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: Andor – Season 1 (2022)

Ever since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, and in turn today’s topic of “Star Wars”, it’s been interesting to see how the franchise has developed. From new movies of varying quality, to reviving a beloved cartoon, to creating new shows in the universe, it has been fascinating to chart its evolution under the House of Mouse. And while I won’t cover it all on here, because of the sheer quantity of things, there’s been one thing airing this Autumn that I was interested in covering. And now that it’s over, I can. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Andor”.

Set a few years before “Rogue One”, we follow Cassian Andor (Diego Lina) as he maneuvers the tense climate surrounding the iron grip of the galactic empire and the slow rise of the rebellion, finding himself slowly and reluctantly involved in the fight. The plot of “Andor” is one of the more fresh-feeling ones we’ve gotten from this franchise in recent years (not throwing shade at the others, BTW). Instead of a more typical adventure narrative like in… most of the other “Star Wars” adaptations, this takes more influence from spy thrillers and political dramas, giving us a lingering and brooding tension over the state of the galaxy rather than mainly relying on quick bits of excitement. While Cassian is our main guy, we also do get to see people on both sides of the empire/rebel conflict and what parts they play in the grand scheme of the galaxy. From navigation of high society and politics, to the inner machinations of the empire’s boardrooms, to the blue collar people caught in the middle, the show covers the “Star Wars” universe and its conflicts in really nuanced, clever, and dramatically satisfying ways that feel wholly unique to this show. The slow burn might put some people off, but I personally love that aspect of the show, and a great part of an overall great story.

The characters in this are great. They are all really flawed, nuanced, and have a very grounded feel to them, which gives them a real believability. Let’s talk about our leading man and title character, Cassian Andor. A somewhat cynical man with a tense past who wants nothing to do with the bigger conflict. He’s hard to discuss without going into spoiler, so I’ll just say that he’s a really compelling lead with an excellent arc, with Diego Luna just giving a fantastic performance. As for the rest of the cast, everyone’s just terrific. Stellan Skarsgård, Kyle Soller, Denise Gough, Genevieve O’Reilly, Adria Arjona, Alastair Mackenzie, Dave Chapman, Anton Lesser, and so many more, there’s not a weak link amongst them. It’s just a banger cast, all playing really interesting characters.

The score for the show was composed by Nicholas Britell, and it’s just spectacular. Traditional orchestration mixed with some interesting synth and modulation usage makes for a score that very much fits within the franchise, while still having its own distinct flavor. What I also like is that so much of it is relatively quiet, not in a way that just blends into the background the background and disappears, but rather it creates this somber tone that lingers within each scene, making it so any scene where it gets a bit more loud stick out all the more and have a greater emotional impact. It’s really good sonic storytelling that also is generally pleasing to my ears.

“Andor” was created for the streaming service Disney Plus by Tony Gilroy, with writing by him and a few more cool people (names will be in tags so as to not clutter this bit with too many names), and directing duties divided between Toby Haynes, Benjamin Caron, and Susanna White. And I just love how this show is crafted. Each scene beautifully shot, without looking too polished or overly crafted. It rides a line between looking high budget while still maintaining an almost guerrilla like feel, which I think perfectly fits with the show constantly giving us a lot of contrast between the grit and grime of blue collar settlements, and the sheen of high Coruscant society or the overly sterile look of the empire’s facilities. So there’s a lot of excellent visual storytelling going on between the camera work and the production design. Mix this with an abundance of practical effects, with some really good CG thrown in at times, and you get one of the most visually interesting big budget shows around. It’s just an insanely well crafted show.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.4/10.

So as you could probably tell, I loved season 1 of “Andor”. Even as I sit here, thinking and writing, it just gets better and better within my noggin. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Andor” is a 9.84/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Hey dude, did you watch Andor?
And or what?

Movie Review: Tremors (1990)

Friends, we’ve reached the end. The final Month of Spooks review of the year. So if you’re tired of me rambling about horror, then you’re about to get a well earned break. And if you wish you could get only horror content from me all year, then tough luck… go watch Dead Meat or Ryan Hollinger on youtube, they provide excellent spooky content all year round. Anyhow, with further ado… let’s finish this.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Tremors”.

Welcome to Perfection, a small backwater town in the middle of god damn nowhere. They’re in for the experience of a lifetime when a group of giant, underground worms start killing people and animals around the area. So it’s up to a group of locals, led by best friends Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), to find a way of surviving this nightmare situation. The story of “Tremors”, on paper, would be absolutely fucking terrifying. Giant worms that kill everything they come into contact with? That can collapse buildings? Horrifying. The movie plays it a little more light however. While the Graboids (as they’re known nowadays) are given the intimidating power and reverence they deserve, the movie isn’t afraid of also being a bit goofy. The town of Perfection is filled with colorful, eccentric people, and they’re used to great effect in creating scenarios that are equal parts intense and funny. Had the movie played it all completely straight, then I doubt the story would’ve been as enjoyable. It is that generally lighthearted and campy tone, along with some really creative set pieces, that makes it so much fun to watch. Not necessarily THE most fun ever, but I can’t deny that I had a fun time with it.

As alluded to in the story paragraph (storagraph?), the characters in are a so insanely colorful and a million flavors of fun. From a pair of slightly dim good ol’ boys, to mildly crazed survivalists, to smart grad students, we’ve got all sorts in this here dust bowl of a town. And holy cow, the cast is just wonderful. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, Victor Wong, and more, all delivering delightful performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ernest Troost, with a few tracks being done by an uncredited Robert Folk, and I think their music here is a lot of fun. While it’s sad that some of Troost’s music got replaced (without him knowing, mind you), I do think that Folk’s additions still work within the context of the movie. How to tell them apart? If it’s fun and a little country-ish, Troost. If it’s more typical serious orchestral movie score, Folk. Either way, the music in this movie is solid. There’s even a really fun song during the end credits sung by Reba McEntire, which is nice.

“Tremors” was directed by Ron Underwood, and I think he did a really good job. The man has a good way of making the action and Graboid attacks feel big and intense, while also creating this intimate tension with the unknown surrounding when and where the Graboids will pop out next. Speaking of which, the creatures themselves were created by Amalgamated Dynamics, the VFX company of living legends Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and the creatures look awesome. The designs are super fun, and the overall effects work is so good, really making them feel alive. It’s just a really well made movie.

This movie’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 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/100.

Yeah, “Tremors” is a good time. A fun monster flick. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tremors” is an 8.77/10. So yeah, I’d definitely say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Tremors” is now completed.

Aaaaand that’s it for the Month of Spooks this year, good night, everybody!

Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

My friends, I once again deliver a Month of Spooks review for y’all. So let’s quit this dawdling and get into it.

Ladies, gents, non-binaries… “Deliver Us from Evil”.

As a series of strange, violent crimes start plaguing New York City, police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) finds himself having to team up with a very unique priest (Edgar Ramírez) in order to try and solve these disturbing goings-on. “Deliver Us from Evil” is a tale of two conflicting elements. At first glance it’s an atmospheric cop thriller, showing a man trying to do his job, all while dealing with an inner turmoil. And that bit I genuinely really like, there’s a lot of interesting and surprisingly compelling drama going on for it with Sarchie, the case, his family, and a few more things. But it also presents this fun, pulpy detective thriller that I enjoyed following, even if the movie drags towards the middle. But then we have the second part of the movie, which is the more overt supernatural horror shenanigans. Some of it is kinda fun, such as some of the stuff in the last act. But a lot of the horror stuff in the first two just doesn’t work for me. There’s a great sense of atmosphere with the movie, but when the scares hit, they kind of deflate it and take me out of the movie. So the horror of the HORROR movie is a bit of an issue. So the story here is very much a mixed bag.

The characters in this are pretty solid, all being given compelling arcs and personalities. Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie, a tough-as-nails and sarcastic, yet good-natured policeman with a bit of baggage in the trunk. It’s interesting to see how the events of the story affect him and how his past further informs the development he goes through. And Eric Bana does a damn good job in the role. Next is Edgar Ramírez as Mendoza, a slightly peculiar jesuit priest that Sarchie meets. He’s an interesting fella with an interesting story, and I like the rapport he has with Sarchie. And Ramírez is great in the role. The rest of the cast is pretty great too, containing people like Olivia Munn, Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, and many other talented actors.

The score for the movie was composed by Christopher Young, and it was alright. Fairly unremarkable eerie horror score. Nothing too noteworthy in either direction, just fairly standard stuff. Now, with that out of the way, I can mention that the movie also uses some licensed music, namely a few tracks by The Doors. I find this interesting, because the band has always had indirect (or direct, who knows) ties to spirituality, which adds something thematically intriguing to proceedings. It doesn’t necessarily make the movie scarier or more suspenseful, but it makes it a bit more interesting. So yeah, the music in this is mixed.

“Deliver Us from Evil” was based on a book that was co-written by… Ralph Sarchie? Yeah, he was a real person, and he wrote a book about investigating actual exorcism in actual New York. I will however take those musings with a pocketful of salt, so feel free to call me Scully. Anyhow, Sarchie’s book served as loose inspiration for this movie that was directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson. And I think he did a good job directing this, the man is excellent at building a creepy atmosphere and utilizing space for his set pieces, and he brings that to this movie in spectacular fashion. While the scares in this felt tepid or annoying, everything inbetween (and even during some more overtly horror-y scenes) is wonderfully directed. This is further amplified by Scott Kevan’s dark and grimy cinematography that adds so much to the chilling vibes they build up. There’s also a fair bit of really cool gore and makeup and VFX work. It looks really rad and works well to add weight to the world.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 29% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

So while its let down by sub-par horror and some pacing issues, I still enjoyed “Deliver Us from Evil”. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, interesting music, and damn good direction and cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO*. My final score for “Deliver Us from Evil” is a 7.23/10. So while it is quite flawed, it’s still worth renting.

My review of “Deliver Us from Evil” is now completed.

What’s your favorite Doors song? Mine is probably “Break on Through”.

Movie Review: Malignant (2021)

More spooky reviews comin’ your way! And before we begin, I just want to point out the silliness that is me reviewing the movie I used as basis for last year’s Month of Spooks poster a full year later. There’s some weird form of irony to it. Anyhow, let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents,  non-binaries… “Malignant”.

While trying her best to simply get by, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) starts getting grisly visions of a shadowy figure brutally killing people. And we follow her as she tries to make sense of these visions and hopefully find a way to stop them. I found the story here to be okay. It’s a fun enough mystery with a few enjoyable turns. That said, the story parts of the story aren’t necessarily what makes proceedings as enjoyable as they are. Because in all honestly, the main narrative feels more like it’s there to serve as an excuse for wild and creative set pieces. This is a bloody, campy-as-fuck sendup to old school supernatural slashers, but with the polish and tech of today to amp it up to 11. And the campy shenanigans are generally what I enjoyed about the story, as those bits are when the movie comes alive. And a fair bit of those sequences are stacked in the second half of the movie, with the first one, while not completely devoid of fun shenanigans, delivering a fair bit of setup, which does drag a bit. But when it’s going, the story here is a fun, bonkers, camptastic time.

The characters in this are fine. They aren’t given that much depth, which usually can be an issue, but weirdly works here since it weirdly adds to the fun and general vibe of the movie. They’re sort of shallow tropes that are there to serve the trope. The one with the most depth is arguably the lead character, as her and her past is explored in the movie. And she’s a decently compelling protagonist, with Annabelle Wallis giving a really solid performance. The supporting cast is pretty solid too, featuring people like Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jake Abel, Ray Chase, Marina Mazepa, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Bishara, and it is tons of fun. Panicky strings, blaring brass, exciting and fast-paced electronics, thrilling percussion, Bishara leaves very little off the table and this creates this insanely fun and never dull soundscape. It’s an absolute blast to listen to and adds so much to the movie. There’s also a little bit of licensed music throughout, and I think that works really well too. I just really dig the soundtrack here, it’s fun, easy to listen to, and really works well for the movie.

“Malignant” was directed and co-written by James Wan, and hooooooweeee, you can feel him really flexing and letting loose here. As mentioned previously, this movie isn’t afraid of going camp, and Wan’s direction further elevates that fact, which makes me very happy. Dutch tilts, camera snapping into position, fun pans, sweeps across big spaces, fun reveals, kinetic action and editing. It’s all so insane and makes for one hell of a fun viewing experience, especially in the various set pieces, where things get crazy, hectic, and GORY AS FUCK. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s an absolute riot to follow, giving us some really creative and delightfully ludicrous sequences. It just put a big, dumb smile on my face so many times.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While it does drag in its first half, I still had a lot of fun with “Malignant”. It has a fun plot, okay characters, good performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *OOGA BOOGA!*. My final score for “Malignant” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s still certainly worth buying.

My review of “Malignant” is now completed.

Sometimes it’s a bad thing if a horror movie doesn’t scare me. But this one was just so much fun that I don’t care.

Movie Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Hi there, ready for more Month of Spooks content? Because I sure as hell am! So let’s quit dawdling and get into the review!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Train to Busan”!

On what starts as a day like any other, businessman Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) gets on the train from Seoul to Busan with his daughter (Su-an Kim). But their trip soon takes a turn for the worse when a zombie outbreak starts and finds itself spreading across the country, and inside of the train. So it’s up to Seok-Woo, his daughter, and the other passengers on the train to try and survive. In a world of “The Walking Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “Resident Evil”, and countless other adaptations, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’d be difficult to find a way to make a zombie story interesting again. Well, I’m more than happy to say that “Train to Busan” more than succeeds, taking the classic setup of a group of survivors against hordes of zombies, and cramming it into the confined space of a train. But it’s not just the claustrophobic setting that helps sell the story, as the crew here come up with all sorts of interesting, unique, entertaining, and intense set pieces, all while putting their own little spin on how zombies work. The story also does a good job of escalating the narrative and the threat in dramatically interesting ways, starting in its first few minutes as a regular drama, adding on layers of interesting social commentary, and soon mixing in the intense zombie carnage, making sure that the suspense never lets up until the credits. It’s just fantastic storytelling that masterfully covers so much ground in very focused and enjoyable ways.

I thought the characters in this were great. I mean, not all of them are great people, but they all have clear, distinguished personalities and compelling motivations and arcs that help ground the drama and horror, making us care more for what is happening, leading me to actually fear for them and really feel something when they do. And the cast is just fantastic, containing people like Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Maa Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, and many more, with none being a weak link. Everyone delivers top tier work.

The score for the movie was composed by Jang Young-gyu, and it’s just great. High intensity brass, foreboding strings, emotional piano, it covers all the typical beats you expect to find in a movie like this and does it incredibly well. It may not necessarily be the most memorable score out there, but it works perfectly well for elevating the emotions in the moment.

“Train to Busan” was directed by Yeon Sang-ho, and I think he did a fantastic job with it. The man knows how to utilize space within set pieces, somehow using the same level of claustrophobia for both pure suspense and fun action. Just the way he frames the groups of zombies within the train creates this overwhelming sense of dread, but then in a later scene finds some fun, creative way of having the characters deal with them. He balances the scares with the sense of fun incredibly well, making for a really well balanced viewing. But there’s also a good amount of aerial shots to give a sense of how far this apocalypse has already gone in just a short amount of time, and I think that further adds a lot of intensity to proceedings. The effects are great as well, the editing is solid, and the cinematography by Lee Hyung-deok is beautiful. ’tis just really well crafted.

This movie’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“Train to Busan” is absolutely fantastic, blending human drama with action and horror marvelously. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Braaaains*. My final score for “Train to Busan” is a 9.89/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Train to Busan” is now completed.

Ma Dong-seok is just the coolest.

Movie Review: Near Dark (1987)

Aaaaand the Month of Spooks continues! So what’s on the menu today? How about the one, the only… VAMPIRES! So let’s talk about them.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Near Dark”.

On a chilly night, young Caleb’s (Adrian Pasdar) life is drastically changed when he is turned into a vampire by a mysterious, beautiful young woman (Jenny Wright). And we follow him as he has to deal with his new, undead predicament, all while tagging along with a colorful gang of vampires who decide to take him in. I really enjoyed the story here, as it’s more or less a fugitive/road movie that happens to feature violent, profane vampires. But I also love how it handles its night creatures very differently from most adaptations, trading in the usual classiness and seduction for grit, gore, and… well, still a form of seduction, but now in a more horny back alley kind of way rather than what we usually get. Combine that with a very western-inspired atmosphere and a certain uneasiness about Caleb’s will-he-won’t-he acceptance of his new life, and you get a suspenseful, gritty, and above all else fun story.

I really enjoyed the characters in this, they are all very colorful and unique, setting them apart from a lot of other vampire adaptation characters we’ve seen before. First off is Caleb, a young farm boy who loves his family, and hitting on cute girls. He’s a pretty good protagonist, arguably less interesting than the rest of the cast, but still has enough of an arc to tmake him compelling enough. And Adrian Pasdar does a really good job in the role. Next, I want to just quickly go through the vampire crew in this movie, but I won’t go too in-depth as I think some of their impact would be lost if I explained their whole ordeal. But I can say that they’re played by Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and Joshua John Miller, and they’re all incredibly interesting and entertaining in their own ways. Throw in Tim Thomerson in a supporting role, and you get yourself a really well-rounded cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Tangerine Dream, and I absolutely loved it. It’s such a product of its time while still having a weird kind of timelessness to it. It uses synths and guitars to create this almost dreamlike atmosphere, perfectly capturing the strange sensation of Caleb’s predicament while also giving a sound to the night of the midwestern plains. It’s eerie, it’s fun, it’s exciting… man, it’s just a damn good score.

“Near Dark” was written by Eric Red and Kathryn Bigelow, with Bigelow handling direction. And yeah, she did a damn good job here. Her direction has this way of capturing a sweeping scale while still being relatively small. There’s also this suspense that lingers throughout the movie, never really letting up, always finding new and interesting ways of keeping me on edge. I also love Adam Greenberg’s cinematography, which pays tribute to westerns as much as it does the gothic origins of the genre/monster, through really interesting lighting and framing. It’s just a really well crafted movie.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 82% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

I’ve been wanting to watch “Near Dark” for so long, and I am happy to say that it lived up to my excitement. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *BLEH!*. My final score for “Near Dark” is a 9.69/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Near Dark” is now completed.

I miss Bill Paxton.

Series Review: Angel – Season 1 (1999 – 2000)

Hi. So as some of you may be aware of, from 2020 to earlier this year (2022, for future readers) I reviewed every season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as I was rewatching it with my mom. It was a fun experience for me, and at the end of my review of the final season I made a tease that I might cover its spin-off. Well, now it’s happening. So let’s go.

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

Following the end of “Buffy” season 3, the vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) moves away from Sunnydale and finds himself a new home in Los Angeles. And shortly after settling in, he meets friends new and old, which prompts him to become a private investigator, helping the people of L.A. fight the supernatural problems that haunt them. I  generally enjoyed the story/ies here. It’s nowhere near as rough as the first season of its older sister series, which likely comes from the extra experience gained between the two. The overarching elements are solid, further developing this already interesting world and lore, while also giving us some interesting present drama for our characters. That said, the overarching stuff is generally taking a backseat to mostly being monster-of-the-week stories, which is where it falls apart a little bit. Not only because it means there’s little to no central hook, but also because, as with most of these types of shows, not all episodes are created equal. For every “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, you got a “She”. What I will say is that even some of the lesser episodes here are nowhere near the lows of some of the lesser episodes in “Buffy”, so even at its lowest, it’s still decently watchable. And when an episode is good, it is GOOD, just quality TV. So on the whole the storytelling here is pretty solid.

The characters in this are just great, all bring their own unique flavor to the buffet that is the cast, and make for a vital part of the ensemble. First up is of course our titular 90 degree, Angle… I will not apologize for my dumb jokes. Anyhow, Angel, the vampire with a soul, his dreams and conscience haunted by the crimes he committed when he was evil. He’s trying to redeem himself, and he’s an interesting protagonist. At first he might just seem like a moody broody bitch, but we’ll soon see more sides to him, making for quite a fun and dynamic character. And David Boreanaz is really good in the role. Next we have Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, a former mean girl from Sunnydale that Angel runs into early on. Cordy already saw some interesting development in the other show, and here we see that further fleshed out through some of the shit that happens throughout this season, and I quite like it. Plus, her very blunt personality provides a lot of laughter throughout, which is fun. And Carpenter does a damn good job in the role. Next we have Glenn Quinn (R.I.P) as Doyle, a half demon who gets visions of the future to help Angel in his quest to help people. He’s a bit of a cowardly shyster with a surprising amount of heart, and he’s a fun character, with Quinn giving a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Alexis Denisof, Christian Kane, Elisabeth Röhm, Stephanie Romanov, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the season was composed by Robert J. Kral and Christophe Beck, and they did a great job. Big bold brass for action scenes and spooky scares, but also quieter string and piano pieces when they want to be eerie or heart-wrenching. It’s not necessarily the most original score out there, but it’s very well composed and I highly enjoyed listening to it and thought it worked great for the show.

“Angel” was created by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. And before we continue, the elephant in the room: We all know by now that the latter person is a turd of a man, just a horrible piece of shit. I am not condoning what he did, and he’s rightfully getting pushed away from Hollywood. I will have positive things to say about the craft here, but I want to be clear that I am not saying it made any of his actions acceptable. Alright? So let’s talk about the craft of this show, which was handled by many different, very talented people.
It’s well made, has a fun noir atmosphere to it in tandem with the darkly whimsical tone that “Buffy” established, making the vibe of this show familiar, yet unique. It sets it apart from its sister show, without straying too far and making it completely separate. And I dig that about it. And generally speaking the direction here is really good. Some fight scenes can be a bit too closely shot and quickly cut, but generally the direction in the show is good. Effects for the time are great too, love seeing a lot of the creature makeup here. But yeah, aside from a few minor snafus, it’s well put together.

This show/season has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has no critic score, but at least an audience rating of 94%. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.9/10.

While its storytelling doesn’t quite reach its potential, season 1 of “Angel” is still a damn good season of TV. It has a good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Angel” is an 8.88/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

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

One down, four to go.