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.

Advertisements

REVIEW: THE PUNISHER – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Ben Barnes (Westworld)
Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Suburban Girl)
Amber Rose Revah (Indian Summers)
Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil)
Daniel Webber (11.22.63)
Paul Schulze (Zodiac)
Jaime Ray Newman (Bates Motel)
Michael Nathanson (The Wolf of Wall Street)
C. Thomas Howell (The Amazing Spider-Man)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STAR

Shohreh Aghdashloo (Star Trek Beyond)
Geoffrey Cantor (The Tick)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Limitless TV)
Rob Morgan (Starnger Things)
Kelli Barrett (Mr. Popper’s Penguins)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)#
Ripley Sobo (Batman V Superman)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Jason R. Moore (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Nicolette Pierini (Annie)

The Punisher begins with Frank Castle believing he has completed his mission for revenge against the mobsters who killed his family and hanging up his skull-adorned costume. Six months later everybody thinks Frank Castle is dead and, having grown a hipster beard, he’s taken a new name and landed a job on a construction crew where even though more modern equipment is available, he’s able to take a sledgehammer to concrete walls. Frank is about to discover that he did a lot of punishing for nothing, or at least that his punishing was only partial, because it turns out that the death of his family relates to his black ops military service in Afghanistan and he’s going to have to start punishing again. This time, he has an ally in a former NSA analyst Micro, whose family thinks that he’s dead, too. Frank, who works better alone, finds himself in an unlikely partnership and almost a friendship. Castle has to reconnect with former brothers-in-arms Curtis (Jason R. Moore), now working to support soldiers suffering from PTSD, and Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), now the slick head of a private security concern. Meanwhile, the bad stuff that happened in Kandahar has attracted the attention of Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani, a child of Iranian refugees. Also involved, and providing links to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, is Daredevil regular Karen Page, whose status as compassionate, frequently endangered Marvel TV sidekick/innocent bystander remains intact.The Punisher was a gritty, great start for the character. It helped build the character’s past while presenting a self-contained and intriguing story. There are some definite current modern themes explored and it feels very different from anything on the Marvel Netflix side of things in the past. It was nice to see a character in this series once again take pain and have many potentially fatal situations.  I enjoyed watching the season, fans of the character will find this captured the anti-hero very well though some may feel it’s rather slow to get going. Once it does all move quickly and things are all well developed it doesn’t hold back on the action or tension. The Punisher is a solid character so it’s nice to see a full season actually deliver on what potential there is for this badass within the universe.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – A COLD DAY IN HELL’S KICTHEN

 

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)

GUEST CAST

Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)

Nobu Yoshioka plans to lure Daredevil into a trap by abducting twenty people Daredevil has either brought to justice or saved from harm. Tyler hands him a list which was taken from Detective Sergeant Brett Mahoney. The Hand then abducts all twenty people, including Turk Barrett, Karen Page, and the veteran Jerry. While being transported, Page discovers that Barrett is under house arrest, and wearing a device which transmits his location. He has tampered with him so that it won’t work. However, after Tyler shoots and kills Jerry, Barrett turns the device back on. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock restraints Stick in a chair, telling him that he and Elektra Natchios will take on the Hand alone. Murdock admits that he doesn’t have a plan yet. On the roof, he and Natchios decide that the best plan is to take Yoshioka down, leaving him alive so that his followers can see that he’s just a man.At a restaurant, Jeri Hogarth offers Foggy Nelson a job, suggesting that should he play his cards right, he could be made partner. He is stunned by the starting salary, and intrigued when Hogarth says there is a future in defending vigilantes. At Melvin Potter’s Workshop, Potter fits Natchios for body armor and presents Daredevil with a billy club of his own design. Murdock is touched and admits that he doesn’t know what to say to thank him enough, but Potter brushes this off, saying that there are those in Hell’s Kitchen who know who is really looking out for them. At the same time, Frank Castle returns to his home, which he has not been in since his family’s deaths. He sadly walks through the house before sitting at the dining room table and looking at a newspaper article about his supposed death, with the X-ray of his skull on front page. Inspired, he takes his body armor to the garage, where he listens to a police radio while he spray paints the image of his skull on the armor.Back at Murdock’s apartment, Natchios and Murdock prepare to look for Yoshioka when Murdock’s phone rings. It’s Nelson, calling from the police department. He reports that Mahoney has been roughed up by people looking for information on Daredevil. Murdock appears at the fire escape at the 15th precinct in his Daredevil armor, prompting Mahoney to comment that the masked vigilante is the only person he can trust. He admits that he gave the files on Daredevil’s actions to the people who had roughed him up because they threatened to kill his mother. When Mahoney tells him the file included all the people he had ever helped, Murdock rushes to Page’s apartment, only to find it disheveled, and her gone.On his rooftop, Murdock desperately tries to listen to clues as to where the Hand has taken their prisoners, but he is frustrated. Panicking, he tells Natchios that he can’t block out the extraneous noise. Natchios talks him through blocking out every sound that isn’t relevant so that he can find the prisoners, especially Page. Murdock is finally able to hear the sounds of the bus that is transporting them.The Hand has transported the prisoners to an unknown location, but the police, alerted that Barrett had broken house arrest, arrive. Tyler tells her subordinates to take care of the police while she alerts Yoshioka to the news. Hand archers kill the police officers, but not before one is able to radio for help. Murdock and Natchios arrive at the Hand’s location, and Murdock descends from the rooftop to save the hostages, although Natchios stays behind, convinced that it is a trap. She suggests that the people inside, although innocent, are a much smaller group than the people who would suffer if the Hand got their hands on the Black Sky. Inside, the Hand discover Barrett’s location device and begin to take a knife to his ankle to remove it, when Daredevil crashes into the room and stops them. He is able to free all the hostages, taking a moment to ask Page if she is all right before hurrying her out of the room. More Hand ninjas arrive and he fights them, assisted by Natchios, who cooly tells him that she got bored waiting for him. They realize that the only way out of the building is up on the roof, so they head upstairs. Near the rooftop, he reports that there is an army of Hand ninjas waiting for them, and they both accept that they might not make it out alive.Natchios is ready to meet her fate, but Murdock stops her before they go up to the rooftop, removing his mask and telling her that if they make it out alive, he wants to go with her, leaving New York City behind. She tries to convince him that he belongs in New York but he responds by saying there was only thing that made him feel more alive than New York, and it was her. Meanwhile, Page and the other hostages emerge from the building to find Mahoney and a squadron of police waiting for them. Page tells Mahoney that the abduction was just a trap to lure out Daredevil. Mahoney orders lights to be shone on the building. Nelson arrives, and is shocked when Page tells him about the trap set for Daredevil. On the rooftop, Natchios and Murdock battle with Hand ninjas led by Yoshioka. They are able to defeat many of the ninjas but Yoshioka proves to be a formidable opponent, hitting Murdock so hard that he knocks his mask off. Just as Yoshioka is about to kill Murdock, Natchios attacks him, and Yoshioka inadvertently stabs her. She dies in Murdock’s arms, after telling him that this was not the end.Yoshioka, upset about losing the Black Sky, orders the ninjas to kill Murdock. Murdock, enraged, fights then, and is surprised when gunfire takes some of the ninjas down. He turns to see Frank Castle on a nearby rooftop, using his sniper skills to dispatch some of Daredevil’s opponents. Page looks up at the sound of the gunfire and sees Castle, wearing his Punisher body armor. Murdock does battle with Yoshioka and is victorious, using his billy club to fling him off the roof. Yoshioka, however, survives the fall, only to be killed by Stick, who decapitates him and declares that this time he will stay dead. A month later, at a cemetery, Stick and Murdock stand before Natchios’s gravesite. Murdock wants to say a few words but doesn’t have any. Stick asks Murdock if it was worth it to love her, and Murdock says that despite Stick’s warning to cut himself off from humanity, it was worth it.At Josie’s Bar, Page and Nelson have drinks together. She remarks on how sad it feels with Murdock not with them, but then congratulates Nelson on his new job. He promises her they will always be friends before settling Nelson and Murdock’s tab with Josie. At the New York Bulletin office, Mitchell Ellison is surprised to find Page there, since it’s Christmas Eve. She still has writer’s block. He convinces her to write a story only she can, from her point of view. He gives her a bottle of Scotch and then leaves. Page writes a story about heroes, suggesting that her readers look in the mirror, because all New Yorkers are heroes. Meanwhile, Castle returns to his house one last time, retrieving a CD with the word “Micro” written on it before setting the house on fire. Murdock asks Page to meet him at the Nelson and Murdock offices. She is reluctant, but is waiting for him when he arrives there. He tells her he has something to show her and pulls out his Daredevil helmet. As she watches in shock, he finally reveals to her that he is Daredevil. Meanwhile, Nachios’s grave is dug up, and her body is placed in the stone sarcophagus that Yoshioka had been preparing. As Hand ninjas respectfully lower the lid over it, a heartbeat is faintly heard.If you were as enthusiastic about the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, I hope you’re as pleased as I am with the new episodes. There’s an intensity and toughness in the storytelling that gets at the heart of the character and provides further proof why Daredevil is the one of the best heroes in comics. Ending season 2 at Christmas was a surprise but all in all the final was excellent leaves us wanting more.

REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON TWO

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Stephen Rider (Safe House)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black)

GUEST CAST
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michelle Hurd (Flashforward)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Amy Rutberg (The Mansion)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Daredevil is a character about contrasts. Matt Murdock practices as a lawyer by day, but beats criminals as a vigilante at night. He’s a practicing Catholic, but dresses up like the devil. Also, he’s blind, but he can see the world around him unlike anyone else. Coincidentally, it is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil that chooses to really explore the dichotomies, not only in its title hero but in those around him and the world at large. Charlie Cox once again stars as the Man without Fear in the series, and brings the same amount of dashing charm and selflessness that makes Matt such a great character. Cox has transcended himself in the role, too. Much like Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man or Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool, there is no separating the actor from the character; they are one. He provides the pivotal anchor for the rest of the cast, who also continue to hit home run after home run. Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson is still the perfect Milhouse to Matt’s Bart, the right combination of endearing, annoying, and funny. A combo that personifies the comic book character to a T, and makes him integral to Matt’s story. Furthermore there’s Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, bringing a lightness to this supremely dark (in tone and lighting) series. Woll and Cox also work off of each other in perhaps the most believable romantic subplot of the MCU. Then there’s Frank Castle.
Jon Bernthal takes on the role of The Punisher for the series, and he brings the goods. This is a character that also has two sides at work, not simply inherent to his actions but in how he is written as a piece of the puzzle. Bernthal can handle the militaristic elements with ease. No one has looked more natural walking down a hall while aiming a shotgun with precision, but when the more sensitive aspects of the character and his background unfold, he’s got it covered. The Punisher is at his most satisfying for an audience as an unstoppable killing machine, always five moves ahead. At his most interesting and nuanced, however, The Punisher is a fatally-flawed and broken individual that is two steps behind. The good news is that you get to have your cake and eat it too. When Bernthal isn’t laying waste to criminals, he’s tasked with delivering Shakespearean monologues, which he hits like a headshot.
The second season of Daredevil also brings along Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios, the perfect wrench for everything Matt Murdock. Though The Punisher may be at his most satisfying when he’s a human hurricane leaving a path of destruction, Matt Murdock is at his most satisfying when literally everything is going wrong for him, and Elektra is a guarantee for that. Yung embodies the spirit of Elektra that shines a light on the character’s personality in exciting ways. She brings duel ferocity and gentleness that made me recognize something I had never thought before – Elektra is like a cat; Playful when it suits her, but mysterious and often a supreme and bitter jerk when she doesn’t get her way. The same way that Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll hold onto everything wholesome and good about love, Cox and Yung grab all of the dangerous and potentially hurtful parts and hang them out the window while speeding down the highway.
The true achievement of Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 is not how in how it escalates the stakes from Season 1 or how it manages to properly juggle new and returning characters with satisfying arcs, it’s in its narrative composition as a whole. Season 2 is perhaps the most comic book-like series on TV, because it mirrors the structure of comics in a way that ceases to feel like television. While the first season held onto the framework of serialized TV, guiding us through every turn, Season 2 takes the graphic novel approach. Clusters of episodes form their own cohesive arc for a few hours, but when all combined they form the grander story at hand of the season. And that larger story? A further example of the two dividends of Daredevil. Daytime Matt and nighttime Matt get equal footing, which you need in order to make them both special.
As hard as it may be to believe, Daredevil‘s second season is a step up from the first. By embracing the comic book form, the series has further separated itself from the rest of the MCU and scratches an itch none of them can reach. It’s not all perfect though, as what worked the first time keeps working, and what didn’t work remains a drag, specifically the tired exposition wherein characters must explain to other characters the things the audience already knows. The drama screeches to a halt in these moments, but luckily they are few and far between.
If you were as enthusiastic about the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, I hope you’re as pleased as I am with the new episodes. There’s an intensity and toughness in the storytelling that gets at the heart of the character and provides further proof why Daredevil is the one of the best heroes in comics. The new additions to the series are welcome and only enhance the storytelling in thrilling ways.

REVIEW: X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – SEASON 1-5

Image result for x-men the animated series

CAST

Cedric Smith (Mutant X)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (The Good Witch)
Cathal J. Dodd (Goosebumps)
Iona Morris (Robotech)
Alison Sealy-Smith (This Is Wonderland)
Chris Potter (The Waiting Game)
Tony Daniels (Yin Yang Yo!)
Alyson Court (Elvis Meets Nixon)

Image result for x-men the animated series

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Ratchford (Cold Case)
Lawrence Bayne (Highlander: TAS)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Richard Epcar (Power Rangers)
David Hemblen (Earth: Final Conflict)
Don Francks (La Femme Nikita)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Len Carlson (Swamp Thing: TAS)
Susan Roman (The Racoons)
Dennis Akiyama (Pxiels)
Nigel Bennett (Andromeda)
Maurice Dean Wint (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Philip Akin (Highlander: The Series)

 

Untitled

I recently watched through the entire 90’s x-men Animated Series for the first time. So does the show hold up for someone who didn’t watch it when it first aired? Is it still a good show? Overall, the show is really good. It was also revolutionary as it was one of the first animated TV shows to have a continuing storyline throughout the first few seasons.

Untitled

Rather than creating exclusively new story lines, the show based most of its episodes on well known events from the comics. Stuff like the ultra-famous dark phoenix saga all the way to a modified version of Days of Future Past that included the time traveling mutant Bishop. Most of the episodes changed details here and there to keep thing simple, but the basic premise remains the same.

Untitled

The animation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, still shots look very good for a 90s cartoon. Both characters and environments are finely detailed and even facial expressions are usually well done. On the other hand, it doesn’t look too good in motion. The frame-rate is often choppy and at times characters in the background are just standing still. There are occasional continuity errors as well, like characters swapping outfits between shots (the episode titled “Nightcrawler” comes to mind).

Untitled

Characters are generally portrayed well in the TV show. The main team consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee. Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Gambit are all portrayed well in the show. I found some of their voice actors were a little off-putting at first, but as I watched they grew on me. Rogue probably has the best voice acting of the bunch.

Untitled

I wasn’t quite as fond with the portrayal of Storm or Jubilee however. Storm was alright, but having her constantly talk about what she was commanding the weather to do is annoying at times. Does she have to verbally command the wind every time she blasts enemies with it? I get that she’s a bit of a showoff and that’s part of her charm, but still.

Untitled

The show has a great spotlight of different villains as well. It features everyone from mega villains like Magneto, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse to smaller villains like Vertigo, the Juggernaut, and even the Brood. The show even mentions the Juggernaut’s relationship to Xavier (they’re step brothers). Mr. Sinister in particular is very well portrayed in the series, and we even get an origins episode in season five (heavily modified of course).

If you have any interest in the X-men and want to try out the comics, this is a decent show for finding out some of the franchises back-story. It’s rarely as good as the original stories it’s based on, but it’s easier to find and for the most part, it’s an easy watch.

REVIEW: IRON MAN: RISE OF TECHNOVORE

CAST

Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead)
Matthew Mercer (Critical Role)
Eric Bauza (Ben 10)
Kate Higgins (Bleach)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Kari Wahlgren (The Lion Guard)
Clare Grant (Walk The Line)
Troy Baker (Ulltimate Spider-Man)
Tara Platt (Shelf Life)
John Eric Bentley (Transformers 2)

While racing in a desert with War Machine (James “Rhodey” Rhodes), Iron Man is ambushed by a mysterious new enemy who tries to destroy Tony Stark’s new security satellite, “The Howard”. War Machine is killed in the struggle and Iron Man sets out for revenge. He is intercepted by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury who needs to talk to him. He escapes and make it over to Pepper Potts who is on vacation.

They discover that A.I.M. Advanced Idea Mechanics has been conducting research into techno organic weaponry for some time and pinpoint one of their warehouses in Karachi. S.H.I.E.L.D. locates them and Tony comes out the front to be surrounded by Mandroids. He activates his suitcase armor, destroys all the Mandroids, and heads to Karachi. The scene then cuts to a member of A.I.M. trying to sell weapons to a buyer. Punisher comes in and breaks it up. Just as Punisher is about to kill the A.I.M. member, Iron Man saves him in order to get some answers. Iron Man and Punisher then work together and discover the identity of the new enemy being Ezekiel Stane.

Hawkeye and Black Widow are given orders to retrieve Iron Man. Iron Man escapes with the help of the Punisher and continues on to Shanghai where he meets Ezekiel Stane, the son of Obadiah Stane.

Ezekiel paralyzes Iron Man with the Technovore and details his plan to replace humanity with his new technology utilizing the technology on the “Howard” satellite to hack into all computers and satellites. Hawkeye and Black Widow show up and arrest both. Later on the Helicarrier, Iron Man discovers War Machine is barely alive. Then the Technovore hacks the craft leaving Iron Man to uses his arc reactor to stabilize the Helicarrier and drive the Technovore out of the systems. Ezekiel is now betrayed by the Technovore and taken over by it causing a big fight with Iron Man resulting in the Helicarrier crashing into Shanghai. When all hope seems lost, War Machine miraculously wakes up and helps Iron Man fight the Technovore.

In a last ditch effort, Iron Man is able to use a backdoor he built into the Howard’s system to hack back into it temporarily. He is purposely captured by the Technovore and orders War Machine to fire the satellite’s defense laser at Tony’s arc reactor before the Technovore is able to use the other satellites to destroy the world. War Machine fires, and the Technovore is defeated with Iron Man seemingly sacrificing himself. Miraculously, Iron Man is saved by War Machine and lives. Ezekiel Stane is seen in the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D

For fans of anime, this is truly a visual treat. There are numerous little shout outs to other anime shows, most notably gundam. Yet like most modern anime, the visuals are about the only thing good going for it. The story makes little sense. Stark could have saved himself a lot of trouble with SHIELD if he just stopped for a bit and listened. But no. Our character of Stark is a one trick egotistical pony, dead set on having things his way. The other characters also come across as flat personalities, more typical anime fodder for fanservice than actual contributors to the story. We even have your typical angst ridden teen out to “remake the world”.

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.