25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: GANGSTER SQUAD

CAST

Sean Penn (Mystic River)
Josh Borlin (Men In Black 3)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-man 1 & 2)
Holt McCallany (The Losers)
Wade Williams (The Dark Knight Rises)
Lucy Davenport (Alice In Wonderland)
Nick Nolte (Cape fear)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Giovanni Ribisi (Some Girl)
Anthony Mackie (Captain America 2)

John Aylward (Armageddon)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)
Jack McGee (The Fighter)
Mireille Enos (Hanna TV)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Josh Pence (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jon Polito (The Crow)
Lance Barber (Young Sheldon)
Michael Bacall (Death Proof)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Derek Mears (The Flash)
Frank Grillo (Mother’s Day)

In 1949 Los Angeles, gangster Mickey Cohen wants to control all organized crime and argues with local mobster Jack Dragna that they should not allow the East coast mafia to run the town. Meanwhile, LAPD Detective Sergeant John “Sarge” O’Mara raids a Cohen-owned brothel to save a woman from being raped, gaining the attention of Police Chief Bill Parker. Parker believes that more drastic measures need to be taken against men like Cohen, and tasks O’Mara to begin waging a guerrilla campaign against the mobsters. He tells O’Mara (a former OSS commando during World War II) to use his special operations training, learned at Camp X during World War II, and to select a small team that will work without badges or official support from the police.
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O’Mara’s pregnant wife Connie suggests choosing unorthodox veterans like himself, as young high-performers would likely already be on Cohen’s payroll. With Connie’s help, O’Mara selects a small squad of cops: black street officer Coleman Harris, wiretap expert Conwell Keeler, gunslinger and sharpshooter Max Kennard, and Kennard’s Hispanic partner Navidad “Christmas” Ramirez. O’Mara also attempts to recruit his partner Sergeant Jerry Wooters, but Wooters has become lazy and complacent in his job and refuses. Wooters keeps in touch with childhood friend Jack Whalen, who provides him with information on Cohen. Wooters also meets and begins a secret relationship with Cohen’s etiquette tutor Grace Faraday.
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The squad’s first mission is to bust up an illegal Cohen casino in Burbank, California, but things quickly go bad as O’Mara and Harris are captured by corrupt Burbank police who were guarding the casino. Wooters has a change of heart after witnessing the death of a young boy he had been helping out and attempts to shoot Cohen. Whalen stops him and tells him that O’Mara is going to be turned over to Cohen, prompting Wooters to rescue the men from the Burbank jail. Deciding that they need more information on Cohen’s operations, Wooters and Keeler break into Cohen’s house and place an illegal wiretap inside his TV. The men are seen sneaking out by Grace, who agrees to keep their secret. Using the information from the wiretap, the group conducts several successful raids on Cohen operations. After a particularly violent raid on a Cohen drug shipment, Keeler begins to question what they are doing but is re-assured by O’Mara. The media begins referring to the men as “The Gangster Squad”, and Cohen pushes his men to find out who they are. Keeler deduces that Cohen is building a large wire gambling business somewhere in town, and warns O’Mara that if they don’t take it out before it becomes operational Cohen will become too big for even them to stop. Keeler uses wire transmissions to locate the building, and the squad wipes it out. An enraged Cohen realizes that the Gangster Squad must be honest cops when he discovers that none of his money was stolen.
Sean Penn, Holt McCallany, Jon Polito, and Emma Stone in Gangster Squad (2013)
Cohen suspects that his house is bugged and begins searching for the tap. Grace overhears Cohen and fears that he knows about her relationship with Wooters. With the help of a maid, Grace escapes Cohen’s house and meets Wooters, who takes her to Whalen and tasks him with getting her out of town. Cohen finds the bug and begins feeding false information to Keeler. Cohen lures the Gangster Squad into a trap in Chinatown, but Wooters arrives in time to alert the men to the trap. While the men are distracted in Chinatown, Cohen hits several targets himself. Cohen’s bodyguard Karl Lockwood finds Keeler’s listening post and kills him while Cohen goes to Whalen’s looking for Grace. Cohen murders Whalen in front of Grace, who hides from him. O’Mara’s house is hit by a drive-by shooting, the stress of which causes Connie to give birth to their son in their bathtub.
Grace agrees to testify against Cohen for the murder of Whalen, and O’Mara uses her testimony to get a warrant for Cohen’s arrest. The squad arrives at Cohen’s hotel to arrest him and an intense firefight breaks out. Wooters and Kennard are wounded, while Cohen and Lockwood escape. O’Mara pursues them down the block, assisted by a mortally wounded Kennard and his sharpshooting skill. Kennard, with Ramirez’ help, shoots Lockwood just before he dies and O’Mara and Cohen engage in a brutal fistfight that ends with O’Mara eventually beating Cohen to his knees. As a crowd gathers, a bloodied O’Mara walks away and Cohen is arrested for Whalen’s murder.
Sean Penn and Josh Brolin in Gangster Squad (2013)
As Chief Parker had told them, the Gangster Squad is never credited in taking down Cohen. Grace’s testimony ensures Cohen is sentenced to 25 to life at Alcatraz, where he is welcomed violently by Whalen’s friends. Grace and Wooters stay together and he stays on the force, while Ramirez and Harris become partners on the beat. Ramirez is shown patrolling with Kennard’s signature Colt Single Action Army on his hip. O’Mara quits to live a quiet life in Los Angeles with Connie and their son.
Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Pence in Gangster Squad (2013)
This is great fun, it isn’t the greatest film ever made, the most original or anything like that but it doesn’t waste a second and that’s the way I like it.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: CURSED

CAST

Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Village)
Portia De Rossi (Mocking Bird Lane)
Mya (Chicago)
Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie)
Kristina Anapau (Black Swan)
Daniel Edward Mora (Harsh Times)
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Joshua Jackson (Cruel Intentions)
Derek Mears (Friday the 13th)
Judy Greer (The Last Shot)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)

Nick Offerman (Sing)
Scott Baio (Happy Days)

 

MV5BMjE1ODY3MDc5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTc1NzQ1Mg@@._V1_The film begins in Hollywood, Los Angeles, when two friends, Jenny Tate and Becky Morton, are at a pier and decide to get their fortune told by Zela, asking about a boy. Zela foretells that they will suffer a horrible fate, but they don’t believe her and walk away laughing. A little while later, Becky realizes Jenny has disappeared and can’t find her on the pier. On that same night, teenager Jimmy Myers is picked up on (thematically appropriate) Mulholland Drive by his sister Ellie, who has just returned from visiting her boyfriend, Jake Taylor. Jimmy had a run-in with some bullies and his crush, Brooke. Driving home, Jimmy and Ellie collide with an animal and another car. They attempt to rescue the other driver, Becky Morton, but she is suddenly dragged and ripped in half by an unseen creature. Jimmy and Ellie are both slashed by the creature’s claws, but make it out alive. When interviewed by police, despite Jimmy’s belief that it was a wolf or dog-type animal, the official report credits it to a bear or cougar.

Once they get home, Jimmy does research about wolves in California and starts to believe that the creature was a werewolf, which, the next morning, he nonchalantly tells Ellie, much to her disbelief. Jimmy and Ellie start to exhibit strange tendencies. While working at the television station, Ellie is attracted to the smell of blood on a co-anchor, but Ellie denies it, apparently proving her point by touching a silver picture frame and not getting burned. Jimmy becomes much stronger and more aggressive, as shown when a bully named Bo coerces him to join the wrestling team. He easily defeats three wrestlers, including Bo, and calls Bo out for constantly making gay jokes towards him, saying that Bo himself is repressing his own homosexuality. 
Meanwhile, at a party, Jenny runs into Jake amd Joanie, Scott Baio’s publicist, who pays attention to Jake. Jenny leaves the party after an awkward encounter, and Jake and Joanie leave as the full moon rises. Jenny is torn apart in a parking garage by a werewolf. Zela’s prediction for Jenny and Becky thus comes true. Ellie starts to believe the werewolf hypothesis when she sees Zela at the news station and she warns about the coming full moon. Jimmy proves it when he holds a silver cake server and gets burned (he then discovers that the picture frame Ellie touched was actually stainless steel). Their dog, Zipper, bites Jimmy, tasting his blood, becomes a lycanthropoid monster, and goes on a rampage. Realizing what’s happening, Jimmy goes to warn Ellie with the help of Bo, who shows up at their house to confess that he is gay and has feelings for Jimmy, which Jimmy attributes to the curse. Bo and Jimmy race to where Ellie is.
In the meantime, she figures out that Jake is a werewolf. He confirms it, but claims it wasn’t he who attacked her and Jimmy. Another werewolf attacks, seemingly proving his story. Bo and Jimmy try to help, but Bo is knocked out. The new werewolf is revealed to be Joanie, who had a one-night stand with Jake and became a werewolf (a pentagram on her right hand establishes this truth, in the lore of the world of Cursed). She wants revenge by killing all of the other girls he dates. He refuses to let Joanie hurt Ellie, so she knocks him out. Joanie soon turns into a werewolf and starts attacking. Ellie and Jimmy fight her, and she runs and hides when the police arrive. The two draw her out by insulting her, which she (in werewolf form) responds to by giving them the finger. The police open fire, apparently killing her. What they don’t know is that the only way to kill a werewolf is to separate the brain from the heart. As she rises again, a cop shoots her in the head, finally killing her. Bo is okay, but Jake has disappeared.
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Jimmy and Ellie return to a wrecked home. As Jimmy goes to try to restore the power, Jake arrives. He reveals that he did in fact bite Ellie and Jimmy, and he wants Ellie to live forever by his side after he kills Jimmy. She refuses, and the two fight it out, but her werewolf side only emerges and disappears at small intervals, while he has complete control over his werewolf side and dominates the fight. Jimmy joins in, climbing across the ceiling and biting Jake, distracting him long enough for Ellie to stab him with the silver cake server, which badly injures him. Ellie decapitates Jake with a shovel and breaks the curse on her,Jimmy and their dog. They watch as Jake’s body bursts into flames, eventually leaving only the silver cake server. Brooke brings home their dog, Zipper, having learned where they live from Bo, who also shows up. Bo and Jimmy are now friends; Jimmy kisses Brooke and walks her home along with Bo. Ellie is stuck with the clean-up of the messy house.
 This is a fantastic film for any Wes Craven fans out there or just horror fans.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 (2007)

CAST

Flex Alexander (Snakes on A Plane)
Daniella Alonso (Wrong Turn 2)
Lee Thompson Young (Smallville)
Jessica Stroup (Ted)
Archie Kao (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Jeff Kober (New Girl)
Derek Mears (Friday the 13th 2009)
Jay Acovone (Staragte SG.1)
Jessica Stroup (Ted)

A captive woman—forced to breed mutant children—gives birth to a stillborn. She is then killed by mutant leader Papa Hades (Michael Bailey Smith) for being unable to provide healthy offspring. Later, scientists working in the New Mexico desert are attacked by Letch. A group of National Guardsmen in training are sent into the desert to resupply the scientists, who were working for the United States Department of Defense on installing a surveillance system (implied to be a result of the events in the first film). The soldiers arrive to find the camp apparently abandoned, and outside radio contact impossible due to the topography. When the radio operator, Spitter (Eric Edelstein), picks up a faint distress call, the sergeant (Flex Alexander) organizes a search and rescue mission, leaving behind Napoleon (Michael McMillian) and Amber (Jessica Stroup).

The search party discovers the mutilated body of a scientist in the hills, while Amber and Napoleon pull another dying scientist out of the portable toilet. On her way to join the group Amber is attacked by Stabber (Tyrell Kemlo), but a returning Mickey (Reshad Strik) wards him off. Just as Napoleon catches up, Mickey is pulled into a bolt-hole and killed. At the same time, the remaining troops are attacked by Letch, and the sergeant is accidentally killed by Spitter’s friendly fire. Napoleon and Amber reunite with the group, and Spitter is killed by an unseen mutant sabotaging his rappelling gear as the others attempt to lower him down the hill. With their remaining gear stolen they are forced to try to find another way down.

The remaining troops soon locate their commanding officer, who has clearly become unhinged from recent events. He warns them of the mutants’ plans to capture women for breeding and kill everyone else. He then commits suicide after telling them the only way down the hill is through the mining caves. After the group kills Stabber, Missy is captured and taken into the mining caves by Chameleon. Chameleon attempts to rape her, but Missy fights him off, only to be captured by Hades, who scares Chameleon away and savagely rapes Missy himself. The remaining troops attempt to rescue her, with the exception of Stump (Ben Crowley), who is killed by Letch while attempting to climb down the hill without ropes. After being separated from Crank (Jacob Vargas) and Delmar (Lee Thompson Young), Napoleon and Amber cross paths with Chameleon, who they kill. They later locate a non-violent mutant named Hansel (David Reynolds), while escaping Grabber (Gaspar Szabo). Grabber is killed by Crank after shooting Delmar. After reuniting with Napoleon and Amber, Delmar dies from his wounds, and Hansel leads Napoleon, Amber, and Crank to the exit. Along the way Crank is killed by a trapped crate of dynamite that he attempts to take with him, incidentally triggering an explosion. After killing Letch, Napoleon and Amber find the captive Missy, and all three fight Hades, who they manage to kill as well. The three leave the mines, but are watched by an unknown mutant using their surveillance equipment.

This film went as far as a sequal can go really, the story was pretty good, the acting was as you would expect given the situation the characters are in, the locations are great, the level of gore and gross out scenes was great, it was a fun enjoyable movie horror fans will love it!

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: HANSEL & GRETAL: WITCH HUNTERS

CAST

Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Gemma Arterton (The Voices)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Pihla Viitala (August)
Derek Mears (Friday The 13th)
Robin Atkins Downes (Babylon 5)
Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street)
Zoe Bell (Raze)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)
Thomas Mann (Project X)

Gemma Arterton in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)Abandoned by their father deep in a forest, young Hansel and Gretel enter a gingerbread house and are captured by a cannibalistic witch. The witch forces Hansel to continuously eat candy to fatten him up, and enslaves Gretel, ordering her to prepare the oven, but the siblings outsmart her and incinerate her in the fire of the oven. In the fifteen years that follow, Hansel and Gretel become famed witch hunters, slaying hundreds of witches. The pair find that they are somehow immune to spells and curses, but the incident in the gingerbread house has left Hansel diabetic. He needs a shot of insulin every few hours or he will get sick and die.Jeremy Renner in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)Hansel and Gretel arrive in the town of Augsburg and immediately prevent Sheriff Berringer from executing a young woman named Mina for witchcraft. Mayor Englemann tells the crowd that he has hired the siblings to rescue several children presumed abducted by witches. Berringer hires trackers for the same mission in the hopes of disgracing the mayor and cementing his power. All but one of the sheriff’s party are killed that night by the powerful grand witch Muriel, who sends one man back to the town tavern as a warning to the locals. Hansel and Gretel, along with the Mayor’s deputy Jackson, capture one of Muriel’s witches and interrogate her. They discover that the witches are preparing for the coming Blood Moon, where they plan to sacrifice twelve children in order to gain an immunity to fire. Muriel, accompanied by her witches and a troll named Edward, attack the town and abduct the final child. Muriel kills Jackson and launches Gretel out a window, rendering her unconscious. Gretel is rescued by Ben, a local teenager who is a fan of theirs and plans to be a witch hunter himself. Hansel grabs onto a fleeing witch by her broomstick, but falls and is lost in the forest.
Jeremy Renner in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)The next morning, Hansel is found hanging from a tree by Mina. She takes him to a nearby spring where she heals his wounds and makes love to him. Gretel searches for Hansel in the forest but is attacked by Sheriff Berringer and his posse. The men capture and beat Gretel before being stopped by Edward, who kills the sheriff and his men. Edward tends Gretel’s wounds and tells her that he helped her because trolls serve witches. Hansel and Gretel reunite at an abandoned cabin, which they discover is both a witch’s lair and their childhood home. Muriel appears in front of them, telling them the truth of their past. She reveals that Hansel and Gretel’s mother was a grand white witch named Adrianna who married a farmer. On the night of the last Blood Moon, Muriel planned to use the heart of the white witch to complete her potion. She found Adrianna too powerful and decided to use Gretel’s heart instead. To get rid of Adrianna, Muriel revealed to the townspeople that Adrianna was a witch. The townspeople burned her alive and hung Hansel and Gretel’s father. Following this revelation, the siblings battle Muriel before she stabs Hansel and abducts Gretel for the ceremony.
Jeremy Renner in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)Hansel wakes up with Mina, who reveals herself to be a white witch. She heals his wounds again and uses a grimoire to bless Hansel’s arsenal of weapons. Hansel, Mina, and Ben head out to disrupt the Blood Moon Sabbath. Mina begins slaughtering dark witches with a Gatling gun, while Hansel squares off against Muriel’s witches and frees the children. Edward defies Muriel’s orders and releases Gretel before Muriel throws him off the cliff. Muriel flees on a broomstick, but Ben manages to shoot her and forces her to crash. Hansel goes after Muriel while Gretel stops to revive Edward. Hansel, Ben, and Mina follow Muriel’s trail to the original gingerbread house. Muriel wounds Ben and kills Mina before Hansel shoots her several times, knocking her into the house. Gretel arrives and the pair engage Muriel in a brutal fight that ends with Muriel being beheaded with a shovel. They burn Muriel’s body on a pyre and collect their reward for rescuing the children. They head out on their next witch hunt accompanied by Ben and Edward.Jeremy Renner, Pihla Viitala, and Gemma Arterton in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)A very enjoyable fantasy horror film.  Good fun if not taken seriously this is a tongue in cheek very gory and over the top film. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton somehow play it completely straight as Hansel and Gretel while everybody else including Famke Jensson as a witch the pair are after and Peter Stormare as the sherriff of a small town ham it up completely. With impressive special effects and good action scenes and the ending seems to set up a sequel. A great fun film.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION

CAST (VOICES)

Paul Mercier (The Legend of Prince Valiant)
Alyson Court (X-Men:TAS)
Laura Bailey (Justice League vs Teen Titans)
Roger Craig Smith (Batman Ninja)
Crispin Freeman (Justice League Action)
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (The Avengers: EMH)
Michelle Ruff (Speed Racer X)
Michael Sorich (VR Troopers)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men)
Salli Saffioti (Rabbit Hole)
Johnny Yong Bosch (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Michael McConnohie (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Kari Wahlgren (Rick and Morty)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Troy Baker (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Derek Mears (The Flash)

On November 2005, Harvardville Airport falls victim to a T-virus attack both from inside the terminal and a crashlanded airline plane. TerraSave worker Claire Redfield coincidentally runs into Senator Ron Davis; they are forced to hide in the VIP lounge with Rani, niece of a TerraSave employee. By nightfall, the airport has been locked down by the local Special Response Team and the United States Marine Corps, aiding evacuated survivors. Officers Angela Miller and Greg Glenn are joined by federal agent Leon S. Kennedy. Claire’s group is rescued; however, they are forced to leave the infected Greg. Trucks from WilPharma arrive to administer the T-vaccine, but are destroyed by explosives. Leon reveals that a terrorist has threatened to unleash the T-virus throughout the U.S. should government officials involved in its creation not be revealed by midnight.Alyson Court, Paul Mercier, and Michael Sorich in Baiohazâdo: Dijenerêshon (2008)Claire accompanies WilPharma Head Researcher Frederic Downing to their Harvardville research facility. Downing reveals plans to make a G-virus vaccine next, angering Claire because of its extreme danger. Excusing himself, Downing leaves Claire in his office. Claire informs Leon about what Downing told her, and learns that he and Angela have found the house of her brother Curtis on fire. Downing phones Claire, warning her about a man who has activated a time bomb. Claire briefly spots Curtis in the building’s central garden, only for the bomb to detonate. Leon and Angela arrive at the facility and split up, Leon reunites with Claire, while Angela reunites with Curtis. Curtis reveals the American government’s involvement in covering up Raccoon City’s destruction. Having injected the G-virus, he mutates and kills a squad of Army Rangers. Leon saves Angela as the atrium garden begins to fall apart, with the wreckage temporarily crushing Curtis. The computer system then incinerates the building in order to prevent the viruses from spreading. Angela and Leon jump into a pool of water to avoid being incinerated. After shooting a glass partition to avoid drowning, the two find themselves in an underground area. Meanwhile, Claire makes it to the command center, attempting to halt a biohazard alarm and open the building. However, the detection of Curtis triggers an outbreak containment method in which the laboratory falls into the abyss.Paul Mercier and Laura Bailey in Baiohazâdo: Dijenerêshon (2008)Curtis attacks them, seeing Leon as a threat and Angela as a mate. Curtis briefly regains control, telling Angela to run before losing himself again. As the sections are ejected, Leon and Angela evade Curtis, only to hang from a broken catwalk. About to fall, Curtis grabs hold of Angela’s leg but is shot in the head by Leon, and falls to his death. In the aftermath, Claire accuses Senator Davis of orchestrating everything in order to improve WilPharma stock. Leon reveals Davis is innocent; making Claire realize that Downing is the actual mastermind of the T-vaccine’s destruction, the bombing of the research building, and the recent bioterrorism incidents. Meanwhile, Downing talks to General Grandé, a client of his eager to buy the T-virus now that news reports have revealed its potential, though he warns against using the G-virus. Waiting for a contact to sell WilPharma information to, Downing mistakes a car containing Leon and Claire for his contact; soon after, he is arrested by the police for his crimes.The next day, Leon and Claire meet with a despondent Angela. Leon reveals Downing confessed to being a former Umbrella researcher who stole both viruses and escaped prior to the Raccoon City incident and created his current identity. Downing used his alias to sell the viruses to a list of potential customers while researching the vaccine. Angela realizes Downing manipulated Curtis, but Claire notes that even though this does not clear his name, he wants to prevent another Raccoon City just like she, Leon, and Angela do. Meanwhile, news reports reveal Davis has resigned from office over allegations of insider stock trading with WilPharma stocks. A newspaper draped over Davis’ face reveals that another company, Tricell Incorporated, has offered to purchase the now-bankrupt WilPharma. At this point, Davis is revealed to have been assassinated by Tricell, with the company deleting all of Davis’s computer files on WilPharma and recovering G-Virus samples from Curtis’s corpse.Alyson Court, Paul Mercier, and Laura Bailey in Baiohazâdo: Dijenerêshon (2008)Overall, this film had several flaws, some worse than others, but together it wasn’t terrible. Not the best film I’ve seen, but I liked it in general, enjoyed it, and I believe it was far from the worst film ever. Especially since this film isn’t meant to be enjoyed by everyone.

 

 

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)

Kevin Durand and Derek Mears 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.Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in 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.Derek Mears 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 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: ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

Starring

Rosa Salazar (Bird Box)
Christoph Waltz (The Legend of Tarzan)
Keean Johnson (Midway)
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jennifer Connelly (Noah)
Ed Skrein (Deadpool)
Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)
Lana Condor (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Idara Victor (Starved)
Eiza González (Baby Driver)
Jeff Fahey (Planet Terror)
Rick Yune (The Fast and The Furious)
Derek Mears (Swamp Thing)
Marko Zaror (Machete Kills)
Casper Van Dien (Starship troopers)
Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad)
Edward Norton (Fight Club)
Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar)

Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)In 2563, 300 years after Earth is devastated by a catastrophic interplanetary war known as “The Fall” or “The Great War”, scientist Dr. Dyson Ido discovers a disembodied female cyborg with an intact human like brain. Ido attaches a new cyborg body to the brain and names her “Alita” after his deceased daughter. Alita awakens with no memory of her past, meets Dr. Chiren, Ido’s estranged ex-wife, and befriends Hugo, who dreams of moving to the wealthy sky city of Zalem. Hugo introduces Alita to Motorball, a battle royale racing sport played by cyborg gladiators. Secretly, Hugo robs cyborgs of their parts for Vector, owner of the Motorball tournament.Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)One night, Alita follows Ido; they are ambushed by cyborg serial killers led by Grewishka. Ido is injured, and Alita instinctively fights using “Panzer Kunst” (a German expression, meaning “the art of the armor” literally “armor art”), a lost combat art for machine bodies, kills two of the cyborgs and damages Grewishka, who retreats underground. Ido reveals that he is a Hunter-Warrior. Grewishka goes to Dr. Chiren for help, who is working for Vector. Despite Alita believing that fighting will help her rediscover her past, Ido discourages her from becoming a Hunter-Warrior. Alita finds a highly advanced cyborg body in a crashed spaceship outside the city. Recognizing that the body is a Berserker — deadly shock troops of the enemy nation United Republics of Mars (URM) from the Great War — Ido refuses to install Alita in it.Rosa Salazar and Keean Johnson in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)Frustrated with Ido, Alita goes off by herself and registers as a Hunter-Warrior. At the Kansas Bar, she and Hugo are unable to recruit other Hunter-Warriors to her cause of taking down Grewishka. Zapan, a Hunter-Warrior, provokes Alita, and she severely beats him in a fight, triggering a chaotic bar brawl until Ido intervenes. An upgraded Grewishka arrives and challenges Alita to a duel, revealing that he has been sent by Zalem’s technocrat overlord, Nova, to destroy her. Despite her courage and combat skills, Alita’s body is sliced up by Grewishka’s chain-bladed fingers, but Ido, Hugo and Hunter-Warrior McTeague arrive and force Grewishka to retreat. Ido apologizes and transplants Alita into the Berserker body.Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)Having fallen in love with Hugo, Alita enters a Motorball tryout race for the prize money to send Hugo to Zalem. Hugo’s relationship with Alita leads him to decide to quit his secret job. He confronts Tanji, but Zapan appears, murdering Tanji and the cyborg and framing Hugo, though he escapes and calls Alita for help; she abandons the race and finds him just as Zapan does. Zapan mortally wounds Hugo. Dr. Chiren offers to save Hugo by attaching his severed head to Alita’s life support system. When Zapan sees through the trick and attempts to stop Alita, the guard mech stops Zapan from stealing her claim on Hugo’s bounty, and Alita seizes his prized Damascus blade and slices most of his face off.Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)Ido transplants Hugo’s head onto a cyborg body and tells Alita that Vector’s offer to help Hugo reach Zalem was a lie; as an exiled citizen of Zalem, Ido is certain that citizens of Iron City cannot enter Zalem unless becoming a motorball champion. Alita storms the factory and confronts Vector, who reveals that Chiren has been harvested for her organs. Vector summons Grewishka, but Alita’s new nanotechnological body allows her to easily destroy him. She forces Nova to speak to her through Vector. When Nova threatens to harm her friends, Alita fatally stabs Vector. Ido tells Alita that Hugo has fled to climb a cargo tube towards Zalem. Alita catches up to him and pleads with him to return with her. He agrees, but a serrated defense ring dropped by Nova shreds his body and throws him off the tube. Alita catches him but cannot pull him up, as his arm is breaking off. Hugo thanks Alita for saving him before falling to his death.Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)Months later, Alita is the star of the Motorball tournament. Cheered on by the crowd, she pledges vengeance by pointing her sword toward Zalem, where Nova watches from above, smirking.Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)Marvelous effect with some great actions make this movie not to be missed seeing it in the big screen. But the thing I love the most is Alita herself. There were a few times I had a smile on myself watching Alita as she was so loveable and badass. Really really hope it will goes beyond just this one movie as the world building in Alita was so fascinating and of course, need to see more Alita.