12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 5)

It’s time for part 5 of this goofy series of mine. More contrivances, here we go. And today we’re actually talking about a movie from my own country for once, I know, my mind is as blown as yours.

Today’s movie is called “A Summer Tale”, directed by Ulf Malmros, and released in 2000. Set in 1958, it follows two kids (Anastasios Soulis and Rebecca Scheja) as they get sent to live with a cantankerous funeral director (Kjell Bergqvist) for the summer. So now… now… now… I hear what you’re thinking. “Markus, you dumb bastard, how the hell are you gonna get a movie with SUMMER in the title to fit within the christmas category?”. Well, my impatient friend, let me sit your ass down and tell you.

When the kids first meet this funeral director, their relationship to him is stale at best, and tense at worst. He’s not abusive and horrible towards them, but he’s not exactly someone I’d wanna send my theoretical kids to. But as one might expect from this setup, these two parties of course start to warm towards each other, all the while the funeral director tries to get a local teacher he has a crush on to go out with him. So while yes, the movie is set during the summer, it’s still all about family and finding love. You know what part of the year is often associated with family and love? Christmas. Everyone always talks about how that holiday should be spent spreading love and being with your family. And since this movie is all about that shit, you’d imagine it could fit within that.
While “A Summer Tale” isn’t one of the greatest movies ever made, I found myself surprisingly entertained by it. It’s a heartwarming little dramedy that made me really care about the characters, all of whom are very well acted by the actors involved (yes, the kids too). It’s a good flick.

Have a good one.

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Look, I loved doing the Month of Spooks. But god damn, have I missed being able to talk about other kinds of movies. So let’s talk about a children’s film.

Ladies and gentlemen… “How to Train Your Dragon”.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is the son of a great dragon-slaying viking (Gerard Butler), yet he himself is expected to reach his father’s legacy. And one day when he meets an injured dragon, he soon learns that these beasts might not just be bloodthirsty monsters. So now we have our children’s fantasy adventure story. And by Odin’s beard, this story is great. Yeah, sure, we’ve seen similar premises done before. But the care they put into how their storytelling is presented here is quite astonishing. The story here is told in a really mature way that doesn’t treat its audience like absolute idiots, like so many kid’s movies do. And by the end I was emotionally invested in the story, thanks to the clever and nuanced storytelling.

The characters in this are colorful, layered (for the most part), unique, and really interesting. First we have Hiccup, son of a great viking, but more of a scrawny wimp himself. He’s a smart young dude, relying on wits to get him through shit rather than actual force. And he has an interesting and fun arc in this movie that I really enjoyed following. And I think Jay Baruchel did a great job voicing the character. We then have Gerard Butler as his burly dad, and he’s great. You get America Ferrera as Astrid, a local girl that Hiccup may have a bit of a crush on, and she’s great in the role. You get Craig Ferguson as another viking/comic relief, and he’s great. And in other supporting roles you have people like Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, T.J. Miller, and more, and they all do a great job. Really, it’s a top notch cast.

The score for the movie was composed by John Powell, and it was absolutely wonderful. Big and epic, but also small and intimate. Epic and exciting, but also subtle and emotionally resonant. It manages to capture every emotion one would want in a movie like this.

Based on a novel by Cressida Cowell, “How to Train Your Dragon” was written by William Davies, Dean DeBlois, and Chris Sanders, with DeBlois and Sanders handling direction. And just like the story and characters before it, the craft on display here is marvelous. Everything in the direction is carefully considered, not a single frame is pure filler, everything exists either do develop a character or to add nuance to the story. Which leads us to the animation, which is absolutely spectacular. It’s highly detailed, and makes for some absolutely gorgeous images, especially during the action scenes, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen in an animated feature. The final set piece alone is one of the best I’ve seen in relatively recent movies. And with this being an animated kid’s film, there’s of course plenty of humor throughout… and it’s funny, I laugh. Slapstick, snappy comebacks, it’s all there, and it’s funny.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 99% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,1/10 and is ranked #189 on the “top 250” list. It was also nominated for 2 Oscars in the categories of Best animated feature and Best original score.

“How to Train Your Dragon” is one of the best animated films I’ve seen in recent years. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, fantastic directing/animation, and funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Aye*. My final score for “How to Train Your Dragon” is a 9,90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “How to Train Your Dragon” is now completed.

I can now see what all the fuss was about.

Series Review: Yellowstone – Season 1 (2018)

Kevin Costner. What an interesting career this man has had. From being one of the biggest stars of the late 80s/early 90s, to kinda going into obscurity for a while, and then kinda making a comeback in the 2010s. And now he stars on a tv show. So let’s talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Yellowstone” season 1.

The story follows John Dutton (Kevin Costner), an aging rancher, as he tries to keep his family in check while also dealing with various parties trying to encroach on his land. So now we have our neo-western-drama-thingamabob. And while it does dip a bit much into melodrama at times, I find the story here to be quite interesting, taking some really colorful characters and having them scheming around for the sake of their own or someone else’s success. The pacing does suffer a bit at times, and like I said, there’s a strong stench of melodrama at times. But overall it’s still a highly entertaining plot with some solid drama sprinkled throughout.

The characters in this are flawed, entertaining, surprisingly layered, and overall interesting. Kevin Costner plays John Dutton, the aging patriarch of the Dutton family and owner of the Yellowstone cattle ranch. He has demons of his past he has to deal with while also trying to keep his entire livelihood going with everything going against him at once, making him pretty interesting even though he can be a bit of an ass at times. And Costner is great in the role. Next we have Kelly Reilly as Beth, John’s daughter. She has a lot of issues that she at the start of the series hasn’t gone through, making her kind of a fucking mess. But she also has one of the best arcs in the series. And Reilly is great in the role. Next we have Luke Grimes as Kayce (Kay-see), one of John’s sons. A former Marine, he tries to balance being a Dutton with trying to be a good father and husband, which is quite complicated. And Grimes is really good in the role. Wes Bentley plays Jamie, John’s other son, who also happens to his lawyer. Yes, he’s a little smarmy, but mostly he’s probably the outlier of the family in a sense. And Bentley is good in the role. We also have Cole Hauser as Rip, John’s second hand man, who has to keep the ranch going in the events when John is unavailable. And while I won’t say too much more about Rip, I’ll just say that he’s my favorite character on the show. And Hauser is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Absille, Jefferson White, Ian Bohen, Brecken Merrill, Ryan Bingham, Josh Lucas, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the season was composed by Brian Tyler, and I think he did a great job with it. Obviously taking influence from various westerns, he creates an ambient score that works very well within the show to create a certain mood. The theme he composed for the show is also pretty damn solid. There’s also some licensed tracks used throughout, and they work pretty well in their respective scenes.

Created by John Linson and Taylor Sheridan, all episodes this season were written and directed by Sheridan. And the craft here is really solid. Well shot, at times tense, Sheridan does a damn fine job in keeping my eyes stuck to the screen. Ben Richardson’s cinematography is also good.

This show/season has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 51% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 54/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10.

While season 1 of “Yellowstone” misses the shot in some parts, it’s still a really solid season of television. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and really good writing/directing/cinematography. Where it falters (as previously mentioned) is in its occasionally dodgy pacing and unnecessarily frequent dips into melodrama. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Yellowstone” is an 8,61/10. So while flawed, I’d still say that it’s definitely worth watching.

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

Movie megastar Kevin Costner doing long-form tv. Still blows my mind.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 7)

Good day to you all! Hope all of you are doing well! Man, I’m in a good mood today, let’s do this!

I was considering doing “Alvin and the Chipmunks” for today’s thing, but then I decided to not be cruel to myself like that. So instead I went with something that I hadn’t seen, but was based on something that always brings a smile. It’s “A Muppet Family Christmas”. So what’s it about? Simple, Kermit, Animal, and the rest of the gang travel to Fozzie’s mother’s home to celebrate the holidays. Cue the singing, heartwarming talks, and funny hijinks that one expects from these lovable cloth creatures. And that’s really it. The only real twist here is that characters from both “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” show up to join in the fun. Not much that can be said, I love Muppets, and they use them to great effect here, giving me a nice, cozy feeling. It’s the frickin’ Muppets… how could one not get all warm inside? “A Muppet Family Christmas” brings much joy for the holidays.

On the seventh day of christmas, Markus brings to you, the Swedish Chef once again speaking gobbledygoo. 

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 1)

Hello and season’s greetings to all of you! It’s the 13th of December, which means it’s finally time for my 12 Days of Christmas series. And this is the fourth year that I’m doing this. The first two times were about christmas songs, and in last year’s series we covered films (long and short). And for this year we’re (as you saw in the title) doing it once again. One christmas-y film every day with the final post being released on the 24th. So let’s get into it, the first part in the 12 Films of Christmas!

So first up we’re covering a movie I’ve heard about for years and years, with people claiming it to be a Swedish christmas classic. So let’s have a look at “In Bed With Santa” (Original title: Tomten är far till alla barnen). Released in late 1999, this dramedy follows Sara (Katarina Ewerlöf) and Janne (Peter Haber) as they’re about to celebrate christmas. But things aren’t made too easy since Sara invites multiple of her old exes and their significant others over to celebrate with them. And a lot of interesting things happen as alcohol gets consumed, and old secrets floating to the surface start creating some tension between them all. Let’s just be blunt, you won’t exactly feel all jolly after watching this. It’s interesting to see all of these unique personalities clashing with each other, I find it to make for some interesting character studies. And the actors work at the top of their game, none of the actors is a weak link here. The story has its ups and downs, but it’s still quite an intriguing package of assholes and familial tensions. It won’t make you laugh and feel good like “Home Alone”, but it’s still one I wouldn’t dissuade you from.

On the first day of Christmas, Markus gives to thee, a movie about a shitty family.

Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

We all have to live with what we’ve done. Good, bad, doesn’t matter.

Ladies and gents… “The Place Beyond the Pines”.

A motorcycle stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) has to take drastic measures to be able to financially support his family. We also have a police officer (Bradley Cooper) who wants to move up in his field. And these men will find their stories crossing paths in some manner. Trying to stay vague while not misrepresenting this story is hard. But what I can say is that this is a slowly burning drama with a few action-thriller elements. Don’t expect an exciting cat-and-mouse game between the two leads, because that’s not what it fucking is. It’s a layered story about family, legacy, and fate. It has a structure that might throw a lot of people off. Not because it’s hard to follow, because it’s not, it’s very straight-forward. But it’s not your typical one thread narrative. It’s one thread that connects to another that connects to another, creating a bit of a web that I find quite intriguing.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, realistic, and just overall interesting. And that’s as deep as I’ll go on them, thinking that this is one of those movies where it’s better to know less about the characters when you want to get into it. But I can say that the cast is fantastic, including people like Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Mahershala Ali, Dane DeHaan, Bruce Greenwood, Rose Byrne, and Emory Cohen (among many others). Not a weak link in this cast, everyone’s fantastic.

The score for this movie was composed by Mike Patton. That’s right, Faith No More frontman and voice of The Darkness composed a film score. And I think he actually did a good job. It has a unique, almost ethereal style that I don’t think I’ve really heard in any other movie. It’s so odd, but it works so well for the movie. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work well in their respective scenes.

This movie was directed by Derek Cianfrance, and I think he did a great job with it. His directing is tight, never letting including any unnecessary fluff. All the shots in this have a purpose. What I also appreciate about his direction is that he uses a couple different styles. For most of the movie, the camera is steady. But when the action scenes happen, it goes to a more handheld style á la Paul Greengrass. But these changes in camerawork doesn’t hurt the movie in any way, as they’re both handled expertly.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” isn’t for everybody, but I certainly think it’s a great movie. I think it has a really good plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Place Beyond the Pines” is a 9,55/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Place Beyond the Pines” is now completed.

To those who think Ryan Gosling doesn’t emote enough, look at his eyes.

Movie Review: E.T. (1982)

I can already hear some people mumbling “This isn’t horror, why the hell are you putting it in the Month of Spooks?”. And here’s my reasoning: It’s set during Halloween, which technically makes it a Halloween movie, which means that it works for Month of Spooks. Loophole, motherfuckers. So let’s talk about an alien non-invasion.

Ladies and gentlemen… “E.T.”!

The story follows a boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) as he one day finds and befriend and alien that he goes on to call E.T. And so we follow Elliott as he tries to keep his new alien friend hidden while trying to find away to contact E.T’s species. So now we have our family friendly alien non-invasion plot. And even when I put my nostalgia aside, I fucking love this plot. It’s a fun twist on an alien coming down to earth, usually we get aliens coming down to murder all of us, but this is about a friendly little guy. And the people behind the scenes of this manage to make it endlessly engaging, fun, charming, and just plain entertaining. It’s perfectly paced while still telling an emotionally investing story.

The characters in this are fun, interesting, and overall entertaining. First up we have young Henry Thomas as Elliott, the child at the center of the story. He has a bit of a troubled life, with his parents getting separated, among other things. But he’s still a good kid, and it’s fun to see his evolution after he meets E.T. And Thomas is great in the role. Next we have Robert MacNaughton as Michael, Elliott’s older brother. He’s kind of a jerk, but he does get some decent development throughout the movie. And MacNaughton is really good in the role. Next we have a very young Drew Barrymore as Gertie, Elliott’s young sister. Not only is she absolutely adorable, but she’s also a fun character that adds a little extra charm to it all. And Barrymore is really good in the role. We also have Dee Wallace as Elliott’s mother. She’s under a lot of stress, and Elliott’s misadventures certainly isn’t helping things out. But she’s still a loving and caring mother. And Wallace is great in the role. Yeah, ’tis a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was of course composed by the one and only John Williams. And as one would expect from that legend, the score here is fucking fantastic. The theme is as memorable as all his other ones, and the rest of the score of course has that magical, whimsical, and emotional quality that Mr. Williams is so damn good at. I don’t need to say more, you know how good this score is.

Written by Melissa Mathison (R.I.P), this movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, and of course he did an excellent job with the direction. He has a way of creating magic and excitement from the smallest of scenes. It also helps that the writing here too is absolutely delightful. But seriously, Spielberg could direct a movie of someone reading the phone book and it would be charming. Probably starring Tom Hanks. Anyway, not only does he capture the childlike wonder of Elliott discovering this alien, he also manages to create some eerie and outright disturbing moments throughout. And the cinematography by Allen Daviau is absolutely breathtaking.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 91/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and put it on his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10. The movie won 4 Oscars in the categories of Best sound, Best visual effects, Best sound editing, and Best original score. IT was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best original screenplay, Best cinematography, and Best film editing.

So yeah, “E.T.” is considered a classic for a reason. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “E.T.” is a 9,88/10. Which means that if (of course) gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “E.T.” is now completed.

My blog, my Month of Spooks, my rules.

12 Films of Christmas (Part 10)

Part ten. The tenth part. We’ve seriously already gone through ten parts in this series. I’ve said it before, but time sure flies. Wow. Anyway, let’s get into it.

Family. Facing your fears. Deadly traps. These are the central themes of christmas classic “Home Alone”. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) lives in a troubled home. And when he’s supposed to go on vacation to France with his family, his family forgets him and he gets left alone at home. And he soon have to defend his home from a pair of bumbling thieves (Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern). And yeah, “Home Alone” is great. It’s a good movie for teaching lessons about family and how you should learn to confront your fears and to be a good person and blah blah blah, we all know why we’re watching “Home Alone” every year, and it’s to see two thieves get knocked around by some really clever and fun traps set out by a little kid. Yes, the lessons in this are heartfelt and good, but they’re not what people watch this for. We’re here for slapstick, and then we get some heartfelt lessons in the meantime. This movie could’ve probably gotten away with just being a silly holiday comedy featuring traps and slapstick and stuff, but the filmmakers actually gave a damn and put in a lot of effort to make a movie that resonates on multiple levels. So yeah, “Home Alone” is great.

What do you think about “Home Alone”? And what’s your favorite trap from the movie? Leave any and all answers in the comments.
Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas (Part 9)

Holy shit, we’re already nine part into this silly series. That means there are only three parts left… damn, time sure does fly.

Out of all the movies I’ve done for this so far, this is the only one I had set from the start since it’s a yearly tradition for me to do on the 21st of December every year. The movie (if you didn’t know from the image, you cave dweller) is “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is the pumpkin king, the very face of this magical place called Halloween Town. He has however gotten quite tired of Halloween and want something new in (after)life. Then one day while walking through the woods he stumbles upon a portal that leads him to Christmas Town, and this gives him the idea to take on christmas. And as you probably gathered from the opening of this paragraph, I love this movie, it’s one of my favorites. It has a fun story, fantastic animation from Henry Selick and his team, catchy songs, and some of the most memorable character designs in any movie ever. From the second I hear the opening notes to “This is Halloween”, it sucks me right into it and I am happy that it does. Out of every christmas movie available out there, this is my personal favorite.

What do you think about “The Nightmare Before Christmas”? And what’s your favorite Tim Burton movie? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments!
Have a good one!

12 Films of Christmas (Part 6)

Hello there. We’re now halfway into my 12 Films of Christmas series. Time sure flies. So let’s get into this.

So I kind of cheat with my definition of “Films” for this series, but I feel like christmas specials count since they’re never part of any major arc, but rather tend to be one-off stories, making them somewhat eligible for the “Films” definition. Why did I have to make such a convoluted explanation? Because I wanted to have an excuse to talk about “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for my series. So what’s this about then? Well, it’s christmas in *wherever the hell this is set*. However, Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) isn’t feeling the christmas spirit as he’s disgusted by how commercialized christmas has gotten. So this is really about him trying to find the meaning of christmas. All while he has been chosen to direct a christmas play featuring all the other kids… and Snoopy (Bill Melendez, R.I.P) of course. I haven’t seen this since I was like seven years old. And revisiting it I am actually loving it more than I did back then. I think this might be because I understand some of the critiques that Charlie Brown has about christmas and it’s rampant commercialization (a sentiment I share with him). It’s actually really clever and fascinating in that sense. I also of course love the animation. It’s simple, but it has a lot of charm to it. And the humor is so good in this too, especially the stuff from Snoopy who just steals every scene he’s in. Really, this holds up incredibly well and I highly recommend watching it, whether you’re a “Peanuts” fan or not. It’s great (and available on youtube!).

What do you think about “A Charlie Brown Christmas”? Who’s your favorite “Peanuts” character? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments!
Have a good one.