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: ONE FOR THE MONEY

CAST

Katherine Heigl (Roswell)
Jason O’Mara (Resident Evil: Extinction)
Daniel Sunjata (The Dark Knight Rises)
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
Sherri Shepherd (Precious)
Debbie Reynolds (In & Out)
Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit)
Patrick Fischler (Happy!)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Louis Mustillo (Mike & Molly)

 

Katherine Heigl and Jason O'Mara in One for the Money (2012)Stephanie Plum, out of work and out of cash, turns in desperation to her disreputable cousin Vinnie, of Vinnie’s Bail Bonds, for work. Despite having no equipment, training or particular skill she becomes a bail enforcement agent, chasing after Vinnie’s highest stakes bail jumper: Joe Morelli, a former vice cop who is wanted for murder, who also happened to seduce and dump Stephanie back in high school after taking her virginity.
Katherine Heigl in One for the Money (2012)In the midst of the chase, Stephanie has to deal with her meddling family, a problematic tendency of witnesses who die when she gets too close, and lessons in bounty hunting from the mysterious Ranger. When she finally catches up to Morelli, she realizes that the case against him doesn’t add up and that the old flame from their school days may just be rekindling.Katherine Heigl and Daniel Sunjata in One for the Money (2012)This adaptation of Janet Evanivich’s book is well done and a lot of fun. Katherine Heigl is excellent in the role of Stephanie Plum. Apparently the author considered Katherine perfect for this role after seeing her in another movie. This is light entertainment with a few quirks and unpredictable points of view,  and overall a very enjoyable hour and a half.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 5

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)
John Francis Daley (Game Night)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Cyndi Lauper (Here and There)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Christopher B. Duncan (Veronica Mars)
Michael Arden (Bride Wars)
Riki Lindhome (The Muppets)
Eugene Byrd (Arrow)
Tiffany Hines (Nikita)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Kaitlin Doubleday (Empire)
Pej Vahdat (Shameless)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Reggie Austin (Agent Carter)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Cheryl White (Major Crimes)
Paula Newsome (Guess Who)
Josie Davis (The Hot Seat)
Amy Gumenick (Arrow)
Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Andy Umberger (Buffy: TVS)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Ryan Cartwright (Alphas)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Debbie Lee Carrington (Total Recall)
Wynn Everett (Agent Carter)
Martin Klebba (Scrubs)
Sarah Rafferty (Suits)
Lindsay Hollister (Get Smart)
Ralph Waite (The Waltons)
Nakia Burrise (Power Rangers Zeo)
Mickey Jones (Total Recall)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Dorian Missick (The Cape)
Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3)
Penny Johnson Jerald (The Orville)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Dilshad Vadsaria (The Oath)
Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut)
Robert Gant (Supergirl)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)
Henri Lubatti (Angel)
Amanda Schull (Pretty Little Liars)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander 2)
Clea DuVall (Better Call Saul)
Eric Millegan (Phobic)
Megan Hilty (Smash)
Jenica Bergere (Rat Race)
Victor Webster (Mutant X)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Suzy Nakamura (Dead To Me)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Ravil Isyanov (Transformers: Dark of The Moon)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
Michael Des Barres (Poison Ivy 3)
Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica)
William Stanford Davis (A Lot Like Love)
Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist)
Billy Gibbons (Two and a Half Men)

Michaela Conlin, Emily Deschanel, Tamara Taylor, and T.J. Thyne in Bones (2005)At the beginning of the fifth season of the wildly popular forensic drama “Bones,” many viewers tuned in trepidatiously after the spectacularly strange fourth season finale. Thankfully, all fears were allayed and relieved when the fifth season kicked into high gear in the very first episode and maintained that pace throughout the season; “Bones”‘ fifth season is perhaps its greatest yet.David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and Randy Oglesby in Bones (2005)The one thing that has always set “Bones” apart from the countless other procedurals on the airwaves right now is the focus on the characters solving the crimes rather than the crimes themselves, and the strength of this approach shines through brilliantly in every episode of this season.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel return to the roles of Booth and Bones and deliver their strongest performances yet as each character is shaken to their core. As Booth struggles to regain his sense of self, he has to confront the knowledge of his feelings for his partner, while Bones herself goes through a whirlwind of emotion as the emotional barriers she has erected around her heart begin to crumble down, leaving her questioning not only herself but her relationship with Booth as well as her work at the Jeffersonian itself. The tension between the two has never been more delicious or more addictive, and both lead actors knock their roles absolutely out of the park.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)But while the relationship between Booth and Brennan becomes increasingly more complex, the wonderful supporting cast of engaging characters at the Jeffersonian keep the show moving along briskly and lightly. Cam (Tamara Taylor) must run the lab while dealing with the challenge of being a good mother, guiding the team effectively toward each conclusion; Sweets (John Francis Daley) continues to provide invaluable insight into the minds of the team; Angela (Michaela Conlin) remains the emotional heart and soul of the team as she opens her heart to love’s possibilities; and Hodgins (TJ Thyne) struggles with his feelings for Angela as he returns to his abrasive, loveable self.David Boreanaz, Dan Castellaneta, and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)The cases themselves have regained a fascinating light as the mysteries the team confronts become more complex, and the special effects department has outdone themselves in the gore and goop department this year as Booth and Bones investigate some of the most gruesome crime scenes in history, all moved along by the brisk black humor the show excels at; the team investigates a possible secret agent locked in a truck for days, a would-be rocker torn to pieces by an industrial washer/dryer, a gamer literally melted in a vat of fast-food grease, and a dozen more cheerfully disgusting cases where the outcomes of the mysteries hold the power to shock and surprise the audience; the writers have once again caught the perfect balance between the whodunnit and the drama to craft a truly unique show.David Boreanaz and Ralph Waite in Bones (2005)But it’s not merely the cases that hold the viewers’ attention this season; season five is full of true powerhouse episodes: heartbreaking cases like “The Plain in the Prodigy”; darkly comical shows like “The Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; truly shocking mysteries like “The Proof in the Pudding,”; and even a historically fascinating case written by the author of the original Temperance Brennan novels Kathy Reichs herself (“The Witch in the Wardrobe”) — however, all of these merely lead up to the three knockout moments of the season:David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)In the fifth season, “Bones” reaches its 100th episode, “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole.” Likely the most beloved and most contested episode in the show’s history, the 100th episode completely redefined Booth and Brennan’s relationship as it showed the viewers the pair’s first meeting, something never before revealed, and circles around to one of the most hearbreaking and yet most powerfully hopeful moments of the series. “Parts” was also directed by David Boreanaz, one of the series’ leads, and the sheer emotion wrung out of Boreanaz and Deschanel by the end speaks volumes to the talent of the show’s leads.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)As the series continues, however, the characters were shocked to their cores as they were forced to come face-to-face with their most terrifying adversary yet: the cunningly frightening sociopath dubbed The Gravedigger, in “The Boy with the Answer,” a nail-bitingly tense hour of television that had viewers’ hearts pounding as Heather Taffet, the Gravedigger, proved that her true arena was the courtroom, tearing apart her victims and throwing the entire future of Brennan’s life into question.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)This only segues into the season’s amazingly dramatic finale, “The Beginning in the End.” As the team investigates the home of a hoarder, Bones questions what she truly wants to do with her life, Booth’s past comes calling, and Angela’s father blows back into town, all leading to a truly shocking season ender, a masterful finale that not only redefined the very foundations of the show and the characters but also continued to set the show on a rising point, ensuring that every faithful viewer of “Bones” will be frantically waiting for the sixth season to premiere in the fall.