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: BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)

CAST
George Clooney (The Perfect Storm)
Chris O’ Donnell (Hawaii Five-O)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)
Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction)
Alicia Silverstone (Clueless)
Michael Gough (Corpse bride)
Pat Hingle (Shaft)
John Glover (Smallville)
Elle Macpherson (The Edge)
Vivica A. Fox (Idle Hands)
Jeep Swenson (The Bad Pack)
Ralf Moeller (The Scorpion King)
Coolio (Daredevil Directors Cut)
Jesse Ventura (The Running Man)
Doug Hutchison (Punisher: War Zone
Kimberly Scott (The Abyss)
Batman and Robin fail to stop Mr. Freeze from stealing a cache of diamonds. They learn that Freeze was once a scientist named Victor Fries, who became dependent on a diamond-powered subzero suit following an accident in a cryogenics lab while working to save his wife, Nora, from a terminal illness called MacGregor’s Syndrome.
Meanwhile, botanist Dr. Pamela Isley is experimenting with the strength serum “Venom” to create mutant plants capable of fighting back against mankind. She is angry that her senior colleague Dr. Jason Woodrue used her Venom to transform a diminutive prisoner into the “super soldier” Bane. She refuses to partner with Woodrue so he tries to kill her with animal-plant toxins and chemicals, causing her to transform into the beautiful Poison Ivy. She kills Woodrue with a venomous kiss and vows to establish botanical supremacy over the world.
Alfred Pennyworth’s niece Barbara Wilson makes a surprise visit from England and is invited to stay at Wayne Manor. Later, Barbara finds the Batcave and creates her own crime-fighting persona with the help of a computer simulation of Alfred. The real Alfred is suffering from MacGregor’s Syndrome. He is, however, in stage 1, for which Mr. Freeze has developed a cure despite being unable to cure his wife’s condition because it is too advanced.
Ivy arrives in Gotham City with Bane as her henchman. She interrupts a Wayne Enterprises press conference at the Gotham Observatory where a giant telescope is being unveiled. Ivy demands Bruce Wayne use his fortune to safeguard the natural environment at the expense of millions of human lives, and Bruce refuses. Ivy appears at the Gotham Botanical Gardens fundraiser, seducing everyone present with her pheromone dust, including the Dynamic Duo, who are there to protect a diamond from Mr. Freeze. When Freeze crashes the event Ivy is instantly captivated by his “ruthless charm”. Freeze is captured by Batman and detained at the Arkham Asylum but is released by Ivy.
Ivy turns off Nora Fries’ life support and makes Freeze believe Batman did it, persuading him that they should destroy Batman along with the society that created him. They plan to turn the observatory’s new telescope into a giant freeze ray to kill all humanity to allow Ivy’s mutant plants to take over the world.
Meanwhile, Robin is under Ivy’s seductive spell and is rebelling against Batman. Robin goes to meet Ivy at her garden hideout, where her venomous kiss fails to kill Robin because Batman had prevailed on him to coat his lips with rubber. Ivy tries to drown Robin in her lily pond and entangles Batman in her crushing vines, but they are able to free themselves when Batgirl arrives and traps Ivy in her own floral throne.
Batgirl reveals herself as Barbara. The three crime-fighters arrive at the Observatory to stop Freeze who has already frozen all of Gotham. Bane attacks Robin and Batgirl, but they incapacitate him and restore him to his original human state. Robin and Batgirl save Gotham by using the observatory’s satellites to reflect sunlight from outer space to thaw the city.
Batman shows Freeze video proof that Ivy pulled the plug on Nora and reveals that Batman was the one who saved her. He vows that Freeze will be allowed to continue his research at Arkham Asylum to cure Nora. Batman asks Freeze for his cure for the first stage of MacGregor’s Syndrome for Alfred and Freeze atones for his misdeeds by giving him two vials of the medicine.
At Arkham, Ivy is joined in her cell by Freeze, who vows to exact revenge on her. Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred is cured and Bruce invites Barbara to live with them, joining Batman and Robin to fight crime as Batgirl.
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Despite the bad reviews and criticism this film has received it is not all doom and gloom. Clooney is an interesting Batman, there are some finely choreographed fights, (a few not all) and there is a fine bike racing montage that is to watch out for. The Alfred sub story is also quite touching.But these are almost forgettable once the ending roles around and you are left with memories of a film that justifies the family viewing tag with some action figures who explain everything for you, some ridiculous costumes and a plot that is simply paper thin