Series Review: Tulsa King – Season 1 (2022 – 2023)

We live in such a fascinating era in terms of entertainment. From the rollercoaster ride of streaming services, to the dominance of interconnected franchises, to movie stars doing TV, it’s all very interesting to me. And it’s that last one I mentioned that we’re covering today. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Tulsa King” season 1.

Following a 25-year stint in prison, mafioso Dwight Manfredi (Sylvester Stallone) is sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma by his family as a form of exile. While there he almost immediately starts building up his own empire, consisting of a ragtag group of people and enterprises. And so we follow him as he expands this new empire of his, all while both local and federal forces start causing trouble for the old capo. I enjoyed the story here. Sure, it never really goes above and beyond in terms of a crime-drama narrative, remaining a fairly standard, very familiar in its themes and plot threads gangster series. That’s not to say that it’s bad in any way, au contraire. It’s competently written, has some good dramatic escalation, and has some decently riveting, climactic moments. What helps carry it most though is the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While not an outright comedy, the show generally carries itself in a fairly relaxed, somewhat lighthearted way that makes it fairly breezy to watch. Speaking of which, I love that the episodes almost never go above 40 minutes in length, which is something I miss in today’s environment where so many dramas lean towards 60+ minutes. But overall, I enjoyed the story. Fairly unremarkable, but overall pretty solid.

The characters in this are all very colorful, and are all pretty charming and interesting. Sylvester Stallone plays Dwight “The General” Manfredi, a pretty old school mafia capo who still has an open mind, willing to learn about the present, which is a fun diversion from the usual “Man out of time learns about the present” trope that they could’ve easily fallen into. And Stallone is great in the role, bringing a really fun charm we haven’t seen from him in quite a while. Rest of the cast is really solid too, featuring people like Andrea Savage, Jay Will, Martin Starr, Domenick Lombardozzi, Max Casella, Dana Delany, Ritchie Coster (who does a ropey accent, but otherwise acts well), Garrett Hedlund, A.C. Peterson, and more, all delivering really good performances.

The score for the show was composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, and I think they did a good job with it, mixing elements from modern thriller scores, a little bit of traditional piano, and even some western inspirations. And this combination makes for a pretty fun score that works well in setting the mood for the show. There are also a good amount of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work pretty well for their respective scenes.

“Tulsa King” was created by Taylor Sheridan, making this one of five shows he’s created for Paramount in the last five years… talk about being a busy bee. Anyhow, he created it, with writing and directing being done by a bunch of talented people. And generally I think this show’s well crafted, having some slick direction, punchy editing, and some nice looking cinematography. I also like the usage of varying aspect ratios to emphasize the difference between New York and Tulsa, I think that’s a pretty enjoyable part of the show and its craft.

The show/season has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

While it doesn’t necessarily do anything to stand out amongst the vast ocean of crime-dramas out there, season 1 of “Tulsa King” is an enjoyable, if somewhat unremarkable show. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Tulsa King” is a 7.66/10. So I’d say it’s worth watching.

My review of “Tulsa King” season 1 is now completed.

Taylor Sheridan: Writer, director, man behind half of Paramount’s programming.

Movie Review: The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

IT’S FINALLY HERE. God damn staggered release dates, WHY DO YOU EXIST!?

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Banshees of Inisherin”.

On the Irish island of Inisherin, a happy-go-lucky fella named Pádraic (Colin Farrell) finds his world flipped turned upside down when his longtime best friend (Brendan Gleeson) decides that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. And so we follow the two as their rough spot start to escalate further and affect both them and everyone on the island. The storytelling here is absolutely phenomenal, creating an emotionally rich and surprisingly grounded web of ever evolving relationships and personal drama. Even as some situations are heightened to absurdist extremes, the emotional core behind those situations still feels nuanced and believable, leading to them leaving a stronger impact. What further makes the story hit home for me is the perfect balance between dark comedy and devastating drama, which further adds beautiful details to the rich tapestry being weaved before us, which really does help make for a truly compelling narrative that both made me cry from the tragedy, and laugh my ass off at the black, oft absurdist humor.

The characters in this are just absolutely stunning to follow, beautifully nuanced and flawed, having a way of feeling both heightened and very believable at the same time, making for some of the most colorful and instantly fascinating individuals I’ve ever experienced in a film. I won’t go in-depth with each and every one of them however, as I do think part of their impact lies in experiencing them for yourself. But I will say that everyone in the cast is absolutely fucking phenomenal. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Gary Lydon, Pat Shortt, Sheila Flitton, and more, everyone in this cast absolutely excels in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Carter Burwell, and he has positively outdone himself with this one. It’s a fun and layered batch of tracks that beautifully uses a mix of traditional strings, along with some harp, chimes, along with some woodwind to create a score that can be jaunty, heart-wrenching, mysterious, and even terrifying at times, making for an absolutely stunning score that further elevated the beauitful story and characters.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, a director whose previous work I’ve very much been a fan of. And once again he has delivered, even showing a lot of improvement as a visual storyteller. From his blocking, to the way he paces out a scene, McDonagh has very much improved his craft and made a stunningly crafted film. Further adding to this is the cinematography by Ben Davis, which is both general eye candy and stunningly considered, which adds to the visual storytelling in really interesting ways.

This movie’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 87/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10. The movie’s also been nominated for 9 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Farrell), Best Supporting Actress (Condon), Best Supporting Actor (Gleeson AND Keoghan), Best Music, and Best Editing.

So yeah, I absolutely adored “The Banshees of Inisherin”. It has a fantastic story, fantastic characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Banshees of Inisherin” is now completed.

McDonagh doesn’t miss.

Series Review: Under the Banner of Heaven (2022)

Faith is fascinating. A belief in something bigger than ourselves, in something bigger than our very world. Whether it’s christianity, judaism, islam, or any other, I’ve always found that stuff interesting. So explorations of that in film, tv, and other forms of media has often lead to good stories.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Under the Banner of Heaven”.

Utah, 1984. Devout mormon and detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) finds himself tested when the violent murder of a young woman seems to connect to a local, powerful LDS family. So we follow detective Pyre as he tries to solve this horrible crime, as well as how the deeper in he gets, the more his faith starts to waver. And through his investigation we also get a deep look into the Laffertys, the family at the center of this case, and what kinds of fundamentalist actions they get involved in. The show also explores mormonism as a whole, including its origins. “Under the Banner of Heaven” is filled to the brim with story, themes, and backstories, and while I do find most if not all of it fairly riveting, it can also feel like an absolute slog to get through at times. Like, all the pieces here have an emotionally rich texture to them and individually make for really engaging and at times thrilling experiences, but something about the overall structure does make it feel like a drag at times. Like I said, the story and drama is generally insanely riveting, it presents a nuanced and intense look into a massively fucked up and complex situation, but I do think something about its structure does hurt it too.

The characters in this are all insanely interesting and I found them endlessly compelling. Andrew Garfield plays Jeb Pyre (pronounced Pie-ree, as I learned through this), good cop, loving family man, devout mormon. He’s a deeply interesting protagonist with such a fascinating arc and personal conflict, and Andrew Garfield is absolutely fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is well rounded as well, featuring people like Gil Birmingham, Sam Worthington (giving a career best performance), Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, Rory Culkin, Billy Howle, Denise Gough, Adelaide Clemens, Chloe Pirrie, and many more, all delivering top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jeff Ament and it was really good. It mixes a lot of familiar thriller droning with elements of ambient rock and even minor touches of a few subtle western cues, making for a really interesting and atmospheric score that I think adds a lot to the show and its emotional impact.

Based on a book by Jon Krakauer, “Under the Banner of Heaven” was developed for FX by Dustin Lance Black, with writing and directing by him and a bunch of cool people. And I think this is a really well helmed show, a lot of well thought out shots, a lot of suspensefully directed sequences, some very well handled (and disturbing) bursts of violence. It’s somehow both cinematic and somewhat real-feeling, balancing what makes for solid entertainment while still making it feel grounded and gritty and believable. It’s a tricky balance, but they nailed it.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its pacing is bogged down by its hefty structure, “Under the Banner of Heaven” is still a compelling crime-drama that I can easily recommend. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem, Amen*. My final score for “Under the Banner of Heaven” is an 8.32/10. So while it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Under the Banner of Heaven” is now completed.

And then god said “Yo, that Andrew Garfield guy’s pretty good at the whole acting thing” – The Book of Markus, 18:46.2

Movie Review: The Pale Blue Eye (2023)

*inhale*. Can you smell that? First new release of the year. I’m excited.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Pale Blue Eye”.

New York, 1830. When a young student at the West Point military academy is found dead, weary detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to investigate and hopefully figure out what happened. And to aid him in his quest, he secretly acquires the assistance of an enigmatic young man (Harry Melling) who goes to the academy. I find myself a tad conflicted when it comes to the story here. On one hand, I genuinely enjoy the murder mystery going on here, it has this dark and very pulpy feel to it that I love, and it does take some pretty interesting turns that build in engaging ways. But there are also aspects to the story where it can feel slightly unfocused, as it tries to not only be a pulpy detective thriller, but also explore various other dramatic avenues. And while that could be fine, the script never makes them feel truly cohesive or like they weave in and out of each other as well as they could. This unfocused nature can especially be felt towards the middle, where it almost felt like it dragged. The movie on the whole is a slow burn, but the middle section does feel kinda bogged down. But in the moments where it zeroes in on the desolate, isolated, almost claustrophobic mystery, that is when it shines. Those bits are genuinely compelling.

The characters in this I find to actually be pretty interesting. most of them are generally presented with somewhat interesting personalities and it’s interesting to see how everyone interacts with each other or react to the vents unfolding. Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, an aging and world-weary detective who’s gone through some rough times. He’s a compelling character that’s hard to describe since I don’t want to say too much. But he’s a solid protagonist and Bale is great as always. Next is Harry Melling as a young Edgar Allan Poe, a cadet at the academy and Bale’s secret assistant/confidant. He’s an enigmatic and talkative fella and I loved seeing both his personal arc and how his relationship to Bale’s Landor evolves. And Melling gives a fantastic performance in the role, this is so far a career best from him. Supporting cast is great too, containing people like Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson (a bit underused, IMO), Charlotte Gainsbourg (very underutilized), Lucy Boynton, and more, all giving damn solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and he killed it. Chilling strings, harsh brass, the man just brings an emotionally resonant score to proceedings that I could feel deep in my bones throughout the entire thing. It’s haunting and beautiful and I loved it.

Based on a novel by Louis Bayard, “The Pale Blue Eye” was recently released on Netflix, and was written and directed by Scott Cooper, and while his script could’ve had another look, I can’t deny what a good director he is. The pacing of scenes, the way he shows and/or hides things from the audience, the man brings his A-game in that regard. He also has a great way of making this movie feel cold, and I don’t strictly mean emotionally. Rarely do I see a movie set in a cold or snowy environment that genuinely makes me feel like I’m freezing, despite wearing knitwear in a relatively well heated room. And Cooper, together with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi masterfully makes that come across through the way they shoot the movie. Just thinking about some of these scenes makes me feel like I need a blanket.

This movie’s so far gotten a pretty mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.7/10.

While it doesn’t quite reach its potential, I still found “The Pale Blue Eye” to be a fairly enjoyable little mystery-thriller. It has a mixed story, pretty good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Pale Blue Eye” is a 7.44/10. So while it is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth a watch.

My review of “The Pale Blue Eye” is now completed.

Linger ooooooon… your pale blue eyes…

Movie Review: Raymond & Ray (2022)

Hello there! First post of 2023. And I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get into a new year of blogging shenanigans. So let’s jump into the our first review of the year.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Raymond & Ray”.

When their estranged father dies, half-brothers Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) reunite in order to bury the old man. And as they go through the motions associated with a funeral, the brothers begin to process their upbringing, along with learning about some of the stuff their father’s been up to in the years they’ve not seen him. On paper, I get what the story wants to do, and I think there’s a lot of great ideas found here, both in the bigger picture and in individual scenes. Sadly though, I never really found myself invested in any of it, something about the way it’s written just makes it feel like it never comes alive. I feels like the script could’ve used another pass or two. Not outright terrible, the ideas and even a few scarce moment are interesting, but the overall story feels undercooked.

The characters in this are fine. As with the story, they are the victims of a script that could’ve used more time in the oven. That said, they do still fare a little better. They feel a bit more defined, even if they never feel fully developed (despite the film’s best efforts). And then there’s the performances. On the whole, they’re generally pretty good. Ethan Hawke is great as always and just naturally slots into the role of Ray well, bringing him to life nicely. But then you have Ewan McGregor as Raymond, which I have mixed feelings on. I love McGregor as an actor, and he tries his best with his performance, but never did he feel like he fit the role. Whether it’s the dialogue or even a gaze, while his overall performance is technically good, I just never bought him as this character. Supporting cast is pretty good too, containing people like Todd Louiso (sidenote: where’s he been the last 15 years?), Sophie Okonedo, Maribel Verdú, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and a few more.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeff Beal, and I really liked it. It has this really interesting sound to it, mixing elements of lounge jazz with some mild thriller droning, and it makes for a soundscape that sometimes elevates the various scenes it can be found in. It’s solid.

“Raymond & Ray” was written and directed by Rodrigo García, and while we’ve gone over that his script isn’t the best, I can say that his directing is pretty solid. Everything’s nicely paced and his framing is nice. And that’s about all I can say, it’s well done. Not amazing, not terrible, just good.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 47% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While I think it has some good ideas, “Raymond & Ray” ultimately ends up being fairly underwhelming. The story isn’t very interesting, the characters are underdeveloped, the performances are mostly good, the music’s good, and it’s pretty well directed. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Raymond & Ray” is a 4.44/10. So I’d personally recommend skipping this one.

My review of “Raymond & Ray” is now completed.

Some spacemen use rayguns. Others use raymondguns.

Disney Plus/Marvel Series Roundup: Part 1

Hello there, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays. So earlier this autumn I finally got on board with the Disney+ streaming service. On a quick note, I’m a big fan, as it has plenty of interesting film and tv, and I find it to be easy to navigate. Anyhow, as was expected/announced, D+ would be home to a bunch of new original content based on the company’s various IPs. Among these would of course be a bunch of shows connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, since there were so many released, with many more to come, I didn’t feel like making individual posts for each one. So instead, I’ll be doing a bundle post similar to what I did for “The Fable” and “Along with the Gods“, making one of these when I’ve gotten through say four of these. Oh, and I guess spoilers. Not for the shows themselves, but rather for what’s come before in the MCU, as their connectivity drives a lot of the setups for these shows. So yeah, Marvel movie spoilers abound. But if you’re caught up or simply don’t give a hoot, then let’s get into these shows!

WandaVision

Following the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”, superpowered beings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have settled into a nice, quiet existence in suburban America, living happily married in a… sitcom styled life? But this happy life starts getting disrupted when strange things start happening around them. “WandaVision” was the first show to be released in this new slate of Marvel TV content, and I would say it kicks things off with an absolute bang. While the first episode being more “I Love Lucy” rather than “Avengers” might be a bit of an odd situation at first, I found it to be quite refreshing, both parodying and embracing sitcom tropes of various eras while mixing in superpowers in cute and funny ways. But as mentioned, they start weaving in mystery sci-fi elements, which adds a little bit of an “X-Files” vibe to it. And the show balances the goofs with the intrigue wonderfully, creating an atmosphere all its own within the MCU, making for some highly engaging TV. Add on some pitch perfect performances from Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, and various other supporting actors, and it kept me engrossed from start to end… for the most part.
While I do love the initial episodes and what they do, the back end, while not terrible, does lose some steam for me when they start going more for the typical VFX heavy superhero finale type stuff. It’s still pretty fun, but it just doesn’t feel a strong or creative as what came before. On a more positive note, it does add some fun mythology to the overarching Marvel story, and the action itself is pretty fun, and there is even a bit of drama in those parts that hit me pretty hard.
So yeah, excellent first half, really good second. It’s a damn good way to kick off this new slate of Marvel content. 9/10.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Following on from the events of “Endgame”, the world is without a Captain America, and both Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are trying to find ways of moving on with their lives. But as they try to deal with their own personal issues and past demons, the odd couple are forced to team up when a group of seemingly enhanced beings start wreaking havoc in the world. This show builds on a lot from what the Russo bros did with both their “Captain America” sequels, trying to imbue the usual superhero adventuring with somewhat of a political thriller edge. Like Tom Clancy stories but with more quips and people getting flung around. And while I don’t think the show is quite on par with the “Cap” movies, I still enjoyed where the story went. A globetrotting adventure trying to deal with the morality of vigilantism and if it’s possible to move on from what you’ve done, a story of legacy, of potential redemption and evolution. And while I don’t think it’s perfect, and I do have to question if this shouldn’t have been a movie instead, I had a lot of fun with it. I liked that they tried to discuss some heavier themes while also giving us our superhero action, I like the way it gave these returning characters something to chew on in order to perhaps move on with their lives, I like how it attempts to confront us and the whole superhero thing as a whole. It makes for a fun action-thriller story and it makes for some really compelling character work.
The acting’s also quite good, with the chemistry between Mackie and Stan being quite an engaging thing to watch at all times as we see how they bounce off of each other as their characters’ relationship evolves. Newcomers to this universe like Wyatt Russell and Erin Kellyman make for fun additions, and the familiar guest stars round out the cast nicely as well.
I very much also like the action scenes in this. While the pew pew laser stuff of other Marvel flicks can be fun, I highly enjoy the relatively stripped back approach. Yes, it’s still big, superpowered showdowns, chases, and whatnot, but there are no shiny beams or plasma or magic for once. It’s a little refreshing.
So it stumbles a little bit in storytelling, and maybe it’s a little longer than it needed to be (coulda been a movie), but otherwise it’s a fun show. 8/10.

Loki season 1

After a little mishap involving the Avengers time traveling, a dropped magical space cube, and no one looking at him, an alternate timeline version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself escaping capture… only to get captured by someone else, this time by the TVA, a mysterious organization maintaining order in the the various timelines of the multiverse. So we follow Loki as he is brought by the TVA to help them stop a mysterious ne’er-do-well, or face eradication. A bit like “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” before it, I am not 100% certain this fit in this TV format, it almost feels a little dragged out at times. Otherwise, I had a blast with it. I loved seeing Loki hopping through time, I loved seeing how the TVA operates, I loved seeing Multiversal shenanigans, and I loved Tom Hiddleston getting to have a bit of fun. Not that he hadn’t had the chance before, the man has always been great as Loki, but since he’s THE main player in this series, he gets to stretch out a bit more and do way more silly antics than before, and it’s so clear that he revels in every second. But we also get to see more sides to him, he’s explored in really enjoyable ways. And as a fan of wacky sci-fi concepts, I was pleased to see so many different ones here, all used in ways that were either intriguing, exciting, or outright funny. Action’s also pretty good, solid mix of martial arts, VFX, and general creativity.
This also sports one of, if not the best supporting cast of all these shows so far, from people like Owen Wilson, Gugu M’batha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, Sophia Di Martino, Tara Strong, and various other very talented people. Everyone gets room to play, and everyone contributes something fun and compelling to proceedings.
And now for the best part of the show: The music. It was composed by Natalie Holt, and it is absolutely incredible. A strange, operatic mix of influences, from the usual superhero stuff, to classic fantasy, to really old sci-fi/horror, there’s a lot of ground covered. Brass, strings, piano, theremins(!), fucking MOOG synths, Holt plays around a lot with her music, and it makes for probably my favorite Marvel score. it’s so god damn good. Even if you don’t watch the show, do me/yourself a favor and check out the music at least.
A little long maybe, but otherwise season 1 of “Loki” is a really fun sci-fi series that truly opens the MCU up to the multiverse in really intriguing ways. Also, you did indeed read it right, season 1. So far it’s the only mainline/live action D+/Marvel series to get more than one season. So it’ll be interesting to see where they take it. 8/10.

Hawkeye

Jingle bells, New York smells, Hawkeye got a shoooooow. But yeah, this show follows Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) as he might have to put his christmas celebration on hold when a young. bold woman named Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) gets involved/chased by some bad dudes, all while his past mistakes come back to haunt him. I am slowly but surely running out of ways to say “I like this show”. It’s even harder now since “Hawkeye” almost never does anything too unique. The “I’ll be late for christmas” trope, the “I did some bad shit, and now it’s coming back to bite me in the ass” stuff, the “youngling idolizing a supposed hero” trope, it does a lot of very familiar stuff. Arguably it does them all quite well, and it’s fun to see those events unfold, but there’s not much to mention about the story. Where it’s strong as hell however is in the characters. This is the most depth we’ve gotten from Clint in all of the MCU, and I finally find him really compelling now that he’s gotten space to play. And his relationship to the young Kate is fun too, with the two sharing some really fun bits of character development. I’m also happy to say that I loved Renner and Steinfeld together, they are a lot of fun and share some wonderful chemistry. Supporting cast is great too, with everyone from Vera Farmiga, Tony Dalton (MVP), Fra Fee, Alaqua Cox, Linda Cardellini, and more delivering stellar work.
Action’s well handled, the score is enjoyable, and I love the warm christmas vibes it brings. Not much else to be said. “Hawkeye” is a fun action show. 8/10.

So on the whole, I very much enjoyed all of these. If I had to rank them, it’d probably be
“Wandavision”
“Loki”
“Falcon”
“Hawkeye”
But overall, I like all of these. They’re fun.
Have a good one and happy holidays.

Movie Review: The Big Four (2022)

GUNS! EXPLOSIONS! INDONESIA! BUZZ WORDS! Let’s talk about a movie, shall we?

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Big Four”.

When her father is murdered, a police officer (Putri Marino) goes on a quest to track down a group of elite assassins to help her in finding her father’s killer, as these assassins seemingly had history with the old man. Right from the word go, “The Big Four” intrigues, setting up a dark, violent world, filled with assassins, evil organizations, and… slapstick? Yeah, the story here is a bit of a mishmash of tones, ideas, and inspirations. The main revenge mystery at the film’s is pretty intriguing on its own, giving us some really intriguing world building and escalating the drama pretty well. But then it further builds on itself and its characters with bombastic set pieces and a little bit of Stephen Chow-esque slapstick. Not quite “Kung Fu Hustle” levels of cartoony, but it did give me his kind of vibes at times. And while this hodgepodge mix of “The Night Comes For Us”, “John Wick”, and goofy farce could (and honestly should) end up a fucking mess, it all comes together incredibly well to make for a really fun and enjoyable narrative. And despite being nearly two and a half hours long, it’s really well paced, never was I bored. It’s an enjoyable, well told story.

The characters in this are wonderful, all being colorful, charming, and a ton of fun to watch. They’re also really well defined, their personalities standing out and balancing each other out really well. The one that arguably sticks out the least is Dina (the policewoman), but that’s also since she’s sort of the straight man in this scenario. And Putri Marino plays it really well, so I can’t complain. As for the rest of the cast, I won’t go too in depth, as I think their quirks are best left experienced. But they’re all fun, and I think the cast is brilliant too. Abimana Aryasatya, Arie Kriting, Lutesha, Kristo Immanuel, Marthino Lio, and everyone else just deliver some really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Bembi Gusti, Tony Merle, and Aghi Narottama, and it was alright. Can’t remember much of it as I sit and write (its lack of availability online doesn’t help) beyond the feeling, which was generally “Yeah, this is alright”. There’s also a little bit of licensed music used throughout, and those tracks work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Big Four” was (at the time of writing) recently released on Netflix, and was directed and co-written by Timo Tjahjanto, and the dude absolutely brought his A-game with this. As a fan of some of his previous action movies, I knew the dude knew how to shoot action scenes. But once again, he managed to blow me away just with the sheer intensity, creativity, and brutality on display. It’s been slightly recontextualized from his previous, more serious work, to fit the goofier tone, but it still carries everything we can expect Indo action at this point… AKA intense camera movements, gorgeous wides that clearly show what’s going on, and some of the goriest violence in film. And it’s all a blast to watch, delivering all the well choreographed, blood-soaked carnage you can ask for.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

While its strange blend of tones, lengthy runtime, and gory violence might not be for everyone, I had an absolute blast with “The Big Four”. It has a fun story, great characters, really good performances, pretty good music, and fantastic directiong/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Big Four” is a 8.44/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Big Four” is now completed.

“Big Four”, my ass. Couldn’t see Metallica anywhere…

Along with the Gods: The Two Movies

Hi there. So this won’t be a typical review style post of mine (though it shares minor aspects of those). Instead it’ll be more like my post on the Fable movies (AHEM AHEM), loosely rambling about them in a bundled post. I should mention that both movies will from here on out simply be referred to by their subtitle, as it’d be too long and clunky to use the full title each time. So anyhow… let’s go.

The Two Worlds

After perishing in the line of duty, a firefighter (Cha Tae-Hyun) finds himself in the company of three spirit guides (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-Hoon, Kim Hyang-gi) who have been tasked with guiding him through the afterlife in order for him to potentially earn the right to reincarnate. Based on a webtoon by Ju Ho-min, “The Two Worlds” is an interesting blend of inspirations and tones. Most noticeably, it uses Buddhist philosophy as a springboard to tell an interesting and really fun fantasy adventure story, a morality tale that also happens to have some really fun VFX-driven action and colorful characters. Taking us through visually distinct environments to tell a nuanced fantasy story.
As we follow the firefighter’s journey through the afterlife, we get to know him more and more, seeing what led him to the initial incident. We see why he does what he does, we get to know the deepest inner workings of his soul, and finding out just how complex even the most seemingly good people are. And the way that affects the events of the movie, the ways his guides have to assist him, it makes for some compelling drama and some surprising suspense. So when we get to the climactic trials that are crucial in determining his fate, it put me on the edge of my seat, and also may have caused the waterworks to begin operating. Because while someone might come to this for the spectacular VFX, fun action scenes, or extremely good looking cast, soon enough they’ll also find that this movie has a strong emotional core as well. I am not ashamed in admitting that this movie made me cry. It’s one of those flashy action flicks that also happens to have some truly compelling characters and drama. But it can also be quite funny at times, especially with the quips and general demeanor of Ju Ji-Hoon as the delightful Haewonmaek.
What else is there to say? It’s a big popcorn flick with a great story, plenty of heart, a wonderful cast of characters, and some mesmerizing visuals. I loved it.

The Last 49 Days

Released a year later, “The Last 49 Days” sees our favorite spirit guides as they take on the task of helping a new soul towards reincarnation, all while also trying their damndest in trying to retrieve a fellow guardian (Ma Dong-seok) who’s been living on Earth for a long time. “The Last 49 Days” is once again a blend of things. Fantasy action, historical epic, domestic dramedy, and I think all these individual pieces are great… but together they don’t flow super well. I get that you need all the bits together to tell the complete story, take one piece out and the tower comes crashing down, but there is a whole lotta movie to this movie. And I’m not just talking about runtime, as it’s really only like 5 minutes longer than the first one, but rather it’s how much is crammed into it. There’s an exhausting amount of narrative threads going on at any one time, and while I found all of them pretty compelling on their own, their flow is just almost non-existent. It’s especially horrid near the middle of the movie, where things really begin to drag. You know that deep sigh you make when you’re bored? Yeah, that happened here. It’s just an exhausting drag at times.
So while the story is a mess, the characters do get some really interesting extra depth, which also leads to the actors getting more to chew on. The cast was great in the first one, but they really get to flex their acting chops here, and I think they give terrific performances here. And it’s just nice to have Ma Dong-seok be part of proceedings, the man just slots in flawlessly and brings such a unique charisma.
Action scenes are once again a lot of fun, not quite as flashy as what we saw in the first one, but definitely still highly enjoyable. Effects are still top notch (bar one or two obvious green screens), costumes and makeup are solid, and there’s some really fun cuts and transitions spread throughout. It’s just stellar on a technical level.
So while nowhere near as strong as its predecessor, I can’t say that I disliked “The Last 49 Days”. It still has some great stuff to it. If the first one’s a strong 9/10 for me, then this is maybe a weak 7/10. Hurt by its poor pacing, but still has a lot to admire.

So yeah, I watched and generally liked the “Along with the Gods” movies. Basically if you like big spectacle with plenty of heart and don’t mind reading subtitles, then I can easily recommend them. And apparently there’s a third and fourth one coming at some point… so I’ll be cautiously looking forward to those.

Have a good one.

Series Review: The Patient (2022)

Therapy, an important asset in our society, there to (hopefully) help people. Aaaand that’s all I got on that right now, so let’s get into the review.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Patient”.

On a day like any other, therapist Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) finds himself in a bit of a pickle when he wakes up in the basement of one of his patients (Domhnall Gleeson), who Alan soon finds out is a serial killer. And as Alan tries to find a way to get out alive, he finds himself reluctantly having to council his captor. I find the premise of “The Patient” to be quite fun, a high concept thriller that lends itself to some really interesting bits of suspense. And in execution the narrative is quite compelling, creating an interesting dynamic between our leads, exploring their relationship, and the complexities that it carries. Because obviously Alan wants to simply survive, but the show also goes to great lengths to show that he, on some level, actually cares about helping Sam (his patient/captor). But it’s not just about a therapist delving into the psyche of this horrible man, but it’s just as much, if not more so, about Alan dealing with his own trauma and demons, which further escalates the drama and makes for a much more dynamic emotional spectrum, both when it comes to Alan’s personal stakes, and the story at large. There’s also this quiet undercurrent of awkward, dark humor to a lot of it, which I think adds to the show’s unique vibe. However, for as good as the story here can be, I do think there are things that bring it down a peg. Mainly, it’s the runtime, or more specifically the episode count. Ten episodes is usually a perfect length for a season of tv, but here it feels dragged out, mainly with the last few episodes, as if they had/wanted to pad it out to that length. Adding further to that sensation, the last few episodes are longer than the first half of the show. The first several episodes are roughly 22-28 minutes long. The rest are 30+, which really does add to the feeling of things being a bit stretched out more than needed. Again, the overall narrative is really strong, and it ends on a real high note, but those last few episodes does bring it down with the padding sensation.

The characters in this I found to be really interesting, as they’re never really shown to be simple, one-note things, but fully rounded and surprisingly complex individuals. Especially our two leads, they have so many interesting layers to them, which the show plays around with to give them a really electrifying dynamic. What also helps is that both Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson are fantastic, giving career best performances and playing off of each other really well. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Laura Niemi, Andrew Leeds, Linda Edmond, Renata Friedman, David Alan Grier, and more, with no one feeling like a weak link.

The score for the show was composed by Nathan Barr, and I thought he did a pretty solid job. It’s nothing too unique or memorable, a fairly standard droning thriller score that occasionally brings in some piano when a little extra sadness needs to be injected. It’s not bad, and it works well enough for the show. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and those work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Patient” was created and written by Joel Fields and Joseph Weinberg, with directing done by a few different people (names will be in tags). And I think this show is generally well crafted. Scene direction have a nice pace to them and have just the right amount of linger to build a nice suspense, editing has a really fun flair to it, and there’s some really interesting shots throughout. It’s just solidly built stuff.

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

So while it might be a bit longer than I felt necessary, “The Patient” is still a really fun and compelling little thriller series. It has a really good story, really good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Patient” is an 8.01/10. So while it certainly is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Patient” is now completed.

Steve Carell’s a bit good at this whole acting stuff, isn’t he?

Series Review: The Gambling Scandal (2022)

Been quite a while since I covered something from my home country (I’m Swedish, for any potentially new people). So how about we deal with that right now?

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Gambling Scandal”.

The early ’90s. Always on the lookout for the next big win, Piteå-based sports and gambling enthusiast Bosse (Björn Elgerd) soon finds himself walking down a tense line when he gets embroiled in the world of match fixing. And over the course of six episodes we see how his actions, both in betting and in his romantic life, change the course of his life. I found the story here to be pretty interesting. One of its strengths, that also happens to be a little bit of a weakness, is that it has a really snappy pace. On one hand, it makes it so no moment or scene gets a chance to be boring, making for a breezy and fun experience. But on the other, it makes it so some bits don’t always have time to settle properly, despite maybe being in need of it. It makes it so, even if it stays enjoyable, it can feel a little underdeveloped and lacking in nuance at times. Aside from the weird pace, the storytelling also has some really fun style to it, namely in its narration and occasional fourth wall breaks, where our protag talks to camera. It gives the show an interesting edge that makes it stick out amongst Swedish TV dramas. I do think it is a little too sporadic at times and could be weaved into a few more scenes, but when it happens it’s stil a lot of fun and works pretty well for the story. It is a fun story of morality and gambling and the consequences a man’s action may have. A little too snappy in its pacing at times, but overall it’s a fun and pretty engaging narrative.

I like the characters in this, they ride the line between walking tropes and a surprising naturalism pretty well, finding just the right balance to make them both entertaining and compellingly believable at the same time. Bosse Lundkvist is our leading man, a charismatic, clever, and slightly short-sighted dude who I found really engaging as a protagonist. It’s hard to explain without getting into too many/spoilery details, but I found his arc in this show to be really fascinating, with Björn Elgerd giving a really good performance in the role. We also get supporting work from Josefin Asplund, Edvin Bredefeldt, Eva Melander, Ulf Stenberg, Sara Shirpey, Mattias Silvell, and more, all delivering really solid performances.

The score for the show was composed by Andreas Tengblad, and I enjoyed it. Not the most memorable necessarily, but it has a playful nature that makes scenes pop a bit more. Especially the main theme song, I thoroughly enjoyed that, a bouncy little piano ditty that wouldn’t feel out of place in a heist movie. There’s also a fair bit of licensed music used throughout the six episodes, and those tracks work well in their respective scenes too. So yeah, the show has some good music.

Loosely based on some real life events, “The Gambling Scandal” (original title: Spelskandalen) was written by Dennis Magnusson, with directing by Patrik Eklund and Jens Östberg, and I really like how this show was directed and edited. The shots themselves are nice, everything has a good flow, and they have a good grasp of what to show or not show. But where it really comes together for me is the editing, which has this almost Guy Ritchie/Edgar Wright type of snappiness to it (though slightly more reigned in), which as alluded to in the story section, gives this show a stylistic edge over many other shows that I’ve seen from my home. It makes it a bit of a treat, made me say “Whoa” when it first occurred. But aside from the general fun factor, it does actually help in making the storytelling more interesting as well. It’s just well crafted in ways that I don’t see much from my home. Good on them.

So at the time of writing, this show does not have a page on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, and I will not come back to change it in the future because I’m lazy. It does however exist on imdb.com, where it has a score of 7.3/10.

While it’s not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Gambling Scandal”. It has a good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Gambling Scandal” is an 8.21/10. So while flawed, it’s definitely worth a watch.

My review of “The Gambling Scandal” is now completed.

So I don’t know if/when it makes it to other shores. But keep an eye out, because this is a goodun.