Reviews

Bones: Season 3

Rachel Kipp

It's creepy (some of the time), kooky (all of the time) and altogether ooky.


Bones

Distributor: Fox / MGM
Cast: David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Michaela Conlin, Eric Millegan, Tamara Taylor, T.J. Thyne, John Francis Dailey
Network: Fox
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2008-11-18
Amazon

In the world of television procedurals, Bones is the equivalent of The Addams Family. It’s creepy (some of the time), kooky (all of the time) and the horribly disfigured bodies probed by forensic anthropologist Temperance “Bones” Brennan are altogether ooky.

Bones isn’t one of those shows that takes great chances or knocks you out with its intricate storytelling. Almost none of the episodes inspire real introspection but that’s OK because Bones brings a sense of fun that is no less welcome – or needed – on television.

It’s the kind of show where solving a case while wearing a Wonder Woman costume or a crime that centers on sexual horseplay is par for the course. Even when the plots take a serious turn, Bones coats along in a cloud of mirth.

For its third season, the producers of Bones decided to take a page from the serialized drama playbook and give the show the jumpstart of a season-long mystery. The first episode introduced a cannibalistic serial killer and an entire mythology that would be investigated by Brennan (Emily Deschanel), her FBI partner, Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and the rest of the team.

Instead of proving that Bones can dig deeper, the plot shows why the producers should stick to the formula that works so well. The serial killer plot ultimately became a huge failure that stinks up the show just as well as any of the decomposing bodies that end up on Brennan’s exam table.

Part of the blame falls with last year’s Writer’s Guild of America strike. Hollywood shut down right around the time that the Bones writers were getting to the meat of a complex story of a ritualistic killer who saves one bone from each victim to replace the corresponding piece of a silver skeleton.

Once the strike ended, the producers of Bones and most American broadcast network series had half as many episodes to tell a season’s worth of stories.

It’s impossible to know just how much the strike changed the writer’s plans for the identity of the killer, nicknamed Gormogon, and his connection to a member of Brennan’s team of egghead “squints.”

With so little time to wrap up the story, the minds behind Bones could have continued the Gormogon case into season four, or changed the conclusion to match the episodes that made it to air. Instead, they chose to go ahead with a season finale shocker that is horribly awkward and implausible.

The reveal (spoiler alert!) that Brennan’s ultra-rational assistant, Zack Addy (Eric Millegan), had become Gormogon’s apprentice killer could have ruined the show. It didn’t, and most of the credit has to go to the cast.

When the characters learn of Zack’s betrayal, there is not one false note of emotion from the actors. Watching these finale scenes almost feels criminal, however, because it’s so easy to wonder how affecting the episode could have been if clues to the twist had been carefully plotted throughout the season. But there was no time to plant evidence of Zack’s fall and the producers apparently decided that the big finish was more important that the build-up.

(Bones lovers did get one, small, benefit from the strike. The DVD set is filled out with three episodes from season four, including the two-hour long London-set premiere.)

There is plenty to love about Bones season three. But the only way to appreciate the good stuff is to ignore the disaster that was the Gormogon plot. My advice to those who purchase the DVD set is to watch the episodes out of order.

Start with “The Baby in the Bough”, a fan fantasy of an episode that casts the endlessly bickering Booth and Bones as surrogate parents to an infant who has accidentally ingested some evidence. The DVD includes an extended version of the episode with additional scenes that shed more light on the growing maternal feelings on the part of Brennan, a former foster child who has said she has no plans to reproduce.

Next, check out “The Santa in the Slush”, which includes the first-kiss payoff to three years’ of sexual tension between Booth and Bones. The DVD includes an extended cut of the smooch. The entire episode is a testament to the quirky chemistry between Deschanel and Boreanaz.

Finish with “The Verdict in the Story”, the conclusion to an ongoing plot that actually worked – the discovery that Brennan’s long-lost dad was really a criminal. Ryan O’Neal is on hand as Brennan’s sociopathic, yet endearing, father, as are a number of other wacky recurring players. More importantly, however, the team mines this story for real, honest emotion that is bolstered, rather than deflated, by the plot.

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Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


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(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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