REVIEW: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Josh Keaton (Green Lantern:TAS)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Grey Delisle (The Replacements)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars Rebels)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters 2)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Alan Rachins (LA Law)
Kath soucie (Rugrats)
Crispin Freeman (Digimon)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Elisa Gabrielli (Mulan)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Courtney B. Vance (Flashforward)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Nikki Cox (Las Vegas)

It would be hard to argue that any comic book superhero has enjoyed a more sustained popularity over the last five decades than Spider-Man. The Marvel Comics character, the mainstay of that company’s flagship publication The Amazing Spider-Man, has been spun off  into numerous other venues, from cartoon and live action television shows to a rock album, a series of wildly popular theatrical movies, and even a recurring part in the old PBS series The Electric Company.

The Spectacular Spider-Man is a current incarnation of this comics legend that takes its name from a now-defunct spin-off comic book title. It’s a half-hour cartoon series, aimed primarily at kids but with some postmodern nods to adults, and basically offers an early 21st century update of the original Spider-Man comic books. Here, Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton) attends high school with Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacey. Bully Flash Thompson is also around, and Parker’s future wife Mary Jane Watson transfers to his school midway in the series. Parker lives at home with his Aunt May, and moonlights as the crimefighting Spider-Man whenever he can. As he battles colorful super-villains, he’s taking snapshots of himself for the newspaper Daily Bugle. Several of the classic characters from that fictional periodical are here, including Betty Brant and the obnoxious J. Jonah Jameson (voiced hilariously by Daran Norris).spidey_wp-01

The series is light and fun, with a nice sense of humor. As such, it captures the essence of Spider-Man fairly well. Each episode is relatively self-contained, although certain plot points connect the episodes into a larger whole. The animation strikes me as bright and colorful – and certainly competent for a weekly television program. The characters are presented with some awkward angularity at times, but at least it’s consistent and uniform in presentation. As an old comics fan, I enjoyed this updating of the Spider-Man mythos, and I certainly imagine that it will entertain its core audience: adolescents.ranking-the-spider-man-animated-series_cgbj

In season 2 Peter Parker’s life becomes significantly more complicated as he finds himself torn between Gwen Stacy and Liz Allan, both of whom have confessed their feelings for him; he eventually chooses Liz. Norman Osborn takes on the role of Peter’s mentor, pulling strings to re-establish his job as Dr. Connors’ lab assistant, as well as overseeing the installment of the conniving Dr. Miles Warren into the ESU Labs. Meanwhile, as Spider-Man, Peter encounters new villains Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter, leading him to investigate the activities of a mysterious new crime lord known as the “Master Planner”.fe109-spiderman-animatedWhen the Master Planner’s first scheme fails, Spider-Man is faced with a three-way gang war between the Planner’s super-villain forces, the Big Man’s established order, and the old guard of Silvio “Silvermane” Manfredi’s family. Peter’s search for Eddie Brock also leads to the return of Venom, who attempts to expose Spider-Man’s secret identity and remove his powers. Finally, when the three major crime lords are arrested, Spider-Man once again goes up against the Green Goblin, who is once again bent on eliminating the wall-crawler once and for all.

ranking-the-spider-man-animated-series_cgbjOther new characters introduced in the second season include Calypso, Sha Shan Nguyen, Silver Sable, Roderick Kingsley and Molten Man. Quentin Beck and Phineas Mason return as Mysterio and the Tinkerer respectively.fe109-spiderman-animatedIt appears that the episodes in this eighth volume of The Spectacular Spider-Man are the swan song of the series. That’s a shame as this was a fun and energetic cartoon take on the classic Marvel superhero. Based upon content, The show was cancelled to make way for the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon which as we all know is just a train wreck.spidey_wp-01

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REVIEW: IN THE COLD OF NIGHT


CAST

David Soul (Starsky & Hutch)
Shannon Tweed (Dead Sexy)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Marc Singer (V)
John Beck (Rollerball)
Brian Thompson (Hired To Kill)

The plot revolves around a photographer who has a recurring nightmare about strangling a beautiful woman in the shower of an elegant house. Eventually after obsessing about this nightmare he visits a beach artist to try and find the woman . The woman in the nightmare , Kimberly (played by the alluring Adrianne Sachs), turns up at his door not long after the dialogue they exchange is quite memorable ! She eventually invites him to the house which is the one in the nightmares and things start to get interesting …..I really enjoyed the dinner scene as the dialogue was interesting,funny, and their actions were seductive.

The movie goes into high gear when Kimberly leaves the house and the plot nicely gets back to the cause of the nightmares, the ending of the movie is not your usual cliche ending. This is a great movie if you like straight to video type thrillers, provided you don`t take the plot too seriously.

REVIEW: DOLLHOUSE – SEASON 1-2

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MAIN CAST

Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Harry Lennix (Man of Steel)
Fran Kranz (The Cabin In The Woods)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Dichen Lachman (Agents of SHIELD)
Olivia Williams (X-Men 3)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Amy Acker (Angel)
Reed Diamond (Bones)
Liza Lapira (Cloverfield)
Kevin Kilner (Earth: Final Conflict)
VIncent Ventresca (Cold Case)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Alexis Denisof (Avengers Assemble)
Keith Carradine (The Big Bang Theory)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Matt Keeslar (Scream 3)
Miracle Laurie (Insane Jane)
Mark Sheppard (Chuck)
Erin Cumming (Spartacus)
Jim Piddock (The Man)
Anson Mount (In Her Shoes)
David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Emma Bell (Final Destination 5)
Teddy Sears (The Flash)
Jordan Bridges (J. Edgar)
Ian Anthony Dale (Mr. 3000)
Gregg Henry (Slither)
Ashley Johnson (Roswell)
Felicia Day (The Guild)
Janina Gavankar (True Blood)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Adair Tishler (Heroes)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Clayton Rohner (The Relic)
Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Stacey Scowley (The Brotherhood 2)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Ray Wise (Swamp Thing)
Adam Godley (Powers)

Dollhouse is a near-future SF tv series, featuring Eliza Dushku as Echo, a woman working for the secretive “Dollhouse” who has voluntarily had her personality wiped in order to be imprinted with any mind and skills a client requires. While initially very episodic, a longer plotline slowly emerges as the more disturbing aspects of this technology and the Dollhouse emerges.

This series comes from the mind of Joss Whedon, responsible for Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. Like Firefly, Dollhouse was cancelled ignominiously in its second season, so be warned that you will not get the full story Whedon planned to write. Whedon has a real genius for producing brilliant genre TV that delights fans but doesn’t make it as a mainstream show, and the tension between his desire to tell a big story, while not alienating casual viewers, shows in the early episodes, which see Echo sent off on unrelated assignments.

Echo’s assignments range from the obvious seductions to less obvious tasks such as bodyguard and safe-cracker. As time goes on, we see her blank state slowly becoming not so blank. An outside element is provided by FBI agent Ballard, who is investigating the Dollhouse, and becomes obsessed with locating Echo and finding why she would enter the Dollhouse.

Once the first season gets into its stride it deals with rogue agent Alpha, whose eventual return causes chaos, and the ongoing investigation of Ballard. Slowly building along with this are the big questions of what the corporation behind the Dollhouse really want, what could be done with this technology, and how the apparently-wiped minds slowly find a personality. Season two attempts to kick into high gear, and throws some more radical changes into the mix, including glimpses of the eventual result of the Dollhouse technology, but ultimately couldn’t avoid cancellation.

Dollhouse has some excellent secondary characters, and tries to create an ensemble despite Dushku being very much the face of the show. Characters such as Topher, DeWitt, Langton, and Dr Saunders are brilliantly drawn, and the dialogue sparkles. As ever with a Whedon product, the characters draw you in and make you wish you could watch them again and again.

Ultimately Dollhouse is a brave but failed attempt to create something a little different, and provoke some real thought, in a genre that sometime gets too bland. It’s well worth watching, but doesn’t give the full story its vision deserved.

 

REVIEW: CRYING FREEMAN

CAST

Mark Dacascos (Agents of SHIELD)
Julie Condra (Screw Loose)
Tchéky Karyo (Bad Boys)
Byron Mann (Arrow)
Masaya Kato (Godzilla 98)
Yoko Shimada (Kamen Rider)
Rae Dawn Chong (Commando)
Mako (Conan The Barbarian)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)

The film itself is based on japanese comics and the Manga cartoon and although i have not seen any of them from every available source it seems the film is a pretty accurate representation of the Mangas, anyway the plot is about a man who was kidnapped by a an ancient Chinese warrior cult called the Sons of the Dragons, who have turned him into a perfect killer.

The killer of their group is called the Freeman, and Jo (Dacascos) carries a curse which cause’s him to cry when-ever he has to kill. Jo who was formely a potter is a compassionate, and heroic character and his capturers/bosses begin to lose control of his mind when he falls in love with a beautiful woman Emu o’Hara who he is supposed to kill after she witnesses him kill some people, so on comes gun battles, romance, Kung Fu and sword fights aplenty in this wonderfully shot action movie directed by Christophe Gans, a director with a visual flair as good as any and a sense of style and artistry greater than even John Woo’s, he is at the helm here and directs with surperb skill there are some superb shots, brilliantly staged and captured action sequences and some of the romantic scenes are outstandingly shot.

The films other strengths were the brilliant score from Patrick O Hearn and the performances of Dacascos and Condra in particular they had a real chemistry on screen and its hardly a surprise that they became Man and Wife after this movie. Overall about the movie i must say that its pure class, it features one of the best Sword fights ever capture on film and a very good cast, the only downer would be that the end action sequence was not long enough and the film at times very nearly bordered on the chessy but this was based on a comic. A word on Mark Dacascos the should be king of action, well he is amazing in this he plays the role with such intensity and despite not having many lines his face brings out a wealth of feelings at times, he is superb and is helped along by the direction of Gans and when it comes to the action Dacascos really shines.

REVIEW: GHOST SHIP

CAST

Gabriel Byrne (End of Days)
Julianna Margulies (City Island)
Ron Eldard (Scent of A Woman)
Desmond Harrington (Wrong Turn)
Isaiah Washington (Bionic Woman)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Emily Browning (Sucker Punch)
Alex Dimitriades (The Principal)
Francesca Rettondini (The Nymph)

To start things off, recent “Sucker Punch” fans can find an early performance by actress Emily Browning who plays the little ghost girl in the film. The movie has actor Gabriel Byrne playing the salvage captain Murphy. Him and his team head out to sea to bring back salvaged equipment and metal parts for resell. When the group is approached by an anxious researcher (Desmond Harrington), he offers them a chance to salvage a long forgotten abandoned ship lost to the Bering Sea. The potential to earn a hefty return from the deal is too big to pass up and the crew heads immediately back out to sea. The crew consists of (Julianna Margulies) Epps, (Ron Eldard) Dodge, (Isaiah Washington) Greer, (Karl Urban) Munder and (Alex Dimitriades) Santos.

Upon locating the lost ship “Antonia Graza” (which at first appears off the radar), the team climbs aboard to claim salvage loot. Though it’s pretty evident early on that the ship is not “quite” what it seems with the weird appearances of ghosts, objects, and the occasional manifestation of the ship’s decor before it was inflicted in tragedy.

To get us engaged right from the get-go, we are taken back in the films intro to the time when the ship was in full swing (1962). In one of my favorite horror film moments, a cable breaks free slicing entirely thru the occupants who are in mid-celebration (aka the Captains Ball). This is fantastically done as each of the ship’s guests begin to fall into pieces (after an uneasy pause). If you don’t end up liking the film, you have to at least acknowledge this great intro opener.

Getting back to the story in progress, the crew happens upon a large shipment of gold bricks. This find signals instant riches for the team as they prepare to gather their claim and call it a day. However, the ship seems to have its own agenda for stranding them causing their own ship “the Arctic Warrior” to burst into flames.

Celebration turns to terror and tragedy as each slowly becomes victims to the ships dark forces. We learn a bit more about what happened with a few surprises waiting down the road about what is “really” going on. While the movie flows rather nicely with plenty of great shots, we seem to be missing much of what we came for…….the scares. I believe perhaps that the production focused more on trying to kill off some of the crew members moreso, that they forgot to really focus more on the needed tension. The actors and cast all gel pretty well which didn’t surprise me with “Ghost Ship’s” worthy cast behind it. What I did like is that as mentioned before it has a “few” reveals in its storyline to throw at us. I think with the base of the film itself, most didn’t really see these coming. The final ending is a nice extra roundup which despite not being scary is a great rule of thumb in filmmaking…..end the movie on a strong finale.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: DRACULA: THE COMPLETE SERIES

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MAIN CAST

Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors)
Jessica De Gouw (Arrow)
Thomas Kretschmann (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Victoria Smurfit (Bulletproof Monk)
Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Faster)
Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones)
Katie McGrath (Supergirl)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Ben Miles (V For Vendetta)
Robert Bathurst (Toast of London)
Jemma Regrave (I’ll Be There)
Anthony Calf (New Tricks)
Anthony Howell (Foyle’s War)
Andrew Lee Potts (Alice)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Peter Woodward (Crusade)
Richard Dempsey (Chronicles of Narnia BBC)
Tamer Hassan (Kick-Ass)

‘Dracula’ is a bold and modern reinvention of Bram Stoker’s classic gothic masterpiece, and although it may not boast the strongest scripts or the most interesting dialogue by today’s standards, this is nonetheless a very vivid and watchable new take on a legend retold time and time again.

Dracula effectively reignites the spark of forbidden lust and desire that was at the heart of the original novel, but turns up the eroticism a few notches more. Yes, this is a very sexy show, and just as new Dracula Jonathan Rhys Meyers turned Henry VIII into a sex symbol in the outstanding series ‘The Tudors’, this time he’s giving the Prince of Darkness himself the same treatment. Vampires have always been metaphors for forbidden lust ever since Stoker first conceived the idea back in the 19th Century, and this has been prevalent during the recent vampire renaissance of the modern era. Vampires will always been inextricably linked to sex, and if you’re looking for something that is steamy, dark, romantic and tasteful all at the same time, then ‘Dracula’ should fulfil your wish.


As you might expect, a few changes have been made to the original legend, and most of them work quite well, bar a few exceptions. In this version of the story, Dracula has travelled to London in the guise of wealthy and charismatic American Alexander Grayson, who has come to London to promote a new form of safe and renewable energy that will make Thomas Edison look like an amateur arts dealer. Yes, it’s every bit as absurd as it sounds, but in reality Dracula’s entire scheme is nothing more than a smokescreen to avoid being detected and to cover up his latest scheme. What better way to avoid detection and suspicion than hiding in plain sight? There’s also an ironic poetry about a creature of the night endorsing new forms of light energy. Of course, Dracula’s real plan is far more nefarious than merely being a poster boy for efficient energy sources, as The plots to annihilate a mysterious cult known as ‘The Order of the Dragon’ from the shadows (an organisation based on a real historical order of the same name.) But after meeting Mina Murray, whom he is convinced is a reincarnation of his dead wife, Ilona, can Dracula’s heart’s desire lead him to uncover the humanity still left within him, or will it only complicate his plans further? Naturally, I’m not going to spoil anything, but Mina’s presence certainly has a profound effective on the old Count.


As you might expect, Rhys Meyers is as intense and brooding as you’d expect his version of Dracula to be, and when he’s actually playing Dracula he’s definitely at his best. His performance does falter slightly as his Alexander Grayson persona due to his dodgy attempt at an American accent, but considering Dracula isn’t American either, maybe this could be interpreted as adding authenticity to the performance. His relationship with his loyal servant, Renfield (Nonso Anozie) is definitely one of the most intriguing aspects of the whole affair, as Renfield’s character is both complicated and fascinating to observe, despite his often one-note dialogue and characteristics.


Professor Van Helsing, who is almost as famous as Dracula himself these days, also plays an antagonistic role, but I felt very disappointed by this depiction of Van Helsing, as he lacked the presence and menace necessary to face-off against Rhys Meyer’s formidable prowess. Jonathan Harker is also present, but frankly his character is far too dull and bares very little relevance to the plot beyond being a tool to keep Mina in Dracula’s orbit. Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s performance is also very poor, as he only ever seems capable of being mildly aloof or really pissed off, with no further spectrum to his emotional range. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the relationship between Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra, and while I won’t spoil any secrets, the show certainly takes their friendship into unpredictable territory, and it was always with great expectation I waited to see how it would unfold. Jessica De Gouw does a very commendable job as Mina, but really it’s Katie McGrath (also Morgana in ‘Merlin’) who really steals the show, giving an outstanding performance as Lucy throughout the 10 episode run.


Sadly after 10 episodes the show was cancelled leaving a shocking cliffhanger that will never be resolved.

REVIEW: EAGLE EYE

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Transformers)
Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible 2)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Michael Chiklis (Gotham)
Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man)
Ethan Eembry (Vacancy)
Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa)
Anthony Azizi (Priest)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Eric Christian Olsen (Tru Calling)
Marc Singer (V)

Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a Stanford University dropout who learns his identical twin brother Ethan, a first lieutenant in the US Air Force, has been killed. Following the funeral, Jerry is surprised to find $750,000 in his bank account. Later he finds his Chicago apartment filled with weapons, ammonium nitrate, classified DOD documents, and forged passports. He receives a phone call from a woman (Julianne Moore) who warns that the FBI is about to arrest him and he needs to run.

Disbelieving, Jerry is caught by the FBI and interrogated by Supervising Agent Tom Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton). While Morgan confers with Air Force OSI Special Agent Zoe Pérez (Rosario Dawson), the woman on the phone arranges for Jerry’s escape and directs him to Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), a single mother. The woman on the phone is coercing Rachel by threatening her son Sam (Cameron Boyce), who is en route to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with his school band. The woman on the phone helps the two avoid the Chicago police and FBI, using an ability to control networked devices, including traffic lights, mobile phones, automated cranes, and even power lines.

Meanwhile, the woman on the phone redirects a crystal of powerful DOD explosive—hexamethylene—to a gemcutter, who cuts it and fixes it into a necklace. Another man (Anthony Azizi) steals Sam’s trumpet in Chicago and fits the crystal’s sonic trigger into the tubing, before forwarding it to Sam in Washington, D.C.

Agent Perez is summoned by Secretary of Defense George Callister (Michael Chiklis) to be read into Ethan’s job at the Pentagon. Ethan monitored the DOD’s top secret intelligence-gathering supercomputer, the Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst (ARIIA). Callister leaves Perez with Major William Bowman (Anthony Mackie) and ARIIA to investigate Ethan Shaw’s death. Simultaneously, Rachel and Jerry learn that the woman on the phone is actually ARIIA, and that she has “activated” them according to the Constitution’s authorization to recruit civilians for the national defense.

Perez and Bowman find evidence which Ethan Shaw had hidden in ARIIA’s chamber the night he died, and leave to brief Callister. Afterwards, ARIIA smuggles Jerry and Rachel into her observation theater under the Pentagon. Both groups learn that after ARIIA’s recommendation was ignored and a botched operation in Balochistan resulted in the deaths of American citizens, ARIIA concluded that “to prevent more bloodshed, the executive branch must be removed.” Acting on behalf of “We the People”, and citing the Declaration of Independence (“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”), ARIIA is acting in compliance with Section 216 of the Patriot Act which “allows us to circumvent probable cause in the face of a national security threat, in this case, the chain of command itself.”

Belatedly, Jerry learns he has been brought to circumvent biometric locks placed by his twin that prevent ARIIA from bringing into effect Operation Guillotine, a military simulation of maintaining government after the loss of all presidential successors. Because Secretary Callister agreed with ARIIA’s abort recommendation regarding Balochistan, he is to be the designated survivor after the hexamethylene detonates at the State of the Union address (SOTU).

One of ARIIA’s agents (Nick Searcy) extracts Rachel from the Pentagon and gives her a dress and the explosive necklace to wear to the SOTU. Sam’s school band has also been redirected to the United States Capitol to play for the president, bringing the trigger in Sam’s trumpet and the explosive together. Jerry is recaptured by Agent Morgan, who has become convinced of Jerry’s innocence. Elsewhere, Morgan sacrifices himself to stop an armed MQ-9 Reaper sent by ARIIA, but first gives Jerry his weapon and ID with which to gain entrance to the Capitol. Arriving in the House Chamber, Jerry fires the handgun in the air to disrupt the concert before being shot and wounded by the Secret Service, while ARIIA is destroyed by Perez.

Sometime later, Callister reports that ARIIA has been decommissioned and recommends against building another; the Shaw twins and Agents Perez and Morgan receive awards for their actions. Jerry attends Sam’s birthday party, earning Rachel’s gratitude and a kiss.

Eagle Eye is very “Enemy of the State”, a real techno-thriller updated for the popcorn generation but I do not say that in a derogatory way. Sit back and enjoy it as I did, it’s an action packed, CGI roller coaster of a ride with a provocative, if far-fetched plot. Good performances all round.