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Tag Archive: The Punisher


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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Last night the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films held the 44th annual Saturn Awards, honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres, held in Burbank, California.  Coming into last night’s presentation, Black Panther was nominated in 14 categories, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was nominated in 13 categories, and Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water were each nominated in nine categories.  In television, The Walking Dead led the nominations with seven, followed by Star Trek: Discovery with five.  You can never predict who and what will win at the Saturn Awards, but you can be sure they will be very fandom-centric picks.

Black Panther led the night with four wins, for Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release, Best Director (Ryan Coogler), Best Supporting Actress (Danai Gurira), and Best Make-up.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi followed with three wins, for Best Actor (Mark Hamill), Best Writing, and Best Editing.  In television, because of the Awards’ split between traditional TV shows and streaming shows, the expected suspects came out on top: The Flash and Marvel’s The Punisher as best superhero shows, and The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery each winning awards.  But the most wins was a tie, with three awards each for Better Call Saul and Twin Peaks: The Return.

Here are all the winners and nominees:

Movie Awards

Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release
Winner:  Black Panther
Nominees:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Logan
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Wonder Woman

Best Science Fiction Film Release
Winner:  Blade Runner 2049
Nominees:
Alien: Covenant
Life
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Fantasy Film Release
Winner:  The Shape of Water
Nominees:
Beauty and the Beast
Downsizing
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Kong: Skull Island
Paddington 2

Best Horror Film Release
Winner: Get Out
Nominees:
47 Meters Down
Annabelle: Creation
Better Watch Out
It
Mother!

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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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