Movie Review: Parasite (2019)

Well hello there, friends of the interwebs! How are you? Welcome to 2021, where dreams are made and/or shattered, and where Markus catches up on movies that everybody already have seen. So let’s go, yo!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Parasite”!

Shortly after young man Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) gains employment as a tutor for the daughter of a wealthy family, he starts scheming with his family to get them employed for these wealthy folks too. What’s fascinating about “Parasite” is that it spans more genres than the entire filmography of more directors. Is is a crime story? Yes. But it’s also a family drama. And a black comedy. And a thriller? But despite all of this, there never is any clashing as we flow through the movie. They blend together beautifully, held together by some of the tightest writing I’ve experienced in a film in recent memory. All of this making for a brilliant satire on class differences within modern day South Korea (and possibly other parts of the world), while in general also being a highly enjoyable narrative to follow on a surface level. The storytelling of “Parasite” can be enjoyed both as this deep, nuanced satire, and as a general piece of entertainment. It’s just great stuff.

The characters in this are incredibly interesting, because it’s clear that a lot of time and love has gone into making them feel as real and nuanced as possible. I believe every second of their characterization, and that makes them extremely compelling. And when you pair that with an excellent cast, featuring people like Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Park So-dam, Choi Woo-sik, Jang Hye-jin, Jung Ji-so, Cho Yeo-jeong, and more, you get some extremely engaging character work going on.

The score for the movie was composed Jung Jae-il, and it was terrific. It’s a fairly minimalist score, all things considered. It’s based mainly around piano, some strings, and light percussion, which helps give the movie a uniquely fascinating vibe that is equal parts fun and uncomfortable. And I love it.

“Parasite” was directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho, and I think he did a superb job with it. Few directors have as much control over every scene as he has here. Every moment is perfectly crafted and calibrated in a way that I seldom see in movies. I also have to take a second to praise the cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo, because it is not only ridiculously pretty, but it also adds so much to the overall storytelling, with each shot being able to convey so much about a moment. And when you take the superb editing into account, you get one of the most perfectly crafted movies I’ve seen. It’s insane how perfectly constructed this is.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 96/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #30 on their “Top 250” list. The movie won 4 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best original screenplay, and Best international feature. It was also nominated for an additional 2 Oscars in the categories of Best production design and Best film editing.

Yeah, guess I’m joining the choir in saying that “Parasite” is fucking fantastic. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Parasite” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Parasite” is now completed.

Not a bad start to my movie watching this year.

Movie Review: Frankenstein (1931)

Greetings, friends. As promised every other review will be of a classic Universal monster movie from a snazzy blu-ray set I bought. So yeah… today we’re doing one of those.

Ladies and gents… IT’S ALI- I mean, “Frankenstein”.

With the help of his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) aims to perform one of the biggest scientific feats ever seen… stitching together body parts and try to animate it into a living creature. And as we all know by now, this experiment succeeds. We all know the story at this point. But how good is the execution of it? I would argue it is fantastic. You get that dark, gothic, spooky goodness, but you also get a surprisingly nuanced exploration of the line between genius science and mad science, and I am honestly surprised how much relative depth there is in here, while still being an accessible and enjoyable monster movie.

The characters in this are, much like the narrative, a lot deeper and more interesting than they have any right to be. For example, seeing the duality of Dr. Frankenstein is quite interesting, as he often teethers the line between a little mad and quite compelling and relatable. And Colin Clive is really good in that role. And let’s not dilly-dally, Boris Karloff plays the reanimated creature. And his performance is amazing. It does have some of the monster menace one expects from that look, but there is also a childlike innocence to him, making him kind of a tragic figure. Dwight Frye (who also was in “Dracula”) is really good as Fritz, the humpback assistant of Frankenstein. And in supporting roles we have Mae Clarke, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, and more, and they all do well in their respective roles.

Like with “Dracula”, this movie doesn’t really have a score. And that works well here. There is music in like the opening and end credits, but between that there’s really nothing. And for those asking “If there is no music, why still have a music section?”. Because if nothing else, I am consistent… also, I gotta find a way to waffle that word count up somehow, ya know.

Based on the 1818 novel of the same name by Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein” was directed by James Whale, and I think he knocked it out of the park. He shows here how to build a quiet intimacy with his characters, while still being able to create haunting and eerie images that add to the drama of movie. And when you mix this with Arthur Edeson’s frankly beautiful cinematography, you get one of the most visually inspired and gothically stunning movies ever.

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

So yeah, “Frankenstein” holds up marvelously nearly 90 years later (blimey). It has a great story, good characters, great performances, and excellent directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *IT’S ALI-*, no not yet. My final score for “Frankenstein” is a 9,78/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Frankenstein” is now completed.

Now? Okay, cool. AHEM… IT’S ALIVE!!!

Movie Review: Angel Heart (1987)

Ladies and gentlemen of the interwebs, it is that time of year again. The time where I for a full month focus my blog in on the spookier side of entertainment. I welcome all of you to the 6th iteration of The Month of Spooks! So let’s enter the nightmare.

Ladies and gents… “Angel Heart”.

New York, 1955. Private investigator Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) gets hired by the enigmatic Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to find a singer who’s gone missing. But as Harry investigates this disappearance, things start taking a darker turn than originally expected. What’s intriguing about “Angel Heart” in context to this month’s theme is that it isn’t immediately horrific, starting out more as a pulpy detective thriller that over time evolves into more of a psychological affair, building a looming sense of dread and paranoia. And I think the evolution is beautiful and electrifying. I am a fan of detective fiction, so to see it evolve into a horror story is fascinating to me, especially when THIS well. Never was there a moment I was bored, and many moments had me truly glued to what was going on. It’s a fascinating and creepy story that went places I didn’t expect, keeping me on edge throughout its entire runtime.

The characters in this are pretty interesting, all feeling relevant to the plot while also being engaging in their own right. Mickey Rourke plays Harry Angel, silver-tongued, snarky gumshoe from Noo Yohk. At first that is the side we see of him, something very familiar. But over the movie he develops in some interesting ways that I don’t wanna spoil. And Rourke is great in the role. Robert De Niro is great as the mysterious Louis Cyphre. We also get supporting work from people like Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Higgins, Brownie McGhee, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Trevor Jones, and I thought it was great. Like the narrative, it shifts a bit in genre, which is fine because of how well composed it is. Sometimes it’s eerie and suspenseful and sometimes Courtney Pine seduces you with his noir-inspired saxophone solos. It’s good shit. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work quite well in their respective scenes too. So yeah, this movie has some good music.

Based on the novel “Falling Angel” by William Hjortsberg, “Angel Heart” was written and directed by Alan Parker (recently passed away, R.I.P). And I think he did an excellent job here. His directing hearkens back to old detective noir while still bringing the uncompromising imagery and suspense of 80s horror, and it mixes together wonderfully. This is especially evident when paired with Michael Seresin’s breathtaking cinematography. The combo makes for an insanely well crafted film.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 61/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

“Angel Heart” is a beautifully crafted and disturbing gumshoe horror that I loved watching. It has a great story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for Angel Heart” is a 9,87/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Angel Heart” is now completed.

Man… young Mickey Rourke was a handsome motherfucker.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 3 (1998 – 1999)

Yes, that’s right, still rewatching and reviewing all seasons of this show… mom and I just forget to keep watching every now and then, which is why it’s been so long between the previous “Buffy” review and this one. So let’s get into it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3.

After disappearing during the summer post season 2, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) returns once again to her loved ones in Sunnydale, all of them of course a bit peeved that she bolted without much of a word. And as we follow Buffy trying to get back in to the swing of slayer things AND earn back the trust of those she loves, a new slayer named Faith (Eliza Dushku) arrives in town and ends up stirring some stuff up. All the while the city’s affable mayor (Harry Groener) plots sinister things in the shadows. As with the previous seasons, the episodes here are a mix of one-off monster plots, main story, and whatever else the writers came up with. And the blend of these elements feels stronger than ever. Yes, there are moments and episodes that are somewhat weaker than others, as with any 20+ episode series, but compared to the first two seasons, there’s fewer of those dud moments in my opinion. The storyline here is more ambitious, the schlock a bit more fun, the consequences of characters’ actions a bit more impactful. It’s just overall the strongest in terms of storytelling (so far).

The characters are just as well written, nuanced, flawed, colorful, and interesting as they’ve always been, with their various dynamics being tested at every turn to great effect, creating engaging drama and character development. The returning main cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, and Kristine Sutherland are all terrific and all get moments to shine. Newcomer Eliza Dushku kills it as Faith, this new slayer in town who is a bit of a wild card, helping create some wonderful tension in the show. Harry Groener is wonderful as the town’s mayor/season’s main antagonist, playing him as this super friendly and clean (both literally and metaphorically) guy who also happens to be involved in some shady shit. And all other actors that appear this season are all great too.

As with season 2, the score for season 3 was composed by Christophe Beck, who in his previous outing already gave us a huge step up in the show’s background music. And yet the crazy motherfucker stepped it up even further this time around. The instrumentation is crisper and more playful, giving us a lot of interesting melodies and a unique soundscape that is perfectly fitting for this show. There’s also a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout, and they all work well in their respective scenes.

Season 3 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of talented people, all doing (for the most part) great work in their departments. Effects (for the most part) are improved, pacing holds up way better, and the cinematography generally is quite pleasing. The crew knew how to keep things exciting, intimate, or suspenseful in any given scene, showing how they’ve evolved since that rocky first season.

This show/season has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a user score of 7.6/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

Season 3 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is another step up for the show, giving us another stellar set of episodes. The story is great, the characters are great, the performances are fantastic, the music’s great, and the directing/cinematography is great. Time for my final score. *Bleh, I am vampire*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 is a 9.94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 is now completed.

Just kidding, by the way, I’m not actually a vampire… too much of a recluse to be bitten.

Movie Review: Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

I took a break from Swedish films for a bit, but now I’m back, ready to continue this Summer of the Swedes thing I’m doing. So let’s go.

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… “Borg vs. McEnroe”.

Famous tennis players Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) have a bit of an ongoing rivalry, both at the top of their game, both well known. And soon this rivalry might come to a head in the 1980 Wimbledon tournament. However, the movie is not just one long tennis match. It jumps back and forth in time a lot, showing us the upbringing of these men, as well as giving us a lot of their issues relating to their present situation. It’s very much a character study of these two complex and honestly fucked up individuals. And for the most part I found myself quite engaged by it, as the writing does give a lot of nuance to proceedings. It’s not a pure “hero/villain” or “adoration of giants” narrative, this shows that none of these guys are perfect. The story does step into a fair bit of the trappings that can be found within the biopic genre, and the pacing can be a little wonky in the first half, but overall I do still think the story works here thanks to some of the nuances within the writing.

The characters in this are layered, and overall just quite interesting. Sverrir Gudnason plays Björn Borg, a seasoned tennis player with multiple world titles under his belt. However, while this skill and fame is something people look up to, he is a much more tragic and meticulous individual, his mind isn’t all joy and tennis wins. I don’t know how else to explain it, the dude’s a fascinating person. And Gudnason is great in the role, giving a very reserved but still nuanced performance. Next is Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe, Borg’s rival. He too carries a lot of emotional baggage, which we do find out about through the movie. And he is quite a compelling character, with LaBeouf giving what might be a career best performance. We also get supporting work from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Scott Arthur, Ian Blackman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

Unlike most movies, which have one composer, this one has four. Vladislav Delay, Jon Ekstrand, Carl-John Sevedag, and Johan Struck all contributed in some way to the score here. And despite there being so many names attached to it, the music is surprisingly coherent, giving us an intriguing blend of traditional orchestral elements with some electronic mixing to give it an intriguing and emotionally resonant sound that works pretty well within the movie. There’s also a few licensed tunes used throughout, and they work alright too.

“Borg vs. McEnroe” was directed by Janus Metz, who I think did a really good job with it. He knows how to really get you in the minds of the characters, all without losing the wider scope of the scene around them, giving us a good look at the full situation. This is further helped out by Niels Thastum’s slick cinematography, along with the spectacular editing from Per Kirkegaard and Per Sandholt. In terms of the technical craft, this movie is terrific.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 63/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While it does fall into some biopic trappings at times, “Borg vs. McEnroe” is still a damn fine character drama. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Smacks ball*. My final score for “Borg vs. McEnroe” is an 8,77/10. So it’s certainly worth buying.

My review of “Borg vs. McEnroe” is now completed.

SPORTSBALL, WOO!

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.

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.

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”.