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.

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.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 11)

Only one more of these left after today. THANK GOD. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing for you guys. But writing for 12 days straight is a bit draining. So when this is over I’m gonna take a few days off. But until then, let’s talk about the penultimate movie for this series.

So for today we’re talking about a brand new movie (oh my god). That movie is “Happiest Season”, a christmas dramedy about Harper (Mackenzie Davis), a young woman who is bringing her girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) along for christmas with the family… except they don’t know that Harper isn’t gay, so the pair have to keep it a bit of a secret until Harper feels ready to come out of the proverbial closest. Cue the sneaking around, misunderstandings, emotional baggage, and personal demons. While I wouldn’t say that “Happiest Season” is the best movie I’ve seen this year, I still think it’s really solid. It handles its subject matter with a fair bit of tact, giving us a pretty nuanced take on this premise. While the movie primarily acts as a comedy, it isn’t afraid to get a bit more serious, really letting us sit with the characters and their emotions for a bit. And while I do think it gets the balance of comedy and drama down quite well, it doesn’t always hold up perfectly in that regard. When you have serious contemplations about the nature of your relationship one minute and awkward slapstick the next, it can get slightly jarring. It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it did take me out for a sec.
Also, I just have to go off on one thing for a second. Dan Levy. Dan god damn Levy. This guy is gutbustingly funny. Any time (bar one more serious part) he was on screen he made me absolutely lose it. The rest of the cast is great too, there’s not a weak link in that department… but Levy is definitely the MVP here.
So in conclusion, “Happiest Season” may not be perfect, but it’s still a really solid holiday dramedy that both made me laugh, and made me care about these characters. I’d happily watch it again next year.

On the eleventh day of christmas, I watched something gay
And hey guess what, it was truly quite good, yay

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 10)

Hello there, friends, I hope you’re doing great. Not many more of these to go. So soon enough you’ll get a break from my holiday rambling. Just gotta be a little bit more patient. Also, this post is dedicated to my good friend over at iamjacsmusings. He’s not dead or anything, he just helped me pick this one.

So today we’re talking about “Anna and the Apocalypse”, a British indie musical-horror-comedy released in 2018. It’s about Anna (Ella Hunt), a young woman who finds herself trying to survive the zombie apocalypse along with a group of other people, while also trying to find the group’s loved ones. And how will they accomplish this? By bashing the zombies of course! And also SINGING! So it’s a holiday zombie movie that also features people singing and prancing around. It’s one of the most unique mixtures of elements I’ve ever seen in a movie. Yes, we’ve seen holiday musicals. Yes, we’ve seen British zombie comedies. But we’ve never seen all those four combined before… I think, I could be very wrong. Either way, “Anna and the Apocalypse” was my first exposure to it. And it’s a fun time. It’s a breezy jaunt filled with endearing characters, fun jokes, and some really boppin’ tunes.
Now, it does struggle a little bit in the tonal department. I get that a zombie apocalypse is gonna have some serious shit going on (even “Shaun of the Dead” had that), but the shifts in tone don’t feel quite as seamless. It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it does bring it down a little bit. But with this said, it’s still a fun time.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” is a fun little zom-com-holiday-musical, and definitely worth checking out this holiday season if you haven’t already. And with that, I’ll just leave you with one of the catchy tunes in its soundtrack.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 9)

After today’s post there will only be three parts left. Almost there, we can power through this, friends. So let’s go.

So today we’re talking about “Holiday Rush”, a 2019 Netflix dramedy about Rush Williams (Romany Malco), a popular radio DJ who gets fired just before the holidays. So he plans to find new ways to get back on the air, but in the meantime grabs his spoiled kids and moves in with his aunt (Darlene Love) just to stay safe over the holidays. Considering the cast, I expected this movie to be a straight up comedy. But no, it’s more of a dramedy, which in itself is fine. But hoo boy, I found myself bored. Due to none of the writing being particularly nuanced, along with poor pacing, you get a narrative that had me checking my watch every few minutes. Which is a shame, because there are some incredibly talented people in this cast. From Romany Malco, to Sonequa Martin-Green, to Darlene Love, to Deon Cole, you have a lot of genuine talent in this… that said, they don’t feel like they get properly used. Take Deon Cole for example. He can be extremely funny. But he gets no good jokes here at all. And before you ask, yes, there are a few genuinely chuckle-wrothy lines/moments in this. I counted three. But still, that kind of just reiterates what I said. The cast feels somewhat wasted on an undercooked script that otherwise has some decent potential.
So in conclusion, “Holiday Rush” isn’t great.

On the ninth day of christmas, I watched something quite dull
But at least no one bashed in my damn skull

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 7)

Only five days until this little series is over. Which also means only five days until christmas… it’s celebrated on the 24th here in Sweden, don’t argue with me. Anyhow, shall we get on with today’s holiday film?

So today we’re talking about “Arthur Christmas”, a 2011 animated holiday film from Aardman animation. Except you’d be forgiven for not realizing it was Aardman, because this doesn’t use their traditional claymation style. Anyhow, “Arthur Christmas” is about Arthur (James McAvoy), the clumsy son of the current Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent). However, when Santa misses one present, Arthur teams up with his grandfather (Bill Nighy) to deliver it, despite being told that it’s a futile quest. What we get is a charming little fantasy adventure with themes of legacy and overcoming your fears and all those other familiar things we’ve seen in family holiday films. But the execution here is really good, giving us a fast-paced and generally well-written story that I had fun with. It’s also very funny, especially whenever grandsanta (the grandfather) is on screen. He is a goofy, hammy, and a little crazy old man that serves as a comic relief, and does so really well. And with Bill Nighy hamming it up with his vocal performance, you get some absolute fucking gold from grandsanta. The rest of the cast is great too, with people like James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, and many other awesome people filling out the cast list.
I guess I should also briefly touch on what I said at the start. This is an Aardman film, except it doesn’t look like it. “Arthur Christmas” is completely CGI, with hints of the typical Aardman visual style. And while I am slightly sad about that, I’m not complaining. The movie still looks good, it’s a very well animated movie, filled with plenty of nice colors and movements.
But yeah, “Arthur Christmas” is a charming and funny little holiday adventure. I’d recommend sticking it on if you got 90 minutes to kill and want something lighthearted.

On the seventh day of christmas, Markus spent no money
Lucky for him, he could still watch Bill Nighy be funny

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 6)

Can you believe we’re halfway through this little series of themed posts already? Time sure flies when things happen. I was gonna say “when you’re having fun”, but frankly as I’ve gotten older, days just fly by like a coked up hummingbird. So anyway, let’s talk about something green and nasty. And no, I’m not talking about that moldy loaf of bread you have on your counter.

So as you probably figured out from the header image, we’re talking about “The Grinch”, a 3D-animated reimagining of the Dr. Seuss classic. It was released in 2018 and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular green git. And as in the other adaptations, he’s a little cranky about Whoville being excited and cheerful about christmas. So he may or may not start plotting to ruin it. But then you also have Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) as she plots to find a way to talk to Santa Claus. Superfluous subplot much? This suffers from some of the same issues as the Jim Carrey movie, but somehow manages to still be way less interesting than that. At least the Carrey movie was weird and batshit insane enough to be interesting. This one plays it like a lot of modern kids’ films with some pop culture schtick, lazy dialogue, and no sense of edge or personality.
And then there’s Benedict Cumberbatch. I like Benedict Cumberbatch, he’s a terrific actor. But good grief, he is actually kinda bad here, and I’m not entirely sure it’s his fault. But his performance here can never truly know what it wants to be. Is it a scheming, dickheaded affair? Sometimes. But it’s also really wacky and goofy and not befitting of either the title character of Cumberbatch’s skillset. The Grinch doesn’t feel like the Grinch, and the lead actor (who I think could make a great Grinch) feels off. Also, his design here is too cute and visually appealing. Grinch is a monster, not a plush- oooooooh, now I get it… merchandise.
So yeah, “The Grinch” 2018 is a toothless, dull, overlong, and frankly unfunny reimagining of a classic story. Maybe if you have kids or grandkids they might enjoy it… but it’s not exactly what I’d call good.

On the sixth day of christmas, Markus watched another Grinch
A version that didn’t grow his heart an inch

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 5)

Ho ho hoMYGOD, DID I LEAVE THE STOVE ON!? Nah, I didn’t, I was just messin’ with ya. So anyway, who’s up for more holiday hijinks with Uncle Markus? Let’s go!

So today we’re talking about “A Very Murray Christmas”, a Netflix christmas special directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Bill god damn Murray. The story is about Bill Murray, famous actor and comedian, as he tries to host a christmas variety show. His plan get halted however when a horrible snowstorm prevents his friends/guests from coming to New York to join him. So we follow him as  he tries to make the best of this horrible night, singing, dancing, and just generally having a good time with the people he can find. There really isn’t much of any story here, it’s just Bill Murray goofing around with various people he meets, which includes some pretty notable names making cameos throughout. But yeah, there isn’t really much I can say.
Do you like christmas songs? Do you like Bill Murray? Then you might enjoy this. It’s only like 55 minutes long, and it’s on Netflix. So it’s not really that much of a commitment/investment. It’s a decent way to kill an hour this holiday season.

On the fifth day of christmas, Bill Murray sang some songs
Because he wanted to fix the night’s wrongs

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 5 (2000 – 2001)

Don’t worry, there will be more christmas content coming your way. Just thought I’d give you a palate cleanser. And what better than a continuation of my “Buffy” rewatch? So let’s go! Oh, and brief spoiler for the end of season 4 in the plot section.

Ladies and gents… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 5.

With Adam dead and gone, it seems that Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends can finally go back to some kind of (ab)normal. This however does of course get a bit interrupted when a strange and powerful woman (Clare Kramer) starts causing chaos in the town. So Buffy has to find a way to stop her, all while dealing with the usual monsters of Sunnydale, and also trying to keep her mother (Kristine Sutherland) and sister (Michelle Trachtenberg) safe. People who’ve followed along with the show up until now probably ask “Wait, sister? Dafuh?”. And yes, Buffy has a sister now. While that seems strange and forced at first, over the course of the season we find out why she’s suddenly there, and I think that narrative thread is pretty interesting. And the stuff with Glory (the aforementioned strange and powerful woman) is pretty good too. It’s some of the one-off monster of the week stuff inbetween that isn’t great. The season does overall feel more focused than season 4, it’s a generally better package. But that doesn’t stop it from having some duds throughout, which does bring it down a bit. But I do still like this season’s story quite a bit. It has some great highs, and it has some really harsh moments that hit hard. Yes, the lows are definitely low, but the story this season generally has enough highs to be well into the positive side of things.

The characters in this remain the absolute highlight. The returning cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, Kristine Sutherland, Emma Caulfield, and Amber Benson are all great, and they all (for the most part) do great stuff with them. So let’s talk about some newer people. First up we have Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, Buffy’s little sister who totes mcgotes has been in the show all this time and wasn’t added this season for the sake of a new plot. Okay, I joke. But seriously, the way they implement the character is pretty interesting. And Trachtenberg does an okay job with her performance. Next we have Clare Kramer as Glory, the new big bad. She’s a chatty, charistmatic, and fun villain, a breath of fresh air after the dullness of the previous season’s antagonism. And Kramer is great in the role.

The score for this season was composed by Thomas Wanker (I do not envy that name), with a little additional help by Christophe Beck. And the music here is really good. It’s not as top tier as Beck’s older scores, and often falls back on slightly more generic stings and such. But it’s still enjoyable enough and works decently well for this season.

Season 5 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of different people, and they generally did a good job with it. Scenes flow pretty well, and shot composition is generally quite pleasing. There’s even some decently impressive use of restraint in a few certain moments in the season. You can tell that they’ve perfected their craft here. Even in the weaker episodes, the directin, effects, and such are still really good.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 82% positive rating. On Metacritic the season has an audience score of 5.6/10. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.2/10.

While still not able to recapture the magic of seasons 2 or 3, season 5 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a really good season of tv, and a major step up from the 5th iteration. It has a good story, great characters, really good performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 5 is an 8.32/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 5 is now completed.

Two more seasons to go.