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.

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…

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: The Night House (2021)

Spooky goings-on are happening on this here blog. I mean, it has through this entire month, but it’s happening once again. So let’s see what kind of spooks we’re dealing with this time.

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

Following the recent death of her husband, a grieving Beth (Rebecca Hall) slowly starts finding out that he may have been keeping some dark secrets from her, all while strange things start happening in her house. “The Night House” is a slow burn of a movie, a psychological horror that over the course of its runtime mess with the viewer. Sure, there are more in-your-face scare-scares too, and those are used to great effect, but the biggest strength is how it uses themes of trauma and grief to create an otherworldly atmosphere that made me question everything I was watching. And this uneasiness kept me on edge right from the word go, deeply unsettling me while also handling its themes in heartbreaking and deeply resonant ways. It’s a scary and beautifully told story that I absolutely adored following.

What I like about the characters in this is how real they feel, while still allowing for a fair bit of the theatricality that can be found in movies. Even as weird shit happens, there’s something that makes these people feel grounded in some sort of reality, which makes them really compelling to watch. And that’s as far as I’ll go in terms of characterization, as revealing any more could/may take any impact away. Anyhow, holy fuck, Rebecca Hall is amazing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite a while now, but I will never cease to be astonished by how well she plays these sorts of characters. There’s so much going through her character’s mind at any given moment, and Hall just nails it masterfully. The supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, and more, all giving stellar performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ben Lovett, and I thought it was pretty great. Sure, some of it does devolve into the typical crescendo-ing horror droning, but then there are also some really interesting tracks utilizing strings amongst other things to create a brooding and quite spooky atmosphere, that also has this underlying sadness to it. It creates a sonically interesting and emotionally rich soundscape that I found quite compelling to listen to. There’s also some licensed music used throughout, and it works pretty well too. This movie has good music.

“The Night House” was directed by David Bruckner, and I think did a stellar job here. His directing style is fairly slick, without being overly flashy, creatively using space, blocking, and light/darkness to create visually striking shots that also work well to tell the story or just scare me. Combine this with Elisha Christian’s stunning cinematography, and you get one of the most visually intriguing horror movies I’ve seen in recent years. There’s also some clever and interesting visual effects here that work really well for this movie, they’re not super in-your-face, but when they’re there, they are just so cool.

This movie has been mixed to positively received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

“The Night House” unsettled me in a way no movie has before. Sure, others have deeply scared and unsettled me, but this movie does it in a unique way I can’t fully explain. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Deep inhale*. My final score for “The Night House” is a 9.89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Night House” is now completed.

Can we get Rebecca Hall a nice movie? Between this and “Christine” and probably something else, she plays a lot of characters who get put through the wringer, and it’d be nice to see her just have a nice day for once.

Movie Review: The Fly (1986)

We’ve been keeping it fairly modern with the last few Month of Spooks reviews, so how about we jump back a couple years this time? Back… to the futu- 1980s.

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

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is an eccentric scientist, quietly working on creating a working teleporter. And one day he decides to pull a risky experiment by placing himself in the teleporter. What he doesn’t notice however is that a small housefly joins him inside of the machine, which will change his life in strange, horrifying ways. “The Fly” is part mad scientist story, part body horror, and part tragic love story, and it somehow balances it all in a really entertaining, eerie, and surprisingly poignant way. The story isn’t necessarily a slow burn, but it still take its time to set up Brundle and his journey from regular scientist to something more, mixing in a whirlwind romance with a journalist (Geena Davis) that I feel works really well not only on its own, but also in really grounding the drama and making any horrific turns have more weight. And while the mad scientist story is pretty fun on its own, what really sells it and makes the narrative as strong as it ends up being is the surprisingly human drama that is in there. It turns what would’ve been an otherwise standard sci-fi story into a beautiful tragedy… while still also giving us some grim, goopy body horror to marvel at.

The characters in this are all colorful, interesting, and go through fairly interesting arcs. First up is Seth Brundle, a pretty odd man of science. He’s a generally good-natured oddball who goes through a fascinating transformation, both physically and mentally, that I found quite intriguing and made for some really compelling drama and horror. And Jeff Goldblum gives a damn good performance. Next is Veronica, a tough yet kind journalist that Brundle enters into a relationship with. She’s a fairly interesting character, and Geena Davis is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like John Getz, Joy Boushel, and more, all delivering pretty solid work.

The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and it’s great. It mainly consists of a classical orchestra, with brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion filling that space. But what I really like about the score is the sonic storytelling going on. Early on it’s way more light and playful, capturing the excitement surrounding Brundle’s attempt at nailing teleportation. But a he starts changing and things slowly get more horror-y, the score takes on a more sinister tone, with an underlying sadness lurking beneath. It’s interesting to listen to it and makes for a really compelling score that really helps elevate the drama.

Based on a short story by George Langelaan, “The Fly” was directed and co-written by David Cronenberg, who did a damn good job. Cronenberg is really good at creating this sweeping dread, having this uncomfortable suspense lurk in the background for all scenes, even as nothing particularly bad is meant to be going on. It gives the movie this strange vibe that makes it stick out and keep my interest throughout the entire runtime. Now, let’s talk about the effects here, because those are arguably what the movie’s known for at this point. Yeah, they are absolutely stellar, Chris Walas made sure these effects were as detailed, goopy, gory, and disgusting as they could, which really makes them a horrifying sight that works well for the story. Also, it’s been a while since I’ve seen  movie that’s made me gag. I can handle blood and gore, but there’s some shit in this that actually managed to upset my body… so kudos to the crew for that, you succeeded with what I can only assume was your goal.

This movie 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 7.6/10.

“The Fly” is a wonderfully crafted horror tragedy that compelled me from start to end. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Buzz*. My final score for “The Fly” is a 9.67/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Fly” is now completed.

Ian Malcolm would have a field day with Seth Brundle. And I would happily watch Goldblum ripping into Goldblum.

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: Primal – Season 2 (2022)

Roughly two years ago, I reviewed the first season of this show. It was one my favorite things I have ever watched. And now season 2 has finally wrapped up, and I’m ready to talk about it. So did it live up to the first one? Let’s find out. Oh, and there will be some spoilers for the end of season 1, as that sets up this season. So you’ve been warned.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Primal” season 2!

Following the capture of his new friend Mira (Laëtitia Eïdo) by some unknown enemies, Spear (Aaron LaPlante) heads out with his trusted dino friend Fang into the vast unknown to find and rescue Mira. Season 2 of “Primal” forgoes the more episodic nature of the first outing for a more overarching story. And while I do miss aspects of the episodic structure, such as the greater variety in creatures, I did still really dig the story here. It’s a fun adventure narrative that tests the mettle of a man on a mission, it also does an excellent job of showing the impact of Spear and Fang’s brutal survival tactics. Like yeah, we do still root for them to succeed, but we also get to see more stuff from the perspective of other characters, and how they react to our heroes. It adds a lot of nuance to proceedings and makes the misadventures of our leads way more compelling and even a little more suspenseful. I also enjoyed how the story explored more cultures. If you’re one of those people who was bothered by the first season’s historically inaccurate premise of “caveman plus dinosaur”, then you’re gonna have a conniption at the amount of historical mixing they do this season. But I like it, because it leads to a lot of fun story and character opportunities. Where the story falters a little bit for me is in the ending, or more specifically the execution of it. I get the idea they’re going for, and it’s not the worst one. But the last minute-ish feels kind of awkward, and bothered me a bit. There is a simple tweak they could’ve done to the script and I wouldn’t have said anything. But as it stands, the very ending here is a little mixed. The overall season on the other hand is fucking great. Fun, scary, compelling, anxiety-inducing, and even heartwarming.

I like the characters in this. Despite (or thanks to) the creator’s penchant for minimal to no (understandable) dialogue, the characters don’t really develop much through words. But they do a good job of humanizing them and making them really compelling through visual storytelling and the actions they take, and it makes them really fun and interesting. And while they don’t get to speak much, I can still say that the voice cast all do a great job with the material/noises they have. Aaron LaPlante Laëtitia Eïdo, Fred Tatasciore, Imari Williams, MyAnna Buring, and more all deliver solid performances.

As with the first season, the music was composed by Tyler Bates and Joanne Higginbottom, and once again they knocked it out of the park. The percussion, brass, strings, and woodwind come together in really fun ways, taking influence from various cultures and exploring various moods in beautiful ways. It’s just stellar stuff that helps elevate the storytelling.

Season 2 of “Primal” had its writing split up between series creator Genndy Tartakovsky, and various other cool people, with directing being handled exclusively by Tartakovsky himself. And yeah, the craft here is just spectacular. The work Genndy and his team did on season 1 was already great, using the medium of animation to great effect. But I think they really outdid themselves here, with more detail in every scene, more dynamic movements, really inventive shots, and some bits that frankly made my jaw drop. You can tell that they really aimed to push themselves and the show further than they had before, and it pays off marvelously. Also, the action’s still bloody as fuck, which might put some off, but I dig it. Really adds weight to this world the characters inhabit.

The show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 97/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.7/10 and is ranked #137 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While the veeeeeery end is awkward and brings it down a little for me, season 2 of “Primal” is still another stellar outing for the violent and contemplative caveman show. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Primal” is a 9.67/10. So it does still get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Primal” season 2 is now completed.

Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur…

Series Review: Bodyguard – Season 1 (2018)

I may be four years behind everyone else, but I’m finally caught up on this show… so let’s talk about it.

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

The story follows police sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) who in the wake of increased terror presence gets assigned to protect highly controversial politician Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And throughout the season we get to see David try to balance a rocky home life and his duty to protect Montague, who seems to have more enemies than allies. I found the story here to be quite riveting, it’s six episodes of unrelenting tension, a grey as hell and thematically complex conspiracy thriller that constantly made me question who was on the side of whom, who can be trusted, and why certain events happen. And while it generally tries to put David and his plight as the element we’re supposed to root for, the writing does a good job of still making that feel layered and make it clear that it’s not all black and white, even for our supposed hero. And even when the show gets a little less murky about what’s going on, it still found ways of keeping me in suspense, making my heart race and stomach churn at many points. It’s a damn good suspense thriller narrative.

The characters in this are all very layered, flawed, and have a certain wornness to them, like they feel like they’ve actually been around for a while and didn’t just pop into existence when the camera first shows them. First off we have David Budd, the titular bodyguard, a former soldier and current policeman who gets put through the absolute wringer in this show, getting some of the most interesting development I’ve seen from a protagonist in a while. He’s an engaging character, with Richard Madden delivering an absolutely fantastic performance. Next is Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague, a brash, no-shit-taking, kinda manipulative politician. She has a really interesting thematic presence within the show and the way her relationship to David evolves is always interesting, which leads to a lot of the grey area I mentioned earlier. And Hawes does a great job with the role. And we also get supporting work from people like Sophie Rundle, Stuart Bowman, Ash Tandon, Tom Brooke, Nina Toussaint-White, Anjli Mohindra, and many more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Ruth Barret and Ruskin Williamson, and it is great. Utilizing a mix of classic orchestration and complexly woven electronics, the pair create a score that manages to perfectly nail home the uneasiness of every situation David finds himself on. It also has its own weird quirks at times that’ll stick in my mind for a while. For example, in one track there was this one faint ringing sound that I at first thought was a nearby car alarm, but turns out it was just the score doing something odd to ratchet up tension. So that’ll stick in my noggin for the foreseeable future. But yeah, the music here’s great.

“Bodyguard” was written and created by Jed Mercurio, with directing duties divided between Thomas Vincent and John Strickland, and cinematography handled by John Lee. And the craft here is absolutely superb, with every piece coming together to a show that somehow manages to feel both grand and claustrophobic at the same time, making the conspiracy and situation feel huge while still allowing the tension to always feel near, always in the room with you, smothering you, never really allowing you to breathe properly. It’s just some of the most chest-tensing tv craft I’ve ever experienced. Mercurio and Strickland are no strangers to this, having worked together on the anxiety-inducing “Line of Duty” before (and after) this, but it really feels like they were allowed to really ratchet up the intensity and stakes here to a scope and degree that “Line of Duty” never really seems to have had the chance to. I still adore that show, don’t get me wrong. Just saying, this just seems… bigger in a way, and it allowed them to play around more with what kinds of suspense they could craft.

This show/season 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 8.1/10.

So yeah, “Bodyguard” is a fantastic bit of suspense television. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bodyguard” is a 9.56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bodyguard” is now completed.

Apparently they’re gonna make a second season, but I have no god damn clue how they’d be able to follow on from this.

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?