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Tag Archive: Ben Barnes


Review by C.J. Bunce

Jon Bernthal returned to Netflix this weekend for Season 2 of Marvel’s The Punisher, continuing in the role of Frank Castle, the comic book vigilante that makes all of the Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and Keanu Reeves movie action heroes look wimpy by comparison.  Bernthal’s performance as a 21st century hero offers more than the beatings he dishes out (which will make viewers wince, flinch, and duck throughout 13 episodes), it has that subtlety and nuance that shows again Bernthal has the acting chops to be the next Robert De Niro.  And he’s probably the most believable actor as a Marvel comic book tough guy on the big or small screen.

The Punisher fits the superhero bill in his strength, cunning, and skill, and writers Steve Lightfoot, Ken Kristensen, Angela LaManna, Dario Scardapane, Christine Boylan, Felicia D. Henderson, Bruce Marshall Romans, and Laura Jean Leal outperformed the stellar first season with more elaborate set-ups for Castle & Co.  In 2017 the series’ first season made our borg.com best comic book adaptation and best villain with Ben Barnes‘ Billy Russo, and Barnes does it again, creating a worthy foil very different from last time, a character similar in many ways to the complex and somewhat sympathetic Killmonger in Black Panther.  In many ways it’s more of the same, with Amber Rose Revah (Emerald City) as Dinah Madani and Jason R. Moore (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) as Curtis back supporting Castle, this time balancing two big threats.  The cast plays exceptionally well off each other, and it’s a shame this is the final season for the series.

Castle steps in as good Samaritan to protect a teenager played by Giorgia Whigham (The Orville) who becomes the season’s co-lead, a key part of a strange, Manchurian Candidate-inspired political scheme.  Meanwhile Madani pursues Billy Russo, now under the care of a psychiatrist played by series newcomer Floriana Lima.  The beating by Castle in Season One left Russo with memory loss, forgetting Castle nearly killed him only because he killed Castle’s family in the first season of the show.  The key theme again is PTSD and the results of coming home from war as a trained killer with little community support.  In many ways The Punisher is a modern-day read of the post-war classic The Best Years of Our Lives.  Loyalty is a key theme again, too, as is doing what is necessary to protect your own.

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Marvel’s The Punisher‘s first season easily rated our favorite superhero series of 2017, with Ben Barnes‘ Billy Russo as our favorite villain, and Jon Bernthal in the title role as our pick for the second best actor on TV that year.  Netflix‘s superhero universe was a refreshing surprise after the networks tried to create a TV tie-in plan with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  We still rate The Punisher as second only to Marvel’s Luke Cage of the Netflix comic book adaptations.  With Netflix and Marvel winding down this TV universe and an unknown future ahead for these actors and creators in their current roles, we’ve only two series left to see this year, The Punisher and Jessica Jones.

Netflix released the final trailer for the final season of The Punisher, and the big surprise is the return of Ben Barnes back as the season’s villain, the 1970s Amazing Spider-Man villain and later The Punisher comics hitman, Jigsaw.  The big risk of bringing back the same villain in a sophomore season is staleness.  But we’re thinking the dense action stuffed into the trailer is really what you’re tuning in for if you’re streaming this series.  The second season finds Bernthal’s Frank Castle in a three-episode story arc protecting a 21-year-old woman played by Giorgia Whigham (The Orville), and a surprise–The Man in the High Castle’s Alexa Davalos appears as a new love interest for Castle.

Amber Rose Revah (Emerald City) returns as Dinah with Jason R. Moore as Curtis and new characters played by Corbin Bernsen (Psych, Magnum PI), Floriana Lima (Supergirl, Psych, In Plain Sight, House), and Joe Holt (Supernatural, Monk, Law & Order).

Take a look at the one and only trailer, the final for the final season of The Punisher:

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Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 yesterday here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC). From the awakenings in the first episode of season 2, AMC’s Humans kicked in full throttle as the borg show to watch this year.  Continuing to explore what it means to be real and addressing the desire and need to overcome oppression, the show took ideas from Frankenstein and THX-1138 and everything in between to show us realities of life as a borg as it took the world from robotic cyborgs to sentience.  And this year’s best borg goes to all the Synths on the series, as each showed a different side to what a world full of cyborgs might be like.

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best Soundtrack for TVThe Orville (Fox).   The Orville expanded on elements from across all sci-fi, like space battle sequences and planet flyovers using Star Wars-inspired camera angles (including real model ships, not just CGI), completely new and unique aliens (the only thing close to these can be found in Doctor Who), and a fantastic, triumphant musical score from Bruce Broughton.  A visually gorgeous show that took itself seriously more than trying to mock anything that came before it.  The science fiction series we’ve been waiting for since Star Trek Voyager ended.

Best Fantasy TV SeriesWynonna Earp (Syfy).  Wynonna Earp’s second season proved the first wasn’t a fluke.  The sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter, her sister, the sheriff, and the ghost of Doc Holliday added some new team members and some great supernatural villains, providing a series we couldn’t wait to get back to each week.  Wynonna’s handling of the Revenants and a transport back in time was even more fun while she managed her pregnancy.

Best Retro TV SeriesStranger Things (Netflix).  The only question after binge-watching the second season of Stranger Things was struggling to decide whether it was better than the first.   It had the same look and feel of its first season, but somehow the characterization was really amped up, the action more exciting, and the tension pretty much perfect.  Stranger Things really had it all–stars of our favorite 1980s movies, throwback references to video games, music, fashions, and the obscure like no other show–and with a second season that eclipsed the first, it proved it is the real deal.

After the cut, come back for more of our Best in Television 2017, including our pick for Best TV Series:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Superhero adaptations seemed to experience a coming of age this year.  After one appearance after another as a Wolverine fans all expected to see, Hugh Jackman finally gave us something entirely new.  Gritty and real, Jackman’s swan song as the ageless superhero in Logan took comic book movies into an incredible new place–a modern classic, a drama with depth and an unparalleled fierceness.  The DC Universe continues its consistently entertaining productions on the CW Network.  And although this year’s new FX series Legion succeeded in telling a different kind of superhero story, its convoluted and frenetic storytelling and visuals often felt like an indecipherable muddle, and the eagerly awaited Marvel team-up Defenders just didn’t gel.  Then comes Netflix’s unlikely comic book adaptation series The Punisher.

It may be less of a trick to take a lesser known character and make him or her approachable, and easier to foul up a well-known commodity, but The Punisher provides engaging drama and compelling storytelling for TV watchers whether or not you’re familiar with its source material.  And its one of the finest examples of the new wave of superhero TV–not that The Punisher aka Frank Castle portrayed by the craggy Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) has any superpowers.  He is somewhere near the Batman or Green Arrow superhero type, an on-again, off-again anti-hero with special forces–and MacGyver-esque–mad skills, he is a vigilante bent on avenging his wife and kids’ murders (refer to his origin in the Daredevil series) and eliminating those that ruined his life.  Or sometimes those that just get in his way.  Bernthal possessed the mystique of Roddy Piper’s put-upon everyman construction worker in They Live.  Bernthal’s Castle is brutal, angry, tormented, tortured, unrelenting.

He was counterbalanced in the series’ first season by soldier/opportunist-turned-CEO Billy Russo, played convincingly by Ben Barnes (Westworld, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), who rises to the top of his list, a painful result for Castle since they were practically brothers in the squad where Castle’s life was turned upside down.  Castle is practically a walking dead man, he has nothing to live for, nothing good to look forward to, no purpose left that he can discern.  He’s believed to be dead, living a miserable life of PTSD flashbacks and recurring dreams of his lost family.  His methods of revenge break all societal mores, yet actor Jon Berthal’s phenomenal portrayal of grit and resolve make his character easy to root for.  Even despite the real-world violence he dishes up along the way.

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Westworld second trailer

Westworld was writer/director Michael Crichton’s original high-tech vacation theme park-turned disaster blockbuster film, from 1973.  Twenty years before Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs went on a murderous rampage, it was a sideshow automaton from the Old West pavilion that turned on the tourists.  We showed you the first teaser trailer for the new series Westworld (discussed here at borg.com) and now we have a fuller look at the newest incarnation of borgs Hollywood has created for us in HBO’s latest trailer for the series.

Jonathan Nolan, brother of The Dark Knight series’ Christopher Nolan, is directing the return of the sci-fi classic, also the latest J.J. Abrams production.  The original Westworld starred Yul Brynner as the cool and unflinching Gunslinger, with Richard Benjamin running for his life, along with appearances by James Brolin and Majel Barrett.  The new series stars a great, comparable actor to Brynner as the Gunslinger–Ed Harris, as well as Anthony Hopkins in a role like Richard Attenborough’s mastermind in Jurassic Park, plus a host of genre actors:  X-Men’s James Marsden, Jimmi Simpson (Psych, House of Cards, Zodiac), Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II, The Chronicles of Riddick), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), Star Trek’s Clifton Collins, Jr., Veronica Mars’ Tessa Thompson, Prince Caspian’s Ben Barnes, and James Bond’s Jeffrey Wright.

Westworld cyborg hand

But it’s Evan Rachel Wood’s character Delores who takes center stage in this trailer–and hopefully the entire series, which looks to hone in on what it takes to be human.  It’s a theme we love to see in the best borg shows, from the mind of Philip K. Dick in Blade Runner to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data to Terminator Genisys, and the BBC series Humans last year.  We ask the question all the time here.  Are the creations in the new Westworld just updated automatons?  Merely androids?  Or will the biological meet high-tech to give us something else?

Check out the latest trailer for the series Westworld:

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