REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1994) – SEASON 1-5

 

 

CAST

Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Rodney Saulsberry (The Animatrix)
Jennifer Hale (Wreck-It Ralph)
Gary Imhoff (The Green Mile)
Sara Ballantine (Batman Year One)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Liz Georges (As Told By Ginger)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Joseph Campanella (Ben)
Patrick Labyorteaux (Yes Man)
Maxwell Caulfield (Alien Intruder)
Neil Ross (Rambo)
Roscoe Lee Brown (Babe)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
Dawnn Lewis (Futurama)
Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
George Buza (Mutant X)
Cedric Smith (Earth: Final Conflict)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (Forever Knight)
Alison Sealy-Smith (You Kill Me)
Alyson Court (Beetlejuice TV)
Chris Potter (Heartland)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek Generations)
J.D. Hall (Undercover Brother)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday the 13th – Part 8)
George Takei (Star Trek)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Courtney Peldon (Frozen)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Barbara Goodson (Power Rangers)
James Avery (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Conflict)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Jeff Corey (Conan The Destroyer)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Mira Furlan (Lost)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
David Hayter (X-Men)
Roy Dotrice (Hercules: TLJ)
Paul Winfield (Star Trek II)
Majel Barrett (Star Trek)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

The set itself is well presented, although the artwork is a little cheap, and clearly done in a way as to mimic the style of the 90s series. Anyone who has the recent X-Men Season releases will be familiar with this. Unlike those, this one also has a slipcase. A booklet with episode synopses is also included.

Spider-Man has season-long arcs, which when viewed in succession make for great television. Christopher Barnes is brilliant as Spider-Man (especially in those fleeting moments of extreme rage), and the guests were memorable too, particularly Rob Paulsen’s oafish Hydro Man and Jennifer Hale as Felicia Hardy/ Black Cat.

The music was great too, but while Spider-Man relied on several repeated  cues,  Another thing about Spider-Man is that even after all these years I find myself being surprised by some of the plot twists, which were even more abundant upon first viewing. Thankfully, John Semper (creative head of the show) was bold enough to change much of the original stories to make them worth animating in the first place. What else? A minor triumph, but the colouring on this cartoon is the best of any I’ve ever seen. A simple praise. While the show lost its way during the muddled fourth year it had some great episodes in the last series, with one of the greatest resolution-with-cliffhanger endings in animation history. A rare treat in that its much, much better than you remember it.

Some of the best episodes were – the three-parter, “The Alien Costume”- a marvellous introduction for the ultimately underused Venom (a deliciously insane Hank Azaria)- and the two-part “Hobgoblin” are among the best in the show’s five-year run. “Night of the Lizard”, a pilot of sorts, is interesting in that there’s an awful lot more effort put into the animation than in later episodes, as is often the case.

Animation from the 1990s doesn’t come much better than this, and Marvel have yet to top it.

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REVIEW: PUNISHER: WAR ZONE

CAST

Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Dominic West (300)
Julie Benz Angel)
Colin Salmon (Arrow)
Doug Hutchison (Shaft)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)

 

The film follows Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson), a man who was out for a picnic with his wife and son one day and who happened to witness a mob hit. The mob, never pleased with events like this, opened fire on the Castle family and sent all but Frank to their graves. With nothing else to live for, Frank decides to arm himself to the teeth and with the help of his friend and weapons supplier, Microchip (Wayne Knight), wage a war on crime. Taking care of the criminals who fall through the cracks of the legal system, Castle’s managed to accumulate a pretty massive body count, but the N.Y.P.D. tends to turn a blind eye to his activities until one night Castle accidently kills Nicky Donatelli (Romano Orzari), an undercover F.B.I. agent trying to infiltrate the gang run by Billy Russoti (Dominic West).

When the feds learn that Castle has killed one of their own, they send Special Agent Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon) to work with Detective Martin Soap (Dash Mihok) to bring Castle in for good. Meanwhile, Billy Russoti, whose face was mangled during the incident and who now calls himself Jigsaw, wants revenge. He springs his brother, James (Doug Hutchinson), better known as Loony Bin Jim, from the local asylum and decides he’s going to take out Donatelli’s widow, Angela (Julie Benz) and daughter, Grace (Stephanie Janusauskas) and then the Punisher himself. On top of that, Russoti is in the middle of a deal with the Russian mob involving some biological weapons, a deal that the feds and N.Y.P.D. alike absolutely do not want to happen.

While the plot is fairly thin, there’s enough meat on the bones of the plot to work. Each of the central characters has sufficient motivation that their actions make sense and with the plot established and the characters set up, director Lexi Alexander wisely chooses to not waste anymore time and get on with the action. Sure there are a couple of sentimental flashbacks in the movie, but those serve to remind us that there is a living, breath, feeling human being underneath the skull emblazoned Kevlar armor.

The real heart of this film is in its action scenes and it is in these scenes that the picture really excels. When Castle kills someone, he really kills them. A face is punched in (literally), throats are slit, a head is cut of, brains are blown out, there are squibs galore and in one remarkably ridiculous scene a balletic gang banger is blown up, mid maneuver, by a rocket launcher. The violence in the film is hard hitting and completely over the top – just as it should be!

Equally as ridiculous are the film’s villains. Dominic West and Doug Hutchinson are having so much malicious fun as Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim that, while you want the Punisher to take them down, you can’t help but want them to come back for a sequel. These guys play the parts with completely unwarranted but very welcome enthusiasm, playing everything to the hilt – the mannerisms, the New Yawk accents – to the point where they are literally comic book villains incarnate. Stevenson’s Frank Castle is perfect in the lead, bringing a nice sense of brooding menace to the character and scowling his way through the film just as you’d want him too.

Helping the over the top performances and ultra violence immensely is some fantastic camerawork and lighting. There are large portions of the movie that are bathed in Bava-esque primary colors, really upping the comic book come to life aesthetic that Alexander was obviously going for here. It works, and it works well. Not only does the movie zip along at a great pace but it looks fantastic doing so.