12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 7)

That’s right, this series is still going. I am not giving up on it, even remembering to do a post each day is a surprisingly stressful act. Anyway, here’s today’s post.

Based on a book by Ron Hansen, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was released in 2007, and directed by Andrew Dominik. It follows a young man named Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) who has idolized legendary American outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) for many years, and then finally gets the chance to join his gang at the age of 19. The movie is a character-driven psychological drama all about demythologizing Jesse James while also deconstructing its central protagonist, Robert Ford. So now you’re probably wondering how I’m gonna contrive this to be a christmas movie? Well, watch and learn, my friends. This is how the pros (read: idiots) do it.

Now, one or two of you might assume I’m gonna use the scenes set in snowy landscapes for this. Well, as I’ve probably established earlier in this series, I’m not that fucking shallow. That’s not contrived enough. No, I got something else.
What we see in the movie after Bob joins Jesse’s gang is how much he notices what a psychotic, paranoid disappointment Jesse actually might’ve been, and not this awesome cowboy legend you might read about and enjoy following in a dime novel. So one of the basic messages one can sort of get out of this movie is “Don’t meet your heroes, because you’re just gonna be disappointed”. And that works as our christmas analogy, because as a kid you might be celebrating the holiday with your family, both immediate and extended. And all of a sudden Santa Claus shows up, lets kids sit on his lap, and give them presents. But then one of your dumbass cousins decides to tug at Santa’s beard and find out that it’s just your uncle in a cheap costume, and it turns out there is no actual magical lobster man. Bob getting to know Jesse is kind of the same thing. Instead of this magically awesome being he thought he knew, it turned out to be something a bit more disappointing. So “The Assassination of Jesse James” is a christmas movie in the sense that the truth about the legend is a fucking disappointment, just like Santa Claus.

The movie on the other hand isn’t a disappointment, it’s fucking fantastic. One of my favorites.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 6)

Holy shit, we’re already halfway through this silly series of mine. Time sure flies when things happen. So let’s get into it.

Some of you might recognize the movie from the image up above. Today we’re talking about “Overlord”, a 2018 action-horror movie directed by Julius Avery, and produced by J.J. Abrams. It’s about a group of American soldiers who fall behind enemy lines during World War 2, in an attempt to make a difference in the tides of war. This might sound familiar to some of you, as I have talked about this movie on the blog before… twice, as a matter of fact (and about a kajillion other times on twitter). So now I hear you groaning “Markus, how can a grim World War 2 horror movie possibly be associated with christmas?”. Well, strap in and make yourself ready for my reasoning.

What’s one of the most important parts of christmas? Bringing joy, right? Well, you know what brings me a whole lot of joy? Seeing nazi punks get blown the fuck up, shot to shit, absolutely annihilated, and other delightful synonyms for that situation. Sure, there are parts where our heroes are stuck or pinned down, struggling with their mission. But that just makes it even more satisfying and joyous to see them destroy god damn nazi assholes. Call me a sick son of a bitch if you want, but with our world being what it currently is, this kind of violent escapism is important, especially during the season of joy.

Have a good one.

Series Review: Watchmen – Season 1 (2019)

That’s right, it’s not just christmas contrivances you’ll get. Regular reviews will show up too, I ain’t forgettin’ my roots. So, let’s talk about a comic book thing.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Watchmen” season 1!

Set in an alternate version of 2019, “Watchmen” follows a whole bunch of people, as they try to navigate the strange and intense happenings of this world they live in. And that’s pretty much all I’ll say in regards to explaining the core plot, because it’s such a weird and unique experience that if explained further, it would risk kinda ruining it. But I’ll say that the ways it ties into the classic comic book are really neat, and even looking at it without really knowing much (if anything) about the comic, it’s still a highly entertaining and unique journey that has a satisfying beginning, middle, and end.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, colorful, and just really interesting. Regina King plays Angela Abar, an undercover police officer who more or less serves as the main protagonist of the story. She’s tough, but she does also have a vulnerable side that makes her feel more human and relatable. And King is great in the role. And that’s all the cast I’ll go into, as some reveals are better left experienced (kinda like the plot). But I can say that the cast is filled out with people like Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Sara Vickers, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Louis Gossett Jr, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, James Wolk, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, and good god damn, they did a phenomenal job with it. They do some tracks that are quite exciting and cool-sounding, while also providing some tracks that are a bit more dramatic and emotional. They have created a score that not only covers every emotion one needs created for a show like this, but also fits the weird and unique style of everything else in the show. There’s also some licensed tracks used throughout, and they work quite well in their respective scenes too. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on the classic DC Comic by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, “Watchmen” was developed for HBO by Damon Lindelof, who also served as lead writer, while giving directing duties to a whole bunch of other people. And the craft on display here is absolutely superb, creating a world that is familiar (thanks to it technically still being earth), and yet a bit alien, thanks to its awesomely off-kilter tone. The directing is energetic, but also suspenseful, fun, and engaging. The cinematography too is stunning, giving us some great lighting and framing. And with all this said, episode 6… some of the best craft in a tv episode this year, from the shots, to the editing, to the directing… it’s fucking spectacular.

This show has been 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.

“Watchmen” is one of the best new shows of 2019. It has a great plot, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great writing, directing, cinematography, and editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Watchmen” is a 9,90/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

I know I called this season 1, but I sincerely hope there are no more seasons. This is a perfectly contained package.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 4)

Howdy. 12 Films of Christmas, contrivance edition. The fourth part. Y’all ready?

So today’s pick is an interesting one. Today we’re chatting about “Deadwood: The Movie”, a 2019 made-for-tv film based on the hit tv show that ran from 2004 to 2006. Set ten years after the season 3 finale, we return to the South Dakota camp, now a small town. And we follow Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Swearengen (Ian McShane), and all the other cocksuckers of Deadwood as old wounds get opened up in the midst of Dakota becoming a state. I got to the show far after everyone else, only really starting it in late April/early May of this year, and was done at the end of May, right around the time the movie was released. So I didn’t have the same distance of time/nostalgia that a lot of other people did. But I still watched it. So how is “Deadwood: The Movie” a christmas film? Well tag along with me.

Imagine: The year is 2006. You’ve been watching this show, “Deadwood”. You’ve endured the drama, you’ve fallen in love with the characters, you are so excited about a fourth season… but then the show gets cancelled. You’re distraught. Plot threads dangling loosely, no real resolution, your tenure with these characters gets abruptly cut off. Then, 13 years later, you get to see them again, thanks to this movie. It’s a christmas fucking miracle, a god damn gift! And you know who delivers gifts? Santa Claus.

If you are a fan of “Deadwood” and haven’t checked out the movie yet, I highly recommend doing so. It’s a wonderfully acted and written sendoff for these characters we love. I may have been late to the “Deadwood” party, but that didn’t stop it from having a big impact on me. The show is fantastic, and the movie is one of my favorites of the year.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 3)

Good evening, ladies and gents. Christmas is almost upon us, and we are counting down towards that. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read today’s post and hopefully tolerate the contrivance I give for choosing to talk about this movie today. This message would self destruct in five seconds, but we couldn’t figure out how to burn out your device, so when you’re done, just exit the post really abruptly like it’s destroying itself.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout”. The sixth entry in the film franchise based on the old tv show, was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, and once again starring stunt-performing madman Tom Cruise as he and his team has to stop some nuclear devices from being unleashed upon the world. It was released in the summer of 2018, to critical and commercial acclaim. You all probably think that I’m using the same excuse as with “Sunshine” yesterday, where it’s all about “If the world isn’t saved, then there’ll be no more christmas”. And you’d be partially right… but I’m not just rehashing old explanations/contrivances. I got something new too.

In this movie, Tom Cruise has to go across the world to stop this nuclear threat from an evil shadow organization. So it’s a globetrotting adventure. And at a point in the movie, we also see good ol’ Tommy boy run across some rooftops. So he sprints across rooftops, while traveling the world. You know who else does that? Santa Claus. Or should I say… SANTA CRUISE!?

So there, Tom Cruise, much like Santa Claus, hops around rooftops all over the world. And even if we discount this clear holiday implication, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is still an absolutely fantastic action movie that, in my opinion, gets better with every watch. Great chases, great fights, some great shooty-bang-bang, some great acting… it’s just great.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 2)

Well hey there, everyone. Welcome back to the second part in this series that I really should’ve called “12 Contrivances of Christmas”. Ah, fuck it, too late now. So let’s get into it.

So if you’re a bit of a sci-fi buff, or you just watch a ton of movies, you probably figured out from the top image that we’re talking about “Sunshine” today. Released in 2007, the movie was directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and starring a whole bunch of recognizable people. And it’s about the crew of a spaceship set to deliver a big bomb to space in an attempt to try to reignite our dying sun. So you’re probably wondering how I’m gonna contrive my reasoning for this one. Well, buckle up, because I am ready to deliver my reasoning.

Imagine. The sun is about to die. No sun, no warmth. No warmth, no life. No life, no christmas. So really, this non-christmas movie is all about saving christmas! Easy peasy, lemon contrivanceasy! But yeah, that’s my reasoning. Also, there’s a bit in the movie where you see a photo of the ship’s crew, wearing santa hats, clearly celebrating christmas. Double reason, double christmas contrivance! HAHA.
All joking aside, I love “Sunshine”, it’s one of my favorite sci-fi movies. It’s tense, emotional, exciting, visually stunning, and a feast for the ears.

Have a good one.

Movie Review: Midsommar (2019)

These kinds of movies are always kind of exciting. You know the ones, the movies that are quite polarizing. A lot of people love them, a lot of people don’t. Those are always the most exciting to watch/talk about, because of this discourse. So let’s chat about this polarizing picture.

Mina damer och herrar… “Midsommar”.

After suffering a terrible tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) travels with her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his friends to a remote part of Sweden to take part in a festival. But what seems like a nice, relaxing way of getting away from life and gathering your thoughts, soon turns into something a bit more strange. So now we have our semi-cult horror-drama-thriller story. And here where I think the divide will occur for most people. It’s a slow burning affair, more about exploring certain themes and ideas rather than just up and spooking you. And if you don’t want to sit through that for nearly two and a half hours, then maybe avoid this. As for me, I found this a weirdly enrapturing experience. It’s not something I’ll probably ever watch again, and it’s probably not something I’ll call one of my favorite movies… but it’s a story experience unlike any other I’ve witnessed, and I was drawn in from start to finish.

The characters in this are interesting in the sense that not all of them get too much depth, but I wouldn’t want them to not be included. First up we have Florence Pugh as Dani, the young woman at the center of the story. She has gone through some shit, which has really fucked with her mental state, which we see manifest throughout the movie, which adds a bit to making her a very compelling character. And Pugh is absolutely fantastic in the role (give her an Oscar, you cowards). Jack Reynor plays Christian, Dani’s boyfriend who I have conflicted feelings about, which I think was the movie’s intent, and I found him interesting to have along. And Reynor is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Henrik Norlén, Will Poulter, Isabelle Grill, Liv Mjönes, Hampus Hallberg, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Bobby Krlic, and I’d say it’s good. It’s not something I’d find myself listening to in my free time, but I can’t deny that it’s well composed and fits quite well within the various scenes where you can hear it. It’s an often droning score, almost dreamlike which adds to the eeriness of the movie.

“Midsommar” was written and directed by Ari Aster, who I think did a damn good job with it. His control of scene flow is immaculate, and when combined with the pitch perfect editing and Pawel Pogorzelski’s stunning cinematography, and you got one of the most impressively crafted films of the year. It manages to be otherworldly while still clearly being on our own planet earth.

This movie has gotten mixed reception (but mostly positive from critics). On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 83% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

“Midsommar” isn’t for everyone… but I certainly thought it was engaging. It has a really good plot, good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and fantastic writing/directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Midsommar” is a 9,58/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Midsommar” is now completed.

They present the midsummer celebration in the movie as some huge, elaborate event. But the actual celebration here in Sweden is just people getting drunk, eating bland food, and maybe stumbling around a wreath pole.

Movie Review: Knives Out (2019)

I love mysteries. Not in real life though, that shit can be infuriating/scary. But in movies/tv/books/games, the mystery genre is one of my favorites. Who killed the man? Who stole the thing? Who pissed in the cereal? Even the worst ones can still have me entertained due to me having a soft spot for the genre. So anyway, let’s talk about a mystery movie (it’s not a mystery movie jackass, it’s right in the fucking title what movie it is). SILENCE, ME.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Knives Out”.

When famed murder mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dies, a private investigator (Daniel Craig) starts looking into the possibility that one of Thrombey’s eccentric relatives might’ve killed him. WHODUNIT!? The goofy spelling/grammar of that word aside, that is the genre we’re dealing with here. It’s a modern whodunit that pays tribute to the classic ones, such as “Murder She Wrote” or “Columbo”, while also putting its own fresh-feeling spin to proceedings. It gives you everything you want in a classic whodunit story, while also subverting it in some really clever ways that I honestly didn’t see coming. There’s also a surprising amount of social commentary throughout. And while I’ve watched things recently with attempts at that which were a bit too hamfisted, I felt like it worked quite well within “Knives Out”, wonderfully integrating into the already solid murder mystery.

The characters here are flawed, colorful, interesting, and buckets of fun. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a private investigator that’s been hired to investigate Thrombey’s death. He is skilled, but he’s also a bit quirky. And holy fuck, Daniel Craig… he really hammed it up here, and it made him such a fun presence to watch. Next we have Ana De Armas as a nurse who is heavily involved in the story. And she’s great in the role. And then the rest of the cast is filled out by people like Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, the aforementioned Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Tony Collette, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Lakeith Stanfield, Riki Lindholme, and more… and good god damn, what a solid cast this is.

The score for the movie was composed by Nathan Johnson, and it was a lot of fun. It’s very old school in its approach, often sounding like something you’d hear in an older crime movie/show, due to its often overdramatic strings. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work well enough. So yeah, this movie has good music.

“Knives Out” was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who I think did one hell of a job on those fronts. He gives the movie such a distinct energy that keeps it feels electric, keeping any shot or scene from ever feeling boring. That doesn’t mean any part feels rushed though, Johnson lets scenes simmer when needed… but never for too long, giving it just the perfect pacing.

This movie has so far been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,1/10.

I loved “Knives Out”, it’s a really fun and unique whodunit. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Knives out” is a 9,90/10. So that’s right, it does get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Knives Out” is completed.

Knives Out, Spoons In.

Great Music #33

Well howdy, ladies and gents. You all doing okay? Anyway, time for me to ramble on once again about music I like. Which I last did in… September. I’m getting better at keeping semi-regular intervals with this series, it seems. Oh well, let’s chat about a tune.

The year is 1967. A group of people come together to form a band. This band was called Soft White Underbelly. This name wouldn’t last too long however, as in 1971 they would change their name into what we know them as today… Blue Öyster Cult. Best known for their legendary super hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, from the band’s 1976 album “Agents of Fortune”, the band went on to become fucking huge in the rock/metal scene. But today we’re not talking about that one song that needed more cowbell. We’re talking about an earlier track of theirs. It’s the final track from their 1974 album, “Secret Treaties”. This is “Astronomy”.
The song opens with a little piano piece that makes the listener go “Hmm, what’s this?”. It’s slightly mysterious. Then it gets more mysterious. Then Eric Bloom opens his mouth and starts telling a tale… and by the end, it has given us one of the band’s best songs. Though that maybe doesn’t say a lot considering how many great songs they have. But if it wasn’t for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, then “Astronomy” would be my favorite song by Blue Öyster Cult. From Bloom’s engaging vocals, to the eclectic instrumentation, to the absolutely perfect structure and pacing. The song is a beautiful crescendo, starting with that simple and mystic opening, to a somewhat bombastic, yet dramatic-sounding finale to cap off the album. Again, this is my favorite song from the band… if you discount the cowbell song.

What are your thoughts on “Astronomy”? And what’s your favorite Blue Öyster Cult song that isn’t “Don’t Fear the Reaper”? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.

Series Review: Swamp Thing (2019)

I’ve been waiting for this show to be made available over here for quite a while. And finally, Friday the 8th, we got it. And now that I have finished it, I can finally give my thoughts. So here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Swamp Thing”.

CDC doctor Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) finds herself traveling back to her old hometown of Marais, Louisiana when some strange viral shit is found coming out of the swamps of that area. And as she continues her investigation of it, she soon finds out that there’s more to these swamps than meets the eye. Secrets, tragic backstories, the horror of the unknown, these are some of the things that are explored throughout the 10 episodes of “Swamp Thing”. I point out the episode count because this show was meant to be 13, but after the very sudden cancellation of the show, they had to reduce it to 10. And while the finished package holds up very well, I could still sense some of those cuts here and there. But the story we get here is still pretty great, creating a surprisingly nuanced journey that scares and emotionally invests in equal measure.

The characters in this are flawed, damaged, layered, and very interesting. Crystal Reed plays Abby Arcane, a CDC doctor with a tragic past, returning to her old home town. She’s determined, good at heart, but is also sometimes haunted by things that happened to her once, and she’s a great protagonist that I loved following. And Reed is great in the role. Next we have Derek Mears as the titular creature. I won’t say much more than saying that he’s an interesting character, and Mears’ performance is really good. Then we have Andy Bean as Alec Holland, a scientist Abby meets when she returns to Marais. He’s a bit eccentric, but a good dude who is pretty interesting. And Bean is really good in the role. Next we have Will Patton as Avery Sunderson, a beloved businessman in Marais… however there’s a bit more to him than meets the eye. And Patton is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Virginia Madsen, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Kevin Durand, Ian Ziering, Jennifer Beals, Jeryl Prescott, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Brian Tyler, and it was great. It’s sometimes loud and intimidating, and sometimes more quiet and emotional. There’s also plenty of low, droning BWOOOMs. And while those could be obnoxious in lesser hands, the way they’re used here works quite well, and adds to the uneasy vibe the show clearly wants to go for.

Based on the iconic DC Comics character created by Len Wein, Alan Moore, and Bernie Wrightson, “Swamp Thing” was developed by Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden, with writing and directing by them and a whole bunch of other cool people. And I think the craft here is superb. The amount of suspense built is insane, which makes for a horror show that ends up being genuinely scary. I also have to praise the effects in this show, because they’re spectacular. What we get here is a healthy blend of practical effects and CGI. For example, the Swamp Thing suit is completely practical, and looks amazing. The swamps, completely practical (with some possible CG enhancements). Now, with this being both an effects-heavy show and a horror series, that means that there’s plenty of gore throughout. And I mean plenty. And not just gore for the sake of gore, but gore to disturb and shock the viewer. And I mean, it certainly got some “OH MY GOD!” and “HOLY SHIT” out of me as I watched it all unfold. So if you have trouble with insanely violent media… consider yourself warned.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,8/10.

Despite some of the cut corners made from the episode reduction, “Swamp Thing” is still a damn fine horror-drama. It has a really good plot, great characters, great performances, great music, fantastic effects, and great directing/writing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Swamp Thing” is a 9,61/10. So yes, you got that right, it does actually get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Swamp Thing” is now completed.

Can someone please uncancel this?