Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher

Story

Frank Castle (a.k.a. The Punisher) is hunting down a group selling high tech weapons that are tearing up his streets. After finding a location where a sale is happening, he makes an entrance and annihilates everyone except for the seller Cain. You have to keep one alive for questioning after all. After a “polite conversation” he manages to get a location out of him and is dragging him off for more information, maybe, and is interrupted by Black Widow.

We soon discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. was investigating Cain as part of a bigger operation to take down the terrorist organization, Leviathan. Punisher cuts a deal with Nick Fury to join the mission so he can get Cain and goes with Black Widow to find the weapons and suppliers. At the location Cain happily provided to Punisher before he escaped, they stumble across hundreds of bodies in pods being reconditioned to become stronger and act at the command of the highest bidder. Getting rid of one gun runner is the least of their problems.

Review

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is the second straight-to-DVD movie in their Marvel Anime line. This movie came out years after their four short lived anime series went off air (R.I.P. G4).

Being a big anime fan, I am in love with this style and animation. The art is bright, vibrant, and colors give more depth than you will normally see in western cartoons. The design of the characters is very Japanese in how they view Americans. It is almost videogame like in character design from character to character akin to Dead or Alive. The Punisher, being an ex-Marine and bruiser, is built much like a football player. Black Widow, being the superspy, is thin and stacked svelte like a konoichi (that means lady ninja in Japanese – Life Lessons from Mal).

In the same line, the hand to hand fights are awesome, but scarcer than they should be. The first fight between Black Widow and The Punisher is dynamic and is a big difference from their previous movies. Her acrobatics are reminiscent of Naruto. She dances around him while dodging bullets and breaking holds.99983fef866941adea9c8fcc598c2464ef428183_hq

The Punisher’s fighting reminds me of Christian Bale’s moves in Equilibrium plus Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell game series. The camera changes and follows the muzzle of the gun as he fires to being like tied around her ankle and moving with her as she moves like a feather. There is another with Castle within S.H.I.E.L.D. that is cool, but they left me wanting even more.

The Punisher is voiced by Brian Bloom who does a lot of voice acting work for a lot of movies, television and games. His experience in the industry really shows in his performance. Bloom does a great job in making Punisher sound more like a troubled man on a mission following his own sense of justice versus an angry ex-soldier out to destroy the world. That takes real skill considering that Castle walks that thin line. After killing three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents under the influence of mind control at the time, you can hear the remorse and sadness in his voice as he surrenders himself to the next agents to enter. This was a “Save the Cat” moment that endeared you to this walking tank that puts no one above his sense of justice…not even himself.

Black Widow is voiced by Jennifer Carpenter who you might remember as Debra Morgan of Dexter fame. Her voice acting resume is not as long as Blooms, but she definitely holds her own as Agent Romanoff. She sounds strong and confident in her skills as a spy almost bordering on arrogant as well as determined to complete her mission. The best examples are probably her first fights with The Punisher. The first was showing off her skills and fearlessness even when The Punisher has two guns aimed and firing upon her. They also make an effort to make her less of the superspy and to show her vulnerable side when she discovers a lover of hers, whom she believed to be dead, is alive and working for Leviathan. She hesitates and pulls her punches, which is odd for Black Widow, but Carpenter brings this out perfectly in her portrayal.

There isn’t a lot to say about him, but Nick Fury is in this movie and sounds like Sam Jackson. He was actually voiced by John Eric Bentley and he does well. His performance does make me want to see another movie centered around Nick Fury unless The Hoff is the lead, however he would be an awesome cameo. It can’t be that hard to have a mission in Germany, right?

As a big DC fan, I will admit that I found this entry from Marvel Anime awesomely entertaining. The animation in Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher was great, the story was interesting, and the characters endearing. This is a must see for any comic book or anime fan. If you just appreciate good animation and want to see what can be done, this is a great example of how far they have evolved and how much further they can go (hint to DC…make a Green Lantern: Blackest Night animé). Hopefully Marvel will make more movies in the Avengers Confidential series and finally kill the Marvel Knights motion comics.

Poster for the movie ""
Fully Mature Evaluation:

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)

PG-13 83 min - Animation, Science Fiction, Action - 25 March 2014

After interfering with a top secret mission, THE PUNISHER is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. AGENT and AVENGER, BLACK WIDOW. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop LEVIATHAN, a global terrorist organization, that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the AVENGERS, hangs in the balance.

Director:  Kenichi Shimizu

Storyline

After interfering with a top secret mission, THE PUNISHER is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. AGENT and AVENGER, BLACK WIDOW. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop LEVIATHAN, a global terrorist organization, that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the AVENGERS, hangs in the balance.



Tagline: All-New Marvel Animated Movie

Oculus (2014)

Oculus generated a lot of buzz upon its release. For the most part, critics and fans alike were thrilled to see a movie that dispensed with much of the gore in favor of good old fashioned gut wrenching tension.

oculusFrom the start, you’re confused. Don’t worry, it’s by design. If you’ve already seen this film you were probably wondering the same thing I was: “Did I miss the first movie? Is this a sequel?”
I assure you: you started exactly where you were supposed to. In a state of confusion.
But, for once, this is actually ok. Unlike most movies, Oculus drops clues at just the right times to help you piece the story together all the while creeping you out just a little until you finally understand what’s happening and are creeped out even more!

oculus3We’ve all seen movies that have attempted this and never quite pull it together. In the end, we’re either just as confused as the beginning if not more so. Or, as it usually happens, we’re just pissed because they very sloppily wrapped up the movie in the last three minutes.  Oculus actually has a good balance in this regard. There are ample story building and big reveals that never get lost in the tension and screams.

Of course, this movie is far from perfect. Certain scenes and happenings seem a bit contrived and there are some points that are pretty disappointing. Like, say, the ending.
While i didn’t personally have a problem with the way the film ended it certainly left a bad taste in a lot of reviewer’s mouths.

oculus2
This may be the first horror movie to do this well on our Fully Matured Evaluations, but I’m going to give this movie a solid 7 toothless demon heads out of 10.

Poster for the movie "Oculus"
Fully Mature Evaluation:

Oculus (2014)

R 104 min - Horror - 3 April 2014

A woman tries to exonerate her brother's murder conviction by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

Director:  Mike Flanagan

Storyline

A woman tries to exonerate her brother's murder conviction by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.



Tagline: You see what it wants you to see

Genres: Horror

Extraterrestrial (2014)

So you doubt the existence of alien life on other planets, huh? What, because there’s not much intelligent life on this planet? Ok, that’s valid. But you know who doesn’t care? THE ALIENS! AND THEY’RE PISSED!

Let me warn you, there will be some spoilers. But it doesn’t matter. You can go watch the movie and come back or never watch it at all (the latter is probably more likely). In any event, here’s the trailer:

You can read the premise below from IMDB. I’m just going to dive right into the movie.

The opening scenes are quite beautiful. There’s some very meaningful imagery of the Earth, moon and stars. Then some pretty spectacular effects showing all manner of galaxies. You’re whisked away, further and further from the Earth until you emerge from a picture of some distant galaxy into a small-town gas station.
This is where they make sure to clear up any delusions of some fantastical science fiction adventure. In a epic fail at humorous subtlety, all of the planets, stars and galaxies you viewed are in the picture in the shape of a lightly hidden condom with a quote reading, “Shoot for the stars.”


*The sheriff is unimpressed

This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Despite actually having had a director (Colin Minihan) the film seems to have no direction at all. Ok, this probably isn’t Minihan’s fault. Surely it’s the writing. Surely…
extraterrprobeExtraterrestrial could never quite make up its mind which direction it wanted to go. Were they making a serious sci-fi thriller or a teenie-bopper alien spoof? They never really knew. To be fair, this move is definitely more horror than comedy. It was perhaps some of the ridiculousness that propelled parts of the movie into the comedy genre.

extraterrgurlOn of the first things you realize is that you don’t really care about any of the characters. Well, maybe the sheriff… but you’ll regret that soon enough.
There is an underlying love story happening amongst all the abducting, flashing lights and HORNS. You might call it ridiculous, shallow and dull. But it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

As I approach the ending of the review I’ll hit the the topic of this movie’s ending. I could talk a good deal about how frustrating it was. But then I’d be doing the very thing that frustrated me: drawing it out. I stood up when I thought it was over the first time and by the time it was actually over I had a cramp in my feet. This movie had no idea where it was going and thus also had no idea how to end.

But I know how to end this review… with 2 used anal probes out of 10.

 

Poster for the movie "Extraterrestrial"
Fully Mature Evaluation:

Extraterrestrial (2014)

NR 101 min - Horror, Science Fiction - 17 October 2014

Five friends set out to a cabin in the woods for a fun weekend getaway—that is, until extraterrestrial visitors turn it into a fight for their lives. The group is pulled from their reverie when a flickering object crashes deep in the woods. As they investigate, the friends stumble across an alien spacecraft, and its inhabitants have not arrived in peace.

Director:  Colin Minihan
Writers:  Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz

Storyline

Five friends set out to a cabin in the woods for a fun weekend getaway—that is, until extraterrestrial visitors turn it into a fight for their lives. The group is pulled from their reverie when a flickering object crashes deep in the woods. As they investigate, the friends stumble across an alien spacecraft, and its inhabitants have not arrived in peace.



Tagline: They do not come in peace.

Noah (2014)

This was one of the most anticipated films of the 2014!
Ok, that was a lie… Moses would be displeased. Or would he? I think Moses just feels pity for poor Noah who finally got a film named after him and it ended up being… all washed up.

We’ve talked pretty extensively on this podcast before about Hollywood’s propensity towards the ever-popular white washing of the past’s heroes and characters. But this cast though? Maybe they went a tad overboard?

Ok, so there were probably no white people back then. Fine. That’s probably not even the biggest bit of artistic expression in the film. One thing we know is that bible-inspired movies tend to rake in a ton of money from Christian movie goers. Of course, you could make a mistake like the most recent Left Behind movie featuring Nicolas Cage. Which is exactly what this movie did. And very well. To be fair, both of these movies released in 2014 so it wasn’t like Noah could have taken note and reversed course. I honestly don’t think they would have even tried given half a chance.

The mistake that I’m alluding to is the creation of a movie whose contents mostly only Christians are going to have any interest in watching and then taking a exegetical dump of biblical proportions all over it.

To start with, Noah was bat-shit crazy. And I don’t mean like everyone else thought he was crazy because he was building a boat the size of the temple of Babel (spoilers, that hadn’t happened yet…). But because he was literally off his rocker.

Oh, and rock angels.

Not this bro:

This bro:

Even after all that you’re thinking, “But it’s got the beauty and grace of Jennifer Connelly in it!”
Yes… yes it does. But so did the Hulk movie.
uglyhulk

Poster for the movie "Noah"
Fully Mature Evaluation:

Noah (2014)

PG-13 139 min - Adventure, Drama - 26 March 2014

A man who suffers visions of an apocalyptic deluge takes measures to protect his family from the coming flood.

Director:  Darren Aronofsky
Writers:  Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Stars:  Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Kevin Durand, Ariane Rinehart, Douglas Booth, Marton Csokas, Dakota Goyo, Barry Sloane, Sami Gayle, Mark Margolis, Ray Winstone, Nick Nolte, Finn Wittrock

Storyline

A man who suffers visions of an apocalyptic deluge takes measures to protect his family from the coming flood.



Tagline: The end of the world is just the beginning.

Genres: Adventure, Drama

Returned, The

First, you shouldn’t confuse this movie with the television series of the same title:
Image result for the returned movie

You also shouldn’t confuse it with all the other zombie movie trash that’s out there…
The recent flood of zombie movies has  left the genre tasting a little stale. Fortunately we get a little gem every now and again. Whether or not this is one of them… well, let me continue:

The Returned spends more time developing characters and plots than maybe 95% of other zombie monster flicks out there. Where it excels is creating an emotional attachment with the main characters — despite it being a somewhat shallow attachment, it’s there nonetheless. Which is again something that they’ve done better than most other zombie movies.

Oh, don’t let the above confuse you though… There’s still some pretty gritty, gruesome scenes.

This movie wins in the gruesome category too. Not because the scenes were super original or any more nasty than we’d expect from a modern movies about the undead. No, this movie wins points here because the sparing scenes of grotesque dead-on-flesh zombie action were all built in to help propel the story.

All of that said… I still wouldn’t put it anywhere near my favorite movies list and I don’t think you will either. It’s unique and nicely executed but not glued-to-the-seat-of-your-pants engaging (whatever that means).

I abhor anyone that makes me pause a movie mid-plot arch. But I paused this to literally just go take a nap.
But let’s go half-and-half on this one. It’s a good movie. Not great. Not terrible either.

–AveryJ

Poster for the movie "The Returned"
Fully Mature Evaluation:

The Returned (2014)

NR 98 min - Drama, Horror, Thriller - 14 February 2014

In a post-zombie world, where the infected live normal lives, their retroviral drug is running out.

Director:  Manuel Carballo

Storyline

In a post-zombie world, where the infected live normal lives, their retroviral drug is running out.



Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Left Behind (2014)

We talked about this movie over the course of several podcast, never having ever actually watched it and never wanting to really add it to the list for premature evaluation.
But I did finally get around to watching this movie. And let me tell you…. it was everything we thought it would be.
It’s a movie geared towards Christians in content only. The execution is going to leave a bit to be desired of the church-folk. The portrayal of fundamentalist believers isn’t that much different that you’d expect from any other big-budget Hollywood film. Which is actually quite surprising.
I expected some very cheesy moments, terrifically eloquent speeches and easy conversions but this movie put none of that in the Christian’s corner. Instead, the believers looks something more like you’d expect to see on an episode of Supernatural or X-Files. They were paranoid, self-conscious, a 80% crazy but, it turns out 100% right.

When dozens of passengers disappear off of a plane mid-flight it is Nicolas Cage’s character, Rayford Steele, that puts the pieces together to solve the puzzle. They were all Christians! And how does he know? THEY ALL HAD CRUCIFIXES AND POCKET BIBLES! Oh, well, duh, that was easy.

This is movie is based off of the popular Left Behind series. You can check out their website here (which hasn’t been updated since before the Nick Cage movie came out…). Which is just lazy. UNLESS….. The webdeveloper has been raptured!

I hope not… because if so, what happens next is truly terrifying. We’ll get to learn more when the sequels come out. Or you read the books or watch the previous set of movies or ask someone with a oddly small bible in the jeans pocket.

-AveryJ

Poster for the movie "Left Behind"
Fully Mature Evaluation:

Left Behind (2014)

PG-13 110 min - Action, Science Fiction, Thriller - 3 October 2014

A small group of survivors are left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish during the rapture and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction.

Director:  Vic Armstrong
Writers:  Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins

Storyline

A small group of survivors are left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish during the rapture and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction.


Collections: Vic Armstrong

Tagline: The End Begins