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: HALLOWEEN (2018)

Starring

Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Andi Matichak (Miles)
James Jude Courtney (Far and Away)
Nick Castle (Dark Star)
Will Patton (American Honey)
Virginia Gardner (Runaways)
Haluk Bilginer (Ben-Hur)
Jefferson Hall (Sherlock Holmes)
Toby Huss (R.I.P.D.)
Omar Dorsey (Selma)
P.J. Soles (Carrie)

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (2018)On October 29, 2018, Michael Myers, who has been in Warren County Smith’s Grove Sanitarium for forty years since his killing spree in Haddonfield, is being prepared to be transferred to a new facility. True-crime podcasters Aaron Korey and Dana Haines interview Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Ranbir Sartain, a former student of Dr. Samuel Loomis until he died, before meeting with Michael in hopes of gaining some insight into his past actions. Aaron brandishes the mask that Michael wore in 1978, at him, to no effect.Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer in Halloween (2018)In Haddonfield, Illinois, Laurie Strode is living an isolated life, in her heavily fortified house. She has been divorced twice, has a strained relationship with her daughter Karen, and has turned to alcohol. Laurie is far from happy, as the tragic events from 1978 still haunt her; she has prepared for Michael’s potential return through combat training. The following night, Michael’s transport crashes, and he escapes, killing a father and his son for their car, and returns home to Haddonfield. The following day, on Halloween, Michael spots Aaron and Dana visiting his sister Judith’s grave in the local cemetery, and follows them to a gas station, where he kills them, as well as a mechanic for his coveralls, and recovering his mask. Police officer Hawkins, who arrested Michael in 1978, learns of Michael’s getaway, and tries to convince Sheriff Barker about the danger Michael poses. Laurie discovers Michael’s getaway after overhearing a news broadcast and attempts to warn Karen and her husband Ray, but they dismiss her concerns.Halloween (2018)Later that night, Allyson, Karen’s daughter, finds her boyfriend Cameron cheating on her, and leaves with his best friend, Oscar. Michael steals a kitchen knife, and kills two women. Allyson’s best friend Vicky babysits Julian Morrisey, when Michael fatally stabs Vicky, when she sacrifices herself to protect Julian. Laurie finds Michael, and he and Laurie come face-to-face for the first time in forty years. Laurie shoots Michael, who flees, and she persuades Karen and Ray to seek protection in her house. Michael comes across Allyson and Oscar, killing the latter. Both Hawkins and Sartain, who is now working with the police, arrive just in time to save Allyson. Hawkins subdues Michael, but Sartain – obsessed with Michael’s enigmatic motivations – kills Hawkins before he can kill Michael. Sartain reveals to Allyson that he arranged for Michael’s escape to reinforce his perceived role as an ‘apex predator’ who needs to finish what he started and kill Laurie to reassert himself. Hoping to see his patient in action, Sartain is instead killed by Michael. Allyson flees to Laurie’s house, where Michael appears and kills Ray.Halloween (2018)Laurie manages to get Karen to safety, before she engages in a showdown with Michael. Laurie severely injures Michael and severs two of his fingers, but he pushes her over a balcony; when Michael goes to check Laurie’s body, he finds it missing. Karen shoots Michael in the jaw. Stunned, Michael stumbles in the hallway, when Laurie suddenly appears and attacks him, trapping him inside the basement safe room. Laurie, Karen and Allyson set the house ablaze, and then hitchhike to the back of a passing pickup truck to take the passed out Laurie to the Hospital as the house burns to the ground.Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (2018)I don’t think it is the best film I’ve seen from that year or the best in the series, but it is still one of the better ones from it. The story is interesting enough and helps to clear up issues that were created by all of the sequels. I still like them, don’t get me wrong. I thought the acting was really good, aside from a couple of hiccups. There were some issues with some of the dialogue, but it doesn’t ruin the film for me. The effects are the same way. The score of the film was amazing. This one isn’t like the original in that it’s not stalking the people, but it is more for the body count, which a sequel normally does. I would recommend giving this film a viewing as I thought it was good.

REVIEW: ARMAGEDDON (1998)

CAST
Bruce Willis (Cop Out)
Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa)
Ben Affleck (Gone Girl)
Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk)
Will Patton (Romeo Is Bleeding)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
Peter Stormare (The Brothers Grimm)
Jessica Steen (Mutant X)
Keith David (The Cape)
Jason Isaacs (Resident Evil)
Eddie Griffin (The New Guy)
Stanley Anderson (Spider-Man)
Udo Kier (Blade)
Judith Hoag (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Shawnee Smith (Anger Management)
John Mahon (Angel)
Grace Zabriskie (Arrow)
John Aylward (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Frederick Weller (The Shape of Things)
Charlton Heston (Planet of The Apes)
Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs)
A massive meteor shower destroys the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis and bombards a swath of land from the U.S. East Coast from South Carolina through Finland. NASA discovers that a rogue asteroid the size of Texas passed through the asteroid belt and pushed forward a large amount of space debris. The asteroid will collide with Earth in 18 days, causing an extinction event that will even wipe out bacteria. NASA scientists, led by Dan Truman, plan to trigger a nuclear detonation 800 feet (240 m) inside the asteroid to split it in two, driving the pieces apart so both will fly past the Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper, considered the best deep-sea oil driller in the world, for assistance. Harry travels to NASA with his daughter Grace, to keep her away from her new boyfriend and one of Harry’s drillers, A. J. Frost. Harry explains he will need his team, including A. J., to carry out the mission. They agree to help, but only after their list of unusual rewards and demands are met.
MV5BZDNjYTJiMzYtM2RhOC00NGY3LWE1ZjEtZjFjZDU1MjM4MjZkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDc2NTEzMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1427,1000_AL_
NASA plans to launch two shuttles, Freedom and Independence, to increase the chances of success; the shuttles will refill with liquid oxygen from the Russian space station Mir before making a slingshot maneuver around the Moon to approach the asteroid from behind. NASA puts Harry and his crew through a short and rigorous astronaut training program, while Harry and his team re-outfit the mobile drillers, “Armadillos”, for the job. The destruction of Shanghai by an asteroid fragment forces NASA to reveal the asteroid’s existence, as well as their plan. The shuttles are launched and arrive at Mir, where its sole cosmonaut Lev helps with refueling. A major fire breaks out during the fueling process, forcing the crews, including Lev, to evacuate in the shuttles before Mir explodes. The shuttles perform the slingshot around the moon, but approaching the asteroid, the Independence’s engines are destroyed by trailing debris, and it crashes on the asteroid. Grace, aware A.J. was aboard the Independence, is traumatized by this news. Unknown to the others, A.J., Lev, and “Bear” (another of Harry’s crew) survive the impact and head towards the Freedom target site in their Armadillo.
Meanwhile, Freedom safely lands on the asteroid, but overshoots the target zone, landing on a much harder metallic field than planned, and their drilling quickly falls behind schedule; in desperation, the military initiates “Secondary Protocol” to remotely detonate the nuclear weapon on the asteroid’s surface, despite Truman and Harry’s insistence that it would be ineffective. Truman delays the military, while Harry convinces the shuttle commander to disarm the remote trigger. Harry’s crew continues to work, but in their haste, they accidentally hit a gas pocket, blowing their Armadillo into space. As the world learns of the mission’s apparent failure, another asteroid fragment devastates Paris.
All seems lost until the arrival of the Independence’s Armadillo. With A.J. at the controls, they reach the required depth for the bomb. However, flying debris from the asteroid damages the triggering device, requiring someone to stay behind to manually detonate the bomb. The crew draw straws, and A.J. is selected. As he and Harry exit the airlock, Harry rips off A.J.’s air hose and shoves him back inside, telling him that he was the son Harry never had, and he would be proud to have A.J. marry Grace. Harry prepares to detonate the bomb and contacts Grace to bid his final farewell. After some last minute difficulties involving both the shuttle engines and the detonator, the Freedom moves to a safe distance and Harry manages to press the button at the last minute, while experiencing flashbacks of happy times in his last moments as the bomb successfully splits the asteroid, avoiding the collision with Earth. Freedom lands, and the surviving crew are treated as heroes. A.J. and Grace get married, with photos of Harry and the other lost crew members present.
MV5BNzg5MDY1MjgwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDM0ODAyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1517,1000_AL_

This movie is pure escapism fun, which has its place in my collection, movies like Independence Day and Armageddon are great fun to watch and as a bonus the characters weren’t bad the script was reasonable and action was indeed plentiful.

REVIEW: THE PUNISHER (2004)

 CAST

Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea)
John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Will Patton (November Man)
Roy Schneider (Seaquest)
Laura Harring (Exit To Eden)
Ben Foster (X-Men 3)
Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty)
John Pinette (Alf)
Samantha Mathis (Little Women)
Eddie Jemison (Izombie)
Kevin Nash (John Wick)
Marc Macaulay (Swamp Thing: The Series)

MV5BMTc0NjA3NDcxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SX1535_CR0,0,1535,999_AL_Way back when a character named Frank Castle made his first appearance in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #129. Castle’s family was mowed down by the mob in New York City and he took it upon himself to ‘punish’ all criminals from then on and he became…insert dramatic pause here… The Punisher. The character developed a solid cult following with guest appearances in later issues of Spider-Man as well as Daredevil and he was eventually given his own five issue mini series by Steven Grant and Mike Zeck in the eighties. A regular series followed a few years after that as well as a spin off series or two and a goofy straight to video film starring Dolph Lundgren. Since then series’ have been cancelled, then rejuvenated and since injecting the character with some much needed fresh blood in the form of Preacher team Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the comics seem to be back on track and thus, a new R-Rated big screen adaptation is born.MV5BMjI5MDkxNDA1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1475,1000_AL_In this incarnation, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane – no relation to yours truly) is an undercover agent finishing his last job before he and his lovely wife and son are to go off to London to live happily ever after. When one of the hoods gets shot up and dies in the sting, he Castle finds out the hard way that he was the son of a prominent businessman, Howard Saint (John Travolta). Saint doesn’t take too kindly to the death of his son and decides to pay Castle back in spades by having his entire family killed during a party on the beach at his parent’s house.MV5BMTM1NTI0MzU4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzk5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1510,1000_AL_His family’s death sends Castle into a downward spiral – he starts drinking heavily and becomes a man obsessed with vengeance. He uses his special forces training to trick out some weapons and build himself a small arsenal, which will come in handy when he begins to wage his one-man war on crime. He moves into a run down apartment and befriends three of the tenants there, then proceeds to take Saint and his small army of thugs down a few pegs, proving that revenge truly is a dish best served cold.MV5BMTMxNzY0MzI2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzg5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1486,1000_AL_There aren’t a whole lot of plot twists or deep, original characters in The Punisher. There aren’t any intricate, meaningful discussions on the reasons we’re all on this Earth and it doesn’t really break any new ground in any way whatsoever. What it is though, is pure, unabashed entertainment.MV5BMTQ5NDM0MTUxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDk5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SX1535_CR0,0,1535,999_AL_Despite some very obvious moments where the comic strays from the source material  the character does stay reasonably true to his comic book roots. Jane does a great job as a tough man of few words – playing the strong and silent type with a bit of style and a whole lot of cool. Travolta does a nice job as the heavy, going over the top as he’s prone to do in a few scenes that make him look and sound like a walking talking comic book villain. Throw in some fun cameos and bit parts for the lovely and talented Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men), Roy Scheider (Jaws), and even professional wrestler Kevin Nash and you’ve got a good cast that do a good job with the unashamedly popcorn material they have to work with.MV5BOTg4ODc2ODU3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTg5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1529,1000_AL_Castle’s mission of vengeance is more or less a way to tie together a few different action set pieces in the film, giving the character a reason to kill. Director John Hensleigh ensures that the movie trucks along at a quick pace and that the action scenes are the focal point of the film, but still manages to work a simple but effective story into the shoot-outs and explosions we all want to see.