Tagged: Rome

REVIEW: Vikings: The Complete First Season

vikings-on-blu-610x465Mining history for fictional fodder has been a staple of television program dating back to HBO’s Rome and now series set across the years can be found on prime time and basic cable channels with more on the way. Whereas some like the CW’s new Reign is laughably inaccurate, others do their homework and mine the reality for nuggets to hang characters and stories on. Most audiences are blissfully undereducated about world history so they will swallow events on The Tudors, Borgias, and others without realizing how many liberties have been taken in the name of dramatic license and television realities.

No surprise then that the venerable History Channel would want to get in on the fun and they wisely picked one of the least known and richest cultures to mine for dramatic fare. Last spring they unleashed the nine part Vikings, a Canadian-Irish coproduction developed and written by Michael Hirsrt who proved to have a flair for the past with Showtime’s The Tudors. The Vikings, living in northern Europe, were fearsome warriors and plied the seas, exploring the world long before Western Europe got around to it. Their largely oral history didn’t get recorded until generations later but thanks to modern day archeology, we have grown to develop a much better understanding of their ways.

450vikingsOne of the best Vertigo titles of the last decade was Northlanders, also about Viking culture, so I was primed for this series and was not disappointed. Thanks to MGM and 20th Century Home Entertainment, a handsome box set has been released this week. Set in 793, during the earliest days of their recorded raids, Hirst chose to use the real life Ragnar Lodbrok (Travis Fimmel), who, like John Rhys Myers’ Henry VIII is depicted at a much earlier point in his famous life. Here he is a young warrior, raising a family with his wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick).

He desires to ply the seas further west and works with Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), to develop faster, sturdier longships and then petitions his chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) for petition to make the trip. Despite Haraldson’s refusal, Ragnar, with his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), makes the first trip to Northern England, successfully plundering the land and bringing home the monk Athelstan (George Blagden) as part of his booty. King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) is none too pleased and skirmishes between the two cultures begin.

There’s the usual dash of soap opera elements such as Rollo lusting after Lagertha, who is an able Viking shieldmaiden, but it’s also a more somber, brutal series than Hirst has previously produced. The writing and performances are strong and compelling, making this satisfying viewing.

Vikings Season OneThe nine episodes are spread over three Blu-ray discs and you have the option of watching them as they aired on History or in the extended (now with more blood and nudity!) versions that aired in Europe. Visually, both versions are sharp, with excellent color transfer.

The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 track means you can hear the wind rush over the waves or the swords cutting into flesh. Trevor Morris’ superb score is never better and enhances the viewing.

The extras contain the needed Season Mode, allowing you to seamlessly zip through the nine episodes and bookmark wherever you stopped watching. There are also commentaries on the first and last episodes, from Hirst and Jessalyn Gilsig, who plays Haraldson’s wife Siggy, on the first, and Winnick and Standen on the second. There are Deleted Scenes that are extended versions of ones that aired in Episodes One and Eight, which means they were likely trimmed for running time reasons Far more interesting is A Warrior Society: Viking Culture and Law (20:48) where Hirst takes us through what is known about the Viking culture, with input from Dr. Anthony Perron, Professor of History, Loyola Marymount University; Dr. Jochen Burgtorf, Professor of History, University of California, Fullerton; and Justin Pollard. Hirst and his cast appear on Birth of the Vikings (17:09), discussing their characters. Forging the Viking Army: Warfare and Tactics (12:11) tracks how the armies were trained for the vicious battles as sword master Richard Ryan and stunt coordinator Mark Henson discuss their work.

New Who Review: “A Town Called Mercy”

A mysterious creature is on a vendetta to track down the men who wronged him, and there’s only one left, a man he calls…the Doctor?  Quite a start for this western-themed outing, the first for the show since 1966’s The Gunfighters. Spoiler alerts are in full effect, mind the fellows with the guns, and let’s mosey into this town and see what’s going on…

A TOWN CALLED MERCY by Toby Whithouse directed by Saul Metzstein

A western town in 1870 has been barricaded behind a field that prevents food delivery.  The being behind it, known only as The Gunslinger, had demanded the town turn over an alien only referred to as “The Doctor”.  So when The Doctor arrives in the town, the welcome is a bit…cold.  He learns quickly that he is not the one being searched for – another alien came to this town some years ago, and has been their savior and protector from a number of deiseases and natural disasters.  Alas, it turns out he’s being chased for a very good reason – he was a scientist on his home world, one who converted many of his own people into cyborg warriors to win a massive war.  When they were “decommissioned”, one survived, and he is the one placing the town under a one-man siege. The Doctor is in a strange position – can he bring himself to hand over a war criminal to meet his just demise?

An episode quite heavy with drama and portent, one far more about The Doctor’s life and past than the ostensible bad guy of the story.  Once again, we get a look at how The Doctor has grown darker when he doesn’t have any friends about him.  Matt Smith is doing a very good job of playing a man far older than his looks, and carrying a heavy load of acts.


Ben Browder (Isaac) may be known to you.  He played John Crichton on Farscape, Cameron Mitchell on Stargate SG-1, and Sam Brody on Party of Five.  He even got to do another genre western – he played Bat Lash on the Justice League cartoon.

Adrian Scarborough (Kahler Jex) has most recently been seen in the remake of Upstairs Downstairs, and a long list of work in British film and television, but fans of Mark Gatiss’ friends The League of Gentlemen will recognize him as the surgeon turned children’s clown Mister Jolly in in Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s project Psychoville.

Garrick Hagon (Undertaker) is one of less than 30 actors who have appeared in both the original and new series of Doctor Who.  He first appeared in The Mutants back in 1972.  He’s had a long career in both film and TV. And oh, yeah, he played the most famous character to be almost entirely cut out of Star Wars – he was Biggs Darklighter, Luke’s best friend, who said Luke was “never going to get out of here”.  His big scene on Tatooine was cut out, and has yet to be restored – it only exists in a couple photos from an early storybook adaptation of the film near its release. Some footage in the rebel base was restored in a recent special edition, but there’s still a sense of “Who is this guy” to the whole thing.

Toby Whithouse (Writer) is an old hand on the series, having written four episodes for the new series before this (and one for Torchwood), and is also the creator of Being Human, another popular genre series, and one sharing a number of castmembers with Who.

Saul Metzstein (Director) did the previous episode, and will be back with two more episodes in the second half of the season.

THE MONSTER FILES – One could argue that there is a monster in this episode, though not of the most commonly accepted variety.  The Kahler are described by The Doctor as one of the most ingenious races in the galaxy. Considering the work he did improving the lifestyle of the town of Mercy, that certainly appears to be so.  Alas, that ability to build things carries over to engines of war, and when one is in the middle of a war, one becomes short-sighted, not considering the long-term results of one’s choices.

The Gunslinger is a more obvious monster, but one doing things for a more just reason, if a bit personal.   We’ve seen no end of cyborgs on Doctor Who – from the obvious example of the Cybermen, there’s The Captain from The Pirate Planet, the Toclafane, the converted final members of the human race in Last of the Time Lords, and even monsters like the Loch Ness Monster (Terror of the Zygons) and the Peking Homunculus (Talons of Weng-Chiang) qualify.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

UNDER WESTERN SKIIIIES – This episode is steeped in history in a very real way. It was filmed at both “Mini Hollywood” and “Texas Hollywood”, a pair of combination movie sets and tourist attractions in the Andalusia area of Spain.  Mini Hollywood was designed and filmed for Sergio Leone’s classic For a Few Dollars More.  When it was later used for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, it was bought by the extras and made into a tourist attraction.  The two site have been used for dozens of classic films, including a staggering list of “Spaghetti Westerns”, like the aforementioned Leone films.

This isn’t the first time the show has used standing sets.  The Fires of Pompeii was filmed in Italy on the same sets as HBO’s series Rome.

IT’S WRITTEN ALL OVER YOUR FACE – The face mark of the Kahler are unique, and as individual as a fingerprint.  This is similar to the spot patters of the Tenctonese on the short-lived Fox series Alien Nation.

“Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?” We learned only last week that The Doctor still has a Christmas list.

“I speak horse; his name’s Susan, and he wants you to respect his life choices” Once again, subtly slipping the non-traditional gender roles into the series without making a big thing of it. Even as a gag, it gets across an important point.  Oh, I’m sure some will complain te topic’s not being taken seriously enough, but some people have made never being happy their career.

“You’re a mother, aren’t you?  There’s kindness in your eyes. And sadness.” Jex sees a lot in The Doctor’s eyes later, but he’s not the first to sense Amy’s emotions.  Vincent Van Gogh sensed that Amy had “lost someone”, even though at the time she wasn’t even aware of it.


“I’ve matured – I’m twelve hundred years old now” The Doctor’s age has accelerated greatly in the last couple of seasons.  He jumped from nine to eleven hundred years old in the period he was traveling alone when he came back to see the Ponds in The Impossible Astronaut, and now, in between visits to see them, has aged another hundred.  Assuming he’s not just pulling numbers out of his Stetson, he’s spending a LOT more time alone than we’d ever seen before.  The tenth incarnation traveled alone for quite a bit in between the four specials of the last Tennant season, and he got quite arrogant, almost swaggering in his demeanor.  Last episode we saw him cast judgment on Solomon, and he almost does the same here to Kahler Jex.

“Looking at you is like looking into a mirror, almost” Jex makes The Doctor confront his own choices, the people whose deaths he’s been responsible for, and the ones he’s killed personally.  The episode is about how one atones for those choices, and whether or not that atonement balances things out.  There was a similar comparison at the end of The God Complex when the minotaur draws a similarity between himself and The Doctor.

“See, this is what happens when you travel alone for too long.” When he starts pushing Jex towards the border of the town, you expect it’s because he’s hoping the people of Mercy to stop him, to realize that they need to project their friend, and you realize no, he really is just handing him over to the Gunslinger.

We’ve seen a lot of discussion on the effect The Doctor’s companions have on him, even more so than the other way around.  Donna Noble cogently pointed out that “Sometimes you need someone to stop you”.  The periods we’ve seen him alone in recent seasons have resulted in a much more hard man.  Matt Smith said he’s certainly become a “darker” character of late, and the choices made in the past two episodes are examples of that.

“That’s how it started, Jex turned someone into a weapon.” Which is exactly what Mad Dalek Caan accused The Doctor of doing to his Companions.  And the longer he is without a Companion, well…someone has to be the weapon.  Note that The Doctor is wearing, drawing, and is ready to use a gun, something he abhorred only a short time before.  That’s not a mistake, it’s very deliberate writing.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Little boxes, on the roadside, little boxes made of…well we don’t quite know. The return of UNIT, and The Power of Three, coming in a week’s time.

Mindy Newell: Success And Failure, Part 3

Picking up the thread…

College a no-go. Work a disaster. Israel a bust.

Spending a lonely night sitting in the terminal at Lod Airport (now David Ben Gurion Airport) waiting for my 5 A.M. flight to New York. Trying to ignore leering men. Struggling to stay awake. Not knowing where to go or what to do. Thinking I didn’t have a friend in the world. Nor a family. Believing they were so disgusted with me that my dad would rather foot the bill to keep me away from home than have me there. Wishing I was brave enough to go to Paris, London, Rome or Madrid. All I had to do was exchange the ticket.

That was the worst part, I think. Some part of me was mocking herself. Even as I checked in, as I was boarding, while I was finding my seat, some part of me was mocking, laughing hideously, scoffing and scorning.

Coward. Loser. Fuck-up.

Poor little lost girl.

I landed at JFK Airport. No one there to meet me.  Three hours later my mom and my Aunt Ida showed up.

Aunt Ida. She had an uncanny ability to show up when I was in trouble or unhappy, no matter where or far away I happened to be.

The first time was when I was staying at my Aunt Augie’s house on Long Island while my parents went on a trip. My aunt had gotten me an absolutely beautiful party dress to wear to a birthday party. Only it had a crinoline undergarment. Crinoline, for those of you too young to remember, was a god-awful material that looked like lace soaked in lacquer. It was as stiff as a board and scratched – no, stabbed – the skin. Well, my aunt put me in this dress and I was in pain. I cried and carried on and basically threw your average terrible childhood tantrum, even throwing ice cream into the face of the birthday girl. (I was really little, which perhaps explains my inability to simply tell my aunt that the dress “wasn’t working for me.”) Even after the dress came off, I continued to sob. After hours of this, the doorbell rang. Aunt Augie went to the door, and there stood her sister (my mom’s sister, too, of course), my Aunt Ida. I ran into her arms, screaming Fairy Godmother! Help me!! In her arms I quieted.  (Poor Aunt Augie. I so hurt her feelings.)

The second time that stands out in my memory is the time I was seven years old, and away at camp. I was climbing a tree. Climbing higher and higher, ignoring everyone far below me to come down. I climbed until I couldn’t climb any higher, and promptly fell off the tree. Whomp! A perfect executed, score ten, belly flop. My face kissed the pavement. Hell, my face tongued the pavement.  I remember voices around me. And lifting my eyes to see… my fairy godmother. Aunt Ida.

And here she was again, my fairy godmother. Come to rescue me from JFK airport.

Come to rescue me from myself.

Next week: “All you can do is open up the throttle all the way and keep your nose up in the air.”

First Lieutenant Meyer C. Newell

P-51 Mustang Fighter Jock

Separated from his squadron, shot up and leaking hydraulic fluid somewhere in the skies over Burma

TUESDAY MORNING: Michael Davis Isn’t Happy Until…

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten Goes Splitsville!


Mindy Newell: Success And Failure, Part 2

We pick up the story a few months after my parents pulled me out of Quinnipiac and sent me off to work to “learn the value of a dollar.”

I joined the drones commuting to lackluster jobs on Wall Street. Got a job as a receptionist. Had my first experience with sexual harassment from the big boss, though it wasn’t called that back then and zero-tolerance policies were still twenty years in the future. Didn’t crumble. Called the guy an asshole and quit. A good feeling. Went home. Worried about what the parents would say. Told them I got laid off. Said I would start looking for a new job “tomorrow.” Picked up my battered copy of Exodus (by Leon Uris) and started reading. Started crying instead. (Failure). Coincidentally the movie version of Exodus was on television that night. I watched it. Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan. Oscar-winning score.

Went to sleep. With the soundtrack of Exodus and Paul Newman’ blue eyes – hell, just everything Paul Newman – keeping me company in my dreams.

The next day I told my parents I needed a little time, I’d start looking for a new job on Monday. Went to the laundromat, and while my clothes were spinning in the washer I finished Exodus. Also decided that I was going to go to Israel. Live on a kibbutz. Meet my own version of Ari Ben Canaan and marry him. Raise a bunch of sabras. (Look it up.)

I was still just along for the ride.

Now my family was never especially “Zionist.” Supportive of Israel? Of course. But I once asked my grandmother – whom family legend says walked from Poland to Germany with two little kids in tow (my Aunt Ida and Uncle Philly) and hiring herself out as a laundress, cook, whatever, to make money for the journey to Hamburg, where they took passage to America – why she didn’t go to Palestine instead. “Why would I go from a country where the Poles shot at Jews to a country where the Arabs shot at Jews just to live in tents and dirt?” she scoffed. “Here you can live like a mensch.” And when my dad, who was a fighter pilot in WWII – flew Mustangs in the CBI for you WWII history buffs out there – was approached by the fledgling – well, basically non-existent back then – Israeli Air Force to train pilots, he and my mother were not willing to give up their American citizenship, which was a real possibility at the time.

So when I announced that I was going to go to Israel for six months, live on a kibbutz, study Hebrew – no one in the family was exactly jumping for joy. Especially Grandma. But they knew I was unhappy – hell, they knew I was “lost” before I did – and were questioning their decision to pull me out of school, so, well, being good and loving parents, they said okay.

I hated Israel.

Yes, I must be the only Jew in America that hated her visit to the land of her forefathers.

Well, let me rephrase that a little. I didn’t hate Israel itself. I couldn’t stand the Israelis I met. The kibbutz I landed on was Shefayim, one of the original kibbutzim (which was cool), founded by Russian Jews imbued with Theodore Herzl’s dream, sitting on the Mediterranean coast. It was beautiful, but the kibbutzniks were another matter. I found them incredibly arrogant and judgmental towards America and the Americans. They were always saying really nasty things about the United States to me and the other Americans in my group of starry-eyed wanderers. And at the same time, they were trying to recruit us to move permanently to Israel. All they ever said to us Americans was that we were Jews who happened to be American and we belonged in Israel. All I ever said back to them was “No, I’m an American who happens to be a Jew, thank you very much.” Okay, so that didn’t exactly endear me to them, but c’mon. I wasn’t going around telling them that I thought the way they treated the Palestinians was shitty. I just wanted to learn some Hebrew, pick oranges in the orchards and milk the cows in the barn, and take side trips to Jerusalem and Haifa and Tel Aviv and the Sea of Galilee, explore the country of my ancestors.

I wanted to belong somewhere. I hadn’t belonged at Quinnipiac. I sure as hell didn’t belong at that job on Wall Street. I had wanted to belong in Israel.

But I didn’t.

After two months I called my parents and told them I was coming home. My father said, “Don’t come home. Fly to Paris or Rome or London or Madrid, instead. Call me when you land, I’ll send you money through American Express. Take advantage of being there. See Europe.”

An incredibly generous – and loving – offer.

But what I heard was “Don’t come home.”

Feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere.

Feeling like an utter failure.

To be continued…

TUESDAY MORNING: Michael Davis, black in back

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten discusses creativity and togetherness


On sale today: ‘Demons of Sherwood’

On sale today: ‘Demons of Sherwood’

It’s been twelve years after Robin Hood saved Marian and Sherwood and
restored Richard to the throne. Is he living happily ever after? Of
course not… Robin is a drunk. He hasn’t seen Marian since he saved
her. He hasn’t seen the merry men, either. And now comes word that
Marian has been jailed as a witch by the Inquisitor from Rome…

Written by Robert Tinnell
(EZ Street, Feast of the Seven Fishes) and painted by Bo Hampton
(Viking Glory, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Batman, Moon Knight), Demons of Sherwood is a new and inspirational look at a famous legend. Buy your copy today at your local comic shop or order it online!

‘Rome’ Leaps from HBO to Silver Screen

‘Rome’ Leaps from HBO to Silver Screen

"There is talk of doing a movie version," Bruno Heller told The Hollywood Reporter about Rome. "It’s moving along. It’s not there until it is there. I would love to round that show off."

The show, which starred Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson, ran for just two seasons on HBO but was deemed too costly a project to continue despite reasonable ratings. The network counted the beans and effectively canceled the series before the second season could even air in spring 2007. To the premium channel’s surprise, the series earned four Emmy Awards for the first season plus seven more awards and remarkably good ratings for the second.

With HBO now admitting their mistake, Heller is at work on a feature when not working on CBS’ The Mentalist, the one sure fire ratings hit among freshman series. As for McKidd’s Lucius, who died at the end of the series, "It was very deliberate that we saw him drifting away but didn’t see him atop a funeral pyre," Heller said.

The original series bible called for the third season to feature the “hedonistic Roman leaders to deal with the rise of a certain problematic rabbi — a story line that would have put a whole new spin on the Greatest Story Ever Told and potentially bring Rome a larger audience.”

"I discovered halfway through writing the second season the show was going to end," Heller said. "The second was going to end with death of Brutus. Third and fourth season would be set in Egypt. Fifth was going to be the rise of the messiah in Palestine. But because we got the heads-up that the second season would be it, I telescoped the third and fourth season into the second one, which accounts for the blazing speed we go through history near the end. There’s certainly more than enough history to go around."

Should the movie get a green light, rounding up the cast may be tough as the lead actors have all found other work. McKidd can be found on Grey’s Anatomy with Stevenson next seen this Friday in The Punisher: War Zone and Polly Walker set for Sci Fi Channel’s Caprica.

Kevin McKidd Wants the Uru Hammer

Kevin McKidd Wants the Uru Hammer

Kevin McKidd is a hot property right now.  The Rome star is of course ticketed for the big screen version of the HBO series should it actually get made.  Currently, he’s the latest male hottie on Grey’s Anatomy and remains interested in visiting Asgard in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor film.

He told IGN at the  premiere of Punisher: War Zone that there’s been "a lot of back and forth" about the project of late. No formal casting on the July 2010 film has been announced although shooting needs to begin in 2009 for the effects-heavy film to have a chance at making its release date.

“McKidd stressed that the part that he’s up for is indeed that of Thor and not a supporting role,” IGN said.

I am Spartacus!

I am Spartacus!

The cry of “I am Spartacus!” will once more resound, this time weekly. Starz will air a new 13-episode series from executive producers Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Joshua Donen.

The premium movie channel has already produced Crash, a weekly series based on the Oscar-winning film, which began airing several weeks back. This will be the first in-house production for the channel. Steven S. DeKnight (Smallville) will be the head writer and showrunner.

Raimi, Tapert, and Donen developed the series and intend to produce the series in New Zealand in time for debut next summer. Each episode is likely to have a budget in excess of $2 million, surpassing their other series, Legend of the Seeker.  The world of ancient Rome will be digitally rendered, a first for a weekly TV series.

No casting has been announced as yet.

The real story of the slave who led a rebellion against his Roman captors in 73 A.D. was immortalized in the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas which won four Academy Awards. It was most recently retold as a 2004 miniseries starring ER’s Goran Visnjic and Rhona Mitra.

"This is not going to be at all like the 1960s Kirk Douglas film," Starz Entertainment executive vp programming Stephan Shelanski told The Hollywood Reporter. "We didn’t want your typical sword-and-sandals. It’s going to be fun, fast-moving, full of action and interesting characters and have a little more depth to it than the 1960s film."

Shelanski says the channel acknowledges the storytelling has to be done for an audience primed by movies like 300.  Being a premium channel, they can go for R-rated violence and storytelling. "It will bring the younger audience who has grown up on graphic novels and video games this heightened reality; it’s not going to look like anything you’ve seen before, especially on TV," said executive vp original production William Hamm. Hamm has previously worked with Raimi and Tapert at Universal TV to produce the similar Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

‘Lost’ Secrets Unearthed

‘Lost’ Secrets Unearthed

While the networks are busy slugging out the fall television season with competing series both new and old, the viewers are left without a shepherd to guide them towards true quality programming. In 2009, that shepherd returns, and its name is Lost.

ABC’s award-winning smash-hit Lost has gained an unbelievable following in its four short years. It’s often a show of balance as some mysteries get solved ("What’s in the hatch?") and some never do ("What’s the frickin’ monster?"). Despite some of the rockier terrain that seasons two and three trekked through, fans have stuck through the turbulent times by having faith that their loyalty would be rewarded.

When Lost returns early next year, the shape of that reward will come into sharper focus. Season five marks the penultimate year for the series, as showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse previously inked a deal with ABC to end Lost after six seasons. Since that move, each episode instantly gains a higher sense of importance for both the show’s mythology and its fans’ patience. Nary an hour can be wasted with so many pressing questions to be answered, and with Lost officially on the downhill end of the slope, Lindelof and Cuse promise that the series will shift away from generating mysteries and into "answer mode."

There’s still some months before the new season, but information about the plot, characters and more are slowly find their way onto the internet. We’ve done some digging around and compiled the following list of points regarding what you can expect from Lost in the future. Be warned, however, as there are some spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution…


‘Punisher’ Gets R-Rating

‘Punisher’ Gets R-Rating

The Motion Picture Association of America has sentenced Punisher: War Zone with an R-rating. According to CHUD, the R was granted for "pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use."

Everyone who watched the red band trailer for Punisher: War Zone saw the exact same thing: disgusting, humiliating, bone-chilling violence at its absolute brainiest. For fans of Garth Ennis’ run on Punisher for Marvel’s MAX imprint, this was a very good sign. But panic broke shortly over speculation that the film would be watered down in pursuit of a PG-13 rating.

The rumors stemmed from reports that director Lexi Alexander had been unceremoniously dropped from the project due to conflicts with Lionsgate. Alexander reportedly disagreed with Lionsgate’s desire to pull punches with the violent content and their desire to use heavy metal music instead of the planned original score. All signs pointed to yet another cajones-free Punisher film.

The granting of the R-rating is sure to cool some fears as it’s likely to stick closer to Alexander’s vision, but the film is still marred with bad history. Thomas Jane, who played Frank Castle in 2004’s The Punisher, notoriously dropped out of Punisher: War Zone back in 2007. In a letter to Ain’t It Cool News, Jane wrote:

"I am, sadly — no, make that heartbrokenly — f*** it — just rip out the heart and stomp it into the pavement a couple of times — pulling out. Punisher fans are already fighting an uphill battle as it is. And I’ve always felt a responsibility to fight that fight for them and with them so that Frank Castle gets the treatment he deserves."

Jane closed the letter by calling the vigilante sequel "a movie that I just don’t believe in."

Many will argue that since The Punisher was universally panned, Jane’s opinion doesn’t amount to much. Still, it’s worth pondering why the acclaimed actor felt so strongly against the project.

Punisher: War Zone
centers on Frank Castle facing his most deadly foe yet, Jigsaw. The film, directed by Lexi Alexander, stars Ray Stevenson (Rome), Dominic West (The Wire), Julie Benz (Dexter) and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld). Punisher: War Zone will be released by Lionsgate on December 5, 2008.