Movie Review: The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

IT’S FINALLY HERE. God damn staggered release dates, WHY DO YOU EXIST!?

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Banshees of Inisherin”.

On the Irish island of Inisherin, a happy-go-lucky fella named Pádraic (Colin Farrell) finds his world flipped turned upside down when his longtime best friend (Brendan Gleeson) decides that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. And so we follow the two as their rough spot start to escalate further and affect both them and everyone on the island. The storytelling here is absolutely phenomenal, creating an emotionally rich and surprisingly grounded web of ever evolving relationships and personal drama. Even as some situations are heightened to absurdist extremes, the emotional core behind those situations still feels nuanced and believable, leading to them leaving a stronger impact. What further makes the story hit home for me is the perfect balance between dark comedy and devastating drama, which further adds beautiful details to the rich tapestry being weaved before us, which really does help make for a truly compelling narrative that both made me cry from the tragedy, and laugh my ass off at the black, oft absurdist humor.

The characters in this are just absolutely stunning to follow, beautifully nuanced and flawed, having a way of feeling both heightened and very believable at the same time, making for some of the most colorful and instantly fascinating individuals I’ve ever experienced in a film. I won’t go in-depth with each and every one of them however, as I do think part of their impact lies in experiencing them for yourself. But I will say that everyone in the cast is absolutely fucking phenomenal. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Gary Lydon, Pat Shortt, Sheila Flitton, and more, everyone in this cast absolutely excels in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Carter Burwell, and he has positively outdone himself with this one. It’s a fun and layered batch of tracks that beautifully uses a mix of traditional strings, along with some harp, chimes, along with some woodwind to create a score that can be jaunty, heart-wrenching, mysterious, and even terrifying at times, making for an absolutely stunning score that further elevated the beauitful story and characters.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, a director whose previous work I’ve very much been a fan of. And once again he has delivered, even showing a lot of improvement as a visual storyteller. From his blocking, to the way he paces out a scene, McDonagh has very much improved his craft and made a stunningly crafted film. Further adding to this is the cinematography by Ben Davis, which is both general eye candy and stunningly considered, which adds to the visual storytelling in really interesting ways.

This movie’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 87/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10. The movie’s also been nominated for 9 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Farrell), Best Supporting Actress (Condon), Best Supporting Actor (Gleeson AND Keoghan), Best Music, and Best Editing.

So yeah, I absolutely adored “The Banshees of Inisherin”. It has a fantastic story, fantastic characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Banshees of Inisherin” is now completed.

McDonagh doesn’t miss.

Movie Review: Raymond & Ray (2022)

Hello there! First post of 2023. And I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get into a new year of blogging shenanigans. So let’s jump into the our first review of the year.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Raymond & Ray”.

When their estranged father dies, half-brothers Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) reunite in order to bury the old man. And as they go through the motions associated with a funeral, the brothers begin to process their upbringing, along with learning about some of the stuff their father’s been up to in the years they’ve not seen him. On paper, I get what the story wants to do, and I think there’s a lot of great ideas found here, both in the bigger picture and in individual scenes. Sadly though, I never really found myself invested in any of it, something about the way it’s written just makes it feel like it never comes alive. I feels like the script could’ve used another pass or two. Not outright terrible, the ideas and even a few scarce moment are interesting, but the overall story feels undercooked.

The characters in this are fine. As with the story, they are the victims of a script that could’ve used more time in the oven. That said, they do still fare a little better. They feel a bit more defined, even if they never feel fully developed (despite the film’s best efforts). And then there’s the performances. On the whole, they’re generally pretty good. Ethan Hawke is great as always and just naturally slots into the role of Ray well, bringing him to life nicely. But then you have Ewan McGregor as Raymond, which I have mixed feelings on. I love McGregor as an actor, and he tries his best with his performance, but never did he feel like he fit the role. Whether it’s the dialogue or even a gaze, while his overall performance is technically good, I just never bought him as this character. Supporting cast is pretty good too, containing people like Todd Louiso (sidenote: where’s he been the last 15 years?), Sophie Okonedo, Maribel Verdú, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and a few more.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeff Beal, and I really liked it. It has this really interesting sound to it, mixing elements of lounge jazz with some mild thriller droning, and it makes for a soundscape that sometimes elevates the various scenes it can be found in. It’s solid.

“Raymond & Ray” was written and directed by Rodrigo García, and while we’ve gone over that his script isn’t the best, I can say that his directing is pretty solid. Everything’s nicely paced and his framing is nice. And that’s about all I can say, it’s well done. Not amazing, not terrible, just good.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 47% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While I think it has some good ideas, “Raymond & Ray” ultimately ends up being fairly underwhelming. The story isn’t very interesting, the characters are underdeveloped, the performances are mostly good, the music’s good, and it’s pretty well directed. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Raymond & Ray” is a 4.44/10. So I’d personally recommend skipping this one.

My review of “Raymond & Ray” is now completed.

Some spacemen use rayguns. Others use raymondguns.

Disney Plus/Marvel Series Roundup: Part 1

Hello there, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays. So earlier this autumn I finally got on board with the Disney+ streaming service. On a quick note, I’m a big fan, as it has plenty of interesting film and tv, and I find it to be easy to navigate. Anyhow, as was expected/announced, D+ would be home to a bunch of new original content based on the company’s various IPs. Among these would of course be a bunch of shows connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, since there were so many released, with many more to come, I didn’t feel like making individual posts for each one. So instead, I’ll be doing a bundle post similar to what I did for “The Fable” and “Along with the Gods“, making one of these when I’ve gotten through say four of these. Oh, and I guess spoilers. Not for the shows themselves, but rather for what’s come before in the MCU, as their connectivity drives a lot of the setups for these shows. So yeah, Marvel movie spoilers abound. But if you’re caught up or simply don’t give a hoot, then let’s get into these shows!

WandaVision

Following the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”, superpowered beings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have settled into a nice, quiet existence in suburban America, living happily married in a… sitcom styled life? But this happy life starts getting disrupted when strange things start happening around them. “WandaVision” was the first show to be released in this new slate of Marvel TV content, and I would say it kicks things off with an absolute bang. While the first episode being more “I Love Lucy” rather than “Avengers” might be a bit of an odd situation at first, I found it to be quite refreshing, both parodying and embracing sitcom tropes of various eras while mixing in superpowers in cute and funny ways. But as mentioned, they start weaving in mystery sci-fi elements, which adds a little bit of an “X-Files” vibe to it. And the show balances the goofs with the intrigue wonderfully, creating an atmosphere all its own within the MCU, making for some highly engaging TV. Add on some pitch perfect performances from Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, and various other supporting actors, and it kept me engrossed from start to end… for the most part.
While I do love the initial episodes and what they do, the back end, while not terrible, does lose some steam for me when they start going more for the typical VFX heavy superhero finale type stuff. It’s still pretty fun, but it just doesn’t feel a strong or creative as what came before. On a more positive note, it does add some fun mythology to the overarching Marvel story, and the action itself is pretty fun, and there is even a bit of drama in those parts that hit me pretty hard.
So yeah, excellent first half, really good second. It’s a damn good way to kick off this new slate of Marvel content. 9/10.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Following on from the events of “Endgame”, the world is without a Captain America, and both Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are trying to find ways of moving on with their lives. But as they try to deal with their own personal issues and past demons, the odd couple are forced to team up when a group of seemingly enhanced beings start wreaking havoc in the world. This show builds on a lot from what the Russo bros did with both their “Captain America” sequels, trying to imbue the usual superhero adventuring with somewhat of a political thriller edge. Like Tom Clancy stories but with more quips and people getting flung around. And while I don’t think the show is quite on par with the “Cap” movies, I still enjoyed where the story went. A globetrotting adventure trying to deal with the morality of vigilantism and if it’s possible to move on from what you’ve done, a story of legacy, of potential redemption and evolution. And while I don’t think it’s perfect, and I do have to question if this shouldn’t have been a movie instead, I had a lot of fun with it. I liked that they tried to discuss some heavier themes while also giving us our superhero action, I like the way it gave these returning characters something to chew on in order to perhaps move on with their lives, I like how it attempts to confront us and the whole superhero thing as a whole. It makes for a fun action-thriller story and it makes for some really compelling character work.
The acting’s also quite good, with the chemistry between Mackie and Stan being quite an engaging thing to watch at all times as we see how they bounce off of each other as their characters’ relationship evolves. Newcomers to this universe like Wyatt Russell and Erin Kellyman make for fun additions, and the familiar guest stars round out the cast nicely as well.
I very much also like the action scenes in this. While the pew pew laser stuff of other Marvel flicks can be fun, I highly enjoy the relatively stripped back approach. Yes, it’s still big, superpowered showdowns, chases, and whatnot, but there are no shiny beams or plasma or magic for once. It’s a little refreshing.
So it stumbles a little bit in storytelling, and maybe it’s a little longer than it needed to be (coulda been a movie), but otherwise it’s a fun show. 8/10.

Loki season 1

After a little mishap involving the Avengers time traveling, a dropped magical space cube, and no one looking at him, an alternate timeline version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself escaping capture… only to get captured by someone else, this time by the TVA, a mysterious organization maintaining order in the the various timelines of the multiverse. So we follow Loki as he is brought by the TVA to help them stop a mysterious ne’er-do-well, or face eradication. A bit like “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” before it, I am not 100% certain this fit in this TV format, it almost feels a little dragged out at times. Otherwise, I had a blast with it. I loved seeing Loki hopping through time, I loved seeing how the TVA operates, I loved seeing Multiversal shenanigans, and I loved Tom Hiddleston getting to have a bit of fun. Not that he hadn’t had the chance before, the man has always been great as Loki, but since he’s THE main player in this series, he gets to stretch out a bit more and do way more silly antics than before, and it’s so clear that he revels in every second. But we also get to see more sides to him, he’s explored in really enjoyable ways. And as a fan of wacky sci-fi concepts, I was pleased to see so many different ones here, all used in ways that were either intriguing, exciting, or outright funny. Action’s also pretty good, solid mix of martial arts, VFX, and general creativity.
This also sports one of, if not the best supporting cast of all these shows so far, from people like Owen Wilson, Gugu M’batha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, Sophia Di Martino, Tara Strong, and various other very talented people. Everyone gets room to play, and everyone contributes something fun and compelling to proceedings.
And now for the best part of the show: The music. It was composed by Natalie Holt, and it is absolutely incredible. A strange, operatic mix of influences, from the usual superhero stuff, to classic fantasy, to really old sci-fi/horror, there’s a lot of ground covered. Brass, strings, piano, theremins(!), fucking MOOG synths, Holt plays around a lot with her music, and it makes for probably my favorite Marvel score. it’s so god damn good. Even if you don’t watch the show, do me/yourself a favor and check out the music at least.
A little long maybe, but otherwise season 1 of “Loki” is a really fun sci-fi series that truly opens the MCU up to the multiverse in really intriguing ways. Also, you did indeed read it right, season 1. So far it’s the only mainline/live action D+/Marvel series to get more than one season. So it’ll be interesting to see where they take it. 8/10.

Hawkeye

Jingle bells, New York smells, Hawkeye got a shoooooow. But yeah, this show follows Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) as he might have to put his christmas celebration on hold when a young. bold woman named Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) gets involved/chased by some bad dudes, all while his past mistakes come back to haunt him. I am slowly but surely running out of ways to say “I like this show”. It’s even harder now since “Hawkeye” almost never does anything too unique. The “I’ll be late for christmas” trope, the “I did some bad shit, and now it’s coming back to bite me in the ass” stuff, the “youngling idolizing a supposed hero” trope, it does a lot of very familiar stuff. Arguably it does them all quite well, and it’s fun to see those events unfold, but there’s not much to mention about the story. Where it’s strong as hell however is in the characters. This is the most depth we’ve gotten from Clint in all of the MCU, and I finally find him really compelling now that he’s gotten space to play. And his relationship to the young Kate is fun too, with the two sharing some really fun bits of character development. I’m also happy to say that I loved Renner and Steinfeld together, they are a lot of fun and share some wonderful chemistry. Supporting cast is great too, with everyone from Vera Farmiga, Tony Dalton (MVP), Fra Fee, Alaqua Cox, Linda Cardellini, and more delivering stellar work.
Action’s well handled, the score is enjoyable, and I love the warm christmas vibes it brings. Not much else to be said. “Hawkeye” is a fun action show. 8/10.

So on the whole, I very much enjoyed all of these. If I had to rank them, it’d probably be
“Wandavision”
“Loki”
“Falcon”
“Hawkeye”
But overall, I like all of these. They’re fun.
Have a good one and happy holidays.

Movie Review: The Big Four (2022)

GUNS! EXPLOSIONS! INDONESIA! BUZZ WORDS! Let’s talk about a movie, shall we?

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Big Four”.

When her father is murdered, a police officer (Putri Marino) goes on a quest to track down a group of elite assassins to help her in finding her father’s killer, as these assassins seemingly had history with the old man. Right from the word go, “The Big Four” intrigues, setting up a dark, violent world, filled with assassins, evil organizations, and… slapstick? Yeah, the story here is a bit of a mishmash of tones, ideas, and inspirations. The main revenge mystery at the film’s is pretty intriguing on its own, giving us some really intriguing world building and escalating the drama pretty well. But then it further builds on itself and its characters with bombastic set pieces and a little bit of Stephen Chow-esque slapstick. Not quite “Kung Fu Hustle” levels of cartoony, but it did give me his kind of vibes at times. And while this hodgepodge mix of “The Night Comes For Us”, “John Wick”, and goofy farce could (and honestly should) end up a fucking mess, it all comes together incredibly well to make for a really fun and enjoyable narrative. And despite being nearly two and a half hours long, it’s really well paced, never was I bored. It’s an enjoyable, well told story.

The characters in this are wonderful, all being colorful, charming, and a ton of fun to watch. They’re also really well defined, their personalities standing out and balancing each other out really well. The one that arguably sticks out the least is Dina (the policewoman), but that’s also since she’s sort of the straight man in this scenario. And Putri Marino plays it really well, so I can’t complain. As for the rest of the cast, I won’t go too in depth, as I think their quirks are best left experienced. But they’re all fun, and I think the cast is brilliant too. Abimana Aryasatya, Arie Kriting, Lutesha, Kristo Immanuel, Marthino Lio, and everyone else just deliver some really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Bembi Gusti, Tony Merle, and Aghi Narottama, and it was alright. Can’t remember much of it as I sit and write (its lack of availability online doesn’t help) beyond the feeling, which was generally “Yeah, this is alright”. There’s also a little bit of licensed music used throughout, and those tracks work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Big Four” was (at the time of writing) recently released on Netflix, and was directed and co-written by Timo Tjahjanto, and the dude absolutely brought his A-game with this. As a fan of some of his previous action movies, I knew the dude knew how to shoot action scenes. But once again, he managed to blow me away just with the sheer intensity, creativity, and brutality on display. It’s been slightly recontextualized from his previous, more serious work, to fit the goofier tone, but it still carries everything we can expect Indo action at this point… AKA intense camera movements, gorgeous wides that clearly show what’s going on, and some of the goriest violence in film. And it’s all a blast to watch, delivering all the well choreographed, blood-soaked carnage you can ask for.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

While its strange blend of tones, lengthy runtime, and gory violence might not be for everyone, I had an absolute blast with “The Big Four”. It has a fun story, great characters, really good performances, pretty good music, and fantastic directiong/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Big Four” is a 8.44/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Big Four” is now completed.

“Big Four”, my ass. Couldn’t see Metallica anywhere…

Movie Review: Tremors (1990)

Friends, we’ve reached the end. The final Month of Spooks review of the year. So if you’re tired of me rambling about horror, then you’re about to get a well earned break. And if you wish you could get only horror content from me all year, then tough luck… go watch Dead Meat or Ryan Hollinger on youtube, they provide excellent spooky content all year round. Anyhow, with further ado… let’s finish this.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Tremors”.

Welcome to Perfection, a small backwater town in the middle of god damn nowhere. They’re in for the experience of a lifetime when a group of giant, underground worms start killing people and animals around the area. So it’s up to a group of locals, led by best friends Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), to find a way of surviving this nightmare situation. The story of “Tremors”, on paper, would be absolutely fucking terrifying. Giant worms that kill everything they come into contact with? That can collapse buildings? Horrifying. The movie plays it a little more light however. While the Graboids (as they’re known nowadays) are given the intimidating power and reverence they deserve, the movie isn’t afraid of also being a bit goofy. The town of Perfection is filled with colorful, eccentric people, and they’re used to great effect in creating scenarios that are equal parts intense and funny. Had the movie played it all completely straight, then I doubt the story would’ve been as enjoyable. It is that generally lighthearted and campy tone, along with some really creative set pieces, that makes it so much fun to watch. Not necessarily THE most fun ever, but I can’t deny that I had a fun time with it.

As alluded to in the story paragraph (storagraph?), the characters in are a so insanely colorful and a million flavors of fun. From a pair of slightly dim good ol’ boys, to mildly crazed survivalists, to smart grad students, we’ve got all sorts in this here dust bowl of a town. And holy cow, the cast is just wonderful. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, Victor Wong, and more, all delivering delightful performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ernest Troost, with a few tracks being done by an uncredited Robert Folk, and I think their music here is a lot of fun. While it’s sad that some of Troost’s music got replaced (without him knowing, mind you), I do think that Folk’s additions still work within the context of the movie. How to tell them apart? If it’s fun and a little country-ish, Troost. If it’s more typical serious orchestral movie score, Folk. Either way, the music in this movie is solid. There’s even a really fun song during the end credits sung by Reba McEntire, which is nice.

“Tremors” was directed by Ron Underwood, and I think he did a really good job. The man has a good way of making the action and Graboid attacks feel big and intense, while also creating this intimate tension with the unknown surrounding when and where the Graboids will pop out next. Speaking of which, the creatures themselves were created by Amalgamated Dynamics, the VFX company of living legends Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and the creatures look awesome. The designs are super fun, and the overall effects work is so good, really making them feel alive. It’s just a really well made movie.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/100.

Yeah, “Tremors” is a good time. A fun monster flick. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tremors” is an 8.77/10. So yeah, I’d definitely say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Tremors” is now completed.

Aaaaand that’s it for the Month of Spooks this year, good night, everybody!

Series Review: Angel – Season 1 (1999 – 2000)

Hi. So as some of you may be aware of, from 2020 to earlier this year (2022, for future readers) I reviewed every season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as I was rewatching it with my mom. It was a fun experience for me, and at the end of my review of the final season I made a tease that I might cover its spin-off. Well, now it’s happening. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Angel” season 1.

Following the end of “Buffy” season 3, the vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) moves away from Sunnydale and finds himself a new home in Los Angeles. And shortly after settling in, he meets friends new and old, which prompts him to become a private investigator, helping the people of L.A. fight the supernatural problems that haunt them. I  generally enjoyed the story/ies here. It’s nowhere near as rough as the first season of its older sister series, which likely comes from the extra experience gained between the two. The overarching elements are solid, further developing this already interesting world and lore, while also giving us some interesting present drama for our characters. That said, the overarching stuff is generally taking a backseat to mostly being monster-of-the-week stories, which is where it falls apart a little bit. Not only because it means there’s little to no central hook, but also because, as with most of these types of shows, not all episodes are created equal. For every “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, you got a “She”. What I will say is that even some of the lesser episodes here are nowhere near the lows of some of the lesser episodes in “Buffy”, so even at its lowest, it’s still decently watchable. And when an episode is good, it is GOOD, just quality TV. So on the whole the storytelling here is pretty solid.

The characters in this are just great, all bring their own unique flavor to the buffet that is the cast, and make for a vital part of the ensemble. First up is of course our titular 90 degree, Angle… I will not apologize for my dumb jokes. Anyhow, Angel, the vampire with a soul, his dreams and conscience haunted by the crimes he committed when he was evil. He’s trying to redeem himself, and he’s an interesting protagonist. At first he might just seem like a moody broody bitch, but we’ll soon see more sides to him, making for quite a fun and dynamic character. And David Boreanaz is really good in the role. Next we have Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, a former mean girl from Sunnydale that Angel runs into early on. Cordy already saw some interesting development in the other show, and here we see that further fleshed out through some of the shit that happens throughout this season, and I quite like it. Plus, her very blunt personality provides a lot of laughter throughout, which is fun. And Carpenter does a damn good job in the role. Next we have Glenn Quinn (R.I.P) as Doyle, a half demon who gets visions of the future to help Angel in his quest to help people. He’s a bit of a cowardly shyster with a surprising amount of heart, and he’s a fun character, with Quinn giving a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Alexis Denisof, Christian Kane, Elisabeth Röhm, Stephanie Romanov, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the season was composed by Robert J. Kral and Christophe Beck, and they did a great job. Big bold brass for action scenes and spooky scares, but also quieter string and piano pieces when they want to be eerie or heart-wrenching. It’s not necessarily the most original score out there, but it’s very well composed and I highly enjoyed listening to it and thought it worked great for the show.

“Angel” was created by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. And before we continue, the elephant in the room: We all know by now that the latter person is a turd of a man, just a horrible piece of shit. I am not condoning what he did, and he’s rightfully getting pushed away from Hollywood. I will have positive things to say about the craft here, but I want to be clear that I am not saying it made any of his actions acceptable. Alright? So let’s talk about the craft of this show, which was handled by many different, very talented people.
It’s well made, has a fun noir atmosphere to it in tandem with the darkly whimsical tone that “Buffy” established, making the vibe of this show familiar, yet unique. It sets it apart from its sister show, without straying too far and making it completely separate. And I dig that about it. And generally speaking the direction here is really good. Some fight scenes can be a bit too closely shot and quickly cut, but generally the direction in the show is good. Effects for the time are great too, love seeing a lot of the creature makeup here. But yeah, aside from a few minor snafus, it’s well put together.

This show/season has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has no critic score, but at least an audience rating of 94%. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.9/10.

While its storytelling doesn’t quite reach its potential, season 1 of “Angel” is still a damn good season of TV. It has a good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Angel” is an 8.88/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

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

One down, four to go.

Series Review: Guilt – Season 2 (2021)

Hiya. So almost a year ago (September 2nd, so very close) I reviewed the first season of this show. It was flawed, but on the whole I was quite fond of it. And recently season 2 arrived on our shores, and I’m ready to talk about it. Oh, and beware of spoilers for season 1, as the end of that does tie into the start of this. So yeah, can’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Guilt” season 2.

Two years after ending up in prison, Max McCall (Mark Bonnar) gets released and immediately starts working to trying to get his shit back on track. Meanwhile on the other side of town, two people die in the basement of a woman named Erin (Sara Vickers). And over the course of the series how these two seemingly unrelated events slowly converge, leading to a complex web of backstabs, betrayals, and other forms of sneaky shit. Season 2 of “Guilt” continues the twist-filled storytelling of the first outing, weaving a complex set of threads that cross in all sorts of intriguing ways. I liked the story here, it builds a good bit of intrigue and has its share of good dramatic beats. It’s also kind of the inverse of the first season, where the first two episodes were the best, and the latter two were still good, but not *as* good. But here the first two episodes are pretty good, but then the latter two are where it really woke me up and had me more or less glued to the screen. And yeah, I enjoyed where the narrative went, it’s a fun crime-thriller with some decent suspense and a few dashes of dark humor to give it that extra flavor. Admittedly the highest highs of season 2 never gets to the level of season 1’s highest points, but it also doesn’t quite get to the lowest lows either, making for a slightly more consistent experience. So on the whole it’s a solid story.

The characters here are all flawed, colorful, and very interesting to watch. Even when the story doesn’t reach as far as it might want, the characters still end up being fun to follow. First up is of course Max, our returning… hero? Villain? Occasionally decent twat? Anyhow, Max is back, still  complex, scheming, self-centered dude who is an absolute delight to follow. And once again, Mark Bonnar knocks it out of the park, he’s simply fantastic in the role. Next up we have newcomer to the show Erin, a young woman with a troubled past and shady family members. To see her arc here in this is quite fascinating, as she’s trying to lead a normal life, but gets dragged into shady dealing by what happens on that fateful night. And Sara Vickers does a damn good job in the role. We then see the return of Emun Elliott as Kenny, the private investigator once used by Max for shady means, now sober and trying to be a good boy. He has a few arcs this season, all of which are really fun to watch unravel, but what I like most about his presence this season is his dynamic with Max. Back in season 1 he was this sad puppet of Max’s, manipulated through his weakness to alcohol. But here he’s a bit clear in the head, and they do a lot of fun stuff with him and Max that ended up being my favorite parts of the season. Anyhow, Kenny’s great, and Emun Elliott does a great job in the role. Then we also get supporting work from people like Henry Pettigrew, Rochelle Neil, Stuart Bowman, Phyllis Logan, Greg McHugh, Ian Pirie, and more, all delivering really solid performances.

Arthur Sharpe returned to compose the music once again, and I think he did a damn good job with it. Some fun jazzy instrumentation, some panicky strings, bit of piano, there’s just a good variety of instrumentation from Sharpe to create an interesting and engaging soundscape for the show. There’s also a fair bit of licensed songs used throughout the soundtrack, and they all fit quite well too.

Season 2 of “Guilt” was completely written by series creator Neil Forsyth, with Patrick Harkins handling the directing duties. And the craft here is just good stuff. Nicely shot, every scene has a nice flow in its direction and editing, and especially comes alive during some of the more tense scenes, where Harkins really shows what to do and not to do in order to build the suspense. It’s just a well made show.

While the season itself doesn’t have many actual ratings on my usual sites, I’ll still put them here just to keep with my habits. So here’s Rotten Tomatoes. Here comes Metacritic. And on imdb.com the show overall has a score of 7.3/10.

So yeah, season 2 of “Guilt” is another solid crime romp. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Guilt” is an 8.44/10. So while not perfect, it’s still definitely worth watching!

My review of “Guilt” season 2 is now completed.

Mark Bonnar is a treasure.

Movie Review: Belle (2022)

Hi, how are you? Long time no see. Anyhow, let’s talk about some anime!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Belle”.

Following a traumatic event many years ago, high schooler Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) has become a shadow of her former self, becoming very quiet and withdrawn. But one day seh joins “U”, an online community where you can be whoever you want to be. In here she becomes Belle, an internationally beloved pop star. However, her reign soon takes a turn after she finds out about a mysterious user known as The Beast (Takeru Satoh). As you can probably tell, this story takes some cues from “Beauty and the Beast. And it uses some of those elements as a springboard to tell a tale of finding oneself again, exploring the effect of trauma on a person, and how it makes on act in real life and online. And I think it does a beautiful job exploring its themes, all while perfectly balancing emotional resonance with popcorn friendly fun, creating a magnificently wonderful story.

Much like the story before them, the characters in this strike a really nice balance between an emotionally rich realness and easily digestible tropes. Many of the characters at first glance sort of fit into familiar stereotypes in various animes and coming-of-age dramas. But as we go on throughout the movie, more is unveiled about our cast to add depth. And then you add the characters’ reactions to the immediate events of the story, they feel more dynamic and real and I found the entire cast quite engrossing. Speaking of cast, the actors in this are all quite good. Featuring people like Kaho Nakamura, Takeru Satoh, Ryo Narita, Lilas Ikuta, Shota Sometami, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Koji Yakusho, and many more, there’s not a weak link in this cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Yuta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell (SWEDEN REPRESENT!), Miho Hazama, and Taisei Iwasaki, and it’s great. It’s a varied mix of traditional orchestration with more more electronic/synthy sound, which I think perfectly marries the real world drama and cyberspace parts of the world/story marvelously. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, it’s fun, it just works so well. There’s also a few song-songs (for lack of a better word) done by Japanese group Millennium Parade, and holy fuck, they are so good. Not only are they a delight to listen to on their own, but they also help with the storytelling in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has some wonderful music.

“Belle” was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, with animation by his own studio, Studio Chizu. And once again, everything on that end is top tier. Every shot is lovingly crafted, drawing the eye to the visual splendor in every frame. What I also like is how they differentiate the real world from the world of “U”. The real world is pretty much all 2D animation, with fairly muted colors, whereas nearly everything going on inside of “U” is done in 3D with some really slick cel-shading and plenty of saturated and crisp colors. And just briefly, that 3D stuff is some of the best I’ve seen. Cel-shaded 3D in anime can often look really rough, but the insane wizards at Chizu managed to make it pretty much flawless. But pretty art/animation only gets you so far, but luckily I can happily say that Hosoda’s direction shine’s here. From the quiet scenes between characters, to the action scenes inside of “U”, to the more comedic bits, all of it is perfectly directed.

This movie’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

So yeah, I absolutely loved “Belle”. It’s an emotionally rich adventure that I can’t wait to revisit in the future. It has a fantastic story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic direction/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Belle” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Belle” is now completed.

Hosoda-san sure loves the internet, huh?

Some British TV Shows That I Like

800px-Union_flag_tv.svg

Oh hey there, how are you? I hope you’re doing well. Anyhow, I realized it’d been a while since I did some list-based content on this here blog. So I thought, “Why not make a list of stuff for once?”. And as I racked my brain for a topic to cover, it finally hit me… like a tea kettle dropped from a balcony. I talk a lot on this blog about how I love British TV, but besides regular reviews, I’ve never gone out of my way to just list a bunch of personal favorites… so I guess I could do that.

Let it be known that these are in no particular order. These are just various titles that I have a personal fondness for that I wanted to shout out. Who knows, maybe you’ll check out one or two you hadn’t heard of before. So let’s get into it.

Line of Duty (2012-2021)

This show follows the members of AC-12, an anti-corruption unit within the UK police, as they solve cases of potential corruption. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’d already know that this is a show I LOVE. Gripping personal drama, intense thriller narratives that put me so far on the edge of my seat that I started floating in the air, and amazing performances make this one of my favorite shows. We’re talking top 10 of all time here.

Friday Night Dinner (2011-2020)

“Friday Night Dinner” is a comedy series about the Goodman family as they meet every Friday for dinner. However, what should just be a nice, quiet family dinner quickly turns into chaos in one form of another. From their own bickering, to enigmatic neighbors, to crazy relatives, there is never a quiet Friday in the Goodman house. I only started watching this one a few years back after asking some friends about it, and boy, am I glad I did. It’s a deliriously funny, brilliantly performed, and endlessly watchable comedy that just clicked with me from the get-go. MVP in this series is Paul Ritter (may he rest in peace) as Martin, the oddball patriarch of the family. Just sheer brilliance in every delivery and mannerism. That said, everyone in this show is absolutely superb and I love it.

Shetland (2013-still going)

Based on a series of novels by Ann Cleaves, “Shetland” is about DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) as he, along with his colleagues, solve murders on Shetland, all while also dealing with their own personal drama from time to time. Does this at the offset sound like every police show ever? Yes, kinda. But “Shetland” manages to stand out thanks to its well-rounded characters, relatively unique setting, engaging plotlines, and spectacular cast. It’s just one of the better police dramas available at the moment.

Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)

Of course I had to include this show. The 12 episodes comedy series about hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his employees is a classic that goes on reruns over and over, and for good reason. Nearly 50 years since its inception, and it’s still making people (myself included) laugh. Don’t think I need to explain much more why this is here.

Peaky Blinders (2013-2022)

Much like with “Line of Duty” before it, if you’ve followed me for an extended period of time, then you’d know about my affection for this show. A gangster drama set in  early 1900s Birmingham, following Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his family as they try to stay afloat amid political evolution and gang uprisings. Unpredictable, suspenseful, emotionally rich, masterfully performed, stunningly shot… what else do I need to say? It’s one of the most popular dramas of the last decade. If you’re one of the four people who somehow haven’t seen it yet… then what are you doing? GO!

Black Books (2000-2004)

“Black Books” follows Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), a drunken, cynical man who runs a bookshop. And we get to see how he, his employee Manny (Bill Bailey), and his “friend” Fran (Tamsin Greig) get into various misadventures. Now, it’s been a few years since last I watched this, but I still have such fond memories of “Black Books”, so I just had to mention it here. It’s a really funny comedy series about some people who aren’t very good.

Primeval (2007-2011)

Oh hey look, it’s Douglas Henshall again! Anyhow, “Primeval” is a sci-fi series about strange time portals (known in the show as anomalies) opening across the UK, unleashing all sorts of  prehistoric (and future) creatures, leading to Professor Nick Cutter (Henshall) along with his team having to capture these creatures and bring ’em back to their own time. I caught this on a random whim, just flipping through channels years ago, and being a lover of both sci-fi AND dinosaurs, of course I got instantly hooked. Revisiting a few years later, and I still really liked it. It’s a fun adventure series with a great cast, fun time travel adventures, surprisingly good CG for a mid-to-late 2000s tv show, and, as previously mentioned… dinosaurs. Really can’t wait to revisit this.

Endeavour (2012-still going)

Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) as he, along with his partner Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), solve various murders in and around Oxford. History lesson: Once upon a time there was a tv show called “Inspector Morse”, and this is a prequel to that. And while I never watched that original series, I can still say that I love “Endeavour”. Each episode is a sprawling 90 minute narrative, showing Morse, Thursday, and the other people in their department working tirelessly to solve the various crimes, all while they have to deal with their own personal situations. “Endeavour” is another one of those police dramas that manages to somehow be a cut above the rest, partly due to the intricate plots, but mainly due to the absolutely phenomenal cast. There’s not a weak link here, and it leads to a lot of spectacular performances that elevate the already solid writing.

Pointless (2009-still going)

Up until this point we’ve basically only talked about scripted television, so I thought we’d wrap up this post with something a bit different. “Pointless” is a game show hosted by Alexander Armstrong and, up until recently, Richard Osman, and is all about contestants trying to score as few points as possible by finding the most obscure answer in questions polled from 100 people. These questions can range from all sorts of topics, including films, music, geography, food, and fucking anything. It’s entertaining to watch for a few different reasons. First off, I love quiz shows, as I can sort of get involved from the safety of my own home to test my knowledge. But then there’s also the angle of trying to guess which of the answers might have the lowest score to it, partly due to my love of puzzles in general, but also because UK people are really unpredictable in their knowledge, often leading to frankly baffling results. But another reason why I love it are the two hosts, Armstrong and Osman, they are an absolute delight together, which makes it a shame that Osman has decided to step away from the show (though I respect his decision and wish him the best). Either way, “Pointless” is super fun to watch.

So those were some British shows that I love. I don’t know what else to say, I had fun talking about positive things for a bit… felt nice.
Anyhow, have a good one.

The Fable: The Movies That I Really Like

Hey there, friends, been a while. I got no excuse for my absence, it just accidentally happened. But I wanted to get into the swing of things, so I thought I’d go with something a little less structured and more freeform than usual, and just talk about some stuff I watched during my brief blogging hiatus. So anyhow, let’s talk about some Japanese movies.

“The Fable” is a 2019 action-comedy based on a manga by Katsuhisa Minami, and it tells the story about a man known only as The Fable (played by Jun’ichi Okada). The Fable has been trained since childhood to become  a cold, ruthless, and highly skilled hitman. This bloody status quo comes to a halt however when his boss (Koichi Sato) tells him to lay low and not kill anyone for a while. And so he assumes the identity of Akira Sato, and moves with his partner-in-crime (Fumino Kimura) to Osaka to live a quiet life for the time being. But since this is a movie, troubles start to slowly crop up that may threaten Sato’s new, quiet life. It’s pacing can be a little ass-draggy at times, but “The Fable” is one hell of a fun time.
The setup in itself is a lot of fun and can lend itself to a lot of great comedy. Here’s this cold, matter of fact, calculating assassin, and he has to find something else to do in life, all while trying to keep his identity a secret. One way they play around with this is a scene pretty early in the movie where he gets into a scuffle with some local punks. The movie’s already established that he’s the biggest badass ever, so he could absolutely wreck them without any problem. But since he has to lay low, he not only takes the beating, but also calculates his reactions to sell the illusion to these douchebags. I know my explanation is very cut and dry, but that’s also because there is no way to sell the sheer creativity and comedy of the scene in words alone. Luckily, I won’t have to, as I found the scene on youtube. Sadly it has no English subtitles, but hopefully the visuals speak for themselves, so you get somewhat of an idea how of the film’s comedy and creativity.

But they of course play around with this as Sato tries to be a mundane man, trying to find a job, watching tv, making friends. But he also has his own unique quirks that add a few more layers to the humor. And it’s all done in really funny and unique ways that I just enjoy a lot. But the movie’s not all laughs, as it also flashes back to Sato’s youth a lot, showing what led to him being the way he is. And this helps build a lot of heart and genuinely interesting drama within the story.

I also love the action scenes in this. Kan Eguchi directed the movie, and he brings this really energetic flair to the action. Shootouts, close quarters fighting, the movie has a bit of most types of action, all of it incredibly creative and well choreographed.
The only point where the movie falls apart is the pacing. As previously mentioned, it does drag a bit in parts. Otherwise, it’s a really fun movie that I can happily recommend.

The Sequel: The Movie That is Better Than the First?

In 2021 we got a sequel in the form of “The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill”. Sato’s still laying low in Osaka, living with his “sister”, working his mundane job. His peaceful existence is once again threatened however when his past actions come back to haunt him.
As was very unsubtly hinted in the headline for this section, I like this more than the first. If the first one’s around an 8/10, this one’s a solid 9/10 for me. It takes a lot of the ideas set up in the first one and polishes them marvelously. The story is more intriguing and emotionally affecting, the character development is a bit stronger, the action is kinetic as hell and feels more confident than in the first one, and the comedy, while a bit toned down compared to what we got in the first, is still REALLY funny.

Despite how bright and colorful the poster is, this movie can actually get quite dark at times. The narrative largely centers around a young woman who has some past connection to Sato/The Fable. Her arc in this movie is tragic and uplifting in equal measure, and they manage to wring a lot of tension and emotional investment out of it. Her narrative is also connected to the film’s main antagonist (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi), who is an outwardly kind and delightful man, but who we quickly find out is a bit of a twat. Their personal arcs intersecting with that of Sato’s makes for some really strong dramatic storytelling, while still allowing a lot of room for action and shenanigans.

Let’s talk villain for a second. In the first one there were a few, but beyond two semi-memorable, half-joke characters, I really don’t remember anything, most were just kinda there. Here however, we have that guy I talked about before, a seemingly benevolent and affable businessman. He makes so much of the drama work here, which is partly done thanks to his excellent writing, but most of it due to the spectacular performance from Shin’ichi Tsutsumi, who has to convey a lot of different things throughout the movie, and just knocks it all out of the park.

While I did mention that the comedy is toned down in this one, that’s not to say that this isn’t a funny movie. You still get Sato’s quirks clashing a bit when in a social setting, you still get other characters being used for comedic beats, and there’s still the occasional funny visual gag. The movie is still funny as hell, even if the movie relies less on overt goofiness like the first movie did.

The action is also better, feeling way more confident and intense than in the first on, giving us some beautiful, exciting, and insanely fun fights and chases spread inbetween the compelling drama and funny comedy. It’s just good shit.

I guess I’m just trying to say that I really like “The Fable” and its sequel. They’re really fun action-comedies that also happen to feature some really good characters and stories. As for how you can watch them, I can not answer. Over here in Sweden I watched ’em through Netflix, but I’m not sure where you, my international friends, might be able to catch them. Hopefully you’ll be able to figure that out, because these movies are a ton of fun.

Have a good one.