REVIEW: SHAZAM

Starring

Zachary Levi (Chuck)
Asher Angel (Andi Mack)
Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes)
Jack Dylan Grazer (IT)
Adam Brody (Jennifer’s Body)
Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Faithe Herman (This Is Us)
Meagan Good (Saw V)
Grace Fulton (Annabelle: Creation)
Michelle Borth (Wonderland)
Ian Chen (A Dog’s Journey)
Ross Butler (13 Reasons Why)
Jovan Armand (The Middle)
D. J. Cotrona (G.I. Joe: Retalliation)
Cooper Andrews (The Walking Dead)
John Glover (Smallville)
Martin Roach (Cube Zero)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)

Mark Strong and Zachary Levi in Shazam! (2019)In 1974 Upstate New York, young Thaddeus Sivana is arguing with his father and older brother during a car trip when he is transported to the Rock of Eternity, a magical temple hidden in another dimension. He meets the ancient wizard Shazam, last of the Council of Wizards, who has spent centuries searching for a new champion who is “pure of heart” after the previous champion, driven by revenge, released the Seven Deadly Sins upon the world. Thaddeus is tempted by the Sins, entrapped in statues, and is deemed unworthy and returned to Earth.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)In present-day Philadelphia, foster child Billy Batson runs afoul of the law while searching for his birth mother and is placed in a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez with five other foster children: Mary Bromfield, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley and superhero enthusiast Freddy Freeman. Meanwhile, an embittered adult Sivana discovers a way to return to the Rock of Eternity. There, he steals the Eye of Sin, becoming the Sins’ vessel and besting the Wizard before returning to Earth and using the Sins to murder his brother, father and Sivana Industries’ board of directors.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)At school, Billy saves Freddy from bullies and is chased into a subway, where Shazam summons Billy, chosen as the new champion. By calling Shazam’s name, Billy is transformed into an adult superhero endowed with the wizard’s name; thanking Billy, the Wizard turns to dust, leaving behind his staff. At home, Freddy helps Billy explore his newfound powers: electricity manipulation, near-invulnerability, super-strength, speed, and flight. Freddy’s videos of Shazam testing his powers become a viral sensation, and Billy begins skipping school to use his powers as Shazam for money and fame. Seeing Shazam save a bus on the news, Sivana challenges and easily defeats him, demanding he surrender his powers, but Shazam transforms back into Billy and escapes into a crowd. From the news, Sivana deduces Billy’s identity and abducts Freddy to find Billy. At the Vasquez home, the other children also infer Billy’s secret and tell him they have found his mother, who lives nearby.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)Billy reunites with his mother, but discovers she had abandoned him on purpose, feeling unqualified as a single teenage mother. Billy returns the compass she gave him as a toddler and leaves, telling her he needs to return to his real family. Sivana calls Billy, having taken his foster siblings hostage, and Billy as Shazam agrees to give Sivana his powers in exchange for the family’s safety. Sivana and Shazam travel to the Rock of Eternity where Sivana takes the wizard’s staff, but the siblings follow and attack Sivana. Shazam realizes that Sivana loses his powers when all seven Sins leave his body.Mark Strong and Zachary Levi in Shazam! (2019)Sivana pursues Shazam and his siblings to a winter carnival, unleashing the Sins upon the crowd. As Wrath battles Shazam, the other Sins capture his siblings, demanding his powers. When Sivana recalls the Sins, Shazam uses the opportunity to take the staff and stuns Sivana. Remembering the Wizard’s words, Billy uses the staff to share his powers, transforming his siblings into adult superheroes like him. Shazam breaks the staff and battles Sivana while his siblings distract the Sins. Shazam baits Envy out of Sivana’s body, leaving him powerless, and takes back the Eye of Sin which recaptures all the Sins. Billy and his siblings are hailed as heroes. Returning the Eye and the Sins to their prison, Billy and his siblings realize the Rock of Eternity can be their new lair. Later, Billy arrives at school as Shazam to have lunch with his siblings, revealing he has also invited Superman, to Freddy’s shock and joy.Zachary Levi in Shazam! (2019)In a mid-credits scene, an imprisoned Sivana is approached by a talking caterpillar, who proposes an alliance. In a post-credits scene, Shazam and Freddy test if the former can telepathically communicate with fish.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)Shazam was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. If you either a comic book fan or not regardless you will enjoy it from start to end. Although Shazam doesn’t contain as much fighting scenes you would see in movies these days it still leaves you with a fully polished story and character development. Shazam shows a teenage kid that gets powers and what he uses it for and obviously its typical things teenage kids would do. If you are plotting on whether or not to see it, the obvious answer is YES!

REVIEW: SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM

 

 

CAST

George Newborn (Justice League)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy)
Zach Callison (Steven Universe)
James Garner (The Notebook)
Josh Keaton (Justice Legaue Action)
Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

The film opens with a young couple sitting in their car on a hillside outside of the city as an apparent meteor streaks across the sky and smashes into the couple’s car. It is revealed that that meteorite is actually Black Adam, returning to Earth after a long exile. The film then cuts to young Billy Batson living in a rundown slum, with very little food and rats for pets. He gets out of bed wearing a t-shirt with the Superman crest. He goes to the kitchen to find food, but discovers he only has potato chips, which he ends up feeding to the rats.

On his way to meet with Clark Kent in a nearby diner, he sees some bullies mugging a homeless man. After attempting to defend the man, Billy himself receives a black eye. The homeless man thanks Billy for his intervention, calling him “The Captain”. Billy tells him that he always tries to do the right thing. Billy gives him the only thing of value he has – a subway token.

At the diner, Clark buys the boy three breakfasts, and tells him he wants to write a story to bring his plight, and those in his same situation, to public light. He tells Mr. Kent that he tries to be good no matter what. As the conversation continues, neither notice that Black Adam has appeared, hovering outside the diner. He claps his hands together, blowing a hole in the side of the diner. Clark attempts to protect the boy, but a blow from Black Adam sends him through several walls. He emerges from beneath the rubble and quickly changes into Superman. Adam stalks young Billy through the streets stating his surprise over the Wizard’s choice to become the next Marvel, but Billy does not know what he means. Black Adam picks up a fire engine to smash Billy, but Superman intervenes and blocks the blow. While Billy makes good his escape, Superman gets a blast of electricity from Black Adam. After recovering he realizes Adam’s powers are magically based, and he is vulnerable. This vulnerability puts Superman and Adam at an equal footing. Black Adam uses magic to his advantage, but Superman responds with powers the magical being doesn’t have – i.e. heat vision. After briefly getting Superman out of the way, Black Adam continues his pursuit of Billy, who runs into the subway, again encountering the homeless man he helped earlier. The man gives him a subway token, telling him he would be paid back. Billy runs out onto the tracks, with Black Adam still in pursuit. Billy is caught on the tracks when a train apparently runs Billy over, causing Adam to leave. Billy awakens to find he is on an empty subway car. The token begins to glow and he begins to crackle with lightning. In the lightning, Billy sees flashes of his life, including his parents’ headstone, the orphanage, and his foster parents who throw him out, leaving him on the streets.

He gets off of the subway car at the next stop, but finds himself in a gigantic cave with statues of the Seven Deadly Sins. Billy finds his way to the Wizard Shazam who tells the boy that he is the next Chosen One. He explains that Black Adam had been his champion 5000 years ago, but Teth-Adam had used his power for personal gain and corrupted the gift. He was then banished to the farthest star in the sky, and now Black Adam has returned seeking vengeance. The Wizard then causes a cave in, telling him that he wishes to atone for the mistake of creating Black Adam, but tells Billy that should he need him, he has only to speak the Wizard’s name. Billy narrowly escapes the cave as it collapses.  Outside, the battle rages between Superman and Black Adam. Superman is barely able to hold his own against the magic used. Superman is again knocked unconscious. Billy confronts Black Adam and defiantly tells Adam to leave Superman alone. He tries to hit an amused Black Adam. Billy anxiously shouts “I need a little help here, Shazam”, which transforms Billy into Captain Marvel. He quickly counters Adam’s attacks with his newfound abilities. Billy has only a few minutes to discover his powers; i.e. speed, strength and flight. He also discovers that randomly saying the Wizard’s name takes the powers away just as quickly.

A recovered Superman is unsure of what to make of this new superhuman, but they soon discover they are on the same side. Black Adam resorts to destroying a dam which threatens to flood Fawcett City. Landing, Black Adam stops a passing car, removing its female driver to hold as a hostage. He tells Billy he must surrender himself in his mortal form, and he will release the woman. Billy complies, and Black Adam throws the hostage into the sky. But before Billy can say his magic word, Black Adam covers his mouth to silence him. From out of nowhere, Adam is blasted by Superman’s heat vision. He stopped the potential flooding after quickly freezing the water with his super cold breath. Superman and Black Adam begin fighting again, but Billy is now able to utter the magic word. Adam is beaten by Marvel who stomps him into a crater in the street. Superman talks the Captain out of murdering Adam to prevent further acts of evil. Adam declares that only death will stop him. The homeless man appears once again and reveals himself to be the boy’s guardian angel Tawky Tawny. Tawky reverts to his true form as a tiger and tells Superman and Captain Marvel that he will make sure the Wizard will send Black Adam far across the universe this time; it will take ten thousand years to return. To keep from being banished even farther from Earth, Black Adam shouts “Shazam” which turns him back into the mortal Teth-Adam, whose body has aged during the thousands years he has been gone. He turns to dust in front of the two superheroes. It was an apparent bluff, as Tawny admits the Wizard is indeed dead. As Tawny walks away, Superman looks at Captain Marvel and says “You have some unusual friends.” Billy finds himself encountering the bullies again in the alley as before. The bullies push Billy against a wall, and defiantly dare him to talk back; daring him to say “…just one word.” To which, it is implied through the appearance of lightning, Billy replies “Shazam…”.This movie was animated very well and the character models were very good. The overall appearance, especially the backgrounds, had a slightly hazy, washed-out look to them at times, giving it an almost anime-style look. They do some really cool animation during the fights between Superman/Marvel and Black Adam, such as some slow motion effects during a couple of the really hard hits, that really punctuate the impact. The voice acting and choices of the actors were quite good (especially Arnold Vosloo as Black Adam),  I’ve always thought Black Adam was a really cool bad guy, and his personality and voice were pretty much as I’ve always envisioned them to be, and I thought the ending was particularly interesting and surprising.

 

REVIEW: HERO HIGH

CAST (VOICES)

John Berwick (Goliath Awaits)
Jere Fields (Aesop’s Fables)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Erika Scheimer (She-Ra)

ds9-cast-1200x786I remember very little about Hero High when it ran on broadcast television on Saturday mornings back in 1981. Presumably my attention was simply devoted to a rival network. However, my love for both Filmation and anything BCI/ Ink & Paint puts out led me to ordering the Hero High box set and I’m quite glad that I did. For starters the set includes all 26 animated episodes of the series (each episode runs about 8 minutes long) with writer commentary on a couple of them. Disc 1 contains the first 14 while disc 2 contains the remaining 12 and a host of interesting special features including interviews with many of the show’s actors and producers. We even hear from producer Lou Scheimer in several of the interviews.MV5BMDcyMGE5NGEtOTMyNC00NDJmLTllY2UtZjUzMWIxMTY3MmI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTEwODg2MDY@._V1_The show (for those who have not yet had a chance to enjoy it) is surprisingly well done and clearly provided the source material for more recent super hero spoofs such as Sky High and The Incredibles. Rather than compete directly with the campy superhero animation out at the time (Hanna Barbara’s Superfriends for example), Hero High knew not to take itself too seriously instead choosing to poke fun at both itself and comic action in general.cvbcbThe episodes are fairly short romps in a tradition of good clean fun rather than epic good versus evil and to be completely honest, some of the humor contained within is on par with the type of material one would expect in sitcoms from the era. Additionally the second disc contains an episode of the live action skit that came packaged in the Kid Super Power Hour at the time. This, too, can be viewed with writer and actor commentary, which really adds to the value of reliving the experience. The package itself is in a league of its own (as all BCI/ Ink & Paint sets tend to be) with colorful sleeve art and a book that not only lists all of the episodes but also provides color photographs, a synopsis of each one and a trivia pertaining to the episode! Talk about going above and beyond to deliver quality. The picture quality is quite crisp and clean (showing no indication of the era) as are the audio tracks. Once again Ink & Paint have provided a masterpiece compilation worthy of shelf space on any collector’s entertainment center.

REVIEW: THE SECRETS OF ISIS

 MAIN CAST

Joanna Cameron (B.S. I Love You)
Brian Cutler (The Incredible Hulk 70s)
Joanna Pang (The Patchwork Family)
Ronaldo Douglas (The New Odd Couple)
Albert Reed (Good Times)

bthe-secrets-of-isisbbrbrbefore-wonder-woman-got-her-own-tv_ynu1

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Laurette Spang (Battlestar Galactica)
John Davey (Shazam)

MV5BY2U0ZTAwZDYtNjZjNC00YzVhLWJjMGItZDg5MTMzYTM1MjhjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1334,1000_AL_

Oh my Queen!” said the royal sorcerer to Hatshepsup, “With this amulet, you and your decedents are endowed by the goddess Isis with the powers of the animals and the elements. You will soar as the falcon soars. Run with the speed of gazelles. And command the elements of sky and earth!”. 3,000 years later, a young science teacher dug up this lost treasure and found she was heir to: The Secrets of Isis. And so, unknown to even her closest friends Rick Mason and Cindy Lee, she became a dual person: Andrea Thomas, teacher, and Isis, dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice.

Flat-out one of the most beloved Saturday morning TV shows ever produced, no kid who grew up during the mid-seventies/eighties ever forgot Joanna Cameron as the lithe, confident, serene super-heroine Isis. Introduced along with the already popular Shazam! live-action series, Filmation Studios teamed up Captain Marvel with Isis in 1975 for The Shazam!/Isis Hour on CBS, and the ratings went through the roof. Week after week, each episode of Isis opened with the same prologue (that’s the dialogue quoted above), setting the backstory of the series. On an archaeological dig in Egypt, high school science teacher Andrea Thomas unearthed a small box that contained an amulet that when worn, gave her powers delivered by the spirit of the goddess Isis. When her powers were needed, Joanna simply exposed the amulet, put out her arms in supplication (sometime held up, sometimes down) and calmly called, “Oh Mighty Isis!”. Instantly transformed into a cross between Nefertiti and a tennis pro, Joanna became Isis, holder of super powers that enabled her to fly (“Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!”), perform telekinesis, see into the future, and possess super strength and speed.isis3With these powers, Isis could figuratively crush the world like a tin can, but instead, she chose to help teens (usually students of hers) who got into trouble with the law, see the errors of their ways. Most episodes of Isis found a student reluctantly falling in with mobsters or gangsters or evil businessmen or scientists, aiding their plans to defraud or steal from someone. Just prior to Isis’ arrival, the young adult would start to have second thoughts about their deeds, and as Isis moved in for the collar, they would start spilling their guts and singing like canaries, gently guided by Isis’ requests to look inside themselves, to see if they were acting the way they should act. In keeping with a society that hadn’t yet solidified the “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality that rewards so-called “honesty” by doling out clemency, the students didn’t get off scott-free here for just owning up to their mistakes – they still expected to be punished, and for the most part, they were punished. But Isis smiled, because she knew that deep down, they had learned a valuable lesson; one they that they wouldn’t likely repeat.

When there were no 24-hour cable networks devoted solely to kids programming. The Big Three’s Saturday morning kids line-up was the only significant block of hours aimed at us. So when a show like The Secrets of Isis  came on the scene, kids took notice. Playing like mini-movies every week, these fantasy-based, limited budget, live-action morality plays really connected with kids.b12d51f1a3503cbbda001463628d1f9b--saturday-morning-wonder-womanAnd while most kids couldn’t have cared less about learning a “lesson” while watching these shows, the deeply moralistic nature of Isis didn’t seem to grate on us – perhaps because they were delivered in a cool, direct manner by the unnaturally gorgeous Joanna Cameron. Within each storyline of the Isis episodes, issues of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility were relentlessly explored, and to further hammer home the point, Cameron, still in her Isis outfit, looked directly into the camera, with that disarming suggestion of a smile at her lips, and restated what we the viewers were supposed to have just learned from the stories (criminally, these famous “morals” were eliminated from the film masters in the 1990s — not a good time for morals, I guess; a few have been gathered together for this DVD).secrets_of_isis_isis2.png

But The Secrets of Isis wasn’t just about lecturing kids; it had plenty of action, albeit rather laid-back, California-styled action, that served the point of the story, and not the other way around. Watching Isis today, it’s easy to laugh at the chintzy blue-screen flying sequences and goof on the dopes who bought this stuff decades ago, but don’t feel too superior; we knew they looked cheap and unconvincing, too. We just didn’t care about that stuff as much as technologically-savvy kids do today. We didn’t care if Isis looked like she was hanging from wires, or that they never showed her except from the waist up when she lifted off to fly. It just wasn’t that important an issue. We knew it was a goof, so we just got on with it and didn’t worry about mattes and blue screens and process shots. Besides, who really was paying attention to all of that when Cameron was either walking around in her polyester-only outfits or her sexy tennis dress tunic?MV5BYzBmZjM1MzItNzU2Ny00MzcxLTg2YWYtZmM1NWQ4NzExMmE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_It’s amazing to go back and watch these shows and see how relatively calm and sedate they appear. And despite the budget limitations, the series maintained a professional tone due to the solid TV directors who worked on it, including those old pros Hollingsworth Morse, Earl Bellamy, Arnold Laven, and Arthur H. Nadel. Isis also benefits from a well-chosen supporting cast, with Brian Cutler just fine as the second banana to Cameron’s Isis. Joanna Pang, cute and spunky as Cindy Lee, gets the “gee whiz” tone of her character just right; it’s too bad she didn’t come back for the second season (although Ronalda Douglas is good as student Renee Carroll).

REVIEW: ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941)

CAST

Tom Tyler (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)
Frank Coghlan Jr. (Hell’s House)
William Benedict (The Sting)
Louise Currie (The Ape Man)
Robert Strange (Captain America 1944)
Nigel De Brulier (Zorro Rides Again)
John Davidson (The Devil Bat)

The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Tom Tyler, (Serial), 1941 Photo

Modern fans might assume the first comic-book superhero to get the movie treatment would have been Superman or Batman. In fact, one of their biggest rivals throughout the 1940s beat both of them to the screen by several years. According to Wikipedia, Republic Pictures did try to make a Superman serial first, but National Periodicals (which later became DC Comics) turned them down. The studio then approached Fawcett Comics, publishers of Captain Marvel, who was introduced shortly after the Man of Steel and quickly became one of the Golden Age’s most popular heroes.


The concept that kids flocked to was simple. Orphaned 12-year-old newsboy Billy Batson is selected by a wizard named Shazam to replace him as Earth’s protector. When Billy says the Wizard’s name—an acronym of the assorted gods and heroes who were the source of his power (Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’ strength, Atlas’ stamina, Zeus’ power, Achilles’ courage, and Mercury’s speed)—he’s transformed by a magic bolt of lightning into Captain Marvel.


The movie version is somewhat faithful to the comics. In a cave somewhere in Thailand, a Billy Batson who looks to be somewhere in his mid-to-late 20s (Frank Coghlan Jr.) is granted the powers of Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler) by the old Wizard (Nigel De Brulier). This Billy works as the radio operator for an expedition into “The Valley of Tombs,” where a bunch of American archaeologists break into an ancient tomb over the objections of the local natives. While Billy finds Shazam and gets his superhero identity, the explorers discover “The Scorpion,” a bug-shaped device that functions as a “solar atom smasher,” concentrating the sun’s rays through a series of lenses into a powerful beam that can destroy human life or turn ordinary objects into gold. The Scorpion, which is placed in a heavily fortified tomb, is one of the local culture’s most sacred objects, so naturally, the white archaeologists just take it for themselves. That draws the ire of a mysterious evildoer also named “The Scorpion,” who is the serial’s villain.He sets out to reclaim the atom smasher, while the archaeologists divide its many lenses amongst themselves in order to protect it; over the course of the 12 chapters, the Scorpion sends his henchman to retrieve each crucial piece while Billy and Captain Marvel try to thwart his progress. Serials like ‘Adventures of Captain Marvel’ were originally programmed to run in weekly installments at theaters around the country. They weren’t meant to be watched in one sitting—and frankly it shows. The episodes all rely on a handful of tropes (chase scenes, fist fights, cliffhangers) that begin to get awful repetitive over the course of more than three hours of action. If you’re going to watch ‘Captain Marvel,’ your best bet is to do it the way it was intended; in small chunks before other feature presentations. That’ll keep things from getting too stale, and let you bask in the film’s pleasures in smaller, more manageable doses.


Those pleasures are mostly of the two-fisted action variety. ‘Captain Marvel’ was directed by John English and William Witney, who were well-known in their day for their thrilling, stunt-laden serials. This one is no different, and even on a relatively limited budget (and with some bargain basement special effects) they do a very respectable job of conjuring Captain Marvel to life. Some of the stunts are dodgy, but a lot of them still work, like Captain Marvel bursting through walls like they were made out of cardboard (probably because they were made out of cardboard) or breaking rifles over his knee like they’re made out of wax (probably because they were made out of wax). And the fight scenes, which rely on the actors’ and their doubles’ athleticism instead of frenetic editing and shaky camerawork, are fantastic. The centerpiece battle in Chapter 10 between Billy Batson and the Scorpion’s goons, for example, is more fun than anything in ‘Taken 3.’ And there’s at least half a dozen more fights just like it.tom-tyler-shazam-the-adventures-of-captain-marvel-serialThere’s less to recommend about the story itself, which is mostly about Billy trying to track down the true identity of the Scorpion. Before too long, he realizes the Scorpion is actually one of the archeologists attempting to subvert the group from within, but he guesses incorrectly several times before the real bad guy reveals himself in the final chapter. (And this guy’s supposed to have the “wisdom” of Solomon? Yeah, no.) There are no clues or any real sense of mystery; it’s mostly just a process-of-elimination guessing game. Again, part of this is the nature of the beast; a serial is meant to be so simple that each chapter can be understood on in its own, in case a viewer happened to catch, say, Chapter 3, at the theater without seeing the first two. It’s easy to see why Republic wanted comic-book heroes for their serials; they’re well-suited to the format. Not only were comics loaded with the sort of action and intrigue that were the serials’ bread-and-butter, but the construct of a hero and his secret identity also served as an effective cost-cutting measure. Most of the film could follow the human alter ego sleuthing or romancing his leading lady, while reserving his costumed personality.

REVIEW: SWAMP THING (2019)

Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

Starring

Crystal Reed (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Andy Bean (Transformers: The Last Knight)
Henderson Wade (Riverdale)
Maria Sten (Channel Zero)
Jeryl Prescott (The Skeleton Key)
Jennifer Beals (Lie To Me)
Will Patton (Silkwood)
Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Derek Mears (Sleepy Hollow)

Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
RJ Cyler (Power Rangers)
Macon Blair (Logan Lucky)
Elle Graham (Mile 22)
Given Sharp (The Gifted)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Selena Anduze (Venom)
Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog)
Justice Leak (Supergirl)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)

Swamp Thing (2019)Say what you will about DC Universe, but original series-wise the still-young streaming service is on the same trajectory as Superman himself: Up, up, and a-way better than Titans. That first series had its fans and certainly improved as it went along,  Then came Doom Patrol, which started out solid as Brendan Fraser‘s bare backside and gradually became one of the most wonderfully absurd delights on all of television.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)That put a lot of pressure on the big mossy shoulders of original series #3, Swamp Thing, to keep up the quality, especially in the wake of the backstage wonkiness that cut its originally-ordered 13 episodes to 10. Well, I’m here to report that Swamp Thing, at least in its first two episodes, not only ups the ante, it’s also a triumph on pretty much every level, a nasty, gleefully disturbing bit of body horror on the Louisiana bayou that evokes everything from John Carpenter‘s The Thing to executive-producer James Wan‘s work with the Trench in Aquaman. It’s 2019, man, and it looks like it’s officially time to go green.Swamp Thing (2019)Len Wiseman—the director behind the pilots for Sleepy Hollow and Lucifer—also helmed the pilot here, an extremely on-brand choice considering Swamp Thing follows a similar formula: Straight-laced professional woman partners up with a quirky man who has a supernatural twist. In Sleepy Hollow, it was a sheriff’s lieutenant and the actual Ichabod Crane. In Lucifer, it was a detective and the literal Christian Devil. Here, it’s a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service named Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) and biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), the latter who—spoilers—eventually morphs with a sentient swamp to become a giant moss-monster played under heavy prosthetics by former Jason Voorhees Derek Mears. Again, it’s a formula, but the formula really does work to charming effect.Swamp Thing (2019)Arcane has been called back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a strange disease that’s seemingly emanating from the nearby swamp, causing locals to collapse, cough up gooey leaves into their hospital beds, and—in much more extreme cases—devolve into mossy, decaying statues straight out of a biologist’s worst fever dreams. (Think the gory artwork of Hannibal meets, like, a fucked-up Ent.) Butting into her investigation is disgraced scientist Holland, who discovered abnormal mutagens in the swamp that may just be the key to finding a cure. But the deeper Arcane and Holland dig, the more it smells like a rotten conspiracy, a conspiracy the swamp itself seems intent on violently stopping.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)It’s in that violence and rot that this show truly shines as a no-joke horror story, not a surprise given Wan’s involvement and a pilot script co-written by Gary Dauberman (IT, The Nun) and Mark Verheiden (Ash vs. Evil Dead). Wiseman, who also directed episode 2, shoots Marais’ swamp like a dark fairy tale, all twisted trees and moonlit ponds. The effect makes it that much more jarring in the moments that almost primordial darkness invades Abby Arcane’s world of science. There’s a scene set in a morgue that floored me in its creepiness; the swamp disease brings a corpse back to profane “life”, the body standing up off the operating table even as it’s ripped apart by twisting vines and probing branches. It’s gross, it really does have serious The Thing vibes, and most importantly, it appears to be mostly practical.

Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)Those practical set-pieces throughout elevate Swamp Thing a good deal. Maybe it’s the Jaws fanatic in me, but I love seeing a boat actually lifted out of the water by some unseen monstrosity. But Fractured FX—the minds behind the Lipstick-Face Demon in Insidious and every ghoul in The Conjuring franchise, among many other abominations—worked overtime to make sure the monstrosities we do see are equally impressive. I don’t think Swampy fans could ask for a more pitch-perfect live-action take than the one we get here. The suit plastered on Mears oozes and shines in all the right, rotten ways; there’s a moment where he pulls off a piece of his own head and you can see the strands of goo between his fingers. It’s disgusting. It’s great. (And yes, Swamp Thing is ripped af, and I expect certain corners of the internet to react accordingly, as is their right.)Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)But the real miracle here is that Swamp Thing still manages to feel like a human show. Abby Arcane is an effective entry point into the madness; she brings back to her hometown a dark secret from her past that Reed manages to tease out through haunted looks and sentences cut just short. She has an easy chemistry with a pre-monster Bean, whose oddball charisma makes you sad that he has to turn into Swamp Thing on a show literally called Swamp Thing. But of course, it’s Mears pulling the real magic trick here. He doesn’t speak a single word over the first two episodes because he doesn’t need to. Mears injects a potent dose of rage, confusion, and sadness into Swamp Thing with his face, the way he stands, the way he stumbles against a tree.Sadly Swamp Thing got cancelled due to a high budget, so one season is all we get, but it sure as hell is one hell of a season

REVIEW: HUMAN TARGET – SEASON 2

Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)

Starring

Mark Valley (Zero Dark Thirty)
Chi McBride (Hawaii Five-O)
Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)
Indira Varma (Game of Thrones)
Janet Montgomery (Black Swan)

Rick Hoffman and Indira Varma in Human Target (2010)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Timothy Omundson (Xena)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Molly Parker (Lost In Space)
M.C. Gainey (Lost)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Douglas O’Keeffe (Sanctuary)
Cameron Daddo (Stealing Candy)
Jorge Montesi (Caprica)
Lennie James (The Walking Dead)
Nick Chinlund (Eraser)
Tracie Thoms (Cold Case)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)
Christopher Rosamond (The Revenant)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting)
Rebecca McFarland (Two and a Half Men)
David orth (The Lost World)
Marie Avgeropoulos (The 100)
Alexander Calvert (Arrow)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
David Barrera (NYPD Blue)
Anna Van Hooft (Flash Gordon)
Tony Hale (American Ultra)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Carlo Rota (Saw V)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Lauren German (Hostel Part II)
Nicole Bilderback (Dark Angel)
Michael Massee (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Steven Brand (The Scorpion King)

Human Target (2010)FOX has become notorious for cancelling great shows before they’d even gotten started. To them, if the show isn’t in the top 50 after it’s initial 13 episode run, it isn’t worth their time or money. As a result, some of the most imaginative and intense shows to come along in years are cancelled before they’ve even gotten started. Human Target is on a list that includes, Alcatraz, The Chicago Code, Gracepoint, Almost Human, Dollhouse, and dozens of others that you’ve probably never heard of. Unless it’s a top 50 show right from the start, or a lame animated comedy, Fox has no use for it and shows like Human Target are replaced with Bob’s Burgers and The Cleveland Show.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)For those unfamiliar with the story, Human Target is based on a long running DC comic by the same title. It is the story of Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), a mysterious man with a mysterious past. Joined by a former police detective, and a hacker/thug named Guerrero, Chance has formed a company that discreetly serves an elite clientele. Their job is to protect their clients from threats at any cost, by injecting themselves into the persons life. Chance’s job is to identify the threat and eliminate it before anything happens to the client. I don’t know how Mark Valley is not a household name at this point. This guy is so intense, always has tremedous, unorthodox ways of getting out of trouble, and to be honest, he really reminds me of MacGyver. Valley has the looks, the charm, and of course the skills to make Christopher Chance jump off the pages and come to life.Douglas O'Keeffe and Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)But this show isn’t just an episonic show, there is also a deep and complex back story that gets more intense with each episode. We know the players and what they are capable of very quickly in the series, but what we don’t know is their history. As more and more is revealed, the characters just get deeper and more intense.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)Human Target was a great show, it was original, exciting, and better than almost anything on FOX at the present time. Mark Valley is very impressive, as is the writing. Every episode has at least one thing in it that you did not see coming, and if it were up to me, this show would have been on for years.