series.  But they were eclipsed by an even funnier performance by Josh Brolin as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role Rip Torn played as the character Zed in the earlier films.  Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out, with new agents for the fourth movie in the franchise coming your way next year, Men in Black International.

Thor: Ragnarok star Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers this week for Men in Black International.  Which do you like best?  One features Agent M already as an agent, the other U.S. version shows her joining the agency.  Take a look:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a bit of an oddity this year to have a choice of watching on television or at the movie theater what might have been a forgotten footnote to the strange 1970s life styles of the rich and famous.  In many ways the only real value of the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the once richest man in the world, is the almost Aesop’s Fables inspired punchline of the movie title, All the Money in the World.  Mark Wahlberg as security man Fletcher Chase gets to deliver the goods to Getty at film’s end:  It doesn’t matter how much money the billionaire Getty had, it didn’t bring him happiness.  Based on John Pearson’s book, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, the film is now streaming on multiple platforms.  This year’s television series Trust, featuring Donald Sutherland as the senior Getty, offered up the same story over a much too long 10 episodes.  Sutherland’s Getty is shown as far more disturbing than in the movie, and other than providing an example of Sutherland in another creepy role, the show had very little to offer.

All the Money in the World, the film version of the story, features a showcase of acting talent in a script that is almost up to the task.  Christopher Plummer is Getty I, the grandfather who in 1973 refused to pay his grandson’s ransom, even after those who kidnapped him cut off and mailed-in the young man’s ear.  Plummer stepped in late in production after Kevin Spacey was ousted from the film because of Spacey’s sexual misconduct scandal.  The result proves that at any age Plummer can create a compelling character, even if the real man behind the character seems far less interesting than one might think.  Wahlberg is playing what has become one of his stock character styles–this is the brash Boston cop in The Departed and the decisive marksman from Shooter.  Wahlberg plays the tough guy well here, in a role that echoes private investigator Jay J. Armes’ rescue of Marlon Brando’s kidnapped son just one year before the events in the film.  Young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) is Getty’s grandson, an atypical twist on the typical troubled youth character.  French actor Romain Duris is compelling as a member of the captor group who helps keep Getty alive during is confinement.  Always delivering a strong performance, Oscar winner Timothy Hutton unfortunately is underutilized as Getty’s loyal lawyer Oswald Hinge.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is similar in execution to last year’s Steven Spielberg historical drama The Post.  The film has themes in common with Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, but Scott didn’t opt to add any memorable style as Welles did with his classic story of a man acquiring possessions to the exclusion of family or love.  It’s not great, but it’s a solid drama.  But the biggest success of the film comes through via its lead actress, four-time Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams.  Williams portrays the grandson’s mother not as an emotional wreck but a determined mother who works frantically to negotiate her son’s release, with no help from the elder Getty or her disaster of an ex-husband.  And she couldn’t justify those Academy nods any better than balancing an affected accent, the billionaire family lifestyle, and that single mom angst as she attempts to reflect a parent handling a tragic event most people will never have to encounter.

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Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner in 2017 and a Golden Globe nominee again this year for best actress in a television series, all for The Crown, Claire Foy is quickly becoming an actor to keep an eye out for.  Her career continues on an upward trajectory this Fall when she stars in two big screen movie releases.  Both of these films saw their first trailers arrive this weekend.  One is a historical biopic and the other a crime story, both adaptations of bestselling books.

Coming first is director Damien Chazelle’s First Man from Universal Pictures, a film about astronaut Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, The Nice Guys), with Foy co-starring as Armstrong’s wife Janet, based on a book by James R. Hansen.  The film also stars Corey Stoll (Ant-Man) as Buzz Aldrin, Lukas Haas (Witness, The Revenant) as Mike Collins, Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Winchester) as Ed White, Ethan Embry (That Thing You Do!, Batman Beyond) as Pete Conrad, Kyle Chandler (Super 8, Argo) as Deke Slayton, and Ciaran Hinds (The Sum of All Fears, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2) in an undisclosed role.

Next will be director Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web from Sony Pictures.  This is a sequel to the film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Foy takes on the role of Millennium series star Lisbeth Salander, formerly played in the Swedish film by Noomi Rapace and later the American production by Rooney Mara.  This is the first story in the dark and violent series not written by Larsson–David Lagercrantz was tapped to pen the novel this film is based upon.  The film co-stars Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049).

Here is Claire Foy in new trailers for First Man and The Girl in the Spider’s Web:

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