Series Review: Under the Banner of Heaven (2022)

Faith is fascinating. A belief in something bigger than ourselves, in something bigger than our very world. Whether it’s christianity, judaism, islam, or any other, I’ve always found that stuff interesting. So explorations of that in film, tv, and other forms of media has often lead to good stories.

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, gents, and non-binaries… “Under the Banner of Heaven”.

Utah, 1984. Devout mormon and detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) finds himself tested when the violent murder of a young woman seems to connect to a local, powerful LDS family. So we follow detective Pyre as he tries to solve this horrible crime, as well as how the deeper in he gets, the more his faith starts to waver. And through his investigation we also get a deep look into the Laffertys, the family at the center of this case, and what kinds of fundamentalist actions they get involved in. The show also explores mormonism as a whole, including its origins. “Under the Banner of Heaven” is filled to the brim with story, themes, and backstories, and while I do find most if not all of it fairly riveting, it can also feel like an absolute slog to get through at times. Like, all the pieces here have an emotionally rich texture to them and individually make for really engaging and at times thrilling experiences, but something about the overall structure does make it feel like a drag at times. Like I said, the story and drama is generally insanely riveting, it presents a nuanced and intense look into a massively fucked up and complex situation, but I do think something about its structure does hurt it too.

The characters in this are all insanely interesting and I found them endlessly compelling. Andrew Garfield plays Jeb Pyre (pronounced Pie-ree, as I learned through this), good cop, loving family man, devout mormon. He’s a deeply interesting protagonist with such a fascinating arc and personal conflict, and Andrew Garfield is absolutely fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is well rounded as well, featuring people like Gil Birmingham, Sam Worthington (giving a career best performance), Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, Rory Culkin, Billy Howle, Denise Gough, Adelaide Clemens, Chloe Pirrie, and many more, all delivering top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jeff Ament and it was really good. It mixes a lot of familiar thriller droning with elements of ambient rock and even minor touches of a few subtle western cues, making for a really interesting and atmospheric score that I think adds a lot to the show and its emotional impact.

Based on a book by Jon Krakauer, “Under the Banner of Heaven” was developed for FX by Dustin Lance Black, with writing and directing by him and a bunch of cool people. And I think this is a really well helmed show, a lot of well thought out shots, a lot of suspensefully directed sequences, some very well handled (and disturbing) bursts of violence. It’s somehow both cinematic and somewhat real-feeling, balancing what makes for solid entertainment while still making it feel grounded and gritty and believable. It’s a tricky balance, but they nailed it.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its pacing is bogged down by its hefty structure, “Under the Banner of Heaven” is still a compelling crime-drama that I can easily recommend. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem, Amen*. My final score for “Under the Banner of Heaven” is an 8.32/10. So while it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Under the Banner of Heaven” is now completed.

And then god said “Yo, that Andrew Garfield guy’s pretty good at the whole acting thing” – The Book of Markus, 18:46.2

Movie Review: The Pale Blue Eye (2023)

*inhale*. Can you smell that? First new release of the year. I’m excited.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Pale Blue Eye”.

New York, 1830. When a young student at the West Point military academy is found dead, weary detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to investigate and hopefully figure out what happened. And to aid him in his quest, he secretly acquires the assistance of an enigmatic young man (Harry Melling) who goes to the academy. I find myself a tad conflicted when it comes to the story here. On one hand, I genuinely enjoy the murder mystery going on here, it has this dark and very pulpy feel to it that I love, and it does take some pretty interesting turns that build in engaging ways. But there are also aspects to the story where it can feel slightly unfocused, as it tries to not only be a pulpy detective thriller, but also explore various other dramatic avenues. And while that could be fine, the script never makes them feel truly cohesive or like they weave in and out of each other as well as they could. This unfocused nature can especially be felt towards the middle, where it almost felt like it dragged. The movie on the whole is a slow burn, but the middle section does feel kinda bogged down. But in the moments where it zeroes in on the desolate, isolated, almost claustrophobic mystery, that is when it shines. Those bits are genuinely compelling.

The characters in this I find to actually be pretty interesting. most of them are generally presented with somewhat interesting personalities and it’s interesting to see how everyone interacts with each other or react to the vents unfolding. Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, an aging and world-weary detective who’s gone through some rough times. He’s a compelling character that’s hard to describe since I don’t want to say too much. But he’s a solid protagonist and Bale is great as always. Next is Harry Melling as a young Edgar Allan Poe, a cadet at the academy and Bale’s secret assistant/confidant. He’s an enigmatic and talkative fella and I loved seeing both his personal arc and how his relationship to Bale’s Landor evolves. And Melling gives a fantastic performance in the role, this is so far a career best from him. Supporting cast is great too, containing people like Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson (a bit underused, IMO), Charlotte Gainsbourg (very underutilized), Lucy Boynton, and more, all giving damn solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and he killed it. Chilling strings, harsh brass, the man just brings an emotionally resonant score to proceedings that I could feel deep in my bones throughout the entire thing. It’s haunting and beautiful and I loved it.

Based on a novel by Louis Bayard, “The Pale Blue Eye” was recently released on Netflix, and was written and directed by Scott Cooper, and while his script could’ve had another look, I can’t deny what a good director he is. The pacing of scenes, the way he shows and/or hides things from the audience, the man brings his A-game in that regard. He also has a great way of making this movie feel cold, and I don’t strictly mean emotionally. Rarely do I see a movie set in a cold or snowy environment that genuinely makes me feel like I’m freezing, despite wearing knitwear in a relatively well heated room. And Cooper, together with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi masterfully makes that come across through the way they shoot the movie. Just thinking about some of these scenes makes me feel like I need a blanket.

This movie’s so far gotten a pretty mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.7/10.

While it doesn’t quite reach its potential, I still found “The Pale Blue Eye” to be a fairly enjoyable little mystery-thriller. It has a mixed story, pretty good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Pale Blue Eye” is a 7.44/10. So while it is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth a watch.

My review of “The Pale Blue Eye” is now completed.

Linger ooooooon… your pale blue eyes…

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…

Series Review: The Patient (2022)

Therapy, an important asset in our society, there to (hopefully) help people. Aaaand that’s all I got on that right now, so let’s get into the review.

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

On a day like any other, therapist Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) finds himself in a bit of a pickle when he wakes up in the basement of one of his patients (Domhnall Gleeson), who Alan soon finds out is a serial killer. And as Alan tries to find a way to get out alive, he finds himself reluctantly having to council his captor. I find the premise of “The Patient” to be quite fun, a high concept thriller that lends itself to some really interesting bits of suspense. And in execution the narrative is quite compelling, creating an interesting dynamic between our leads, exploring their relationship, and the complexities that it carries. Because obviously Alan wants to simply survive, but the show also goes to great lengths to show that he, on some level, actually cares about helping Sam (his patient/captor). But it’s not just about a therapist delving into the psyche of this horrible man, but it’s just as much, if not more so, about Alan dealing with his own trauma and demons, which further escalates the drama and makes for a much more dynamic emotional spectrum, both when it comes to Alan’s personal stakes, and the story at large. There’s also this quiet undercurrent of awkward, dark humor to a lot of it, which I think adds to the show’s unique vibe. However, for as good as the story here can be, I do think there are things that bring it down a peg. Mainly, it’s the runtime, or more specifically the episode count. Ten episodes is usually a perfect length for a season of tv, but here it feels dragged out, mainly with the last few episodes, as if they had/wanted to pad it out to that length. Adding further to that sensation, the last few episodes are longer than the first half of the show. The first several episodes are roughly 22-28 minutes long. The rest are 30+, which really does add to the feeling of things being a bit stretched out more than needed. Again, the overall narrative is really strong, and it ends on a real high note, but those last few episodes does bring it down with the padding sensation.

The characters in this I found to be really interesting, as they’re never really shown to be simple, one-note things, but fully rounded and surprisingly complex individuals. Especially our two leads, they have so many interesting layers to them, which the show plays around with to give them a really electrifying dynamic. What also helps is that both Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson are fantastic, giving career best performances and playing off of each other really well. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Laura Niemi, Andrew Leeds, Linda Edmond, Renata Friedman, David Alan Grier, and more, with no one feeling like a weak link.

The score for the show was composed by Nathan Barr, and I thought he did a pretty solid job. It’s nothing too unique or memorable, a fairly standard droning thriller score that occasionally brings in some piano when a little extra sadness needs to be injected. It’s not bad, and it works well enough for the show. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and those work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Patient” was created and written by Joel Fields and Joseph Weinberg, with directing done by a few different people (names will be in tags). And I think this show is generally well crafted. Scene direction have a nice pace to them and have just the right amount of linger to build a nice suspense, editing has a really fun flair to it, and there’s some really interesting shots throughout. It’s just solidly built stuff.

This show’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 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

So while it might be a bit longer than I felt necessary, “The Patient” is still a really fun and compelling little thriller series. It has a really good story, really good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Patient” is an 8.01/10. So while it certainly is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Patient” is now completed.

Steve Carell’s a bit good at this whole acting stuff, isn’t he?

Series Review: The Gambling Scandal (2022)

Been quite a while since I covered something from my home country (I’m Swedish, for any potentially new people). So how about we deal with that right now?

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, gents, and non-binaries… “The Gambling Scandal”.

The early ’90s. Always on the lookout for the next big win, Piteå-based sports and gambling enthusiast Bosse (Björn Elgerd) soon finds himself walking down a tense line when he gets embroiled in the world of match fixing. And over the course of six episodes we see how his actions, both in betting and in his romantic life, change the course of his life. I found the story here to be pretty interesting. One of its strengths, that also happens to be a little bit of a weakness, is that it has a really snappy pace. On one hand, it makes it so no moment or scene gets a chance to be boring, making for a breezy and fun experience. But on the other, it makes it so some bits don’t always have time to settle properly, despite maybe being in need of it. It makes it so, even if it stays enjoyable, it can feel a little underdeveloped and lacking in nuance at times. Aside from the weird pace, the storytelling also has some really fun style to it, namely in its narration and occasional fourth wall breaks, where our protag talks to camera. It gives the show an interesting edge that makes it stick out amongst Swedish TV dramas. I do think it is a little too sporadic at times and could be weaved into a few more scenes, but when it happens it’s stil a lot of fun and works pretty well for the story. It is a fun story of morality and gambling and the consequences a man’s action may have. A little too snappy in its pacing at times, but overall it’s a fun and pretty engaging narrative.

I like the characters in this, they ride the line between walking tropes and a surprising naturalism pretty well, finding just the right balance to make them both entertaining and compellingly believable at the same time. Bosse Lundkvist is our leading man, a charismatic, clever, and slightly short-sighted dude who I found really engaging as a protagonist. It’s hard to explain without getting into too many/spoilery details, but I found his arc in this show to be really fascinating, with Björn Elgerd giving a really good performance in the role. We also get supporting work from Josefin Asplund, Edvin Bredefeldt, Eva Melander, Ulf Stenberg, Sara Shirpey, Mattias Silvell, and more, all delivering really solid performances.

The score for the show was composed by Andreas Tengblad, and I enjoyed it. Not the most memorable necessarily, but it has a playful nature that makes scenes pop a bit more. Especially the main theme song, I thoroughly enjoyed that, a bouncy little piano ditty that wouldn’t feel out of place in a heist movie. There’s also a fair bit of licensed music used throughout the six episodes, and those tracks work well in their respective scenes too. So yeah, the show has some good music.

Loosely based on some real life events, “The Gambling Scandal” (original title: Spelskandalen) was written by Dennis Magnusson, with directing by Patrik Eklund and Jens Östberg, and I really like how this show was directed and edited. The shots themselves are nice, everything has a good flow, and they have a good grasp of what to show or not show. But where it really comes together for me is the editing, which has this almost Guy Ritchie/Edgar Wright type of snappiness to it (though slightly more reigned in), which as alluded to in the story section, gives this show a stylistic edge over many other shows that I’ve seen from my home. It makes it a bit of a treat, made me say “Whoa” when it first occurred. But aside from the general fun factor, it does actually help in making the storytelling more interesting as well. It’s just well crafted in ways that I don’t see much from my home. Good on them.

So at the time of writing, this show does not have a page on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, and I will not come back to change it in the future because I’m lazy. It does however exist on imdb.com, where it has a score of 7.3/10.

While it’s not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Gambling Scandal”. It has a good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Gambling Scandal” is an 8.21/10. So while flawed, it’s definitely worth a watch.

My review of “The Gambling Scandal” is now completed.

So I don’t know if/when it makes it to other shores. But keep an eye out, because this is a goodun.

Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

My friends, I once again deliver a Month of Spooks review for y’all. So let’s quit this dawdling and get into it.

Ladies, gents, non-binaries… “Deliver Us from Evil”.

As a series of strange, violent crimes start plaguing New York City, police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) finds himself having to team up with a very unique priest (Edgar Ramírez) in order to try and solve these disturbing goings-on. “Deliver Us from Evil” is a tale of two conflicting elements. At first glance it’s an atmospheric cop thriller, showing a man trying to do his job, all while dealing with an inner turmoil. And that bit I genuinely really like, there’s a lot of interesting and surprisingly compelling drama going on for it with Sarchie, the case, his family, and a few more things. But it also presents this fun, pulpy detective thriller that I enjoyed following, even if the movie drags towards the middle. But then we have the second part of the movie, which is the more overt supernatural horror shenanigans. Some of it is kinda fun, such as some of the stuff in the last act. But a lot of the horror stuff in the first two just doesn’t work for me. There’s a great sense of atmosphere with the movie, but when the scares hit, they kind of deflate it and take me out of the movie. So the horror of the HORROR movie is a bit of an issue. So the story here is very much a mixed bag.

The characters in this are pretty solid, all being given compelling arcs and personalities. Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie, a tough-as-nails and sarcastic, yet good-natured policeman with a bit of baggage in the trunk. It’s interesting to see how the events of the story affect him and how his past further informs the development he goes through. And Eric Bana does a damn good job in the role. Next is Edgar Ramírez as Mendoza, a slightly peculiar jesuit priest that Sarchie meets. He’s an interesting fella with an interesting story, and I like the rapport he has with Sarchie. And Ramírez is great in the role. The rest of the cast is pretty great too, containing people like Olivia Munn, Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, and many other talented actors.

The score for the movie was composed by Christopher Young, and it was alright. Fairly unremarkable eerie horror score. Nothing too noteworthy in either direction, just fairly standard stuff. Now, with that out of the way, I can mention that the movie also uses some licensed music, namely a few tracks by The Doors. I find this interesting, because the band has always had indirect (or direct, who knows) ties to spirituality, which adds something thematically intriguing to proceedings. It doesn’t necessarily make the movie scarier or more suspenseful, but it makes it a bit more interesting. So yeah, the music in this is mixed.

“Deliver Us from Evil” was based on a book that was co-written by… Ralph Sarchie? Yeah, he was a real person, and he wrote a book about investigating actual exorcism in actual New York. I will however take those musings with a pocketful of salt, so feel free to call me Scully. Anyhow, Sarchie’s book served as loose inspiration for this movie that was directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson. And I think he did a good job directing this, the man is excellent at building a creepy atmosphere and utilizing space for his set pieces, and he brings that to this movie in spectacular fashion. While the scares in this felt tepid or annoying, everything inbetween (and even during some more overtly horror-y scenes) is wonderfully directed. This is further amplified by Scott Kevan’s dark and grimy cinematography that adds so much to the chilling vibes they build up. There’s also a fair bit of really cool gore and makeup and VFX work. It looks really rad and works well to add weight to the world.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 29% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

So while its let down by sub-par horror and some pacing issues, I still enjoyed “Deliver Us from Evil”. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, interesting music, and damn good direction and cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO*. My final score for “Deliver Us from Evil” is a 7.23/10. So while it is quite flawed, it’s still worth renting.

My review of “Deliver Us from Evil” is now completed.

What’s your favorite Doors song? Mine is probably “Break on Through”.

Movie Review: Malignant (2021)

More spooky reviews comin’ your way! And before we begin, I just want to point out the silliness that is me reviewing the movie I used as basis for last year’s Month of Spooks poster a full year later. There’s some weird form of irony to it. Anyhow, let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents,  non-binaries… “Malignant”.

While trying her best to simply get by, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) starts getting grisly visions of a shadowy figure brutally killing people. And we follow her as she tries to make sense of these visions and hopefully find a way to stop them. I found the story here to be okay. It’s a fun enough mystery with a few enjoyable turns. That said, the story parts of the story aren’t necessarily what makes proceedings as enjoyable as they are. Because in all honestly, the main narrative feels more like it’s there to serve as an excuse for wild and creative set pieces. This is a bloody, campy-as-fuck sendup to old school supernatural slashers, but with the polish and tech of today to amp it up to 11. And the campy shenanigans are generally what I enjoyed about the story, as those bits are when the movie comes alive. And a fair bit of those sequences are stacked in the second half of the movie, with the first one, while not completely devoid of fun shenanigans, delivering a fair bit of setup, which does drag a bit. But when it’s going, the story here is a fun, bonkers, camptastic time.

The characters in this are fine. They aren’t given that much depth, which usually can be an issue, but weirdly works here since it weirdly adds to the fun and general vibe of the movie. They’re sort of shallow tropes that are there to serve the trope. The one with the most depth is arguably the lead character, as her and her past is explored in the movie. And she’s a decently compelling protagonist, with Annabelle Wallis giving a really solid performance. The supporting cast is pretty solid too, featuring people like Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jake Abel, Ray Chase, Marina Mazepa, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Bishara, and it is tons of fun. Panicky strings, blaring brass, exciting and fast-paced electronics, thrilling percussion, Bishara leaves very little off the table and this creates this insanely fun and never dull soundscape. It’s an absolute blast to listen to and adds so much to the movie. There’s also a little bit of licensed music throughout, and I think that works really well too. I just really dig the soundtrack here, it’s fun, easy to listen to, and really works well for the movie.

“Malignant” was directed and co-written by James Wan, and hooooooweeee, you can feel him really flexing and letting loose here. As mentioned previously, this movie isn’t afraid of going camp, and Wan’s direction further elevates that fact, which makes me very happy. Dutch tilts, camera snapping into position, fun pans, sweeps across big spaces, fun reveals, kinetic action and editing. It’s all so insane and makes for one hell of a fun viewing experience, especially in the various set pieces, where things get crazy, hectic, and GORY AS FUCK. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s an absolute riot to follow, giving us some really creative and delightfully ludicrous sequences. It just put a big, dumb smile on my face so many times.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While it does drag in its first half, I still had a lot of fun with “Malignant”. It has a fun plot, okay characters, good performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *OOGA BOOGA!*. My final score for “Malignant” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s still certainly worth buying.

My review of “Malignant” is now completed.

Sometimes it’s a bad thing if a horror movie doesn’t scare me. But this one was just so much fun that I don’t care.

Movie Review: Near Dark (1987)

Aaaaand the Month of Spooks continues! So what’s on the menu today? How about the one, the only… VAMPIRES! So let’s talk about them.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Near Dark”.

On a chilly night, young Caleb’s (Adrian Pasdar) life is drastically changed when he is turned into a vampire by a mysterious, beautiful young woman (Jenny Wright). And we follow him as he has to deal with his new, undead predicament, all while tagging along with a colorful gang of vampires who decide to take him in. I really enjoyed the story here, as it’s more or less a fugitive/road movie that happens to feature violent, profane vampires. But I also love how it handles its night creatures very differently from most adaptations, trading in the usual classiness and seduction for grit, gore, and… well, still a form of seduction, but now in a more horny back alley kind of way rather than what we usually get. Combine that with a very western-inspired atmosphere and a certain uneasiness about Caleb’s will-he-won’t-he acceptance of his new life, and you get a suspenseful, gritty, and above all else fun story.

I really enjoyed the characters in this, they are all very colorful and unique, setting them apart from a lot of other vampire adaptation characters we’ve seen before. First off is Caleb, a young farm boy who loves his family, and hitting on cute girls. He’s a pretty good protagonist, arguably less interesting than the rest of the cast, but still has enough of an arc to tmake him compelling enough. And Adrian Pasdar does a really good job in the role. Next, I want to just quickly go through the vampire crew in this movie, but I won’t go too in-depth as I think some of their impact would be lost if I explained their whole ordeal. But I can say that they’re played by Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and Joshua John Miller, and they’re all incredibly interesting and entertaining in their own ways. Throw in Tim Thomerson in a supporting role, and you get yourself a really well-rounded cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Tangerine Dream, and I absolutely loved it. It’s such a product of its time while still having a weird kind of timelessness to it. It uses synths and guitars to create this almost dreamlike atmosphere, perfectly capturing the strange sensation of Caleb’s predicament while also giving a sound to the night of the midwestern plains. It’s eerie, it’s fun, it’s exciting… man, it’s just a damn good score.

“Near Dark” was written by Eric Red and Kathryn Bigelow, with Bigelow handling direction. And yeah, she did a damn good job here. Her direction has this way of capturing a sweeping scale while still being relatively small. There’s also this suspense that lingers throughout the movie, never really letting up, always finding new and interesting ways of keeping me on edge. I also love Adam Greenberg’s cinematography, which pays tribute to westerns as much as it does the gothic origins of the genre/monster, through really interesting lighting and framing. It’s just a really well crafted movie.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 82% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

I’ve been wanting to watch “Near Dark” for so long, and I am happy to say that it lived up to my excitement. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *BLEH!*. My final score for “Near Dark” is a 9.69/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Near Dark” is now completed.

I miss Bill Paxton.

Series Review: Bodyguard – Season 1 (2018)

I may be four years behind everyone else, but I’m finally caught up on this show… so let’s talk about it.

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

The story follows police sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) who in the wake of increased terror presence gets assigned to protect highly controversial politician Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And throughout the season we get to see David try to balance a rocky home life and his duty to protect Montague, who seems to have more enemies than allies. I found the story here to be quite riveting, it’s six episodes of unrelenting tension, a grey as hell and thematically complex conspiracy thriller that constantly made me question who was on the side of whom, who can be trusted, and why certain events happen. And while it generally tries to put David and his plight as the element we’re supposed to root for, the writing does a good job of still making that feel layered and make it clear that it’s not all black and white, even for our supposed hero. And even when the show gets a little less murky about what’s going on, it still found ways of keeping me in suspense, making my heart race and stomach churn at many points. It’s a damn good suspense thriller narrative.

The characters in this are all very layered, flawed, and have a certain wornness to them, like they feel like they’ve actually been around for a while and didn’t just pop into existence when the camera first shows them. First off we have David Budd, the titular bodyguard, a former soldier and current policeman who gets put through the absolute wringer in this show, getting some of the most interesting development I’ve seen from a protagonist in a while. He’s an engaging character, with Richard Madden delivering an absolutely fantastic performance. Next is Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague, a brash, no-shit-taking, kinda manipulative politician. She has a really interesting thematic presence within the show and the way her relationship to David evolves is always interesting, which leads to a lot of the grey area I mentioned earlier. And Hawes does a great job with the role. And we also get supporting work from people like Sophie Rundle, Stuart Bowman, Ash Tandon, Tom Brooke, Nina Toussaint-White, Anjli Mohindra, and many more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Ruth Barret and Ruskin Williamson, and it is great. Utilizing a mix of classic orchestration and complexly woven electronics, the pair create a score that manages to perfectly nail home the uneasiness of every situation David finds himself on. It also has its own weird quirks at times that’ll stick in my mind for a while. For example, in one track there was this one faint ringing sound that I at first thought was a nearby car alarm, but turns out it was just the score doing something odd to ratchet up tension. So that’ll stick in my noggin for the foreseeable future. But yeah, the music here’s great.

“Bodyguard” was written and created by Jed Mercurio, with directing duties divided between Thomas Vincent and John Strickland, and cinematography handled by John Lee. And the craft here is absolutely superb, with every piece coming together to a show that somehow manages to feel both grand and claustrophobic at the same time, making the conspiracy and situation feel huge while still allowing the tension to always feel near, always in the room with you, smothering you, never really allowing you to breathe properly. It’s just some of the most chest-tensing tv craft I’ve ever experienced. Mercurio and Strickland are no strangers to this, having worked together on the anxiety-inducing “Line of Duty” before (and after) this, but it really feels like they were allowed to really ratchet up the intensity and stakes here to a scope and degree that “Line of Duty” never really seems to have had the chance to. I still adore that show, don’t get me wrong. Just saying, this just seems… bigger in a way, and it allowed them to play around more with what kinds of suspense they could craft.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

So yeah, “Bodyguard” is a fantastic bit of suspense television. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bodyguard” is a 9.56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bodyguard” is now completed.

Apparently they’re gonna make a second season, but I have no god damn clue how they’d be able to follow on from this.

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.