REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987) – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Roy Dotrice (Game of Thrones)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

David Greenlee (Fame)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Joseph Campanella (Hangar 18)
Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Series)
Katy Boyer (The Island)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Bill Calvert (Spider-Man)
Cyd Strittmatter (Gone Girl)
Bruce Abbott (The Net)
Remy Ryan (Robocop 3)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Piper Laurie (Carrie)
John McMartin (No Reservations)
Elyssa Davalos (MacGyver)
Kelli Williams (Lie To Me)
Rosemary Dunsmore (Orphan Black)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Gary Hudson (Road House)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)

26aefdfe75e396171a91adf55d86b177Though set in the late-1980s, Beauty and the Beast plays like something from another era. There’s no irony, cynicism, or hip quips to break the spell of the fantasy (though a little humor would’ve been nice). Catherine (Linda Hamilton) loves the beastly, if beneficent Vincent (Ron Perlman) with all her heart–and vice versa. Together, they’re TV’s most soft-hearted crime fighters. To the show’s credit, however, they aren’t infallible, and there are a few problems they’re unable to solve, whether the issue is drug addiction (“Chamber Music”), infectious disease (“Ashes, Ashes” with Highlander‘s Adrian Paul), or murder (“The Hollow Men”).

2In retrospect, it’s clear that Beauty and the Beast was a reaction to the “greed is good” era. Vincent and his cave-dwelling compatriots represent a more compassionate alternative to “topsider” corruption. Yet all is not harmonious below either. Seriously injured the previous year, Paracelsus (Tony Jay) becomes a Phantom of the Opera-type figure, who aims to destroy Vincent’s candle-lit utopia. In addition, a less civilized group of outcasts arrives in “The Outsiders.” Fortunately, Vincent has Father (Roy Dotrice), Mary (Ellen Geer), Mouse (David Greenlee), and Pascal (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Armin Shimerman) on his side.maxresdefaultUnfortunately, they won’t be able to prevent the tragedy that occurs in “The Rest Is Silence.” Suffice to say, the season finale sets the scene for a new direction (more is revealed in the third-season opener). Consequently, Beauty and the Beast was canceled the following year, but still managed to rack up 18 Emmy nominations (winning six), spawning a soundtrack, and even inspiring some Saturday Night Live spoofing–a sure sign it had struck a chord. While the first season was devoid of extras, Perlman and Hamilton introduce six key episodes on this set..2Being a big B&B fan, I can find no wrong with this Season 2. Loved every episode. This entire series has so much soul, that you will dwell on each episode long after they are over. Can’t go wrong with this one.

 

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: THE ORVILLE – SEASON 2

Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, and Halston Sage in The Orville (2017)

Starring

Seth MacFarlane (Sing)

Adrianne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Penny Johsnon Jerald (Star Trek: DS9)

Scott Grimes (American Dad)

Peter Macon (Shameless)

Halston Sage (Goosebumps)

J. Lee (Family Guy)

Mark Jackson (The Royal Today)
Jessica Szohr (Piranha 3D)

Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki in The Orville (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Will Sasso (Mom)
Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show)
Chris Johnson (The Vampire Diaries)
Jason Alexander (Shallow Hal)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Chad L. Coleman (Arrow)
Lesley Fera (Pretty Little Liars)
Candice King (The Vampire Diaries)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Kerry O’Malley (Annabelle: Creation)
Patrick Warburton (Ted)
Molly Hagan (No Good Nick)
Norm MacDonald (Dr. Dolittle)
Michaela McManus (SEAL Team)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
John Rubinstein (Angel)
Kevin Daniels (Atypical)
Wren T. Brown (Whoopi)
Bruce Willis (Glass)
Nick Chinlund (Training Day)
Mackenzie Astin (The Magicians)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Sarah Scott (The Artist)
F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus)
Rena Owen (Siren)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: TNG)

The Orville has really surprised me in how great it has become. Already at Season 2, the show has totally found itself. I was skeptical at first I remember… thinking, meh, comedy in space? Yeah that’s been done before, and it’s failed. But while the show has comedic elements, I don’t really think I would classify it as a comedy sci-fi as much as I would a sci-fi built on a comedic base which somehow successfully delivers complex science fiction ideas with sometimes very serious overtones.Seth MacFarlane in The Orville (2017)While it does not take itself seriously at all in the broad sense, it actually does to a degree in other areas. It explores complex philosophical topics. It delivers nail biting action sequences. It has a sense of humor that’s really casual and easy to digest, and sometimes awkward but overall positive. Perhaps the best thing about the Orville are the characters. They are all quite fascinating, and I feel that they are explored in a way that brings depth and keeps me wanting to know more about them and follow them on their journey. I think that while it is largely influenced by Star Trek the next generation, the world it explores seems fresh and interesting.Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson in The Orville (2017)The storytelling is episodic so you can enjoy one show and one show only, but there are several threads that weave their way through multiple episodes. Again, the show really succeeds here in being episodic yet really glued together as a complete whole. They didn’t spare budget too… in Season two, you can clearly see they’ve gone all out in the special effects budget. While it is ‘made for TV’ quality, it’s very good ‘made for TV’ quality.Seth MacFarlane and J. Lee in The Orville (2017)Overall, I would recommend this series with great enthusiasm to anyone who loves science fiction. Orville, while heavily influenced by Star Trek, has become its own thing… a unique blend that just works. Watch it and enjoy!