Series Review: We Got This – Season 1 (2020)

For anyone unaware, I’m from Sweden. However, despite this, it is quite rare for me to talk about shows and movies made in my own country. But today I’m actually doing that. Yay?

Mina damer och herrar… “We Got This” season 1.

American ex-pat George (Schiaffino Musarra) has been living in Sweden for some time. However, he has recently acquired quite a huge tax debt. However, he soon finds out that there’s a 50 million SEK reward for solving the assassination of former prime minister Olof Palme. So George teams up with a colorful group of people to try to solve this nearly 40-year old case. But as they investigate, George and his team find themselves delving into a way deeper conspiracy than they probably expected. This concept is a bit on the absurd side of things, and the writing is fully aware of that, taking full advantage of said knowledge to give the storytelling a self-aware and charming tone that gives it a surprising edge over other conspiracy stories. Now, that’s not to say that “We Got This” doesn’t have any serious moments, because it does. But often it leans into a more comedic tone, almost reminding me of stuff from the Coen brothers at times. And I must say that I was thoroughly entertained by the storytelling here.

The characters in this are colorful, a bit weird, and all highly entertaining. Schiaffino Musarra plays George English, American expat trying to fix his financial situation. He’s a kind, smart, but also slightly impatient fella who’s fallen on hard times. And seeing his determination through the series to try to solve this case is quite entertaining. And Musarra is really good in the role. Next we have Alexander Karim as Alex, an old school journalist in a changing landscape. He’s also a friend of George, and the one who’s often the voice of reason (until proven wrong). He has an interesting dynamic within the show that I find quite fun. And Karim is great in the role. Next we have Olle Sarri as Björn. Björn is a bit special. He’s one tinfoil hat away from total kook, but his madness does make him and entertaining and surprisingly valuable part of the cast. And Sarri is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Anki Larsson, Hans Mosesson, Sandra Andreis, Christian Svensson, Johanna Wilson, Lennart Jähkel, Ida Hedlund-Stenmarck, and more, all doing really well in their respective roles.

The music for the show was composed by Goran Kajfes, and I think he did an alright job with it. It’s often a fairly jazzy affair, helping sell the lighthearted, working class absurdism of the premise. My main problem is that there aren’t really enough tracks. It makes the few in here (which generally are good) feel slightly repetitive due to some overuse. Again, the music’s pretty good… there just isn’t quite enough unique tracks.

“We Got This” was created by Schiaffino Musarra, who wrote all episodes along with Santiago Gil and Patrik Eklund, with Eklund directing all the episodes. And from that standpoint, the show is quite good too. There’s a lot of fun blocking and camera movements in the show that show how much they actually cared about the actual craft behind the show. And my god, the editing is marvelous. I did not expect to get a show with editing this snappy and energetic and fun. Reminds me a little of Edgar Wright at times. And since the show is a comedy, how’d the humor? I found it quite funny. Now, a lot of it can get lost in translation, unfortunately. But as far as I’m concerned, I laughed.

This show isn’t exactly a big, international thing, so there isn’t much review data on it on most sites I use for this section. But on imdb.com it has a score of 7,1/10.

I’ll be honest, I did not expect much from “We Got This”… but boy, am I glad I was proven wrong. It’s an absolute blast from start to finish. It has a really fun plot, great characters, great performances, pretty good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Got This” season 1 is a 9,51/10. So it most certainly gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “We Got This” is now completed.

Maybe the title was to make me feel secure with watching the show. “You want a good show? Well don’t worry, We Got This!”.

Movie Review: One False Move (1992)

The 90s were such a fascinating time for movies, particularly ones within the crime and thriller genres. Some were kinda typical and formulaic, but often still entertained. But then we also got ones that could subvert expectations. I only say this because 90s thrillers are among my favorite kinds of movies, and today we’re talking about one such movie, one that I only heard about for the first time late last year.

Ladies and gents… “One False Move”.

After a group of criminals commit a violent crime in Los Angeles, they flee the city, heading east towards Arkansas to go into hiding. However, the L.A. police are already onto them, so they get to the quaint Arkansas town first to team up with the local Sheriff (Bill Paxton) to hopefully get his help in apprehending the criminals. In the first half hour or so it may kinda seem like a typical thriller in a lot of ways, but as we move on through the story, it evolves in a lot of unexpected ways, turning into a surprisingly nuanced take on race and humanity. And despite this switch in focus, it all feels natural. The story uses its setups to give us a genuinely clever and layered narrative that managed to keep me enraptured from start to end.

Just like the plot before them, the characters in the movie may seem like one simple idea at first, but as time passes, we find out that there’s more than meets the eye. Bill Paxton plays Sheriff Dale Dixon, a lovable countryside Sheriff who’s ready for action. And the arc he goes through here is so unexpected, yet so compelling, that I can’t help but find him an electrifying character. And Paxton is terrific in the role. Next we have Cynda Williams as a young woman who travels with the criminal group at the center of the story, and we quickly learn she does have some interesting history (to keep it vague). And Williams is really good in the role. Then we have Billy Bob Thornton and Michael Beach as the two main crooks, and they make for an interesting presence in the movie. And both actors are great in their roles. We also get some supporting work from people like Jim Metzler, Earl Billings, Natalie Canerday, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The music for the movie was composed by Peter Haycock, Derek Holt, and Terry Plumeri. I really like what they did with the score. There is an interesting mix of genres in the score. At times it sounds like a more typical movie score with regular orchestrations, and at times it goes for blues instrumentation. I find it to be quite a fascinating blend that really adds to the film’s atmosphere, giving it a fairly unique soundscape that I loved listening to throughout the runtime.

Written by Billy Bob Thornton & Tom Epperson, “One False Move” was directed by Carl Franklin, who I think did a great job. He manages to give the entire thing a very grounded feel, without sacrificing any cinematic flair. This also helps bring in some decent suspense at times, which further adds to the nuance of the narrative and world of the movie. So combine Franklins confident direction with James L. Carter’s really good cinematography, and you get an insanely well crafted movie.

This movie has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 87/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,1/10.

While the change in narrative focus may put some people off, I personally thought “One False Move” was a great little crime-drama. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “One False Move” is a 9,80/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “One False Move” is now completed.

I miss Bill Paxton.

Great Music #35

Hey there friends. Time for another edition of my Great Music series. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, then the title should be enough explanation. It’s just me talking about songs I like… simple as that.

So last time we talked about Iron Maiden contemplating the fleeting nature of time, which can be a heavy subject, but the band performed it in such a fun way that it becomes easily digestible. So today, how about we delve into a pit of sadness? Today we talk about the somber, contemplative song “Brother”, composed and performed by Shawn James.

According to Shawn James’ twitter (and a thorough, attentive listening of the lyrics), the song is about loss and suicide and other such heavy themes. It’s quite a sad little poem told to us in this song. This is actually the second Shawn James song we’ve tackled in this series, with the first being “Through the Valley”, which I wrote about in 2017. I only mention this because there’s quite a stark difference between what the themes of the songs are, and also the approach to its tonality. Either way, “Brother” makes me a bit sad, but it’s still a brilliant song. Heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure, brought to life by James’ wonderful voice.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Movie Review: Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007)

Life is fucking complicated. That’s it, that’s our intro.

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 and gentlemen… “Stuart: A Life Backwards”.

Aspiring writer Alexander Masters (Benedict Cumberbatch), through working with homeless people, meets Stuart (Tom Hardy), a homeless alcoholic with a traumatic past. And we follow the two as their lives evolve because of their unlikely friendship. This is a fascinating little drama, and I must say that I found myself enraptured by the story here. Now, the film’s structure isn’t exactly unique, it’s pretty straightforward in that regard. But it still feels quite fresh thanks to its fascinating subject and nuanced writing. It can often be quite heavy and unflinching when revealing what’s been going on in Stuart’s life, which might not be the most fun to watch… but man, it really adds to the experience. The story here is nuanced, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and simply great.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, fascinating, and feel very real. Tom Hardy plays Stuart, the eponymous character. He is an alcoholic with a history of violence and drug usage. I won’t go into specifics, but it’s interesting to see the kind of personal journey Stuart goes through here. They really pull no punches with it all. And Tom Hardy is absolutely fantastic in the role, probably giving the best performance I’ve seen from him. Next we have Benedict Cumberbatch as Alexander, the man who more or less serves as the film’s narrator. He goes through a little bit of a personal arc too after he meets/befriends Stuart, and it’s pretty compelling, with Cumberbatch giving a damn good performance. We also get some supporting work from people like Nicola Duffett, Candis Nergaard, Trevor Sellers, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Rob Lane, and it was good. It’s not one of those scores that you’re gonna find yourself humming along to it, as it relies less on melody and more on heavy ambient sounds. But that’s okay, because it fits incredibly well within the movie, adding to the emotion of a lot of scenes.

Based on the book of the same name by Alexander Masters, “Stuart: A Life Backwards” is a made-for-tv movie co-produced by BBC and HBO, and was directed by David Attwood. And I think Attwood did a good job with it, really giving the movie a sort of fly on the wall feel to proceedings. There’s nothing flashy and movie-ish about his directing here, it really has a grounded and almost documentary-esque feel.

“Stuart: A Life Backwards” isn’t always easy to watch, but it is still one hell of a good drama. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Stuart: A Life Backwards” is a 9,78/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Stuart: A Life Backwards”.

This movie kinda broke me.

Movie Review: Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

Between this and “Sexy Beast”, I seem to be finding myself reviewing a bunch of movies with at-first-glance strange titles that implies something… not very family-friendly (avert thine eyes and minds, nuns and children). But I promise, there’s an actual movie here.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”.

Ann (Andie MacDowell) and John (Peter Gallagher) live a quiet and seemingly decent life. However, due to Ann’s disinterest in sex, John has resorted to cheating on Ann with her sister (Laura San Giacomo), which has become an unfortunate status quo. But one day when John’s old friend Graham (James Spader) shows up in town, things start to change. “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” deals with sexuality (well, duh), both active and repressed, and how that affects the relationships between the characters. And I must say, I thought it was very well handled here. It’s a slowly burning, mature, and nuanced take on those themes that mesmerizes from start to end thanks to the strong writing (and a few other elements, which we’ll get to later, but I digress).

The characters in this are flawed, unique, and overall quite fascinating. Andie MacDowell plays Ann, a sexually repressed, slightly neurotic woman. She is a pretty layered character unlike any I’ve followed before, and MacDowell was great in the role. Peter Gallagher is really good as the charismatic, yet slimy John. Laura San Giacomo was great as Ann’s sister, Cynthia. And then we have James Spader as the somewhat mysterious Graham. I won’t go too deep on him, because I think some of his quirks and such are better left experienced rather than told. But I can say that he’s quite fascinating, and Spader is great in the role.

The score for the movie was composed by Cliff Martinez, and it was great. Generally it wasn’t very melodic, going for a more atmospheric, droning sound. But it worked fantastically within the movie, adding another layer of emotion to proceedings, making for a much more engrossing experience.

“Sex, Lies, and Videotape” was the feature film debut of American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. He both wrote and directed the movie, and I think he did a phenomenal job. And I’m not just saying this in comparison to other debuts, but also as a comparison to filmmakers with more experience. The amount of clever camerawork and directing techniques here is insane, and all of them serve the storytelling beautifully. The dude showed skill beyond his years with this.

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 86/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10. The movie was nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best original screenplay.

“Sex, Lies, and Videotape” is an excellent little drama that wonderfully explores the lives of our characters. It has a great plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” is a 9,87/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” is now completed.

How in the hell is this a debut? Did Soderbergh sell his soul to the devil or something?

Movie Review: 99 Homes (2015)

Homes. We live in them. They shelter us from the harshness of the outside world. And yet despite their importance, a few small legal stipulations can instantly take them away from us.

Ladies and gents… “99 Homes”.

After he gets tossed out of his own home, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) goes on a quest to find a job so he can try to get it back. This eventually leads him to working for Richard Carver (Michael Shannon), the real estate agent that made Dennis leave his home. Already there you get an interesting setup. And the movie uses it to its advantage in developing the drama of the story, and it only grows more and more compelling as Dennis delves further down this spiral, becoming more involved with the real estate business. I honestly didn’t see where the story went at first, and even when I got some idea of the path later on, I still found it really engaging thanks to the genuinely interesting writing.

The characters in this are really interesting, as they’re actually pretty layered. Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a dedicated single father doing everything he can to keep his family afloat. He is the one that goes through the most development in the cast here (which makes sense, since he’s the main character), going from his emotionally charged starting position to where he ends up. And Garfield is fantastic in the role. We then have Michael Shannon as Richard Carver, real estate agent and dickhead extraordinaire. If you just think of those words together with the casting, you can probably imagine what the character’s like. And you’re mostly right… and it’s awesome. Michael Shannon’s awesome. We also get supporting work from Laura Dern, Noah Lomax, Tim Guinee, J.D. Evermore, and a whole bunch of other people, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Antony Partos & Matteo Zingales, and I think they did a pretty good job with it. The score is a mostly synthesized affair, making for a decently dramatic sound that fits the movie well enough. Not much else I can say. Good, but not too memorable.

“99 Homes” was written by Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi, with Bahrani serving as director. And I think Bahrani did a great job. He really knows how to bring you into it. There’s a confidence in his direction that gives the movie a certain flair that elevates it everything else by quite a margin. He almost gives the movie a bit of a documentary-esque vibe, without sacrificing the cinematic flair of the fictional elements. He also knows how to build some good suspense at times, especially with a scene early on that I won’t spoil. Bahrani’s good.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,1/10.

“99 Homes” is a damn fine drama, taking a nuanced look at some fairly complex issues. It has a great plot, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, and really good writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “99 Homes” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “99 Homes” is now completed.

Oh, and that “Based on true events label”? Not quite true. It uses the 2008 recession as basis for its story, but beyond that, the story and characters are fabrications.

Movie Review: Bad Education (2020)

I am so thankful for HBO existing over here in Sweden. This means I got to watch this movie the day after it aired in the United States. Yes, I am bragging. Not as an insult to those who can’t watch it, but just because I’m happy over this luck I have. Anyhow, review time.

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 and gents… “Bad Education”.

Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is the superintendent of the Roslyn school district in the state of New York. He’s beloved by all, always taking time to assist colleagues and students, being a real beacon of hope and success. But as we follow him through the movie, we start to find out that he and his colleagues may have some shady, monetary dealings going on. I really enjoyed the story here, as it takes a very fly-on-the-wall approach to its storytelling. While it makes clear that some of the shady shit going on isn’t okay, it doesn’t necessarily take a side and say that anyone here is an outright bad person, instead just presenting the facts, pimples and shiny smiles alike, allowing the viewer to take their own stance on things. It also has an interesting tone, more often than not going for a more darkly comedic approach rather than straight drama, which I think really adds some extra flavor to proceedings. It’s an interesting story told in a nuanced and engaging way.

The characters are flawed, colorful, layered, and just overall quite interesting. Hugh Jackman plays Frank Tassone, the charismatic superintendent at the center of the story. He’s friendly, charming, coming off as the perfect man to lead the charge in getting a school district to the top. But as we soon find out, he may or may not have a few secrets of his own. Hugh Jackman is excellent in the role, giving a relatively subdued performance where you can read every little emotion and thought in his eyes. Next we have Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin, Frank’s colleague, and also the person who keeps tabs on the economy in the school(s). And as you might expect from that description and the fact that she’s played by Allison Janney, she’s quite an intriguing presence in the story. And Janney is great in the role. I love her chemistry with Jackman as well, they are a lot of fun together. Next we have Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel, a student at one of the schools in Frank’s district. She’s a bright young lady, working as a journalist for the school paper. She’s one of the more interesting supporting players here as she gets plenty to do, and Viswanathan does a really good job in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Ray Romano, Rafael Casal, Annaleigh Ashford, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Michael Abels, and it was good. It has a bit of a classic vibe, leaning mainly on string-based arrangements, with the occasional woodwind to back it up. And I think it works well for what happens in the movie. There’s also one or two licensed songs used throughout, and they decently well too.

Based on the article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker, “Bad Education” was written by Mike Makowsky and directed by Cory Finley. And I must say that I am impressed by that side of the movie. There’s a slickness to it all. Finley really gives scenes a nice flow, you can tell that he is in full control of the situations, giving us directing that really made the movie have an interesting and engaging vibe.

This movie has so far been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10.

“Bad Education” is a really well made biopic that tells a really interesting tale. The story’s really good, the characters are interesting, the performances are great, the music’s good, and the writing/directing is great. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bad Education” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bad Education” is now completed.

Stay in school, kids. Even if shady shit could be going on.

Movie Review: Sexy Beast (2001)

Despite what the title implies, this is not a porno. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. But hey, life is weird like that sometimes.

Ladies and gents… “Sexy Beast”.

Gary Dove (Ray Winstone) is a former safecracker who has now retired to Spain with his wife (Amand Redman). However, his seemingly quiet life soon gets interrupted when volatile gangster Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) shows up to try to recruit him for another job. So now we have the setup for our British crime story… except not exactly. There is definitely a setup for a British crime/heist story, but what “Sexy Beast” does is put the job to the side for most of it, focusing on Gary trying to navigate the dangerous waters knows as Don fucking Logan. So it’s really more of a character-driven thriller rather than a typical crime story, and I really dug that. It’s fast-paced, it’s suspenseful, and it’s a lot more nuanced than one might expect from that title.

The characters are flawed, colorful, and really interesting. First up we have Ray Winstone as Gary “Gal” Dove, the former crook at the center of our story. At the start you don’t see much from him in terms of development, but as soon as ge knows Logan’s about to enter, he starts going through some interesting character stuff. And Winstone is really good in the role. Next we have Ben Kingsley as Don Logan, someone that our protagonist clearly has some history with. He’s a scary, unpredictable motherfucker that adds so much to the development of the story and characters. And Kingsley is fucking phenomenal in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, Cavan Kendall, James Fox, Julianne White, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Roque Baños, and he did a good job with it. Sure, I don’t exactly remember any of it enough to hum it to you, but it worked well enough in the scenes where it could be heard. There were also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they worked quite well in their scenes.

“Sexy Beast” is the directorial debut of Jonathan Glazer, who I must say did a fucking great job for someone who’d never made a movie before. I admit that some of the surreal imagery used in the movie doesn’t fully click for me, but generally I liked Glazer directed. It’s energetic, it’s snappy, and it just has a way of creating a unique vibe seldom seen within the genre. And the editing is on point too.

This movie has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10. The movie was nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best supporting actor (Kingsley).

“Sexy Beast” is an excellent crime-thriller that subverts the expectations one has of the genre. It has a great plot, good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sexy Beast” is a 9,62/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Sexy Beast” is now completed.

Never heard Kingsley swear this much before, holy shit.

Series Review: Devs (2020)

Technology is fascinating. The way it’s evolved in the past hundred years alone is fucking insane and amazing. And I am always fascinated by how they use it for storytelling. So let’s see if this little tech-drama does that well.

Ladies and gents… “Devs”.

When her boyfriend disappears after starting work at a mysterious tech department, Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) starts investigating what happened, leading her down a dangerous and complex path. Talking about the plot of “Devs” without revealing too much is challenging. It’s a nuanced show that tackles a fair bit of complex and mature subject matters in interesting ways. The show’s slow pace might test the patience of some people, but I feel like it adds to the storytelling, as it gives a lot of moments time to breathe. It’s a clever little thriller that’s more about the brains than pure thrills, making for a unique kind of cerebral experience that we haven’t seen much of in tv before.

The characters are flawed, layered, and interesting. Sonoya Mizuno plays Lily, our protagonist. She’s a computer engineer with some baggage, trying to deal with the recent developments in her life. Seeing her develop throughout the show is quite interesting, and Mizuno does a really good job in the role. Next we have Nick Offerman as Forest, the enigmatic CEO of the tech company at the center of the story. He’s generally a quiet and kindhearted dude, but who carries some shit with him that makes him a bit more complex in his morality. And Offerman is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Jin Ha, Alison Pill, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Cailee Spaeny, Zach Grenier, Karl Glusman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, with assistance from experimental jazz group The Insects. The score has a very interesting vibe, at times sounding a little “Blade Runner”-esuqe, but never feeling like it’s ripping that off. The sound is very dreamlike, helping in create a really unique and eerie vibe that stays with the viewer after an episode ends.

“Devs” was created, written, and directed by Alex Garland for the FX network, and I think he did a great job with that stuff. His directing is slow and very deliberate, going for that almost dreamlike vibe I mentioned in the music section. And when combined with the immaculate set design and Rob Hardy’s mesmerizing cinematography, you get one of the mot stunningly crafted shows I’ve had the pleasure of laying my eyes on in a while. There were a lot of scenes in this show that made my jaw fall to the floor. I still have trouble keeping it on when thinking about those scenes.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 70/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.9/10.

“Devs” is an excellent little tech-thriller, featuring a great plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography/etc. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Devs” is a 9,87/10. Which of course means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Devs” is now completed.

Alex Garland will basically get my time anytime he releases something.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 2 (1997 – 1998)

As some of you may know, earlier this year my mother and I started our rewatch of this show. And I promised to document said journey. Episode-by-episode thoughts will be posted to my twitter as soon as an episode is watched. And as each season gets finished, I will (as seen here) write a review of them all. Enough dawdling, review time!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 2!

Summer holiday is over, which means Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) makes her return to Sunnydale after spending some time with her dad in L.A. Which means it’s back to business as usual: Trying to get good grades in school while also working to save the people of Sunnydale from various supernatural threats, including the newly arrived vampires Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Season 2 takes the basic setup of the first season, and improves upon it tenfold thanks to increased budget and confidence in the writing. The main arc(s) in this season mesmerizes, creating an emotionally resonant experience that leaves a unique emotionally visceral impact by the end of it all. The highs of this season are even higher than the first one. Yes, there are still a dud or two, such as the much maligned “Go Fish” or the messy “Bad Eggs”. But then you get some truly awesome experiences in exchange, such as the wonderful “Halloween” or the spectacular and gut-wrenching “Passion”. So while there are a few less than stellar episodes, the overall package is a huge leap in quality from the first season, making for a fucking terrific batch of stories.

The characters in the show are still very colorful, fun, and entertaining, but also get a shitload of development, deepening our bond to them even further. Sarah Michelle Gellar of course returns as the titular vampire slayer. She gets to go through a loooot of stuff this season, and whoa, by the end she has developed so much as a character, which is truly compelling. And Gellar is great in the role, really getting to flex her acting muscles even more than in the first season. David Boreanaz returns as Angel, the vampire with a soul… that means he’s not a bitey bastard anymore, for you uninitiated folks out there. And like Buffy, he goes through a lot of stuff this season that is really interesting to see, both in how it affects him as a character, and how it affects his relationship with Buffy. And Boreanaz is great in the role. Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, and Charisma Carpenter return as Buffy’s friends, and they’re all great, both on the character and acting front. Anthony Head is still wonderful as Buffy’s Watcher/mentor Giles. Now let’s talk about some newcomers… namely Spike and Drusilla, the newly arrived vampires. Spike is an anarchic punk, an absolute dick who likes to cause chaos and fear where he goes… and that kind of makes him the best character, because he’s just a blast to watch, especially since James Marsters clearly has a blast with the role. Next is Drusilla, Spike’s girlfriend, and resident crazy person. I don’t wanna say much more, since I find her personality and arc to be more fascinating to experience rather than told. But I’ll say that she’s interesting and Juliet Landau does a good job in the role. And with people like Robia LaMorte, Kristine Sutherland, Armin Shimerman, Seth Green, Danny Strong, and many more filling out the supporting cast, you get a lot of solid performances.

Season 1 composer Walter Murphy did not return for this second go-around, with compsing duties being handed over to Christophe Beck. And just like with the storytelling and character arcs, the music of season 2 is a vast improvement on the first season. Way fewer synthesizers to emulate orchestras are used, with real instruments getting to take center stage. And while there are some big, bombastic pieces for action set pieces, the overall vibe of the score this season is somber, giving off an understated feeling of sadness that still manages to have some hope behind it. Of course this is best shown in the track “Close Your Eyes”, but it does show in a few other pieces too. Beck really brought his A-game here. There’s a few licensed tracks used throughout too, and they’re fine.

As with season 1, Joss Whedon and a bunch of other cool people handled writing and directing for the season, and generally it is all really well handled (yes, even in bad episodes). It’s well shot, fight choreography ranges from alright to really good, the craft is just generally improved from the first time around (wow, saying that is really getting old). You can tell that the creatives behind the show really cared, trying to bring it to 110% each time (with varying results). Even the effects are improved… even though that doesn’t say much, because we’re talking about late 90s tv budget CGI for certain effects. The practical stuff looks fantastic, but hooooo boy, some of them there fancy computer effects aren’t so fancy anymore. It doesn’t ruin the experience for me, but it’s worth pointing out. Generally the craft here is terrific.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating. On Metacritic it exists, but with no critics rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10.

While it does have one or two low points, season 2 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a great sophomore outing that takes its simple premise and elevates it to something really special. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/action/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 2 is a 9,78/10. So yes, that is correct, it does indeed get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

Season 2 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is now completed.

“Go Fish”, more like “Go Fuck Itself”.