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.

Movie Review: Kiss of Death (1995)

The 90s were a fascinating time for crime movies/thrillers. Something about any movies in those genres made ’em infinitely watchable, even if they were fairly subpar as movies. So let’s see how this one fares.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Kiss of Death”.

Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) is a convict trying to better himself after taking the fall for a crime he was kinda part of. And after a few years in prison he agrees to go undercover for the police in order to take down the psychopath gangster (Nicolas Cage) who led the job. The narrative in this is kinda hard to talk about. Not because it’s particularly complex (it’s not), not because it’s nuanced (it really ain’t), but because it’s so bog standard that it’s hard to muster any major explanation or analysis. It’s a fairly standard crime-drama narrative that doesn’t do anything exceptionally bad or great. Its biggest flaw is that the narrative never has any real momentum after the inciting incident, it’s scene to scene, no engaging escalation or natural flow. But aside from that weird snafu, there’s nothing here that sticks out much in either direction. The story is neither good nor bad, it just… is.

The characters in this are… that’s it, they just are. They’re not egregiously hollow, but they’re also not really engaging. They’re… fine. What I can full on praise here though is the cast. David Caruso may not change facial expression much, but he can deliver his lines quite well, and while not exactly super engaging as a leading man, I think he works pretty well here. Samuel L. Jackson’s here too, playing a very angry cop that Caruso works with, and he’s really good (which no one’s surprised by). Then there’s the living legend Nicolas Cage as “Little” Junior Brown, the main antagonist of the movie. A crazed, violent, unpredictable gangster. The character himself is fairly whatever, but is elevated by the performance of Cage, who gives 140%. He goes big, and he isn’t afraid if it looks a little silly, and it makes the character super entertaining to watch, becoming the highlight of the movie. Supporting cast is pretty good too, containing people like Stanley Tucci, Michael Rapaport, Ving Rhames, Helen Hunt, Kathryn Erbe, Philip Baker Hall, and more, all delivering solid work.

The score for the movie was composed by Trevor Jones, and it was alright. I really like the main theme, which is a track that blends traditional orchestration with guitar in  way that isn’t super original, but sounds really nice nonetheless. The rest of the movie has a fairly bland orchestral score that works just fine for the movie. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work fine too.

Loosely based on a movie of the same name from 1947, “Kiss of Death” was directed by one Barbet Schroeder, and I think he did an alright (that seems to be the word of the day, huh?) job with it. There’s nothing really wrong with the direction, but there’s also never really anything too great either, no unique flair. Just perfectly passable direction.

This movie’s gotten some mixed to positive reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 68% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

So yeah, “Kiss of Death” is just fine, a perfectly passable thriller to put on in the background on a rainy afternoon. The story is fine, the characters are fine, the performances are really good, the music’s pretty good, and direction is fine. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Kiss of Death” is a 6.11/10. So I’d say it could be worth a rental.

My review of “Kiss of Death” is now completed.

Come for the Nicolas Cage, stay for the… Nicolas Cage.

Series Review: The Responder – Season 1 (2022)

Sorry about the lack of posts in the last few weeks. Been running into various issues, including my laptop being dumb, the summer heat making things unbearable, and even catching the ‘rona. But here I am again, ready to share my terrible opinions with y’all again. I actually intended to get this review out a little over a week ago, but you know… aforementioned conundrums. Anyhow, British TV.

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

Set in Liverpool, the story follows first responder Chris Carson (Martin Freeman) as he works the night shift, trying to uphold order in the city, all while his own life starts to crumble. I thought the story here was absolutely fantastic, giving us a very tense and nuanced take on some familiar cop show elements. It manages to give us this dark and nuanced crime-drama, presenting plenty of suspenseful twists and developments, while also blending in elements of real police work. It’s not a glamorous, action-packed crime solving fest, and the show gains so much by showing the less clean (for lack of a better word) side of the job. And then it also does one hell of a job in developing the personal plights of Chris and the other characters, tackling things such as PTSD, addiction, and abuse, building an emotionally rich and deeply engaging web of drama. So yeah, the narrative here is great.

The characters in this are all very flawed, layered, and all feel very real. They are written with an incredible amount of nuance, that make them very compelling, and surprisingly real-feeling. First up is our main man, Chris Carson. He’s a good-hearted man who cares about people way more than he may let on, all while also being very bent, and dealing with a lot of psychological trauma from shit that’s happened to him in the past. He’s a deeply fascinating protagonist, played to perfection by Martin Freeman, who gives what might be the best performance of his career. Next up we have Rachel, a young officer who works alongside Chris. I don’t wanna say too much about her, but she has two arcs, one involving her work with Chris, and one on a more personal level, and they intertwine really nicely, making her a really interesting character. And Adelayo Adedayo who plays her is fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Ian Hart, MyAnna Buring, Josh Finan, Emily Fairn, Warren Brown, Philip Barantini, David Bradley, and more, all delivering top tier work.

The score for the show was composed by Matthew Herbert, and I think it’s really good. Low percussion, droning synths, some light stringwork, it’s this moody score that really helps emphasize the darkness of not only Chris’ situation, but also the darker side of Liverpool that we get to see. But at times it also brings out this beautifully tragic side that helps the soundscape feel even richer. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they work well in their respective scenes.

“The Responder” was created and written by Tony Schumacher, with directing duties split between Tim Mielants, Fien Troch, and Philip Barantini, and I loved the craft behind this show. It manages to feel very cinematic (and not just because of the letterboxing) while also having a very fly-on-the-wall quality to it. It somehow rides that line marvelously, having this sweeping feel without feeling flashy, giving us some of the most engaging filmmaking of this year. It’s just wonderfully crafted television.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.4/10.

So yeah, season 1 of “The Responder” is an absolutely fantastic bit of television. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Responder” season 1 is a 9.76/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Responder” season 1 is now completed.

*Ted Hastings voice* Bent coppers.

Movie Review: Spiderhead (2022)

Spiderhead, Spiderhead, is a head on a Spider’s neck. Though it is, also a, brand new film, on Netflix. Look ooouuuut… it is a Spiderheeeeeaaaad.

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

The near future, convicts are given the opportunity to reduce their sentences by taking part in some medical experiments involving emotion-altering drugs. One such convict is Jeff (Miles Teller), who soon starts to question these experiments, and their charismatic creator (Chris Hemsworth). I love this premise, it’s open to so much interesting shit. It sets itself up to be a really intriguing suspense thriller and potential mindbender. And while I didn’t hate the execution of the narrative in the movie, I did feel that it was a little undercooked. What we get works just fine, even though it never reaches the heights of its potential. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t dislike any of it, but it plays things a bit too safe to fully engage.

The characters in this are alright. Again, the script is a little undercooked and plays things safe, so they never reach the depths that they potentially could. But I also didn’t find them utterly uninteresting, just underdeveloped. But what really saves them from being walking flatlines are the actors, all of whom do a solid job here. Miles Teller is really good in the lead role. Jurnee Smollett is great as Teller’s friend inside this odd facility. And then there’s Chris Hemsworth, who is by far the best part of the movie. He is clearly having a ball playing this shady, yet highly charismatic and outwardly friendly dude. He plays it really well, and he clearly has that glint in his eye that says “I am having so much fun right now!”, which makes his performance even more enjoyable for me. The supporting cast is solid too, containing people like Nathan Jones, Tess Haubrich, Mark Paguio, Angie Milliken, Charles Parnell, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Trapanese, and it was fine. It’s this low-key, synth-based score that works fine within its respective scenes. It doesn’t really stick out that much, but it also doesn’t ruin any scene. It’s fine. There’s also a good amount of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work really well for their respective scenes, they feel well integrated into the storytelling.

Based on a short story by George Saunders, “Spiderhead” was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with Joseph Kosinski handling directing duties. And I will say, Kosinski does a damn good job directing this. His direction is slick, but never feels too perfect or glossy. One thing I really like about his directing is his usage of space. He gives the actors plenty of space to work in, while still making it feel confined and intimate, really benefitting the thriller vibes the story goes for. Really, Kosinski’s style really helps elevate this and make it a bit more watchable. And on a sidenote, the dude’s certainly having one hell of a summer ain’t he? He’s got this out on Netflix right now, but he’s also got the new “Top Gun” out in cinemas, which people seem to really like. So you know… good for him for finding work!

This movie just came out, so exact numbers can and will change somewhat. But at the time of writing it’s gotten quite a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 52% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 55/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.7/10.

While it admittedly doesn’t live up to its potential, I still found “Spiderhead” to be a decently enjoyable little thriller. It has an okay story, okay characters, great performances, good music, and really good direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Spiderhead” is a 6.32/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Spiderhead” is now completed.

Can’t wait for the sequel, Scorpionbutt.

Series Review: We Own This City (2022)

*Ted Hastings voice*. Bent coppers.

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… “We Own This City”.

Baltimore, Maryland, 2017. Within this city exists the Gun Trace Task Force, a special squad created to try to find illegal guns and drugs. We soon find out however that things aren’t quite so black and white, as the members within it are investigated for corruption. And so we jump back and forth between the main investigation of the present, and the past events that led to it. “We Own This City” is a compelling true crime sort of series, weaving a complex and compelling drama about the corruption within Baltimore’s law enforcement, and how that creates mistrust from and fraught relationships with the public. Now, while the drama in itself is compelling, I do have my issues with the overall structure of the storytelling. This show has to cover A LOT of ground in only six episodes, and when combined with the jumping back and forth within the timeline, it can make it feel a bit choppy and overly bullet-pointy (for lack of a better word). It’s not necessarily bad, as I do still find the situations really interesting and engaging, but I do think the overall structure does remove some of the impact. But despite it being a little let down by that, it’s still a really well written story.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, and overall really interesting, all feeling very believable and natural. There’s this lived-in feel to them, and their interactions and relationships work really well in creating engaging drama, and at times even a little bit of humor. What also helps is the cast, all of which are fucking superb, featuring people like Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, Josh Charles, McKinley Belcher III, David Corenswet, Delaney Williams, Dagmara Dominczyk, and many more.

The score for the show was composed by Kris Bowers, and it was fine. Nothing stood out as really good or bad, it was just kinda there. A perfectly passable score. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and those work well in their respective scenes.

Based on a book by Justin Fenton, “We Own This City” was developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, with writing by them and a few other cool people, and directing handled by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I would like to say that Green’s direction is really good. His directing isn’t very flashy, but he has this uncanny ability of giving scenes this subtly crackling energy, even during more quiet moments, which keeps each moment really engaging. It’s just really well crafted.

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

While its structure lets down some of its impact, “We Own This City” is still a compelling and engaging drama about the darker side of Baltimore law enforcement. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, alright music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Own This City” is an 8.56/10. So even if it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “We Own This City” is now completed.

Shoulda sent AC-12

Series Review: StartUp – Season 1 (2016)

Before we get started with the review itself, I just want to take a second to mention that I think crypto seems like complete fucking bogus. Aaaaand that is all, let’s get into the main thing.

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

When they happen to cross paths for various reasons, a timid banker (Adam Brody), a struggling entrepreneur (Otmara Marrero), and a gangster (Edi Gathegi) team up to try to launch a new form of digital currency, all while a corrupt federal agent (Martin Freeman) lurks around, causing trouble. I found the story of “StartUp” to be pretty enjoyable… but seldom did it go beyond that. There’s a few moments where it perked up a bit more, a few dramatic turns where I was like “Hey… a bit of drama!”. Otherwise it’s sort of just another perfectly enjoyable crime-drama featuring good people and bad people crossing paths in various ways. It’s kinda hard to describe how I felt about the storytelling here, because it doesn’t stick out that much. It’s just sort of there, serving up 10 episodes of not-bad-but-also-not-great story. I wasn’t ever bored, but never did I find myself super engaged either. Like I said, it’s roughly seven hours of alright crime-drama storytelling.

The characters in this are all decently interesting. Not necessarily the deepest ever, but they had enough going on to the point where I found them quite engaging. First off is Nick Talman, a kind-hearted banker who decides to help another one of our leads with her project. He’s arguably one of the blander characters in our cast, but he works as a good buffer to balance out the cast. Plus, Adam Brody gives a really nuanced performance, which does add another layer of depth. Next we have Ronald Dacey, a family man and gangster. He is my favorite character in the show, because he shows a lot of interesting layers, all while having one of the more substantial arcs of the season. And Edi Gathegi is absolutely fantastic in the role. Next we have Izzy Morales, the entrepreneur and hacker who sort of gets the ball rolling on that new digital currency thing. She’s driven, she’s flawed, she’s layered, and she’s just generally a really interesting character, with Otmara Marrero giving a damn good performance. And then we have Phil Rask, our resident bent federal agent. He’s an interesting fella, works really well in terms of writing… so let’s talk performance. Rask is played by Martin Freeman, an actor I like a lot. And when he has to be a little quiet, friendly, vulnerable, that sort of stuff, Freeman’s good, that’s the type of stuff he works for. But he also has a good amount of moments where he has to be menacing and a bit of tough guy, aaaaaand I just don’t believe Freeman in those moments. He is acting his heart out in those moments, which I do have to give kudos to. But he really feels a bit miscast in this role. Like I said, I like Freeman a lot, and he has his moments in this, but on the whole he feels a little off for the part. As for supporting cast, we got people like Tony Plana, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Jared Wofford, Aarony Yoo, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the season was composed by Chris Hajian, and I think he did a good job with it. The score’s mostly based in an electronic, synthesized sound to sort of fit with the whole tech, start-up type setting/story we got, and while it doesn’t necessarily stick out in my mind, I did think it worked well enough for the show. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout the season, and they all work well for their respective scenes.

“StartUp” was created by Ben Ketai, with writing and directing over the season being done by him and various other people. And I think the direction on display here is alright. It does everything it’s supposed to, but never sticks out that much in my mind. Shots are well done and well paced, action beats are handled just fine, it’s just fairly solid craft on the crew’s part. Again, much like the story, it’s well done, but also doesn’t go above and beyond. It’s good.

This show/season has gotten a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 36% positive rating.  On Metacritic the season has a score of 52/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.8/10.

While it does stumble a little bit in some regards, season 1 of “StartUp” is still a solid enough crime-drama. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, and good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “StartUp” is a 7.66/10. So I’d say it’s worth watching.

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

“The future of currency”, my ass.

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.

Movie Review: Unhinged (2020)

On the Crowe again, just can’t wait to watch Russ Crowe agai- Oh hi, didn’t see you there. Uuuuuhhhhh… let’s talk about Russell Crowe road movie.

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

After she has an altercation with a man (Russell Crowe) while in traffic, Rachel’s (Caren Pistorius) day turns into a living nightmare as the man begins stalking and terrorizing her. What I like about the story in “Unhinged” is that there’s no pretense of greatness here. At first glance it’s a popcorn thriller, and upon further inspection, still a popcorn thriller. And that is sort of the story’s biggest strength, as it’s just 80 minutes of relentless tension, Crowe chasing Pistorius around, wreaking havoc. It makes it a bit of  a breeze to watch.

The characters in this are fine. Rachel, our leading lady hasn’t really been given much in terms of personality, but what little there is works well enough to make me root for her, and I think Caren Pistorius does a really good job with the material. Now, let’s talk about the man… that’s how he’s listed in the credits, so don’t blame me for the vagueness. Anyhow, Russell Crowe is fucking terrifying in this. Just an unhinged, surprisingly calculating psychopath that I never really knew what to make of. He’s just a mysterious agent of chaos, and Crowe’s performance is absolutely fantastic. Anytime he was on screen, he was electrifying. Supporting cast’s solid too, limited though their screentime may be. Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie, Juliene Joyner, they’re all good.

Score for the movie was composed by David Buckley, and I really liked it. Nice mix of electronic sounds with a few regular instruments every now and then, helps to add nicely to the tension throughout. Sure, it’s not the most groundbreaking of scores, but it worked well for this movie. So yeah… good stuff.

“Unhinged” was directed by Derrick Borte, and I think he did a really good job behind the camera. Action scenes are well shot and feature some really gnarly stunts and even grisly violence at times that really add to the intensity of the movie, making the danger of the situation and Crowe’s character feel all the more visceral. Borte really knew how to make the most out of the premise and out of Carl Ellsworth’s script, crafting some really suspenseful scenes that never really let up until the credits.

This movie’s been pretty mixed in its reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.0/10.

Is “Unhinged” one of the greatest movies ever? No. But if you’re like me and you like brisk, tense, pulpy thrillers right out of the 90s, then I can easily recommend it for a rainy afternoon. It has a fun story, okay-ish characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Unhinged” is a 7.88/10. So I’d say it’s worth a rental.

My review of “Unhinged” is now completed.

Vroomssel Crowe

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.