Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 3 (1998 – 1999)

Yes, that’s right, still rewatching and reviewing all seasons of this show… mom and I just forget to keep watching every now and then, which is why it’s been so long between the previous “Buffy” review and this one. So let’s get into it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3.

After disappearing during the summer post season 2, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) returns once again to her loved ones in Sunnydale, all of them of course a bit peeved that she bolted without much of a word. And as we follow Buffy trying to get back in to the swing of slayer things AND earn back the trust of those she loves, a new slayer named Faith (Eliza Dushku) arrives in town and ends up stirring some stuff up. All the while the city’s affable mayor (Harry Groener) plots sinister things in the shadows. As with the previous seasons, the episodes here are a mix of one-off monster plots, main story, and whatever else the writers came up with. And the blend of these elements feels stronger than ever. Yes, there are moments and episodes that are somewhat weaker than others, as with any 20+ episode series, but compared to the first two seasons, there’s fewer of those dud moments in my opinion. The storyline here is more ambitious, the schlock a bit more fun, the consequences of characters’ actions a bit more impactful. It’s just overall the strongest in terms of storytelling (so far).

The characters are just as well written, nuanced, flawed, colorful, and interesting as they’ve always been, with their various dynamics being tested at every turn to great effect, creating engaging drama and character development. The returning main cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, and Kristine Sutherland are all terrific and all get moments to shine. Newcomer Eliza Dushku kills it as Faith, this new slayer in town who is a bit of a wild card, helping create some wonderful tension in the show. Harry Groener is wonderful as the town’s mayor/season’s main antagonist, playing him as this super friendly and clean (both literally and metaphorically) guy who also happens to be involved in some shady shit. And all other actors that appear this season are all great too.

As with season 2, the score for season 3 was composed by Christophe Beck, who in his previous outing already gave us a huge step up in the show’s background music. And yet the crazy motherfucker stepped it up even further this time around. The instrumentation is crisper and more playful, giving us a lot of interesting melodies and a unique soundscape that is perfectly fitting for this show. There’s also a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout, and they all work well in their respective scenes.

Season 3 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of talented people, all doing (for the most part) great work in their departments. Effects (for the most part) are improved, pacing holds up way better, and the cinematography generally is quite pleasing. The crew knew how to keep things exciting, intimate, or suspenseful in any given scene, showing how they’ve evolved since that rocky first season.

This show/season has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a user score of 7.6/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

Season 3 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is another step up for the show, giving us another stellar set of episodes. The story is great, the characters are great, the performances are fantastic, the music’s great, and the directing/cinematography is great. Time for my final score. *Bleh, I am vampire*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 is a 9.94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 is now completed.

Just kidding, by the way, I’m not actually a vampire… too much of a recluse to be bitten.

Series Review: Doom Patrol – Season 2 (2020)

Last year I watched (and reviewed, nudge nudge wink wink) the first season of this show. I absolutely loved it. So now that I finally finished season 2, the question becomes “Is the show able to follow up on such a strong first outing?”. Well, today we’re gonna find that out.

Ladies and gents… “Doom Patrol” season 2!

We once again follow the dysfunctional adoptive “family” of mad scientist Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), now recently having added Caulder’s real, estranged daughter Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) to their mix. All the while they deal with their own personal demons in the chaotic and often destructive ways we’ve come to know from them. As with the first season, the sophomore outing of “Doom Patrol” isn’t afraid of exploring the stranger sides of the DC Universe, giving us some of the strangest and most insane characters from the comics. And while this helps create some absurd hilarity throughout, the writers still take the time to really take us into the characters’ heads and dramas, creating a strong emotional bond that keeps the viewer invested in everything going on, even when things get absolutely fucking bonkers. It’s a damn good mix of strange, hilarious weirdness, and genuinely emotional drama.

The characters in this are flawed, extremely nuanced, colorful, fun, engaging, and overall just insanely interesting. I won’t go into detail with each character as that would take all month, but let it be known that they all have really fascinating arcs this season that add upon developments from the first season quite well. I can at least say that the returning core cast, including people like Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Joivan Wade, Timothy Dalton, Matthew Zuk, and Riley Shanahan all give excellent performances in their respective roles. And newcomer Abigail Shapiro (in her first on screen role no less) holds her own excellently against these more established performers, playing the inexperienced and naive Dorothy beautifully. And some of the supporting and guest actors are great too. It’s just an overall great cast.

As with season 1, the music for season 2 was done mainly by Kevin Kiner, with some assistance by Clint Mansell. And good god damn, the score here is excellent. It’s mostly based around synths, but it helps create a sound that is a little weird and otherworldly, perfectly befitting of this show’s overall tone, fitting both the insane and emotional sides of the narrative. There’s also a bunch of licensed songs used throughout, and they work quite well in their respective scenes.

The episodes of “Doom Patrol” season 2 were written and directed by a whole bunch of people, and the craft on display here is superb. The shot composition is great, the pacing is great, the cinematography is beautiful, everything just together perfectly. Even the special effects have had a bit of a step up in quality, from being very hit and miss in the first season to all looking pretty damn good here. And as implied earlier, this show has a fair bit of comedy to it. And I felt like it all landed, creating many loud, belly laughs.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating. On Metacritic it has no score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.0/10.

Season 2 of “Doom Patrol” is another excellent batch of insane, emotionally resonant stories. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, great directing/cinematography, and hilarious comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Doom Patrol” season 2 is a 9,94/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Doom Patrol” season 2 is now completed.

Long live weirdness.

Movie Review: Lilja 4-ever (2002)

Hello there, friends. This is it. The final post.

Got ya there, didn’t I? But in all seriousness, this is the last Summer of the Swedes post I’m doing. I know I didn’t do many posts for this series of mine, but I didn’t intend for it to be an intense deep dive into my country’s filmography, just a bit of motivation to watch a few more films from it than usual. So my mad ramblings will go back to the usual versatility after this. So yeah. Here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Lilja 4-ever”.

16-year old Lilja (Oksana Akinsjina) doesn’t have a great life. Often neglected by her parents, scraping by in life, she finds herself dreaming of a better life somewhere far away from her home in Russia. This movie has a story that seldom lets up when it comes to its drama, it’s a profoundly depressing experience that absolutely haunted my soul for several hours after watching it. Even in some of the light moments where there’s joy on Lilja’s face, there is this underlying sadness to the situation, you know that even though there is this fleeting moment of joy, that is exactly what it is… fleeting. It’s a really well told story that I found utterly compelling, giving us a nuanced look at this young girl’s life… but man, it’s also incredibly sad.

The characters in this don’t really feel like characters, they feel grounded and very real. Oksana Akinsjina plays Lilja, the titular girl. She’s a very complex individual, showing off a ton of realistic nuance that is seldom seen in film And Akinsjina is fantastic in the role. Then we have Artiom Bogutjarskij as Volodya, a young boy who is one of Lilja’s only true friends. Devoted, a little sassy, and clearly crushing on her, he’s an interesting foil for the narrative that helps ground Lilja a bit more, giving her a bit of an anchor when things escalate around her. And Bogutjarskij is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Elina Benenson, Pavel Ponomarjov, Lilija Sjinkarjova, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nathan Larson, and it was good. It’s not very showy, going for a more low-key subtle string-based thing to create drama and emotion, which I think works pretty well. There were also some licensed music for a few scenes. And while I wouldn’t listen to those tracks in my own time, I think they work well enough in their respective scenes, fitting the narrative being told in those moments.

“Lilja 4-ever” was written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, who I think did a fantastic job. His direction has a very fly on the wall kinda of approach, never feeling flashy (bar one weird zoom early on in the film), therefore immersing me even more in the drama. Combine this with the dirty neighborhood we spend so much time in, and you get a world that feels very lived in. It all comes together into one hell of an engrossing and real-feeling experience.

This film has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

“Lilja 4-ever” is a really depressing drama that I highly recommend. It has a great story, good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and fantastic directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Lilja 4-ever” is a 9,57/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Lilja 4-ever” is now completed.

I highly recommend bringing a pet or a loved one. Not because it’s a good date movie, but because you might need someone to hug when your heart gets crushed.

Movie Review: The Wedding Photographer (2009)

I enjoy a bit of photography. I may not own an actual camera (though I’d really like to), but if I see potential in a spot or situation then I whip out my phone and snap a pic. Even during the Summer, this Swede takes some pictures. Wow, that was a clumsy tie-in to this series of mine… fuck it, it works.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Wedding Photographer” (Original title: Bröllopsfotografen).

After the place he works at shuts down, Robin (Björn A. Ling) decides to take this new opportunity to move to Stockholm and pursue his dream of becoming a wedding photographer. And as he starts acquiring work and nestling himself in with some of the finer folks of the city, his life starts changing quite a bit. What at the start just seems like a romantic comedy with a poor goofball in a rich man’s world spin soon turns into more of a satire of class divide and how people might change if they try to look good for the allegedly “fine” people out there. And I found myself very entertained by the narrative. Sure, it’s not the most original premise, I could probably even think of a few films with similar setups, but as per usual it’s the execution that matters. And the execution of the story here is fun and entertaining, with a few decent nuances on occasion. The pacing does drag a little in a few parts, but for the most part I found myself just having a good time with the story here.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, and overall just entertaining. Björn A. Lind (credited here as Björn Starrin) plays Robin, a likable and somewhat ambitious young man hailing from the boonies in the northwest of Sweden. He has a bit of an interesting arc here that I found surprisingly engaging. And Lind is really good in the role. Next we have Kjell Bergqvist as Jonny Björk, a former comedian trying to make it as a more serious actor. He’s the one helping Robin get his foot in the door, and their bond is one of the best parts of the movie. And Bergqvist is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Tuva Novotny, Johannes Brost, Lotta Tejle, Johan Östling, Anastasios Soulis, and many more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the film was composed by Jimmy Lagnefors, and it was okay. A bit charming, a bit dramatic, a bit eclectic. It works for the most part within the various scenes, even if it feels a little weird or eclectic at times.

“The Wedding Photographer” was written, edited, and directed by Ulf Malmros, and I think he did a really good job with it. He has a good way of keeping energy up in scenes without making anything feel rushed, creating a vibe that made me really feel part of the experience. I also have to mention the cinematography by Mats Olofsson, because it’s great. A lot of fun long takes, some clever camera movements, it just adds another layer of quality to the storytelling and overall enjoyment.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% audience score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

While I think some of the humor will get lost in translation, I highly enjoyed “The Wedding Photographer”. It has a fun plot, good characters, great performances, okay music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Wedding Photographer” is an 8,44/10. So I’d argue that it can be worth buying.

My review of “The Wedding Photographer” is now completed.

Say cheese.

Series Review: Brotherhood – Season 1 (2002)

What, you thought Summer of the Swedes was only about movies? Ahahaha, well to be honest, so did I at first. But hey, shit changes sometimes, you know. So anyhow, shall we get into the review?

Ladies and gentlemen… “Brotherhood” (original title: Tusenbröder) season 1.

Jan “Hoffa” Lenhoff (Ola Rapace) is a young family man who decides to open up a painting business with his friends (Shanti Roney, Danilo Bejarano). However, when things start going less than stellar for the business, the gang will have to resort to less legal methods to make ends meet. Generally speaking, this is a drama about family and the bond between the main trio (hence the show’s title), that just happens to feature some crime elements to help push the drama along. And I must say, I found myself quite compelled by the narrative here. I’m not saying that it’s one of the best stories out there, but I was definitely surprised at all the little nuances that the show presented. It’s not just “Oh, some good dudes falling on hard times, everything that happens can be somewhat justified”. The story here makes you question everything going on, makes you think about events from multiple angles, creating some really engaging tension and conflict throughout the five episodes.

Like the story before them, the characters of this show come with a surprising amount of nuance. Ola Rapace (credited in the show as Ola Norell) plays Hoffa, a man who loves his family, his friends, and wants to make sure his life goes smoothly. And over the course of the season we get to see his various conflicts, from his tense relationship with his dad, to the bond he has with his friends getting tested, to his inner turmoil around the illegal stuff he has to take part in. It’s all good stuff, and Rapace is really good in the role. Next we have Shanti Roney as Niklas, one of Hoffa’s best friends. At the start he just seems like the generally meek one of the group, and over the show we get to see him evolve in some really intriguing ways that make him a really fascinating character. And Roney is great in the role. Next we have Danilo Bejarano as Hamid, the third member of the main trio. He’s probably the one in the group with the least bit of development, while still being an interesting an vital part of the group when it comes to the drama. And Bejarano is good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Anja Lundqvist, Sofia Helin, Lisa Lindgren, Tomas Pontén, Krister Henriksson, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Martin Hansen and Mikael Nord Andersson. And I thought it was great. It’s generally speaking based around a blues-inspired acoustic guitar, which I think works in elevating the already solid drama on display here. As far as the licensed music goes, some of it works fine, and some songs don’t. There’s one or two tracks that actually took me out of the scene because of how it didn’t completely fit with the intended tone. So yeah, score’s great, licensed music can be hit or miss.

The show was created by Lars Lundström, with Erik Leijonborg directing all five episodes this season. And I must say that while the show looks like it was shot on a Sony Potato™, I can’t fault the overall direction. Leijonborg’s direction may not be flashy or even necessarily visually appealing, but I do think that works to the show’s advantage, seeing that it kinda fits the blue collar perspective the characters come from. With this said, some of the editing in a few scenes felt a little… janky. For the most part it’s fine, fairly standard stuff, but there’s a few scenes where it could be a little bit off. It’s nothing totally game breaking, but I felt that it’s worth pointing out.

On imdb.com, the show has a score of 8.2/10.

While it does have a few flaws in the technical department, season 1 of “Brotherhood” is a surprisingly great little drama series. It has a really good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Brotherhood” is an 8,82/10. So while slightly flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Brotherhood” season 1 is now completed.

Most good Swedish shows I’ve watched have been comedies, so it’s nice finding a quality drama.

Movie Review: Storm (2005)

Summer of the Swedes continues. Look at that face in the thumbnail… someone must’ve stolen his sandwich.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Storm”.

DD (Eric Ericson) is a bit of an aimless loner, just living his life and getting by. But that will soon get flipped turned upside down by the sudden entrances of an enigmatic woman (Eva Röse) and a shadowy organization led by a man in black (Jonas Karlsson). This story is a weird one. It wears a decent bit of its inspirations on its sleeves, and I can see how well the various elements could blend together. However, the story here is an absolute clusterfuck. It jumps between tones, it contradicts some of its own logic, nothing is explained, it’s all just a mess. There are some good moments throughout, but none of it jells in a coherent manner. I can see the ambition, I can see the glimpses of light, but it somehow never fully comes together.

The characters in this, kinda like the story, have decent enough ideas to them, but the execution is a bit iffy. Eric Ericson plays DD (short for Donny Davidsson, if you have to know). He’s a bit of a loner, not because he doesn’t know how to manage people, he does, but because it’s a movie thing, I guess. But as far as protagonists go, he’s not the worst. He’s not one of the best either, but he’s given enough little moments to keep him… fine. Ericson gives a really good performance though. Eva Röse plays Lova, an enigmatic woman who is kind of like Trinity from “The Matrix”, but not quite as interesting. They try, but they fail. Röse is pretty good in the role though. And then we have Jonas Karlsson as the man in black, no wait… man in suit. Anyhow, he’s meant to be a menacing villain who’s also like “Join the dark side”. However, Jonas Karlsson (who’s one of my favorite actors) isn’t menacing. When he’s just talking and tries to convince DD of things, he’s good. But when he’s trying to be a scary villain… no.

The score for the movie was composed by Carl-Michael Herlöfsson, and it was good. It’s not memorable, I don’t really remember much other than decent instrumentation involving some strings and piano… so yeah. Decent, but not memorable.

“Storm” was written by Måns Mårlind, and co-directed by him and Björn Stein. And I guess they did a pretty good job with it. Scenes have a decent flow, and they are not incomprehensible. Though their direction is of course a little bit let down by the mess that is the story… which is then carried by Linus Sandgren’s cinematography, which is quite good.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 54% user rating (no critic rating though). And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.7/10.

“Storm” is a highly ambitious film with some good aspects to it, but overall it is hard to recommend due to being quite a mess. It has a not good story, meh characters, really good performances, okay music, decent direction, and really good cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Storm” is a 4,55/10. So unfortunately I would have to recommend skipping it.

My review of “Storm” is now completed.

Hmm…