Movie Review: The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Hello there, my friends! I hope you’re day is going well. Anyway, it’s once again time for Akira Kurosunday. So let’s chat about this movie.

Ladies and gents… “The Hidden Fortress”.

The story follows Tahei and Matashichi (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara), two lowly peasants trying to get by. But then one day they get the opportunity of a lifetime when they meet a man and a woman (Toshiro Mifune and Misa Uehara) who promise the pair a bunch of gold in exchange for helping escort them across hostile territory. What the pair o’ peasants don’t know though is that the man and woman may be more than meets the eye. “The Hidden Fortress” is slightly different from the previous Kurosawa flicks we’ve covered so far. It’s not an examination of truth and lies, or a deep dive into the darkness of a man’s soul, or even a four hour epic about different people coming together. This is a more straightforward adventure story, going for less of a deep, nuanced thing, and aiming to be more of a fun affair. And I think it succeeds at that quite well, telling a very entertaining story with enough little turns to make it a little more interesting. I do feel that the pacing isn’t the best in this movie, as it drag a little in parts for me. It doesn’t completely break the experience for me, but it’s noticeable enough to bring it down a little bit. But otherwise I highly enjoyed the story told here.

The characters in this are all colorful and entertaining. First up we have the two peasants, played by Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara. They have a very fun dynamic, and they help add a lot of comedy throughout the entire movie. And Chiaki and Fujiwara both give really solid performances. And I think it goes without saying how good Toshiro Mifune is in his role. And Misa Uehara does a solid job with her role too. It’s just generally a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Masaru Sato, and I think he did a really good job with the music here. It very much fits the fun adventure style that the story is going for. It has enough grandeur to add some weight to proceedings, but it also clearly never goes for anything too serious. It’s just a fun score that works very well for this movie.

As you already figured, “The Hidden Fortress” was directed by Akira Kurosawa, and as per usual he of course knocked it out of the park. This was also his first venture into widescreen filmmaking, and he took full advantage of that fact. He has stuff going on throughout the entire screen, giving us a lot of beautiful wides of both action and stillness. He and cinematographer Kazuo Yamazaki really outdid themselves here in giving us a lot of breathtaking shots and sequences. Must’ve dented the floor with how many times my jaw dropped.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

While the pacing drags a little bit in parts, I still find “The Hidden Fortress” to be a highly entertaining piece of filmmaking. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Hidden Fortress” is an 8.87/10. So I’d say that it ‘s definitely worth buying.

My review of “The Hidden Fortress” is now completed.

Fortress: Hidden
Movie: Very visible.

Movie Review: Logan Lucky (2017)

Heist movies! I love ’em. Well, I love ’em when they’re good at least. Which begs the question: Is this movie any good? Well, how about we get into the review to find out.

Ladies and gents… “Logan Lucky”.

The story follows two down on their luck brothers named Jimmy and Clyde (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) as they decide to pull off a heist while a huge NASCAR race is going on. Basically it’s “Ocean’s Eleven”, but with hints of “Dukes of Hazzard” and even “Beverly Hillbillies”. And I highly enjoyed the story being told here. Sure, we’ve seen these beats told time and time again over the years, and even the format is very familiar to the director, but I just can’t deny how fresh and fun this take feels. It just has a pace and energy that I love. It also has plenty of heart, which is shown through many moments throughout. So yeah, it’s not an original narrative… but it’s a hell of an enjoyable one.

The characters in this are all very colorful and entertaining, but for the most part are all also quite interesting and at times even surprisingly nuanced. First up is Jimmy Logan, a blue collar worker/ex-sportsman who finds himself in quite a bad spot after he’s laid off. This is of course what drives him to wanna pull the heist, so he can live and also provide for his daughter. He’s a compelling lead, and Channing Tatum is really good in the role. Next we have Clyde, Jimmy’s brother. He’s a former soldier and current bar owner. His dynamic with his brother is pretty interesting, and I think he makes for a pretty interesting character in general. And Adam Driver is great in the role. And the final one we’ll go into detail on is Joe Bang, a legendary explosives expert that the brothers have to bust out of prison to pull off the heist successfully. He’s an enigmatic motherfucker who I loved watching, mostly because he’s played by Daniel Craig. And not just Daniel Craig… but Daniel Craig chewing all the scenery. He is amazing in the role, a ton of fun. The rest of the supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Riley Keough, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Katie Holmes, David Denman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by David Holmes, and it was good. His score has a fairly lighthearted, funk rock inspired vibe that perfectly melds the heist premise with the southern setting wonderfully, working very well in those moments when it’s used. There are also quite a few licensed tracks used throughout, and they work insanely well in their respective scenes. There’s good music here, yo.

“Logan Lucky” was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and he of course brought his A-game. His directing is slick and energetic in a way that of course hearkens back to his “Ocean’s” movies, but while still having its own flavor to it. And that flavor can probably best be described as beer and cheap chicken wings. I’m just kidding, though I do think that the sort of bumpkin feel Soderbergh’s going for is captured marvelously and adds such a unique and fresh feel to the heisting procedures. The movie also has a charming sense of humor that I found my self laughing quite hard at at times. And as with a lot of Soderbergh’s work, the editing is of course terrific. It’s a very well crafted movie.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 78/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

While a lot of its story beats can feel very familiar, I still found “Logan Lucky” to be a highly enjoyable and charming heist dramedy. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Logan Lucky” is a 9.76/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Logan Lucky” is now completed.

Cauliflower

Movie Review: Throne of Blood (1957)

Hello there, friends, and welcome back to Akira Kurosunday! So, are we all ready to talk about an old movie? Yeah? Cool! So let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Throne of Blood”.

The story follows Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), a hardened general as he works, with the constant egging on by his wife (Isuzu Yamada), to fulfill a prophecy that says he will become lord of a mighty castle. If you’re thinking to yourself “Gee golly willikers, Uncle Markus, this sounds a mighty bit like Macbeth”. How observant of you, reader. That’s right “Throne of Blood” takes the setup and themes of the famed play and merges them with elements from traditional Japanese storytelling, which makes for an insanely compelling narrative. What also helps the storytelling out quite a bit is the immaculate atmosphere of the movie, which makes everything feel a bit off. But not off as in bad, but off as in “Something is weird”, which gives the movie an interesting and unique vibe that adds quite a bit of nuance to everything going on. It’s just a great story that adapts the classic play to great effect.

The characters in this are all pretty flawed and nuanced, and I think they all work well here, all helping build onto the drama quite well. I would say more, but I don’t wanna go into too many details (spoilers and all that jazz). I’ll simply say that Toshiro Mifune is fantastic as usual in the lead, playing the mad, power hungry shtick ridiculously well. And in the supporting roles we find people like Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura, Akira Kubo, Minoru Chiaki, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Masaru Sato, and I think that he did a great job with it. His score for it is very atmospheric and kind of eerie for a lot of it, complementing the slightly surreal mood I mentioned earlier. But there are also a few more bombastic (for lack of a better word) tracks as well, and those work quite well in their respective scenes too. It’s just a damn solid score that elevates the movie even further.

As mentioned early in the review, “Throne of Blood” is based on William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, and was directed by Akira Kurosawa. Aaaaand Kurosawa of course brought his A-game with the direction. What I’ve noticed with each of his movies I’ve seen is that his craft gets better and better. And while I love his direction in the last two movies, I really think that this is the best I’ve seen from him so far. The way he composes movement, the way he puts you on edge with simple angles, the way he brings you into the action, Kurosawa handles any and all situation beautifully and showed just how ahead of his time he was. And the cinematography by Asakazu Nakai is fucking gorgeous.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

So yeah, Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” is another winner. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Throne of Blood” is a 9.88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Throne of Blood” is now completed.

So many arrows…

Movie Review: Seven Samurai (1954)

Hello there, and welcome back to Akira Kurosundays! That’s right, every Sunday (unless something comes up in my life) I’ll be talking about a movie from this Kurosawa box set I have. It started last week with “Rashomon”, and it continus today with… this.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Seven Samurai”.

When a poor, defenseless village is threatened by a league of bandits, the villagers decide that they can’t stop them on their own. So they hire seven samurai to help them out with this situation. It’s a simple setup that leads into a surprisingly nuanced narrative that I like a lot. And when I say nuanced I don’t mean that it’s some ultra deep mindbender of a story, but rather that it takes its simple adventure story setup and adds to it with elements of war drama and comedy. It balances a lot of tones on its plate, but I feel like it succeeds wonderfully at all of them. And despite that mastodont of a runtime, it moves at a surprisingly fast pace, never really getting boring at any point. It does admittedly threaten to buckle under the weight of its runtime and content thickness at times, but it doesn’t take long for it to then pick itself back up and continue on the path of greatness. Seriously, this is a great samurai story.

The characters in this movie are for the most part pretty interesting. There are the titular swordy boys, all of which are colorful (ironic, given the color palette). They all feel unique to each other and have some interesting dynamics with each other. A few of the villagers are also alright, rounding out the cast nicely. And among the actors you can find people like Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Kato, Keiko Tsushima, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and I think he did a really good job with it. His score just works very well in conveying the mood of the various scenes, and even elevating certain parts. When the music needs to be eerie and ominous, it gets eerie and ominous. When it needs to be more on the epic and exciting end, it does that. And when it needs to be a bit more lighthearted and comical, it succeeds at that too. Just like the story, it captures and balances all tones wonderfully while feeling like an engaging and cohesive whole.

As made very clear in the intro, “Seven Samurai” was directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. And good god damn, he really knocked it out of the park here. His control of the camera and the actor is simply masterful, giving us direction that creates a wonderful flow from moment to moment, whether it’s in a slower character development scene, or in the action scenes that appear throughout. Speaking of which, those action scenes are excellent. Exciting, tense, fun, and frankly just stunning to look at. It all just comes together spectacularly.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positing rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 98/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #19 on the “Top 250” list.

So yeah, “Seven Samurai” is terrific, not much else I can say on that. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and excellent directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Seven Samurai” is a 9.76/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Seven Samurai” is now completed.

Seven samurai, many butt cheeks.

Movie Review: Rashomon (1950)

Not too long ago I bought a box set featuring six movies from acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. And today I decided to finally start getting through it. And I thought that it could be fun to talk about each movie as I get through them. Sound good? Cool. Let’s do it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Rashomon”.

Kyoto, Japan. We follow a group of people as they recount the various perspectives on the tragic events that transpired between a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), a samurai (Masayuki Mori), and the samurai’s wife (Machiko Kyo) that happened in the woods on one fateful day. Perspective is the name of the game within “Rashomon”, as each retelling of the events changes some minor details to make the momentary narrator seem like the better person, which does present some interesting ideas about truth, lies, and how we perceive people telling us about things they’ve seen and done. And the way it’s used within “Rashomon” is actually pretty clever and interesting, often making for really compelling drama. Admittedly it doesn’t always hit bullseye with its various sections, as there are times where the storytelling feels like slightly weaker than in others. But overall I can’t say that there’s anything outright bad in the story of “Rashomon”, as it’s still an ambitious and interesting piece of psychological drama.

The characters in this I found to be pretty interesting. Seeing how they either react to the different retellings or even how they are the one being the teller makes for some interesting character studies that aid the storytelling in really compelling ways. And with actors like Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, and Minoru Chiaki all delivering top notch performances, you get one hell of a compelling cast of characters.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and it’s great. It often plays into the whole unreliable narrator aspect of the story, having this unsettling vibe that helped in putting me on edge whenever it was heard within a scene. But I also appreciate that it isn’t overused. There was a lot of restraint shown in how it was used as sparingly as it did, giving it a much great effect whenever it popped up. It’s just really solid and works very well for the movie.

Based somewhat on a pair of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” was co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. And I don’t think I’m bringing anything new to the table when I say that his direction here is top notch. His framing, his movements, everything about his directing is just superb, adding so much to the storytelling. His direction manages to be big and bold, while also having a lot of subtle nuances to it. It’s just great stuff, yo.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic is has a score of 98/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10 and is ranked #130 on their “Top 250” list. The movie was also nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best art direction. 

So yeah, “Rashomon” is a really good psychological drama that, while not perfect, still manages to engage for its runtime. It has a really good story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Rashomon” is an 8.80/10. So I’d say that it’s most definitely worth buying.

My review of “Rashomon” is now completed.

Feels good finally getting ’round to Kurosawa.

Movie Review: The Kid Detective (2020)

I’ve always found the idea of private investigators a fascinating one. Whether they’re investigating missing cats, potentially cheating spouses, or other things that are too petty for the police, these detectives are interesting to me, and often help make for some great fiction. So let’s talk about a detective story.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Kid Detective”.

When he was a kid, Abe Appelbaum (Adam Brody) was a famous detective, solving cases left and right, being celebrated by everyone around him. Now in his thirties, he’s grown cynical, jaded, and often hungover, still scraping by on petty cases. But one day a high schooler (Sophie Nélisse) walks into his office, with the offer of his first “proper” case: Solving the murder of her boyfriend. Detective fiction is tricky to pull off in a way that feels fresh, often stumbling into very familiar tropes and clichés. But “The Kid Detective” is that rare gem that manages to stick out a bit. While it does allow itself to indulge in some of the tropes of detective fiction, it also does a lot to play around with and subvert most of them, delivering a take on the genre that feels very refreshing and unique. Meanwhile it also acts as an interesting and darkly comedic character study about someone with a bright future who ultimately stumbled. And when you mix these two elements you get a very compelling whole that went to places I never expected from it.

The characters in this are all very colorful, entertaining, and interesting. First up we have Abe, the titular dick. Once a bright young mind beloved by all, now cynical and not taken seriously by anyone. Seeing how far he’s stooped from that original splendor is really interesting, and is further complemented by a small glint in his eye that shows the old Abe might still be in there. He’s a really compelling protagonist, and I think Adam Brody is terrific in the role. Next is Caroline, the girl who seeks Abe’s assistance with investigating her boyfriend’s murder. She could best be described as wide-eyed and naive, being an innocent observer to Abe’s antics. But I also think she makes for a nice counterbalance to Abe, creating an interesting dynamic there. And I think Sophie Nélisse does a good job in the role. We also get supporting work from Jonathan Whittaker, Wendy Crewson, Peter MacNeill, Tzi Ma, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Jay McCarrol, and I think he did a really good job with it. One thing I really appreciate about it is how it actually incorporates instrumentation and some thematic elements from all kinds of detective fiction. You get some more noir inspired stuff, like out of the 40s and 50s. You get some stuff that sounds like it’s out of the 80s. And even some more modern flourishes appear too. And it all makes for a really nice whole that works really well for the movie. There’s also one or two licensed songs used throughout, and those work pretty well too. The music’s just good, yo.

“The Kid Detective” was written and directed by Evan Morgan, and I think he did a really good job with it. He shows that he has a knack for keeping a scene flowing nicely at a good pace, without making anything feel rushed. He lets moments breathe, allowing scenes to simmer a bit in the viewer’s mind, giving us the intimacy and breathing room necessary for the story to work as well as it does.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

“The Kid Detective” is a subversive and refreshing take on the detective formula that I loved. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Kid Detective” is a 9.89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Kid Detective” is now completed.

Between this and “Ready or Not”, Adam Brody is proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with.

Movie Review: Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! Wait, can I say that if I’m not Irish? Anyhow, hope you’re doing well. Let’s get into some movie talk.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Bad Day for the Cut”.

Irish farmer Donal (Nigel O’Neill) must go on a quest to find those responsible for his mother’s murder. That is a very basic way of putting it, but stick with me for two seconds. While at the surface it might seem like another revenge thriller, it doesn’t take long for the movie to reveal that there’s more to it than just “person kill person who killed person that knew person“. Yes, some of the revenge elements are very familiar. But it a lot more fleshed out thanks to plenty of heart, and also a surprising sense of humor. Now, this movie isn’t a comedy per se, but the filmmakers were smart enough to realize that the movie might’ve felt a tad dry had they played it completely straight. And a lot of the humor comes from our main character, whose reactions to people, things, and situations around him make for some excellent levity that add a bit of flavor to this soup. And that’s not to say that the serious parts of the story are uninteresting, because they’re solid enough on their own, with some decently engaging drama going on at times. I’m just saying that those humorous elements help make it stand out a bit more. I do feel that the narrative loses a little bit of steam around 60-65% into the movie, but it picks itself back up soon enough and gives us a riveting finale.

The characters in this are pretty interesting and are, for the most part, sympathetic in some regard. I will only go into detail about one of them though, and that’s Donal, our main man. He is a kind, quiet, middle-aged farmer living in a remote part of Ireland with his dear mother. He’s a good man who goes to some dark places, but without ever truly losing himself, and that makes him a fun character to follow. And Nigel O’Neill is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Susan Lynch, Józef Pawlowski, Stuart Graham, Ian McElhinney, Anna Próchiak, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by James Everett, and it was pretty good. It’s not one of those I can remember much of off the top of my head, and I certainly couldn’t hum it to you either. But as far as being a moody, somewhat ambient score for a revenge thriller/drama, it’s solid enough stuff. There were also a handful of licensed tracks used through, and I liked how they were incorporated into their respective scenes. So yeah, music overall was pretty good.

“Bad Day for the Cut” was co-written by Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin, with Baugh also serving as director. And I will say that it’s really well handled for a low budget thriller. Baugh shows that he knows how to build a decent bit of suspense in a scene, and he really manages to bring us into a character’s mind when simply sitting with them in a scene. It’s also decently well shot, so that’s a nice bonus.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 5.8/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

While it does lose some interest at one point, “Bad Day for the Cut” is still a fun and engaging revenge film that feel fresh thanks to its unique main character and tone. It has a good story, pretty good characters, really good performances, pretty good music, and really good writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bad Day for the Cut” is an 8.87/10. So it’s certainly worth buying!

My review of “Bad Day for the Cut” is now completed.

Good stuff.

My Favorite Albums of 2020

Hello there. I hope you’re doing well (unless you’re a racist piece of shit, then off you fuck). We have reached that time of year again. The time where I share my terrible opinions on a bunch of music. That’s right, once again I will share my favorite albums of the year that just ended. But before we begin, let’s lay down some ground rules.

Rule number 1: Let’s all be kind here. This is my list, my opinions, and I hope you can respect them. If you don’t agree with any of them, that’s fine. Just don’t be a dick about it in the comments section.

Rule number 2: I will not be including any greatest hits albums, as that’d just be cheating for very obvious reasons. Only albums of previously unreleased material.

Rule number 3: No soundtracks/scores from movies/tv/games for similar reasons as rule number 2. This is strictly a list of regular albums released by bands/artists.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into my favorite albums of 2020!

Number 11: Gangstagrass – No Time For Enemies (Sample: Nickel And Dime Blues)

Kicking it off with number 11 we have the latest release from eclectic music project Gangstagrass. For the uninitiated, Gangstagrass is a group that mixes bluegrass with hiphop. I’ve been a fan of them for a few years, and I was super excited to see them release some new material. And it’s really solid. It’s fun, but it also has some deeper meaning with a few of its tracks. It’s just good stuff.

Number 10: Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor (Sample: Simmer)

At number 10 is the first ever solo release from Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams. It’s very clear from the offset that this is a very raw and personal project for Williams, which brings us an album that is manages to both entertain as a general music experience, while also giving off a bit of a somber, introspective vibe at times. And that makes for a really interesting listening experience that I’d certainly recommend.

Number 9: Neil Young – Homegrown (Sample: Separate Ways)

Next up on the list is the latest release form none other than Neil Young (more like Neil Old, am I right?). And much like “Hitchhiker” in 2017, this album was actually recorded way back in the 70s, but has remained in the archives since then… until 2020 that is. And while not as terrific as the aforementioned “Hitchhiker”, there is no denying just how good Young is as a songwriter. You can tell that he was going through some stuff at the time, which translated itself a little into the songs themselves. And it makes for a really solid album.

Number 8: Blue Öyster Cult – The Symbol Remains (Sample: That Was Me)

Speaking of old people releasing new albums, Blue Öyster Cult’s back. 19 years after their last studio release, the band has come out with “The Symbol Remains”. And despite that long time between albums, it’s clear that these gents have lost none of their skill. What you get here is a healthy mix of the Cult’s older style, with some more modern influences sown throughout, making for a sound that shows the band’s ability to evolve without sacrificing what makes them unique and interesting. And I love that.

Number 7: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Pressure (Sample: Pressure)

Coming in at 7th place is “Pressure”, the latest release from American hard rock act Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Crunchy guitars, scratchy vocals, ear-meltingly good solos, and some nice, driving percussion. It’s everything you could ask for in a good hard rock release.

Number 6: Alastair Greene – The New World Blues (Sample: Lies and Fear)

Ending the back half of this list is American blues rocker Alastair Greene’s latest release. And let me tell you, if you love blues rock as much as I do, then you’re in for a treat with this. What you get are some fun and frankly interesting lyrics, sung by someone with a really good blues voice. And as the cherry on top you get some absolutely excellent guitar work that is an absolute joy to listen to. It’s a damn good album.

Number 5: Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea (Sample: Royal Tea)

Speaking of feelin’ the blues… Smokin’ Joe is back with another album. And once again he has managed to make his way onto a best of the year list. Is it possible that I might be a bit of a Bonamassa fanboy? Yes. But that’s also the beauty of this blog… I can let my fanboyisms fly, and no one can stop me. But in all seriousness, Bonamassa is an excellent musician whose craft improves with every new album he releases. And “Royal Tea” is further proof of that, bringing us more of the uniquely interesting lyrics/vocals and ear-melting guitar work I’ve come to expect from him.

Number 4: Deep Purple – Whoosh! (Sample: The Power of the Moon)

I’ll be honest, after 2017’s “Infinite”, I wasn’t sure if Deep Purple would make another album. But 2020 proved me fucking wrong with the release of “Whoosh!” (that’s a fun title). Do you like Deep Purple? Then you’re gonna fucking like “Whoosh!”. It has a lot of the staples we’ve come to expect from them in terms of style, just done to absolute perfection. Ian Gillan’s vocals are still top notch, there’s still good guitar work, and the heavy synth is still as fun as ever. Will this album be listed as a classic along “Machine Head” or “In Rock”? Only time will tell. But in this moment I can at least say without a doubt that it’s a fucking great album. A fucking great album called “Whoosh!”.

Number 3: Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (Sample: Ooh LA LA)

Taking the bronze on this list is the latest album from rap duo Run the Jewels. What’s extra fascinating about it is that they released the album for free on their website before the actual release date, as a gift in the harsh times of 2020. And that’s a cool fucking gesture on their part. And the album itself is great (its inclusion here shoulda been a dead giveaway), featuring plenty of great flows, lyrics with plenty of meaning, and a lot of fun beats. There’s also plenty of interesting guest appearances throughout that adds a lot to it. It’s just a top tier rap album, man.

Number 2: Sepultura – Quadra (Sample: Isolation)

I’ll be honest, for years I couldn’t get into Sepultura. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had a hard time seeing the appeal. But in recent years I have started coming around to them. And the latest album from the Brazilian metal band is some excellent stuff. It hearkens back to a lot of mid to late 80s thrash, while also featuring elements of death metal and even some traditional Brazilian music. And it makes for one of the most electrifying listening experiences I had in 2020.

NUMBER 1: Blues Pills – Holy Moly! (Sample: Kiss My Past Goodbye)

Here we are, friends. The final one. The gold medalist. El queso grande. My favorite album of 2020 is “Holy Moly!”, the latest release from Swedish psychdelic blues rock band Blues Pills. I stumbled upon one of their songs around two years ago, loving it. So I checked out a few more songs, loving those. Which had me eagerly anticipating whatever they’d release next. Cut to 2020 and “Holy Moly!” hits stores and streaming and wherever else their music can be found. And right from that first listen, I fell in love. This album is fun, funky, and absolutely electrifying. It’s simply fantastic.

So those were my favorite albums of 2020. And whether you agree with my picks or not, I hope you enjoyed reading through that. Maybe you even discovered a new favorite? Anyhow, if you have any favorite album from 2020, feel free to mention it in the comments.

Have a good one.

Series Review: Seis Manos – Season 1 (2019)

Is it time to talk about animation? I believe it’s time to talk about some animation. Hell, I’d say it definitely is time to do that. That’s the perk of running your own blog. No editor who can say “No, you can’t talk about animation now”.

Dames y hombres… “Seis Manos” season 1.

1970s Mexico. When a vicious gangster (Danny Trejo) starts unleashing hell upon the world, a group of varying people get brought together to try to stop him. This motley crew includes some martial artists (Aislinn Derbez and Johnny Cruz), a local cop (Angélica Vale), and an American DEA agent (Mike Colter). “Seis Manos” is fascinating in the sense that it’s a pretty eclectic mix of ideas, inspirations, and styles. On the surface it seems be a mix of crime-drama and martial arts action, but then you also start mixing in stuff like grindhouse, comedy, fantasy, body horror, eastern philosophy, and even elements of Blaxploitation. And then you of course also take the Mexican setting into account, which means a lot of that culture gets mixed into proceedings. So you’d think the storytelling of this show would be an absolute clusterfuck… but no, the crazy songs of bitches pulled it off. While it does lose a little bit of focus towards the end, I do still feel that there’s some really solid storytelling going on here. Yes, it’s eclectic, but that also adds a lot of personality to it, while still being a generally entertaining narrative to follow. It does have a fair bit of emotionally resonant drama, but it also generally serves as a fun and unusual tale that is just plain fun to follow.

The characters in this are of course based on tropes and archetypes we’ve seen before, but we do also see them played around with to a decent extent, making for some enjoyable development. Like the three martial artists Isabela, Jesus, and Silencio. One a tough but loving woman, one a big, lovable goof, and one a dark and quiet man. All three start out with that one detail and get some enjoyable development throughout. Then there’s Garcia, the local police officer who gets tangled up in this insanity. A tough but fair cop trying to prove herself while still staying true to herself. And she’s very interesting too. Then there’s Brister, a fridge of a man working for the DEA, working to take down bad guys. He’s a smart-aleck with a lot of colorful lines and a very “I don’t have time for this shit” kind of attitude, which gets tested at every turn for not only great comedy, but some genuinely interesting character development. And the villain, El Balde, is one vicious motherfucker, making for one hell of an intimidating presence. And the voice cast, containing people like Aislinn Derbez, Jonny Cruz, Mike Colter, Danny Trejo, Angélica Vale, Vic Chao, and more, all do very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Carl Thiel, and I think he did a really good job with it. Much like with the narrative it complements, the score takes inspiration from many sources. Of course it has some familiar use of strings, keys, and brass for action stuff. But there’s also some traditional Mexican stuff throughout, a little bit of 70s noir-inspired funk, and probably some other specific styles I currently forget. Either way, it’s an interesting mix of sounds that pays off in making for giving the show an interesting soundscape.

“Seis Manos” was created for Netflix by Brad Graeber and Álvaro Rodríguez, with Willis Bulliner handling the directing. It’s also animated by Powerhouse Animation, a studio that I’ve talked about a few times before on this blog (*Shameless* and *Plug*). So as to be expected, I was excited to see how this show would end up looking. And it looks really good. Character designs are charming and fight scenes are kinetic and exciting. While it isn’t Powerhouse’s overall strongest piece of animation, it’s still really well handled, giving us some terrifically directed animation/action to enjoy. Plus, we don’t get much in terms of martial arts animation here in the west, so this show delivering on that was an absolute treat for me.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

While the final act of the story is a little bit lacking in focus, season 1 of “Seis Manos” is still a highly entertaining and refreshingly unique bit of animation. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/animation/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Seis Manos” season 1 is an 8.87/10. So while flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching!

My review of “Seis Manos” season 1 is now completed.

I hope we get a season 2. Or should I say… SEISON!?

Series Review: History of Swear Words – Season 1 (2021)

This is a bit exciting. First 2021 release to be covered on the blog. Are you excited? Because I’m excited. So let’s get into it!

Ladies and gentlemen… “History of Swear Words”!

Fuck you. Don’t worry, I don’t actually mean that. But it’s an interesting phrase. Especially the first word, “fuck”. Why is it like that? Why do we use it as an expletive? Well, this show seeks to answer that. Every episode sees Nicolas Cage introducing us to a well known swear word. And then various linguist experts and entertainers come in as well to give us facts and opinions on swear words and their etymology. You’d think this premise might be a bit of a one trick pony, something that’ll get old after the first five minutes. But you (and I) would be wrong. They not only manage to keep the funny side of the premise going throughout all six episodes, but it also manages to be incredibly informative about the expletives and even language as a whole. They balance comedy and history really well to create a fun whole that is both really entertaining and surprisingly informative. And it’s also interesting when we get the entertainers coming in and giving their thoughts on each of the six curse words, as it sparks a lot of thoughts and discussions within my own head. Am I saying that this is the most nuanced and perfect documentary series ever? No. But the fact that they manage to keep it feeling fresh and entertaining throughout all six episodes deserves to be commended. By the end I felt both amused and educated. Plus, living legend Nicolas Cage makes for a really good host/presenter, so that’s a great bonus.

One thing I like about the craft behind “History of Swear Words” is just how snappy and energetic it is, despite using a lot of familiar documentary tricks. The editing is fast paced and manages to keep things from feeling stale. It also helps that they use a lot of cute little animations when explaining some of the backstories of the words. Basically the directing, editing, and all that manages to ground the show without sacrificing any of the silliness around the premise, making for a highly enjoyable whole.

At the time of writing (I am an early bird) the show has no real ratings on any of my usual sites. So I’m just gonna attach the links and you can see for yourself how the ratings may evolve over time, because I’m too fucking lazy to edit this shit later down the line. Here’s Rotten Tomatoes. And here’s imdb.

While not a revolutionary piece of media, Netflix’s “History of Swear Words” is still a highly enjoyable little piece of edutainment, featuring interesting facts, plenty of laughs, and living legend Nicolas Cage. Time for my final score. *God damn ahem*. My final score for “History of Swear Words” is an 8.73/10. So I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

My review of “History of Swear Words” is now completed.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUDGe is delicious.