Movie Review: Belle (2022)

Hi, how are you? Long time no see. Anyhow, let’s talk about some anime!

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

Following a traumatic event many years ago, high schooler Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) has become a shadow of her former self, becoming very quiet and withdrawn. But one day seh joins “U”, an online community where you can be whoever you want to be. In here she becomes Belle, an internationally beloved pop star. However, her reign soon takes a turn after she finds out about a mysterious user known as The Beast (Takeru Satoh). As you can probably tell, this story takes some cues from “Beauty and the Beast. And it uses some of those elements as a springboard to tell a tale of finding oneself again, exploring the effect of trauma on a person, and how it makes on act in real life and online. And I think it does a beautiful job exploring its themes, all while perfectly balancing emotional resonance with popcorn friendly fun, creating a magnificently wonderful story.

Much like the story before them, the characters in this strike a really nice balance between an emotionally rich realness and easily digestible tropes. Many of the characters at first glance sort of fit into familiar stereotypes in various animes and coming-of-age dramas. But as we go on throughout the movie, more is unveiled about our cast to add depth. And then you add the characters’ reactions to the immediate events of the story, they feel more dynamic and real and I found the entire cast quite engrossing. Speaking of cast, the actors in this are all quite good. Featuring people like Kaho Nakamura, Takeru Satoh, Ryo Narita, Lilas Ikuta, Shota Sometami, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Koji Yakusho, and many more, there’s not a weak link in this cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Yuta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell (SWEDEN REPRESENT!), Miho Hazama, and Taisei Iwasaki, and it’s great. It’s a varied mix of traditional orchestration with more more electronic/synthy sound, which I think perfectly marries the real world drama and cyberspace parts of the world/story marvelously. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, it’s fun, it just works so well. There’s also a few song-songs (for lack of a better word) done by Japanese group Millennium Parade, and holy fuck, they are so good. Not only are they a delight to listen to on their own, but they also help with the storytelling in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has some wonderful music.

“Belle” was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, with animation by his own studio, Studio Chizu. And once again, everything on that end is top tier. Every shot is lovingly crafted, drawing the eye to the visual splendor in every frame. What I also like is how they differentiate the real world from the world of “U”. The real world is pretty much all 2D animation, with fairly muted colors, whereas nearly everything going on inside of “U” is done in 3D with some really slick cel-shading and plenty of saturated and crisp colors. And just briefly, that 3D stuff is some of the best I’ve seen. Cel-shaded 3D in anime can often look really rough, but the insane wizards at Chizu managed to make it pretty much flawless. But pretty art/animation only gets you so far, but luckily I can happily say that Hosoda’s direction shine’s here. From the quiet scenes between characters, to the action scenes inside of “U”, to the more comedic bits, all of it is perfectly directed.

This movie’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

So yeah, I absolutely loved “Belle”. It’s an emotionally rich adventure that I can’t wait to revisit in the future. It has a fantastic story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic direction/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Belle” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Belle” is now completed.

Hosoda-san sure loves the internet, huh?

Series Review: Luther – Season 3 (2013)

Beware the Ides of Elba, because they’re here… again… but not for the final time. Anyhow, let’s once again delve into this show.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 3!

DCI Luther (Idris Elba) is once again back to solve a series of dark and violent murders, all while some other officers are trying to dig up enough dirt on him to take him down. I loved the storytelling here in season 3, it’s arguably the strongest in the show so far. Starting with the overarching element, it actually broadens its scope a bit, not just focusing on John himself, but also goes wider to explore how other people, in particular his colleague Justin (Warren Brown), sees him, and what effect Luther’s actions have on people. And I found those elements of the story utterly compelling. And as far as the procedural elements go, those are amazing as well. Much like with season 2, not only are there only four episodes, but it’s also only two cases getting two episodes each, and it really helps them flourish and feel way more tense and nuanced. They also delve into even darker, more unsettling waters than before, even going full-blown horror at a point. And it helps make for some really intense and kinda scary storytelling that I absolutely loved.

In terms of characters, season 3 of “Luther” succeeds greatly in further developing ones from previous seasons, and then also giving us some compelling new ones too. Luther remains a really engaging lead, with Elba still giving us some truly powerhouse acting. And then there’s Justin, Luther’s colleague, who is given a lot more space and opportunities to shine here, developing him further into a truly interesting character, with Warren Brown giving a great performance in the role. The rest of the supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Michael Smiley, Dermot Crowley, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sienna Guillory, David O’Hara, Kevin Fuller, Lucian Msamati, and more. It’s a very well-rounded cast playing some really interesting characters.

Paul Englishby returned to once again do the music, and once again its great. Low, brooding hums, dramatic brass, some emotional piano, some eerie strings… it’s just a brilliant escalation of the kind of sound Englishby made for the first two seasons, and it really adds so much to the episodes. The few licensed songs used throughout also work really well.

“Luther” season 3 was written by series creator Neil Cross, with direction split between Sam Miller and Farren Blackburn. And the craft here is on another level. It feels more grandiose, while still managing to remain intimate with the characters, and even claustrophobic and incredibly tense at times. The directing, editing, and cinematography just feels way more cinematic than in previous outings, which makes it stand out and feel even stronger.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 20 TV” list.

Season 3 of “Luther” is my favorite one so far, giving us an intense, scary, and thematically rich experience that I enjoyed from start to end. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score fro “Luther” season 3 is a 9.92/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 3 is now completed.

I am having such a good time going through this show.

Movie Review: Ikiru (1952)

If you’ve followed me for a somewhat extended period of time, you’d know that I covered several movies by this director last year. Well, now the distributor behind those have another box set out (technically it’s been out since last spring, but I digress), and I’m gonna be covering those movies every now and then. So you know… fun?

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

After he discovers he has terminal stomach cancer, aging bureaucrat Kanji (Takashi Shimura) begins to reflect both on his past, and on the very meaning of life. The story of “Ikiru” is one that is hard to describe, at least from a personal and emotional standpoint. Objectively, it’s a slowly burning, melancholic, yet still hopeful exploration of what it means to live, a tender and humanist look exploration into a man’s heart heart and soul. But I feel that any words I use to try to explain its effect on me aren’t enough. It broke my heart and put it together again in ways I didn’t think possible. It made me think about my own life, both the good and the bad parts. It’s a tragic and beautifully told tale that reached into my very soul and hit in a way I haven’t experienced in a while.

The characters in this all feel very… human, as if they weren’t just characters, but actual people who were simply being filmed, thanks to the sheer amount of love and nuance that they clearly had been written with. What also adds to this are the performances, none of which feel flashy or theatrical. In particular I want to mention Takashi Shimura, the man who plays our lead character. His performance is just utterly devastating and beautiful. We also get supporting work from people like Nobuo Kaneko, Shin’ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and much like the story and characters before it, it was just beautiful. A gorgeously melancholic, yet hopeful chain of melodies played on strings, brass, and some woodwind. It’s just great. There’s also one song not originally composed for this movie used here, and it’s used to perfection. This movie just has great music.

Partly based on “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” By Leo Tolstoy, “Ikiru” was directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. And he once again proved here what a master he was. Perfectly flowing shots, all lingering for the perfect amount of time, all finding the right way of adding to the emotion of the scene. And the cinematography by Asakazu Nakai is absolutely breathtaking, from framing, to lighting, it all just looks stunning and adds so much to the storytelling on display here. It’s just a terrifically assembled movie.

This movie has been incredibly well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 91/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.3/10 and is ranked #100 on their “Top 250” list.

“Ikiru” affected me in a way that few movies have, it’s a stunningly beautiful exploration of what it means to live. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Ikiru” is a 9.95/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Ikiru” is now completed.

Just… wow.

Series Review: The North Water (2021)

I love British TV. I mean, most countries tend to have good TV, but British programming just has something special about them that makes them infinitely watchable and/or interesting. So with that said, let’s talk about one.

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

The year is 1859. Former army surgeon Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell) finds himself taking a job on a whaling ship heading towards the arctic. And we follow him as he deals with working on this ship, struggling not just the elements, but his fellow crewmates as well. What I do find quite interesting about “The North Water” is that it’s not the most plot-driven show. It’s not about a MacGuffin, there’s no real goal to this journey. Instead it’s a dark exploration of how the trauma of a man’s past and present can change you, bring you closer to the darkness. It’s a somber, moody, and often disturbing deep dive into the damaged psyche of Patrick and a few of his fellow crewmates, and I found it absolutely riveting from start to end. The deliberately glacial (HA!) pace may throw some people off, but I personally think it added to the atmosphere, making any suspense and general sense of unease even greater, which helped make for one hell of an engaging narrative.

As I kind of implied, this show is very much more character-driven. And lucky for us, the characters in this are spectacular. All of them clearly damaged in some way, hiding either intentions or their own trauma, which led to me not really knowing who to trust, which adds a lot to the vibe of the show. What also helps is that there’s not a weak link in the cast. Jack O’Connell is fantastic as our lead, Sumner. Colin Farrell is unsettlingly fantastic as the enigmatic Henry Drax. Stephen Graham is terrific as the ship’s captain. And the rest of the cast, contining people like Roland Møller, Sam Spruell, Gary Lamont, Philip Hill-Pearson, Kieran Urquhart, and more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Tim Hecker, and I think he did a terrific job with it. It’s a low-key, moody, almost horror-esque score, relying heavily rumbling strings, some subtle piano, and even occasional bit of synths to create an unsettling sound that fits really well with the setting and characters. It’s great stuff.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ian McGuire, all episodes of “The North Water” were written and directed by Andrew Haigh, and the man has just absolutely outdone himself. His direction really captures the feeling of helplessness and isolation that one might feel while going on this type of journey, making every moment of the journey feel uneasy. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a regular conversation, a flashback, or a scene of hunting being done, Haigh’s direction is tense and terrific. He also doesn’t shy away from showing us some grisly fucking stuff. The blood and violence in this show is quite disturbing, and at times even quite disgusting, and while I do think it works for the show and adds to the storytelling, I do think it could put some people off. So if you got a weak stomach or you generally just don’t like gruesome content… you have been warned. On a less icky note, the cinematography by Nicolas Bolduc is absolutely spectacular. The angles, the lighting, the colors, it all looks spectacular and works really well to elevate the storytelling even further. This show is just immaculately crafted.

This show’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“The North Water” is one of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The North Water” is a 9.88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The North Water” is now completed.

Interesting to think that something so dark and disturbing can come from the same director as the tender and warm “Weekend”.

Movie Review: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Hello! As some of you might remember, last year I retired my 12 Films of Christmas series, as I got burnt out on doing 12 themed pieces over the span of 12 days. And I stand by that retirement. However, that won’t prevent me from still doing a few chrimbo movies on this blog. So with that out of the way, let us talk about one.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Tokyo Godfathers”!

’twas the night before christmas, and all throughout Tokyo, some shit was stirring, I can’t keep this up, yo. Anyhow, during christmas eve, three homeless people find a baby abandoned in some trash and set out on an adventure to find its parents. “Tokyo Godfathers” is a unique take on familiar ideas, creating a compelling narrative that is equal parts heartwarming, heartbreaking, tragic, and funny. It’s a wonderful and delightfully off-kilter story that had me feeling every emotion possible. I’m sorry that this section is so brief and vague, but it’s hard to talk any more in depth about this story without revealing too much. But trust me when I say that it’s a great little tale.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, flawed, nuanced, and overall quite interesting. First up are our leading three, all coming from tragic backgrounds, all trying their damndest to make the most of their bad situation(s). They’re a frankly amazing trio of characters that I loved following. They’re also wonderfully brought to life by the vocal talents of Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, and Aya Okamoto. The supporting cast is great too, featuring interesting characters voiced by terrific actors like Akio Otsuka, Yusaku Yara, Kyoko Terase, and more.

The music for the movie was composed by Keiichi Suzuki, along with Moonriders, his band. And I think they did a swell job with it. It takes some influences from jazz, pop-rock, and various styles of film score to create a unique soundscape that fits the movie wonderfully.

“Tokyo Godfathers” was directed and co-written by Satoshi Kon, and he and his crew did an amazing job here. The animation quality is spectacular, with beautifully fluid movements and actions. But much like Kon’s other works, the characters have a lot of imperfections to them, compared to the oft’ flat and glossy look of many animes, which really helps add to the grounded and somewhat gritty vibe of this movie. It’s stunningly animated, cleverly edited, and just overall wonderfully put together. Kon was an absolute master who was taken from us too soon.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

“Tokyo Godfathers” is not just a fun christmas romp, but also a beautifully nuanced drama, and I adored every bit of it. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic direction/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tokyo Godfathers” is a 9.93/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Tokyo Godfathers” is now completed.

Simply wonderful.

Movie Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Been quite a while since I talked about a Marvel movie on here… yeah, 2019, blimey. And before we move on, I know these movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. I just like watching them and I’m gonna keep talking about them as long as they’re made. So yeah… on with the review.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.

After having lived a quiet life in San Francisco for years, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must come out of hiding when his father (Tony Leung) begins stirring to enact a mysterious and potentially dangerous plan. The story in “Shang-Chi” is interesting to me, because it takes some of the familiar themes and structural pillars of other MCU movies, but makes them feel fresh by implementing elements usually seen more in wuxia stories and kung fu movies in general. But it also weaves in a pretty nuanced and surprisingly complex family drama throughout, which really makes the story feel more tangible and emotionally resonant. So when you blend all of these together, you get a narrative that feels familiar yet also fresh and unique for this franchise. And I loved it.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, pretty layered, and overall just quite interesting. Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi, our protagonist. He’s a man who’s gone through a lot of things in life, and it does create an interesting conflict with his more lighthearted side and the good stuff he’s experienced since moving to America. And I find him to be an interesting lead, with Simu Liu giving a damn good performance. Tony Leung plays Shang-Chi’s dad, Xu Wenwu, a mighty leader of the shady organization The Ten Rings. He’s a complex and interesting character that makes for a really compelling antagonist, and Leung is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, and many more, all giving great performances in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Joel P. West, and I think he did a great job with it. It’s big and epic, but it can also be quiet and emotional. And it creates this really cool vibe for the movie by blending elements of typical western action movie music with traditional Chinese music, and it makes for a really engaging soundscape that worked insanely well for the movie. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout, and they’re fine. They’re not something I’d really find myself listening to in my spare time, but they worked well enough within their respective scenes.

Based on various Marvel comics, “Shang-Chi” was directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton, and I think he did a great job with it. He has this really fun, yet grounded energy to his style that melds really well with a lot of the big budget comic book stuff. And it does help give the movie a nice vibe and flow that I highly enjoyed. I especially think his direction shines in the action scenes that are spread throughout this movie. There’s some nice, decently long takes, and we always get a good view of the action going on. But what I appreciate most about it is the focus on martial arts. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big, pew pew action of the other MCU movies, but there’s something so refreshing when instead of Iron Man flying around blowing shit up, it’s a dude using kung fu to fend off an opponent. And even when the action got way bigger in scale and effects budget, it was really fun and well handled. It’s just really well made and comes together so well.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a fun and absolutely wonderful action movie with some well written and nuanced character drama. The story’s great, the characters are great, the performances are great, the music is great, and the direction is great too. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Shang-Chi” is a 9.90/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now completed.

I really need to watch more Tony Leung movies.

Movie Review: Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

You know what’s kinda weird? Despite being a musician since childhood, I’ve never really been a huge fan of musicals. Or I should say, live action musicals. I don’t know why, it’s just a weird quirk of mine. But on occasion there might be one that cracks my grumpy heart. Is this one of them? I guess we’ll find out.

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… “Tick, Tick… Boom”

The story follows Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield), a young, aspiring theater composer as he struggles to keep his life afloat, trying to balance love, friendship, and putting together his first musical. I really loved the storytelling within “Tick, Tick… Boom”. There are moments it can seem slightly scatterbrained, but I think it really adds to it, since it perfectly encapsulates just how hectic Jon’s life is. The story takes an interesting look at the man’s life as well as the struggles of trying to be creative in a world where that can’t be a guarantee of success. But what carries the story the most is the sheer amount of heart. Right from scene one, it carried this warm, sincere charm that had me immediately hooked, and carried it all the way to the ending. It’s just such a nice and emotionally resonant story that hit me in a way that I haven’t felt in quite a while.

The characters here are colorful, charming, layered, and overall just all feel very real. Something about them all made them feel like actual people and not just characters performed by actors. Our lead character, Jon, was just an absolutely endearing and fascinating character that I loved following throughout the movie. And Andrew Garfield was absolutely fantastic in the role. Then we also get supporting work from people like Robin de Jesus, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Bradley Whitford, MJ Rodriguez, and more, all giving terrific performances. It’s just a damn good cast.

The music in this was composed by Jonathan Larson, and I loved all of it. The instrumentation, the melodies, the lyrics, it all comes together beautifully to create tracks that make me want to dance, cry, laugh, rethink my life… it’s all wonderfully introspective and I think all actors brought the songs to life marvelously.

Based on the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I think he did a really solid job. His direction can be a little rough around the edges at times, but even then, it’s really good for someone making their feature debut. The man has worked with musicals in different ways for years, so he has a good grasp of how it should work, and that experience and talent does help elevate his direction a little. Speaking of musicals, I love the way the musical numbers are handled. They flow nicely, and they’re wonderfully edited, beautifully moving between people and spaces in ways that few other musicals do. So yeah, this is really well helmed.

The movie just came out, but so far it’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

“Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a fantastic little movie that I absolutely loved. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, fantastic music, and really good directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a 9.90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

I’m gonna end up listening to that soundtrack a lot, aren’t I?

Series Review: The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

And here we are, my friends. The last post of Month of Spooks 2021. It’s been a fun ride, but it is time to wind down a bit. And to cap it off, we’re ending it the way we started it… with a Mike Flanagan show. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Haunting of Hill House”.

The story follows the Crains, a fractured family as they try to confront the haunting memories of what had happened to them in the past. “The Haunting of Hill House” blends a grief-driven family drama with a ghost story, and it is insanely effective. It’s difficult discussing the story and themes and general impact it had on me without delving into spoilers, but I’ll try my best. The spooky stuff is good on its own, it’s solid horror. But what carries my attention is how the family drama and character-driven subplots and the meditation on grief develops throughout, showing how everyone in this family’s been broken by the traumatic events in their past, and how they’re trying to cope with all of that. It’s a very nuanced, tender, and emotionally charged story that hit me in a way that few shows manage, even making me cry multiple times throughout. It’s a beautiful, scary, and sad story that I absolutely adored.

The characters in this are some of the most nuanced and believable I’ve seen in a show. They all feel so real and I found their personal stories and developments extremely engaging and interesting. And for the show we also have a huge cast, with everyone giving top notch performances. So I’m just gonna list them off, because I want to shout them out. So we have Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Mckenna Grace, Lulu Wilson, Victoria Pedretti, Paxton Singleton, Timothy Hutton, Anthony Ruivivar, and many more. It’s just a stellar cast all perfectly playing stellar characters.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, and they absolutely killed it, this might be my favorite work from them. They have this brooding eerie tension at times, and for a lot they go for a more somber, emotionally charged piano style that hit me right in the god damn heart, further amplifying the heartache that this show creates. It’s just excellent stuff.

Based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, “The Haunting of Hill House” was created, directed, and co-written by Mike “Let’s make sad stuff” Flanagan. Aaaaand, the man just doesn’t fucking miss. His direction here is stellar, building tension when needed, but also letting more dramatic moments breathe just the right amount for maximum emotional investment. I don’t know what to say here about his style that I didn’t mention in my reviews of “Midnight Mass” or “Doctor Sleep“, I can’t really elaborate much beyond it. The dude’s amazing. And Michael Fimognari’s cinematography is beautiful as always. It’s just an insanely well crafted show.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10, and is ranked #132 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“The Haunting of Hill House” is a masterful horror-drama, and a further showcase for why Mike Flanagan is one of the best filmmakers around. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Haunting of Hill House” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Haunting of Hill House” is now completed.

And with that, the Month of Spooks is over. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have tears to mop up. God damn it, Flanagan…

Series Review: Midnight Mass (2021)

It’s finally here, friends… THE MONTH OF SPOOKS! That’s right, Oc-fucking-tober, a month of spooktacular content! Yeah, I’m excited. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Midnight Mass”.

“Midnight Mass” follows the residents of Crockett Island, a remote little mound somewhere in America, as strange things start happening around their home following the arrival of a new, charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater). This show is at its core a character-driven drama, delving deep into themes of grief, guilt, faith, and past traumas, and I find all of it compelling. The way that this stuff is handled throughout the seven episode run is some of the most nuanced and beautiful storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in any show. This even gives extra weight to the sections which lean more on classic horror, both in terms of thematic depth and  in terms of how much suspense and terror it is able to generate. So yeah, the story here is emotionally resonant, nuanced, unpredictable, scary, and overall just fucking spectacular.

The characters in this show are all very flawed, layered, colorful, and insanely interesting to follow. All of them have some past (or present) trauma going on, and it makes for some incredibly engaging character work. What helps this further is the frankly insane cast, featuring people like Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater (who is the standout for me), Henry Thomas, Kristin Lehman, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, Annarah Cymone, and many more, all giving top tier performances.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, who absolutely knocked it out of the park with the music here. I’ve enjoyed their work in the past, but I feel like they really outdid themselves here. Of course you do have some traditional horror stings, but there are also a lot of quieter, more emotional pieces throughout the show as well, along with some frankly haunting bits as well. It manages to hit every kind of emotion possible, making for a very engaging soundscape that adds a lot to the show.

“Midnight Mass” was created for Netflix by Mike Flanagan, who also directed and co-wrote all the episodes. And I gotta say, the dude knocked it out of the fucking park with his directing here. Not that Flanagan’s direction has ever been bad, but you can tell that this was a real passion project for him just by how all out he goes with the way his shots flow, how tightly edited it is, and how just how ambitious it can be at times. Further adding to this is the cinematography by Michael Fimognari, which is beautiful and really adds to the storytelling. The special effects in this are all great as well. It’s just an insanely well crafted show that you can tell everyone involved put 250% into. I know that is mathematically illogical (and possibly impossible), but I don’t care, it’s how I feel.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.9/10.

“Midnight Mass” is an absolutely phenomenal horror show that had me glued to the screen from start to end. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Midnight Mass” is a 9.94/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Midnight Mass” is now completed.

Month of Spooks is off to one hell of a start!

Movie Review: The Conversation (1974)

Surveillance, something that’s part of our society, and we often don’t think about it. Sometimes it’s done for our safety and sometimes it’s perhaps used for less savory purposes. Anyhow, let’s talk about a movie.

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

The story follows Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a surveillance expert who recently got tasked with following and recording a young couple. However, as he proceeds with this job, he starts growing paranoid about the entire situation. What we have here is a slowly burning conspiracy thriller with a lot of character drama interwoven throughout, and I found it to be utterly fucking engrossing. Right from the first shot the movie gives off this really uncomfortable vibe, creating a really fascinating and frankly eerie mood that doesn’t let go until it’s over. And the way it tackles theme of paranoia, morality, and various other themes through its storytelling is just superb, making for a really nuanced and engaging conspiracy thriller.

The characters in this are all really interesting, because you never know who can be trusted or if anyone really is on Harry’s side. It helps in adding to the film’s overall sense of paranoia, which just made me even more tense. Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, a long time surveillance expert and our protagonist. He’s a fascinating man that I found really engaging to follow. Part of this is due to the writing, but most of it is of course down to Hackman who is absolutely superb in the role. And in the supporting cast we see people like John Cazale, Frederic Forrest, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, and more, all of which are great in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by David Shire, and I think he did a really good job with it. Some of it has a little bit of basis in lounge jazz, bouncing around a lot on higher notes, having a bit of fun with itself. But soon enough you start hearing it shift in tone a bit, going down on the lower keys a lot more, creating this eerie and intense vibe that borders on horror-esque at times. Really helps sell the increasing paranoia of the narrative beautifully.

“The Conversation” was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. And quick little sidenote: This came out the same year as “The Godfather Part II”, so Coppola really had one busy year. Anyhow, I don’t think I’m claiming anything unexpected when I say that he did an excellent job with his direction. He manages to keep us close and intimate with Harry, while still somehow making us feel somewhat distant, almost like we’re surveilling him. Really helps in building a sense of unease around the whole situation, just making me insanely uncomfortable. And Bill Butler’s cinematography really helps sell this too. It’s just excellently crafted.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10. The movie was also nominated for 3 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound.

While its sloooooow pace might put some off, I found “The Conversation” to be an electrifying thriller that I won’t soon forget. It has a fantastic story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Conversation” is a 9.91/10. So I’d say it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Conversation” is now completed

If anyone wonders why I’m choosing to stop talking to people, know that I blame Francis Ford Coppola.