Tag Archive: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Review by C.J. Bunce

The 355 is the latest spy movie, a team-up of agents from different nations, starring three-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Penélope Cruz, and Bingbing Fan, winner of comparable Chinese awards.  It’s not a serious suspense thriller, and easier to compare–at least on paper–to the big-budget, all-star actress team-up of Ocean’s 8, but you may find The 355 more fun and executed better.  And although it boasts a lot of Academy Award street cred, it’s the co-star without the Oscar nods who really steals the show.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new Netflix series Cowboy Bebop, an adaptation of the 1999-2001 anime series, is so good, so well-written, so jazz-filled, stylish, cool, and sexy that you won’t deny it’s the best streaming series yet.  It’s not only the best science fiction series in years, but also solid noir, solid space Western, peppered with martial arts action.  If you loved the space life of Firefly, the dark future Earth noir of Altered Carbon and Blade Runner, and the lived-in future realism of Alien and Outland, you’re in for some great television.  Funny dialogue, actors inhabiting their characters, cool noir vibe, the drudgery of life as a space pilot and exploits of a space bounty hunter.  It’s as good as TV gets.  It’s as good as sci-fi and space westerns get.

But what’s the best part?  The music?  The style?  The characters?  The lived-in sci-fi world?  The dog?  Or the year’s coolest borg character?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of either of the three stars of Red Notice will probably flock to this latest direct-to-Netflix movie just to see their favorite star in their next picture.  But Red Notice, which arrived on the streaming platform this weekend, is another production that falls into the vibe of the old direct-to-VHS movies–it’s something you’d watch for free on cable but probably wouldn’t pay full movie ticket prices for it.  Going back to the first of Netflix’s exclusive production/distribution projects, Brad Pitt’s War Machine, subscribers began to see this trend, which, despite enormous box office budgets and big-name directors and actors, deliver only ho-hum content.  These include The Cloverfield Paradox, Extinction, IO, Polar, The Irishman, and Mank.  That isn’t to say Netflix never gets it right.  Roma, The Highwaymen, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Extraction, 6 Underground, and Rebecca are exceptions.

But how do you go wrong with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot?  When that’s the only thing you deliver.

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Tick tick tick… It’s almost here: the premiere of season one of the live-action version of the anime series Cowboy Bebop And now we have a full-length trailer that leans harder into the sci-fi elements of the series.  It stars John Cho (Star Trek) as a Bruce Lee-inspired bounty hunter named Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage) as the show’s larger than life cyborg and former investigator Jet Black, Geoff Stults (Stargirl) as Jet’s former partner Chalmers, and Daniella Pineda (Jurassic World: Dominion) as bounty hunter Faye Valentine.  And a corgi (his name is Ein).  Imagine what Firefly would look like if directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you have Netflix’s 10-episode live-action series Cowboy Bebop

Check out another great trailer:

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Bebop pic

Running for 26 episodes between 1999 and 2001, the future noir anime series Cowboy Bebop arrived as an instant classic for the medium that many have called the greatest anime of all time, a Japanese sci-fi Western three years before Firefly.  Imagine what Firefly would look like if directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you have the new teaser-trailer for Netflix’s 10-episode live-action series Cowboy Bebop, coming in 30 days. 

bEBOP SHIP

It has the style and the throwback vibe of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as a cool soundtrack, and comic book-style scene-change pan slides with the characters participating in the movement.  The series stars John Cho (Star Trek) as a Bruce Lee-inspired bounty hunter named Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage) as the show’s larger than life cyborg and former investigator Jet Black, Geoff Stults (Stargirl) as Jet’s former partner Chalmers, and Daniella Pineda (Jurassic World: Dominion) as bounty hunter Faye Valentine.  And a corgi (his name is Ein).

You don’t want to miss the teaser and opening credits–take a look at both below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ll want to check out the end of the first issue of Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime’s new series Gun Honey to learn how writer/creator Charles Ardai came up with the title.  Gun Honey is a new comic book series about a woman who can get the weapons you want for the right price.  The series is a mix of international locales a la James Bond, with the style movie audiences saw and heard in Guy Ritchie’s 2015 movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E.–you can almost hear the soundtrack.  She’s the latest of a long line of anti-hero, badass femmes fatales in comics dating back to Miss Fury.  And artist Ang Hor Kheng does the character and the genre justice, providing a sexy new character in a world of intrigue, duplicity, and the need for an alter ego.

Check out a preview of the first issue below, along with a preview of several of the series’ incredible cover variants from the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz, Robert McGinnis, Adam Hughes, Kendrick Lim, Jay Anacleto, Chris Wahl, Kendrick Lim, Ivan Tao, Warren Louw, Lesley Li, Fay Dalton, Andrea Camerini, and more.

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Ten years of movie reviews.  How do you pick the best?  Our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great movie?  #1 for us is great writing—great storytelling.  #2 is re-watchability.  Lots of movies are good, but if every time you watch it you enjoy it all over again and maybe find something you didn’t see before, then you likely got far more value from the movie than the price of a movie ticket.  #3 is innovation—there’s nothing to top off a good story like new technology surprising us.  Finally, the experience must be fun—why else would you devote two hours or more of your valuable time?

So in Casey Kasem style, here are the Top 40 movies we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these movies.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new movies to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre movies, so don’t expect to see strict dramas or a lot of Best Picture Oscar winners here.  Title links are to our original borg review.

Let’s get started!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After the 2019 Academy Awards recognized genre films Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and gave top awards to Green Book and Roma, ABC aired the pilot for a new series.  Whiskey Cavalier begins with a solid pilot episode, and you can find it in its weekly timeslot beginning Wednesday evening on ABC.  It borrows from two familiar sources for network TV: the spy genre, like Mission: Impossible, iSpy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Avengers, and Chuck, and the “will they or won’t they” investigation shows like Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and Private Eyes.  Whiskey Cavalier–the military/NATO spy call sign for FBI agent Will Chase (yes, that’s his name), stars Scott Foley opposite CIA Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan.  It’s more action and fun than drama–a good thing that works for this offbeat new series.

The first episode finds Agent Chase as a sad sack agent, recently dumped by his French girlfriend, crying as he listens to songs from his break-up mix tape, assembled from recommendations from other FBI agents.  Those familiar with Michael Dorman’s lead character in Amazon Studio’s series Patriot will see much in common between the leads.  Chase doesn’t have his heart in his job until he’s in action, and then he becomes full-on Jack Ryan (actor Scott Foley has a vibe crossing Jack Ryan series star John Krasinski and White Collar co-star Tim DeKay, and the pilot includes a humorous reference to his Chris Evans’ Captain America appearance).

As Chase tries to intercept an alleged hacker/thief/traitor, CIA Agent Trowbridge steps in, and that’s when the chemistry begins.  You can almost hear the 1970s movie trailer voice-over: “What can happen when we combine this sensitive FBI agent and this tough-as-nails CIA spy?  Can they work together to save the world without killing each other?”  And yet, the pilot was edited into a fast-paced drama, not at all bogged down in origin story, and it supplies a supporting cast of characters that seem to gel from the start, played by Ana Ortiz, Vir Das, and Tyler James Williams.  In brief, it’s fun and it works.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2014 spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, is coming to the theaters in a few weeks.  If you didn’t see the original, it was probably because of its rather uninspired title.  But don’t wait any longer.  Kingsman: The Secret Service is a blast.  And it’s streaming right now.  Kingsman: The Secret Service stars Colin Firth as a secret agent in a new brand of 007 series, as he attempts to recruit the next member of the Kingsman organization, the son of a former agent, played by Taron Egerton.  It’s stylish.  It’s wall-to-wall action.  It’s part dark comedy.  And its over-the-top violence is operatic and epic.  The last time we had this much fun was watching Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live.

For those hoping Firth would ever be tapped as Bond, this is every bit that, only Firth’s master spy has moves like no Bond ever had.  One scene provides so much hand-to-hand combat you’d think you were watching Kill Bill, and the Quentin Tarantino influence doesn’t stop there.  You’d almost think the retired director was the ghost director behind the mayhem in the film’s climactic battle.  It’s just as well, as actual director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) proves again he knows the action genre.

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle is up there with the best.  Her missing lower legs (no, we never learn why) were replaced with steel blades, blades that can kill–and very much do.  Think of Bond girls played by Famke Janssen and Grace Jones, and Boutella fits right in.  Every bit the combat equal to Firth and Egerton’s spies, Gazelle is practically a character missing from Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies. Continue reading

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

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Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

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