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Tag Archive: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio


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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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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Limitless-CBS-TV-show

As the lead in director Neil Burger’s 2011 theatrical release Limitless, Bradley Cooper gave one of his better performances.  Opposite Abbie Cornish and Robert DeNiro, Cooper played Eddie Morra, who stumbles upon a pill that allows him to use 100% of his brain functions.  This allows him to manipulate the world around him, and, as we said in our review of the film here at borg.com back in 2013, the result was a superhero movie hidden within a film marketed as a drama.

Cooper is briefly reprising his role as Morra in a television sequel series coming to CBS.  Cooper will hand off the leading role to actor Jake McDorman (Live Free or Die Hard, House, M.D.), who plays Brian Sinclair.  Like Morra, he will use these new found powers to change the world around him.

Cooper in Limitless series

Limitless co-stars Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Colin Salmon (Arrow, the Brosnan James Bond films, Doctor Who, Resident Evil, The Bank Job) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Grimm, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).  Check out this preview for Limitless:

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Grimm 1 Alex Ross cover

Grimm fans who attended Free Comic Book Day Saturday and this week’s comic book Wednesday were treated to a double dose of their favorite series with both a free full-length comic story and an action-packed Issue #1.  Now in its second season on NBC, Grimm is in contention for the best fantasy series on television.  And unlike the typical comic book spin-off that is stuck in a story that doesn’t veer far from the TV scripts, the ongoing story of Portland Detective Nick Burkhart in the new comic book series actually continues key plot lines from the TV series, taking characters where it would be costly to take them on the TV series.

Grimm issue 0

The comic book series opener in the FCBD comic, Issue #0, provides an origin story overlaid on what could be a Wesen-of-the-week episode of the TV series.  It also reintroduces Nick’s mom, Kelly, played on-screen by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and her possession of the Coins of Zakynthos, which have a unique history, revealed in the pages of Issue #1.  Side-stepping story obstacles and secrets yet to be revealed to viewers, like whether or not Nick’s girlfriend Juliet will remember Nick after losing her memory from a cursed cat bite, the story takes Nick, police department partner Detective Hank Griffin and Blutbad vegan pal Monroe to Vienna in pursuit of Kelly.  Kelly had left Nick a cryptic voicemail message, sending Nick & Co. on this new adventure far away from the streets of Portland.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Season One of borg.com favorite Grimm ended on a high-stakes cliffhanger, with Juliette in a coma, evil Adalind missing, and surprise-of-surprises, Nick’s mom alive and kicking Wesen butt.

Thankfully, NBC didn’t make us wait long for the outcome to all this suspenseful buildup, and Monday night’s Season Two pilot jumped right in with both feet, ratcheting up the tension and stakes with more twisty mysteries, otherworldly conspiracies, and good old-fashioned drama.  What it didn’t do was wrap up any of those storylines–Juliette is still in a coma, Adalind is still missing, and Nick’s mom is a back-from-the-faked-her-own-death UberGrimm–presaging a season full of complex mystery and perhaps more questions raised than answered.

Its attention soundly focused on building the series mythos, “Bad Teeth” follows a French Wesen assassin, or Mauvais Dentes, sent to Portland to presumably dispatch Nick (David Giuntoli)–and anyone standing in his way, including cargo ship stowaways, crewmen, harbormasters, security guards, and FBI agents.  A brief appearance by veteran character actor James Frain (Leverage, Burn Notice, The Closer, etc.) hints at the involvement of the Verrat, one of the ancient secret societies of the Grimmverse introduced last season.  Frain, who is always solid, was especially fun in his one short scene–and we hope to see him again this season.  He’d make a great ongoing villain, and it would be nice to see him in a regular role, instead of just popping up for guest appearances.

Meanwhile, Nick’s reunion with his mother is equal parts tender and educational. Kelly (Kelly? Really?) Burkhardt, in a fun, Chuck-style stunt casting move, is played by longtime favorite Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Abyss, Without a Trace).  They navigate the secrets of Nick’s past and her disappearance/supposed murder, explore Aunt Marie’s trailer, and decipher some of the mystery of the Verrat, the Mauvais Dentes, and the fabled Seven Royal Families in charge of it all.

Meanwhile-meanwhile, as Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) work on an antidote to Juliette’s (Bitsie Tulloch) magically-induced coma, the backstage machinations of shady police captain Renard continue.  All last season we watched Renard (Sasha Roiz) lurking in the background, conspiring with Hexenbiest Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee), and menacing Nick’s early efforts to harness his Grimm abilities.  The Season Two Renard seems less altogether evil, and more nuanced and complex–a welcome and fascinating development. In fact, it is Renard who seems most dedicated to waking Juliette, although for his own yet-to-be-revealed motives.

If there were missteps in the episode, they’re the same ones to haunt the series thus far.  Primarily?  The consistently underutilized Juliette could hardly be more marginalized–not merely sidelined, but comatose!  Her storyline is compelling, but she’s not doing anything.  The late-season additions of Rosalee and Nick’s mom have helped bolster the female power structure of the show, but we definitely hope to see Juliette recover and take a truly active role in the series.  If she must be kept out of Nick’s secret life, fine–but let’s see more of the smart veterinarian (who, seriously, could be a terrific asset to Wesen investigations).  And how about more scenes showing off one of our favorite cities–the filming location, Portland, Oregon?

It definitely appears as though NBC is investing more in Grimm this season–moving it to a new timeslot (Mondays at 9/8), getting a jumpstart on the fall season, launching innovative multimedia promotions, including a full-on marketing effort at this year’s Comic-Con, and adding a whole new opening to the series.  We love this, because we love Grimm, and it seemed to lag behind similar series Lost Girl (SyFy) and Once Upon a Time (ABC) last season.  Exciting new developments abound, both behind the scenes and onscreen.  We can’t wait for next Monday’s new episode!