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Tag Archive: The Great Wall


It’s time for borg.com‘s annual look at the year’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), 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.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons, and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2017 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a pregnant gunfighter, a mutant mental patient, a double agent, a space pilot, an alien security officer, a pregnant former psychopathic killing machine, a cyborg assassin, a mythic warrior, a maverick mercenary, a warrior, a commander of armies, an alien slave turned teacher, an angry young mutant, and a teenage high school reporter.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2017:

Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp).  Melanie Scrofano not only played Wynonna Earp as pregnant in this year’s second season, she actually was.  And that didn’t slow her down, defeating all the evil Revenants in the town of Purgatory, and incorporating the discomfort of pregnancy made for great comic release all season long.  Who had the tougher task, Earp or Scrofano?  Either way, the series showed it’s a keeper and Earp the sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter we continue to love.

Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok).  As cool and powerful as Cate Blanchett’s Hela was in this year’s pinnacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the real scene stealer in Thor: Ragnarok was Tessa Thompson’s surprising new tough heroine, Valkyrie.  Cocky?  Yep.  And she backed up that confidence with mad fighting skills and brains–enough of a combination to help Thor & Co. save the people of Asgard and get some revenge for the Valkyries who lost the original battle against Hela.  As much as any other character, we’re looking forward to more of Valkyrie in next year’s ultimate team-up Avengers: Infinity War.

Luv (Blade Runner 2049).  If Blade Runner 2049 is remembered for anything, it should be Sylvia Hoeks’ badass Replicant oddly (ironically?) named Luv.  First unassuming, polished, and pristine in her mannerisms, she later reveals she can be the next best thing since Sarah Connor and the Terminators.  Luv is a fierce, brutal borg whose villainy became the high point of the film.

Laureline (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).  Cocky yet sympathetic, loyal and determined, the space pilot 50 years in the making made it to the screen this year and Cara Delevingne delivered a surprise performance as the co-lead and equal half of Luc Besson’s science fiction space duo.  Her confidence was second to none, she stood up for what she believed and took what she wanted, and still had time to care for a lost rare species while making sure she protected her partner’s back.  We’d like to think she dropped the creepy egotistical Valerian in her next adventure, but she did exactly what she wanted to, and seemed to have one of those modern romances that worked for her.  Quirky, snarky, funny, and tough, she took out a room full of men with weapons and made it look like she wasn’t even trying.  Laureline has it all.

Helena (Orphan Black).  Of all the characters played by Tatiana Maslany in the series’ five seasons, who knew the sestra that would write the book on them all would be Helena, the once ruthless, psychopathic killing machine who once befriended a scorpion in prison?  This year Maslany wrapped up what must be the best role for a performer in the history of television.  No one has ever played so many parts in a series, and played them beautifully.  Each character had her moment, but Helena would make our list if she was in any series.

Antiope (Wonder Woman).  The opening minutes to this year’s DC film Wonder Woman finally adapted to film what comic book readers have seen all along–that the Amazons were a creation that should have been on the screen long before 2017.  The envy of them all was the brave and strong Antiope, played by Robin Wright.  It was the character that launched a thousand memes, and what greater way to illustrate the mentoring of Wonder Woman than via Wright’s ultimate warrior.

Commander Lin Mae (The Great Wall).  Jing Tian’s Lin, commander of the Crane Corps who takes charge of the Nameless Order and staves off the Tao Tieh, may be the year’s most dynamic and talented superhero–not technically a superhero, she looked superhuman in all her battle scenes.  She was decisive and cut through the nonsensical parts of the story.  Her aerobatic skill in defending the Great Wall, leading the largest military force ever, and saving her people in the process makes Commander Lin an easy entry on this year’s kick-ass list.

Betty Cooper (Riverdale).  It took 77 years but fans of Archie Comics finally got what they always wanted: a television series true to the characters generations have grown up with.  CW’s Riverdale gave viewers 1.5 seasons to soak up Archie and his pals with a tremendously well-written story team led by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but best of all was the casting of Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica.  Both were badass frenemies, but Betty’s story really allowed her to save the day time after time while taking the high road, even becoming a member of the Southside gang to help Jughead, and as intrepid school reporter, sleuthing out and taking down the town serial killer known as The Black Hood.

Trubel (Grimm).  When the Wesen become too much for Grimm’s Nick Burkhardt, the series’ other Grimm warrior Theresa “Trubel” Rubel came to the rescue.  Reserved and measured in her actions, she also never hesitated to take someone’s head off to protect her newly found family.  In the series finale this year she even took on Nick directly when she disagreed with his plan, only to help take down the Zerstörer after an ultimate confrontation team-up with the ghosts of Kelly and Marie, and Nick.  What we’d give for a Grimm spin-off with Jacqueline Toboni bringing her character into new adventures!

Syd Barrett (Legion).  Many viewers saw the twisted look at the X-Men in the new FX series Legion as the best of the superhero fare on television this year.  The highlight of the show was Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett, who became girlfriend to series lead hero David Haller.  Revealing a brutal dark side to being a superhero mutant, Syd’s powers won’t allow her to physically make contact with anyone, yet she makes it work anyway.  She’s willing to use her powers to switch bodies with anyone she touches to save those she cares about, even at great pain and loss.  Syd fights through her own doubts, uncertainty of reality, and those that have lied to her to break through and take what she wants.  She’s a fighter and triumphant, with only more battles ahead as season two is just around the corner.

Andrea/Andra’ath Quill (Class).  We only had eight episodes to get to know Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off series Class, but what we saw in Katherine Kelly’s alien slave turned teacher was the foundation for an incredible series that could have been.  Quill made the ultimate break from oppressor Charlie, the last surviving prince of an alien war.  That didn’t stop her from finding a way out, while taking care of the prince and the small class of would-be student heroes.  Quill could have taken the show in infinite directions had viewers supported the series more.  Regardless, Katherine Kelly’s Quill will always be remembered as a kick-ass heroine in a class by herself.

Lt. Alara Kitan (The Orville).  Who knew the next great science fiction series since Battlestar Galactica would be half comedy and produced by Seth MacFarlane?  Among the strife and misadventure, one crewmember had the greatest character arc in the series’ first season, and she was also the physically strongest person on the ship: Chief of Security Lt. Alara Kitan.  Halston Sage didn’t skip a beat in portraying a futuristic officer on a starship.  She didn’t begin the show as a leader, but learned the ropes and took us all along for the ride as she became that leader, revealing a sensitive and uncertain, very “human” side, who could still buddy around with the ship commander and save the day more than once.

Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde).  Next year will see a shift where the British treasure Doctor Who sees its first woman Doctor.  Who knows if something like that will ever come of the other Brit icon, James Bond, but the closest anyone has ever come to that was Charlize Theron’s hardened and savvy spy Lorraine Broughton in the film adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City.  Has any woman action star ever given this many punches in a movie ever?  She took a pounding as well, but ultimately came out on top with some shrewd tactics.  Lorraine Broughton–nobody does it better!

X-23/Laura (Logan/Logan Noir).  The biggest surprise of the year was the great piece of filmmaking that was Logan, and more specifically the black and white version that arrived in theaters in limited release, Logan Noir, the swan song for both of the X-Men we got to know over the years as Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier aka Professor X.  Incredible direction and cinematography created a film on par with any black and white classic.  But the young actress that the film could not have been successful without was the young Wolverine in training, Laura aka X-23.  What a fantastic actress was Dafne Keen as Laura that you almost forget it’s a little girl ripping all these bad guys’ heads off and digging her sharp claws into their skulls.  And in the next scene she’s nonchalantly eating a bowl of cereal, or acting angry because of something Logan said.  X-23/Laura was simply the best of the best of the list of kick-ass women characters revealed to movie fans this year.  Please, oh, please, Fox or Disney, let’s see Keen reprise the character again soon, huh?

And that’s it.  Keep coming back the rest of this month as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV and Best in Print, and our borg.com Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, reviewed here at borg.com, is a summer marvel, director Luc Besson’s epic sci-fi, space fantasy we loved, but was overlooked by many because of its clunky title, its lackluster publicity efforts, and its spectacular visuals that overshadowed its simple love story in the eyes of many mainstream movie critics.  It deserves another look, and for those who missed the story for the special effects, its novelization by author Christie Golden is a great way to see what you may have missed.  Another movie that suffered similarly, but only for U.S. audiences, was director Yimou Zhang’s epic film The Great Wall, reviewed here at borg.com, a late winter release full of inspired, colorful, medieval martial arts battles, but a thinner narrative that was also arguably overshadowed by its own dazzling imagery.  Mark Morris’s novelization of the film fleshes out and clarifies the roles of all the characters that filled the enormous cinematic event.

Putting the movies aside, if you’re a fan of novelizations–if you just enjoy experiencing a film word by word, zipping along with a fun action adventure–each of these books should accompany you in your luggage on your next vacation.  I’ve read and enjoyed this segment of genre fiction for years, and remember spending cross-country trips in the backseat of the family car reading the novelizations of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, The Empire Strikes Back, and the 1989 movie Batman.  Years ago before videos, DVDs, Blu-rays, and digital HD, when the prospect of seeing the movie again in the near future was slight, fans really could only turn to novelizations and the rare films that received the comic book adaptation.  You might think the market may not be as great for novelizations today, yet movies continue to get re-written into novels.  And many are still reading–and loving–them.

Both Valerian and The Great Wall have similar narrative structures.  Both involve two protagonists that embark on a hero’s journey against a giant landscape of action and activity.  In Valerian, two spacepilot operatives are charged with the mission to re-capture a stolen artifact, and along the way they are pulled into a greater conflict involving the fate of millions.  In The Great Wall, two medieval warriors are on a quest to seek the rumored new creation called gunpowder, when their search is cut short by a rare, mythic encounter that could spell certain doom for the cities bordering China’s Great Wall.  The relationship of each of these pairs of characters is very modern, full of dialogue with modern quips, verbal sparring and ribbing each other despite their friendships, and the characters themselves are not necessarily relatable or even likeable at first glance.  If you don’t immediately buy the characters’ relationships, then the global conflict they take us through, despite the films’ epic visuals, may simply not work for you.  But if you give them a chance and jump aboard with the characters, then both stories can be great fun. The novelizations are a great way to give them that chance.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It is a study in East meets West, or at least it tries really hard to be.  Visually The Great Wall will likely be the most beautiful film you see this year.  The worldbuilding is on a grand scale, epic, and worthy of the historic monumental icon of China.  The intelligently thought out military structure and interplay of weapons, color, purpose, props, and costumes is second perhaps only to Peter Jackson’s Tolkien world fantasy films.  The costumes are exquisite–detailed, rich, stylized, ornate, and simply phenomenal.  But like many big movies this year, it is a weak story that keeps The Great Wall from its potential.

If you’re a fan of classic action films from China, you will have no problem jumping right into the action of The Great Wall.  But if you’re easily distracted by new things, you probably should skip this one.  Its style of storytelling and dialogue are unique for a mainstream Western release so it is understandable why the film had problems attracting audiences here, even beyond all of the politics that accompanied its release (the objection of some in Matt Damon’s lead role, a Caucasian lead in a medieval, epic story about China–whitewashing as discussed with respect to Doctor Strange–similar to criticisms when Tom Cruise was the lead in a Japanese-focused story in The Last Samurai).  And if you don’t like subtitles, you probably won’t be drawn to The Great Wall.  But you’d be missing something spectacular.  So many features make the biggest budget film in China’s history worthy of at least one viewing.

You’ll find much telling instead of showing, something better films of the Western tradition endeavor to avoid.  You’ll witness soldiers marveling at what by all counts is an epic military battle, but then they actually state as much.  It’s a quirky thing that will probably make the average Western moviegoer shudder a bit.  Yet if you look beyond the almost characteristically Eastern movie abrupt dialogue shifts, interspersed tangent story elements and nonlinear style, you’ll find some great takeaways.  Like one of the year’s best, badass heroines in Tian Jing’s swashbuckling Commander-turned-General Lin Mae–a powerful dragon killer in command of the entire Chinese army whose cliff-diving daredevilry and death-defying air balloon war machines evoke the best World War II movie action sequences.  The martial arts stuntwork is like that of no other movie this year.  The special effects are impressive, especially the interplay of set construction and battle scenes and heretofore unseen methods of combat and destruction used to defend the wall.  The purely CGI creations–WETA and Industrial Light & Magic’s mythic Tao Tei dragons–look real, and they even have their own layered culture with the ability to plan an intelligent battle strategy.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The best thing about reading a book about the making of a film, without first watching the film, is that your view of the book is not skewed by your opinion of the film.  If you knew nothing about The Great Wall, the new behind-the-scenes look in The Great Wall: The Art of the Film will prompt you to want to see it.  Not only will you find incredible concept art, set design, costumes, and props, the book itself is unique.  In the past five years “making of” film and art books have vastly improved in quality.  Abbie Bernstein’s new book from Titan Books features the best quality images, the best layouts, and the best book design of any book yet reviewed at borg.com–the book itself has a traditional Chinese book binding and gilded edges.  It also features an element left out of many film books these days–it includes images of the entire film, and doesn’t remove spoiler elements, such as, in this case, detailed images of the film’s monsters and ending (the art book for Star Wars: The Force Awakens provided no final image of Luke Skywalker and several costumes and props, as an example).

An icon of China cinema, the man behind several “art house” films in China and the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics, director Zhang Yimou discusses in the book why The Great Wall is unique and how it became the biggest production in China film history.  If you have watched stunning Chinese film work over the years and aren’t a fan of dubbed or subtitled films, the barrier is language–how can you connect U.S. and Chinese film audiences?  Yimou intended just that by making a Hollywood-esque film as a Chinese production in English with a cast and crew from dozens of nations, including more than 100 on-set translators.  Beyond that goal, the powerful imagery of the film as displayed throughout The Great Wall: The Art of the Film, is the stuff of Academy Award-winning costume design and art design.

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Along with interviews with Zhang are chapters featuring producer Peter Loehr, actors Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian, and Willem Dafoe.  The most visually stunning chapters detail The Nameless Order, with Zhang’s color coding of each fighting corps, including the royal blue Crane Corps–the fighting unit consisting entirely of women.  We see frosted plastic pages displaying each corps symbol, and poster quality designs highlight each leader, along with their shields and weaponry.  Detailed sections feature the creation and design of the film’s monsters–the mythical Tao Tei–and how WETA and Industrial Light and Magic created them.  And each key sequence of the film is revealed with photographs of special effects and the actors in action.

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Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at borg.com each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2017 that have been disclosed.  The result is a whopping 58 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video (and some you may want to skip).  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2017 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2017 don’t even have posters released yet.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Episode VIII or Wonder Woman?   Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets?  Ghost in the Shell?  Or Beauty and the Beast? 

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You’ve heard endlessly about Logan and Justice League, but 2017 will also see numerous other sequels, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, and sequels for Underworld, Resident Evil, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean, XXX, John Wick, King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Cars, The Kingsman, Transformers, Despicable Me.   And The Six Billion Dollar Man is finally on its way.  Look for plenty of Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, John Goodman, Michael Peña, Ryan Reynolds, Sofia Boutella, and Elle Fanning in theaters this year.

So wait no further, here are your genre films for 2017:

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