REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED

MAIN CAST

Rino Romano (The Batman)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Donovan (ReBoot)
Brian Drummond (Dragon Ball Z)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jennifer Hale (Cinderella II)
Ron Halder (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Newman (Beast Wars)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Kim Hawthrone (Lucky Louie)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)

This is such a brilliant innovation in the Spiderman story and characterisation it really is a shame that it only ran for a total of thirteen episodes. This complete series is featured on two discs and an inlay card is included which folds out to be about the size of the box itself, clips from each episode are featured alongside comics caption/dialogue boxes which provide a synopsis of the action in this episode.

What struck me watching this was the extent to which for what is pretty much a simple saturday morning kids cartoon the episodes are cerebral, there is as much serious philosophizing as wise cracking. There are not just the normal heroics, standing up to bullies and being your best content which you may associate with cartoons of this kind but morally complex dilemmas too.

Spiderman himself has been rebooted but I think the detractors of the series who suggested it was essentially Spiderman reborn go too far. In addition to the powers imparted to him by being mutated by a spider bite Peter Parker has a costume now which can be deployed from a wrist watch like device comprised of nano technology. In addition to web slinging he can fire small darts, use a kind of sonic emitting blast to repell enemies, provides a stealth camoflage and be protected against fumes and gas canisters.

These are major changes and Spiderman has become much more sophisticated but given that his major antagonists from the start of this series are Venom and Carnage I really think this is necessary because these are two of the most formidable adversaries in the Marvel universe and I always thought some of the battles in the comics when Spiderman did not have the enhanced capabilities featured here where unconvincing.While the initial conflict is with Carnage and Venom the action quickly moves to an alternate universe in which humankind are the bottom of the heap in a caste system created by a sort of Dr Moreau Nemesis, there are now humans, servitor machines and bestial masters. Enter reflections upon class struggle, insurrection, subversion, terrorism, oppression and totalitarianism. None of this is played down or presented in a simplistic fashion. For instance Peter Parker’s initial objective of simply finding a way home to MJ becomes untenable as he discovers the pilot from an earlier mission to the alternate reality is a leader of the human resistance. Peter does not wish to join the insurgents but initially fufils the role of mediator between the factions, assisted in some way by lack of assurance on the part of the bestials that he is a human at all. The villain/nemesis himself in his back story is not unambiguously evil but rather is a plausibly disillusioned utopian genuis turned bitter, like Captain Nemo. There are possibly other more down played comments on animal testing, vivisection and vigilantism too.

However, all this said, is also possible to treat it as simple entertainment. There are appearences by alternate versions of Green Goblin and Vulture, heroes rather than villains, and The Hunter.
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REVIEW: TAKEN (2002)

CAST

Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Eric Close (American Snuper)
Catherine Dent (Terminator: TSCC)
Joel Gretsch (V)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Tine Holmes (Half Nelson)
Steve Burton (Cyber Tracker)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Stacy Grant (Shanghai Noon)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Michael Moriarty (Courage Under Fire)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
James McDaniel (Sleepy Hollow)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Ryan Hurst (Bates Motel)
James Kirk (X-Men 2)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Brenda James (Slither)
Chad Morgan (The Purge: Anarchy)
Jonathan Young (Sanctuary)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Emily Holmes (The Wicker Man)
Erin Karpluk (Being Erica)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Desmond Harrington (Ghost Ship)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Emily Bergl (Carrie 2)
Britt Irvin (V)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gabrielle Rose (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Linda Ko (Antitrust)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Justin Chatwin (Taking Lives)
Gwynyth Walsh (Van Helsing)
Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project)

From none other than visionary Steven Spielberg comes TAKEN (2002), which I first saw during it’s initial run on the BBC. I admire the scope, ambition, and emotion attached to this entertaining mini series.It starts off in 1944, with Russell Keys, along with his bomber crew, being ‘taken’ by an alien spacecraft during their WWII mission. The crew is experimented on, but Keys is essentially the lone survivor. Keys returns home with PTSD, not due to war, but due to the alien experience. This compels him to leave his wife and child to solve the mystery. Eventually, the aliens take Russell’s teen son Jesse Keys. The aliens obviously see an internal resolve in the Keys’ men that distinguishes them from the rest of the human race.
A second parallel story starts around 1947, and involves the lone survivor of a downed alien spacecraft that manages to take human form as “John” , who seeks refuge on a Texas farm owned by Sally Clarke, a hard-working waitress and single mother of two. John and Sally bond and she is impregnated, leading to a human-alien hybrid Jacob Clarke (superbly played by then-newcomer Anton Yelchin, now known for being the new Chekhov in the re-booted Star Trek franchise).The final parallel story also starts in 1947 in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, where the local Air Force has found John’s downed ship and his 4 alien compadres who did not survive. Backed by the government, the military takes over the super-secret project, which starts off being briefly led by Colonel Campbell and is soon taken over by his ambitious son-in-law Captain Owen Crawford (brilliantly played by Joel Gretsch), military intelligence officer. Gretsch perfectly essays the role of megalomaniacal Crawford, who runs the project with unapologetic brio. I really felt that Gretsch’s character carried the first few episodes (spanning 1947 to 1962) with strong support from the other actors.
Taken’s first half  storytelling is strong, a perfect balance of science fiction, politics, speculation, and drama. One really buys into the premise that these goings-on could have actually happened. It’s definitely not fiction that many an American have reported UFO sightings and alien experiences over the years, and this miniseries is one of the better attempts at relaying this message to the viewer.
With the second half of the mini series the puzzle pieces finally start to come together to an interesting conclusion. Emily Burgl (as Lisa Clarke) and Andy Kaufman (as Charlie Keys) were commendable as the adult versions of the last respective offspring of the Clarke-Keys clans, the main highlight of the second half was  was the performance of newcomer Dakota Fanning (who plays Allie) whose wonderful narration is a key to the series overall success. She stole the show from all of her adult counterparts. I would definitely recommend the miniseries based on ambition and overall scope and the tightly woven storytellingthe show demonstrates. It’s an epic Sci-Fi story that is intriguing and at times touching. It wasthe series that made Dakota Fanning a star.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: REUNION

 

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CAST

Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Jim Byrnes (The Net: The Series)
Peter Wingfield (Caprica)

It has been ten years since we left Methos, Amanda, and Joe and some things have changed, while others remain the same. Love has blossomed, Immortality is still a double edged sword, and lingering feelings rise to the surface…now a very important event has brought the three old friends together in this unforgettable Highlander Reunion, but will The Game threaten to tear them apart?

This is a Brilliant shot film is a nice little Highlander Appendage that shows the strength of the supporting cast from the series and gives Highlander fans a something extra to fawn over.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE

CAST (VOICES)

Alistair Abell (The New Addams Family)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Debi Mae West (Despicable Me)
Jim Byrnes (Andromeda)
Kathleen Barr (Beast Machines)

Image result for highlander the search for vengeanceThe lead character, Colin MacLeod, became an Immortal after his first death in 125 AD in Roman Britain, when his village was attacked by the conquering Romans. Another Immortal, Marcus Octavius, was leading the Roman Empire’s military forces in hopes of creating his dream of a utopian society. Octavius killed Colin’s wife, but was not able to kill Colin whose unconscious body was dragged by a horse to within Stonehenge, a “holy ground” in the story, where Immortals are forbidden to fight.
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Waking days later within Stonehenge, Colin is left confused about who and what he is, and why he is still alive. It is at this moment that the spirit of a former druid of this holy site, Amergan, begins communicating with MacLeod and explains to him what he is. Colin learns of The Game from Amergan, and the druid becomes his lifelong teacher and conscience.
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The movie interlaces flashback scenes of this and Colin’s following plight for vengeance throughout time, as Marcus attempts to re-enact his utopian society through force and fear. Throughout the next two millennia, Marcus serves as a high-ranking member of various powerful empires, ranging from the British Empire to Nazi Germany. Marcus wants to encourage the development of a utopian world-empire, but in contrast, the side he chooses tend to be ruthless and authoritarian (e.g. Nazi Germany). For 2000 years, Colin clashes with Marcus multiple times throughout history, always fighting on the opposing side trying to bring down which ever authoritarian regime Marcus is supporting. While Colin is often badly beaten, neither one ever succeeds in killing the other. Though Colin is ostensibly in the role of the “barbarian” and Marcus is the bringer of “civilization”, Marcus cares more about building an empire and less about people’s well-being, with an “ends-justify-the-means” mentality.
Image result for highlander the search for vengeanceIn the year 2187, Colin finds Octavius in a post-apocalyptic future of New York City. Octavius has stopped supporting other regimes but is setting up a new empire with himself as its tyrannical leader. When Colin arrives, Marcus is busy making plans to release a deadly virus which will further his goals of conquest. Colin falls in with the disaffected rebels in the city. After a final duel, Colin defeats Octavius, and his Quickening destroys the virus in question.
Image result for highlander the search for vengeanceFollowing the defeat of Marcus, Colin leaves New York for an unknown destination with a new sense of belief and purpose other than revenge for the first time in his life.

Image result for highlander the search for vengeanceAlthough the plot isn’t original, this is still a great film to own, if you liked the original Highlander film, Ninja Scroll or sword fighting movies, this definitely deserves a spot on your DVD shelf.

 

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SOURCE

 

CAST

Adrian Paul (Fortress)
Thekla Reuten (In Bruges)
Cristian Solimeno (Rush)
Jim Byrnes (The Net: The Series)
Peter Wingifeld (Caprica)
Stephen Wright (Hex)

A group of Immortals quest to locate the mysterious “Source” of immortal power in the near future. One member of the group, Zai Jie, breaks into a communications tower in Eastern Europe and contacts his associates to give them the location of the Source. The Guardian of the Source, who has supernatural speed, confronts and decapitates him. Reggie, another group member, discovers that the planets are moving from their orbits into a cosmic alignment.

Former Immortal Watcher Joe Dawson is called by group member Methos to find their mutual friend Duncan MacLeod. Joe finds MacLeod in a fight with the Guardian, shoots Duncan, hauls him into a truck, and drives off. They rendezvous with the others at a monastery in order to meet with an ancient being known as the Elder so they can locate the Source.

At the monastery, they meet Anna Teshemka, Duncan’s mortal wife, who is having visions. The Elder meets them all as a group and tells of how, in ancient history, another group of Immortals sought the Source. Upon slaying the Guardian, two of the three survivors were cursed with decay, with one of them becoming the new Guardian, and the other being the Elder (the third, a woman, is later implied to have been reincarnated as Anna). The Elder tells them all to follow Anna who knows the way. She, in turn, receives a vision from the Elder. Meanwhile, the Guardian arrives and attacks Reggie and Joe Dawson on holy ground. In an effort to save Dawson, Duncan throws his katana at the Guardian, temporarily wounding him. The Guardian removes the sword from his neck and breaks it before killing Joe with the broken blade and escaping. After burying Joe, they leave to find the Source, which they have determined to be on an island off the coast of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea.

Approaching the island, the boat’s captain tells them that the “maniacs”, gangs of cannibals, rule the island. After fighting locals who were poised to immolate a man to death, they obtain a van and drive to a deserted house a short distance away from where they believe the Source to be. That night, the Guardian kills Reggie by slashing him to death — the Elder had warned them that the closer they get to the Source, the weaker they would become, meaning that they would lose their immortality. Duncan has replaced his broken katana with a pair of butterfly swords. The group takes Reggie’s body with them until they ultimately discover that he will not revive.

After burying Reggie, they continue on their way. During their journey, Duncan and Methos conclude that the expression “there can be only one” was in fact never meant to mean that all Immortals must battle and behead each other until only one remains, and that it truly means that only one Immortal can claim the Source. They then find the road blocked, and are captured by cannibals. While the cannibals are distracted by their drunken carousing, the Guardian frees Anna and forces her to accompany him to the Source. Later, Giovanni escapes and takes a sword, hoping to be “The One.” Duncan frees himself and Methos, and sets off to rescue Anna. Giovanni gets recaptured, and Duncan goes in to save him. Methos arrives to assist Duncan at the last moment, and tells him he believes Duncan is “The One” due to his incorruptible nature. He rides off on a horse to distract the cannibals, allowing Duncan to chase after Anna. Giovanni, who had run off when Duncan came to his rescue, is decapitated by the Guardian.

Duncan finds Anna in a clearing by a sandy pit illuminated by starlight. The cosmic convergence is happening directly over them. The Guardian appears and challenges Duncan. MacLeod finds that he now has the same speed and power as the Guardian, and manages to get past the foe to reach Anna. However, an energy barrier appears to bar his way. After continued fighting, the Guardian ends up buried chest deep in the dirt. Bound and defeated, the Guardian demands that MacLeod behead him. Duncan refuses, and the Guardian vanishes in a blast of light. Before he goes, the Guardian screams that he is “cursed forever.” Duncan enters the Source, qualified to do so by his pure heart. In the Source, Anna reveals that she is pregnant with their child. Of the child, Duncan declares that “he is the one.”

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Not The Best Highlander film my any stretch, once again they tried to answer a lot of questions similar to Highlander II. I enjoyed it mostly for the return of 3 of my favorite characters from the show. The film will never be on peoples top ten but it is what it is a low budget sci-film that saw Adrian Paul return to the franchise.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME

CAST

Adrian Paul (Eyeborgs)
Christopher Lambert (Fortress)
Bryce Payne (Dungeons & Dragons)
Lisa Barbuscia (Rabbit Fever)
Donnie Yen (Hero)
Jim Byrnes (The Net: THe Series)
Peter Wingfield (Caprica)
Sheila Gish (Mansfield Park)
Beatie Edney In The Name of The Father)
Adam Copeland (The Flash)

In A.D. 1555, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) returns to his former home in Glenfinnan, Scotland, to save his mother from his former friend and village priest Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne). Kell executes Connor’s mother for witchcraft. Connor kills both Kell and Kell’s adopted father, Father Rainey, and sets Glenfinnan ablaze. Jacob Kell is reborn as an Immortal, and vows vengeance against Connor for Rainey’s death. He spends the next four centuries killing people Connor cares about. Kell amasses great power by ignoring the rules of The Game; he recruits several lesser Immortals as disciples, who overpower other Immortals so Kell can take their heads. By the turn of the century, Kell has 661 Immortal kills (compared to 262 for Connor MacLeod, and 174 for Duncan MacLeod).
Ten years before the present-day events of the film, Kell orchestrates the death of Connor’s adopted daughter Rachel Ellenstein. Heartbroken, Connor departs for The Sanctuary, where Immortals are under surveillance by a subgroup of Watchers to prevent The Prize from being won.
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A decade later, Kell and his disciples attack the Sanctuary, and Connor is believed to have been beheaded along with the other Immortals there. Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), compelled by a vision he has of the slaughter, begins to investigate. Meanwhile, Mathew Hale, the watcher supervising the sanctuary, looks on at the carnage, and decides that they will now turn to “volunteers” to refill their test-subjects’ numbers. Duncan goes to see Methos, who tells him about the Sanctuary. Duncan cannot believe that Connor would even go to such a place. He later leaves London for New York, where he goes to Connor’s loft, which was destroyed in the explosion that killed Rachel. Sensing an Immortal, he turns to see Kate (Lisa Barbuscia), his wife from 200 years before. Then Kell’s posse arrives, and fights Duncan (disregarding the rule of one-on-one combat). The fighting stops when Kell arrives, but Carlos shoots Duncan, who falls on a spike, killing him. Kell is furious with Carlos, and beheads him: as the quickening begins, a van drives up to where Duncan fell, and takes him away.
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Later on, Duncan wakes up, only to realize that he has been taken by Watchers who want to keep him in the Sanctuary so that he does not win the Prize. He is later saved with the help of Methos and Joe. He discovers Connor was spared by Kell, so as to allow the evil Immortal to make Connor’s life even more miserable. Kell wants to kill Duncan in order to torture Connor, and given the number of Quickenings he has received, this seems quite likely to occur. Additionally, Connor is too guilt-ridden by the deaths of all his loved ones to stand up to Kell by himself. Duncan later confronts Kate (now using the alias “Faith”) at a fashion shoot, and asks her why she is with Kell. She tells him how much she hates the fact that she will never have children or grow old and die, and believes that Kell understands her pain. Duncan must earn her forgiveness, or face her as an embittered part of Kell’s faction. Later on in his hotel room, Kate arrives after having a chat with Kell, and the two make love. Though it would appear that she has forgiven him, it is not the case, and she tells Duncan that she will never forgive him; Duncan tells her that it is never too late for redemption, and that he will wait, even if it takes years or centuries.
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Ultimately, Kell executes his group in a mock Last Supper to gain their powers, including possibly Faith, and Connor convinces Duncan that Connor must allow himself to be beheaded in order for Duncan to have enough power to rival Kell. After an emotional good-bye, Duncan follows Connor’s advice, and beheads his beloved clansman.
Image result for highlander endgameSoon after, Duncan and Kell engage in a final battle. At first, Kell easily overpowers Duncan, even when MacLeod attempts a supposedly-unbeatable sword move that Connor taught him. Just before Duncan’s impending death at the hands of Kell, Connor’s spirit helps give Duncan the strength to continue. Duncan then kills Kell by jumping over him and decapitating him as he turns around. Duncan absorbs all of Kell’s massive power. He then goes to Glen Coe, Scotland to bury Connor next to Connor’s first wife Heather. Kate appears and explain Duncan that Kell spared her life. Kate and Duncan share a kiss, suggesting that they will reconcile their marriage and live together forever.Image result for highlander endgameThis installment of the Highlander movie series is a brilliant blend of the original movie and the popular television characters. The story line is weaved through past history (as Highlander fans have come to expect) and picks up where the television series ended. It still stands alone as a movie in itself, though I will admit it may be hard for a non-highlander fan to grasp all of the concepts that are thrown at them. All in all, Davis/Panzer have once again given credit to this wonderful science fiction series by watching the details of the character’s pasts and still creating unknown events in their lives. This is the beauty of this series, just when you think you know the character something pops up from their past. This will be an emotional movie for diehard Highlander fans, just as the “To Be/Not to Be” t.v. finale was. In my opinion.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN

 

MAIN CAST

Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Paul Johansson (Van Helsing)
Patricia Gage (American Psycho)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Torri Higginson (Stargate: Atlantis)
Julian Richings (Man of Steel)
Carlo Rota (Stargate Universe)
James Kidnie (Arrow)
Carolyn dunn (Sweating Bullets)
Alan Van Sprang (Reign)
Hannes Jaenicke (Tatort)
Lawrence Dane (Bride of Chucky)
John Ralston (Bitten)
Philip Akin (Mutant X)
Shary Guthrie (Earth: Final Conflict)
Andrew Jackson (Smallville)
Michael Copeman (The Fly)
Anne Marie Deluise (Goosebumps)
Noam Jenkins (John Q)
Geordie Johnson (reign)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Valentine Pelka (8mm 2)
Jim Byrnes (Andromeda)
Michelle Gomez (Gotham)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Robert Cavanah (Sahara)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)

With Highlander: The Raven, it became quickly obvious that this show wasn’t as good as the predecessor. The writing wasn’t as good, and some episodes were clearly not well done. That much I’m in agreement with everyone else here. But I would ask other viewers to also try to see the positive aspects that H:TR had. For starters, the chemistry between Amanda and detective Wolf was great.

I’m not sure why exactly, but these two were just perfect together, in both dialogue, thought processes and acting. I think that the writers here were trying to bring the world of immortals to deal with the point of view of a mortal, ie, Wolf, thus where we saw a mortal protagonist taking the heads of two immortals in the only season that this show was alive, the first by shooting at glass that decapitated his foe and the second (a very well-done episode) where Wolf used a sword to decapitate the immortal who was killing people for their organs.

That was basically the act of allowing a mortal to interact with immortals as their equal for the first time, instead of always running to a friendly immortal to do his bidding when another immortal was a villain who needed to be dealt with (ala Joe Dawson with Duncan). Here, a mortal took charge. There were other episodes that were truly gems to watch, the best being the one where Amanda had robbed a soldier during WW1 and inadvertently caused the deaths of 120 of his `brothers’, as that character stated in such a charming way. The one with father Liam and his doubts about his centuries-long faith in the priesthood was also a very good one, with Amanda baiting him to place himself between her sword and the woman journalist she pretended to wish to kill.

The very first episode where Wolf’s former partner had placed herself in between Amanda and a bullet, whereas basically leaving Amanda’s facial expression almost screaming out `WHAT DID YOU DO?!’ because she knew it was a sacrifice done for nothing, also leading her to possibly reconsider her values because someone who was dedicated to stopping her when she was a thief was still placing herself in harm’s way to protect her life. And, last but not least, the last episode where we found out that Wolf himself was an immortal now, and the science of immortality was clearly explained, at least to me, when he confronted Amanda about it. Just too bad we never got to see a second season to this cool show, thus allowing detective Wolf to be an immortal himself. But this will always be one of my favorite shows. Not as good as the great Highlander: The Series , but definitely one that was a joy to see every Saturday afternoon.