12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Final Part)

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen. The final part in my 12 Films of Christmas series. And honestly, it’s most likely not only for this year. While fun has been had with this series, I do feel that it’s getting a little stale. Plus, it is a little draining cranking out themed content at this rate. So consider this series retired… at least for the time being, I might get the urge to bring it back in a few years. But seeing as it’s the alleged final 12 Films of Christmas post, I thought it only appropriate to bring out the grandfather of all holiday films.

So today we’re talking about “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the acclaimed 1946 holiday drama. It follows George (James Stewart) and the many ups and downs of his life. Yeah, it’s basically this man’s life story from child to depressed businessman. It’s a fascinating little holiday tale with sads and happies and other emotions. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t find the story perfect. I do feel that it does drag a little at times, mainly in the first two acts. It’s not film-breaking, but it does bring it down a little for me. While I generally think George is a fascinating fella, and the story an intriguing and pretty nuanced one, I do feel that the film’s weird pacing hurts it to some degree.
But I can’t deny just how fucking good that final act is. That’s when the story truly kicks into high gear. That’s where the film really starting hitting me in the ol’ heart. The final act is perfect.
So yeah, I don’t love this as much as the rest of you… but I still think it’s really solid and I’m definitely glad I watched it.

On the twelfth day of christmas, this series it did die
But to this blog Markus he’ll never say goodbye

Merry fucking christmas, friends. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna take a few days off.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 4)

Hey, I know you were planning to head out for a walk. But baby it’s cold outside, so you should instead stay indoors, get yourself a cup of your favorite warm beverage, and read this post of mine. Sound good? You got your warm beverage? Good, then let’s do this.

So today we’re talking about “Klaus”, a 2019 Netflix animated movie about Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), a spoiled, lazy brat whose entire world gets flip turned upside down when his dad forces a job on him in hopes that he’ll learn something about responsibility. What job? Being a mailman on a remote island, of course. And while trying to come to terms with his new position, Jesper meets a hermitic bearded man (J.K. Simmons), and the two soon form a partnership to bring joy to the children of the island. All while the elders of the island try to keep this joy from happening, because it goes against tradition. So yeah, a lot of familiar tropes going on here. But familiarity doesn’t mean poor quality. Because the execution here is terrific. It’s filled with heart and warmth and hilarious humor. Mix the already enjoyable story with colorful and charming characters played by a stacked and perfectly chosen cast, and you get a movie that managed to dig itself into my heart.
But this delicious sundae isn’t complete with a little cherry on top, and for “Klaus”, that cherry comes in the form of some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. What’s even cooler is that it’s generally traditional hand drawn 2D animation, but then it implements some CG in the lighting and shading department, creating this uniquely dynamic style for the movie that is utterly breathtaking to look at.
So to try to wrap this up, “Klaus” is a nicely told little holiday tale filled with heart, great performances, and amazing animation. I can definitely see myself watching this next year too… and the year after that. It’s amazing.

On the fourth day of christmas, to my heart Klaus said hi
And later yours truly proceeded to cry

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 2)

Hohoho, and a good evening to you (it’s evening where I am at the time of writing, shut up). So anyway, shall we continue with this silly little series of mine.

’twas the night before christmas and all throughout the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Okay, that was not right, as there were actually two siblings up all night. Waiting for Santa all of his toys, so to not get caught by him they shouldn’t make noise. But for there to be some plot, their plan works out not. So now the siblings must give a hand, to help Santa save christmas all across the land. Aaaaaand I can’t keep that up anymore, back to non-rhyming jackass Markus. But yeah, I think you get the gist of the plot for “The Christmas Chronicles”. It’s a fairly standard kids’ christmas adventure film narrative, that has some nice moments throughout. And the two kids playing the siblings are really good in their roles. They deliver their lines well, they have good chemistry, and they even bring some nice charisma to proceedings. But that’s enough of that, let’s talk about the main event here.
KURT FUCKING RUSSELL PLAYS SANTA CLAUS. I swear, the pitch meeting probably went something like
“So imagine Santa Claus… ”
“Yeah?”
“But Kurt Russell!”
“Here’s moneys”.
Who knows, maybe I’m wrong. But it sure feels that way. Like I said, the narrative doesn’t do much to stand out, but it manages to still pop a bit within the crowd of holiday hijinks thanks to Kurt Russell. He brings that rugged charm of his to this role, and it is endlessly entertaining to watch. Every time he was on screen, I smiled. He is terrific, I don’t know how else to put it.
So to try to tie this present together, “The Christmas Chronicles” is a fun enough family adventure that stands out thanks to Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. It is maybe a little too long, but overall it’s still a fun enough little holiday adventure on Netflix.

On the second day of christmas, this film in my mind seared
The image of Kurt Russell’s glorious beard

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)

Trauma, we all experience it in one form or another. Aaaaaaand with that, you should be aware that the jokes won’t be flowin’ throughout this post. So let’s just get one out of the way right now, before shit gets serious. What do you call in Aussie actress who fetches her paycheck? Toni Collect.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Hereditary”.

After the death of one of their relatives, the Graham family does their best to move on. But that isn’t so easy, as increasingly strange and disturbing things keep happening around them. Talking about the narrative of “Hereditary” without getting into too many details is difficult, as I feel it is one best left experienced knowing as little as possible. Because it’s not some typical horror narrative, and don’t worry, I’m not pulling out that whole “elevated horror” bullshit. I’m just saying that if you’re expecting spooky jumpscare fest number gazillion, then you’re gonna be sorely mistaken. “Hereditary” is mostly a slow burn family drama that also happened to get under my skin thanks to some bone-chilling imagery, tragic and believable writing, and an eerie atmosphere. It’s been a while since I watched a scary movie that got under my skin this much, while also keeping me emotionally invested in the drama.

The characters in this are flawed, damaged, nuanced, and simply enthralling to watch, and a lot of that comes down to the stellar cast. Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, and Ann Dowd are all fantastic in their respective roles. There’s not a single weak link in this entire cast.

The score for the movie was composed by one Colin Stetson, and I think he did a great job with it. It’s eerie, it’s emotionally charged, it’s tense, and it just generally fits the movie quite well, often elevating some already stellar moments throughout. It’s not one of those I’m gonna find myself listening to in my spare time, but I did think it was good.

“Hereditary” was the first feature film written and directed by Ari Aster, who also did “Midsommar” (which I talked about last year). And holy fucking shit, this dude knows what he’s doing. Whenever someone gets to make their first feature, there’s something that might feel rocky about the craft… but not here. Aster shows skill far beyond his years, building an unsettling atmosphere and suspense seldom seen in modern horror. And when mixed with Pawel Pogorzelski’s often symmetrical and very rigid cinematography, you get a movie that is both beautiful and unsettling to look at. Speaking of unsettling visuals, I should warn that there’s some incredibly distressing visuals at a few times. I can stomach violence and gore and stuff… but some of the stuff here managed to get a strong reaction from me. So consider yourself warned.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 87/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

“Hereditary” to me is a visceral and haunting horror-drama like no other. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and excellent directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Hereditary” is a 9.89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Hereditary” is now completed.

Give Toni Collette an Oscar, you cowards.

Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Well this review was a long time coming. If you’ve followed my blog for an extended amount of time, you’re probably aware that I spent a decent chunk of 2015 reviewing every “Fast & Furious” movie leading up to the seventh installment. Then later that year I did that one. So this franchise has become a bit of a staple for this blog. So let’s talk about the eighth installment.

Family… “The Fate of the Furious”.

After our beloved gang pulls another job for the government, their leader Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) betrays them and starts working for a shady hacker/terrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron). So we follow the crew as they do everything in their power to stop Cipher and get Dom back. Not gonna lie, I found myself surprisingly engaged by the narrative here. Maybe I’m biased because I’ve grown attached to this world and these characters, but I felt like there was a lot of effort put into making the story here as dramatically engaging as possible without sacrificing the fast and furious thrills of the franchise. This does bring down the pace ever so slightly, but never to the point of ruining the movie. It’s still generally a fast-paced action fest, and I do appreciate some of the slower moments as they add a surprising amount of nuance and genuinely interesting conflict to the story. So yeah, not perfect, but still very good.

The characters in this are just as colorful, charming, and entertaining as ever, but now also have added character conflict due to the aforementioned part of Dom going bad. Speaking of which, let’s start with Dom, once again played by mumblegrumble master Vin Diesel. Dom is usually the same ol’ guy in every movie, so it’s nice to see him get a little extra character development for a change. And I must say, this is the best I’ve seen Diesel in this franchise, the dude shows that he can do more than just his signature mumblegrumble. Charlize Theron as newcomer villain Cipher is really good in that role, playing her with a generally quiet menace right out of a 90s movie (which I love). Next we have Dwayne Johnson and Jason Stathamas Hobbs and Shaw, both returning characters, mortal enemies forced to work together to stop Cipher. Their banter here is amazing, their chemistry is amazing, they are amazing. Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Kurt Russell all return in their roles, and they are all very good in their roles. And in a few other supporting roles we have Scott Eastwood, Patrick St. Esprit, Kristofer Hivju, and Celestino Cornielle. So overall it’s quite a well rounded cast.

The score for the movie was composed by franchise mainstay (bar the sixth one) Brian Tyler. And it’s another good score. Big bold brass and the occasional soft string and piano. It’s not exactly the most original or unpredictable score, but it serves the movie just fine. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, all hip hop, all fitting really well in their scenes. So yeah, the movie has good music.

“The Fate of the Furious” was directed by F. Gary Gray, and I think he did a good job with that. He shows with his direction that he knows how to make actions feel like they have weight. So when things happen, they feel like they happen and really hurt, even when it’s clearly done mainly in a computer. Which brings us to the action scenes, which are the dumbest, silliest, most insane set pieces this franchise has seen so far… and I love all of them. I love heavy dramas, I love being intellectually challenged… but sometimes I just need something ridiculously stupid to put a big smile on my face. And the action in this movie did just that. The action in this is an absolute blast to watch.

This movie has been decently well received. 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.

“The Fate of the Furious” is an absolutely bonkers action movie with a lot of heart, and while that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I absolutely loved it. It has a really good story, really good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Fate of the Furious” is a 9,56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Fate of the Furious” is now completed.

Sometimes you just need something stupid.

Series Review: Brotherhood – Season 1 (2002)

What, you thought Summer of the Swedes was only about movies? Ahahaha, well to be honest, so did I at first. But hey, shit changes sometimes, you know. So anyhow, shall we get into the review?

Ladies and gentlemen… “Brotherhood” (original title: Tusenbröder) season 1.

Jan “Hoffa” Lenhoff (Ola Rapace) is a young family man who decides to open up a painting business with his friends (Shanti Roney, Danilo Bejarano). However, when things start going less than stellar for the business, the gang will have to resort to less legal methods to make ends meet. Generally speaking, this is a drama about family and the bond between the main trio (hence the show’s title), that just happens to feature some crime elements to help push the drama along. And I must say, I found myself quite compelled by the narrative here. I’m not saying that it’s one of the best stories out there, but I was definitely surprised at all the little nuances that the show presented. It’s not just “Oh, some good dudes falling on hard times, everything that happens can be somewhat justified”. The story here makes you question everything going on, makes you think about events from multiple angles, creating some really engaging tension and conflict throughout the five episodes.

Like the story before them, the characters of this show come with a surprising amount of nuance. Ola Rapace (credited in the show as Ola Norell) plays Hoffa, a man who loves his family, his friends, and wants to make sure his life goes smoothly. And over the course of the season we get to see his various conflicts, from his tense relationship with his dad, to the bond he has with his friends getting tested, to his inner turmoil around the illegal stuff he has to take part in. It’s all good stuff, and Rapace is really good in the role. Next we have Shanti Roney as Niklas, one of Hoffa’s best friends. At the start he just seems like the generally meek one of the group, and over the show we get to see him evolve in some really intriguing ways that make him a really fascinating character. And Roney is great in the role. Next we have Danilo Bejarano as Hamid, the third member of the main trio. He’s probably the one in the group with the least bit of development, while still being an interesting an vital part of the group when it comes to the drama. And Bejarano is good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Anja Lundqvist, Sofia Helin, Lisa Lindgren, Tomas Pontén, Krister Henriksson, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Martin Hansen and Mikael Nord Andersson. And I thought it was great. It’s generally speaking based around a blues-inspired acoustic guitar, which I think works in elevating the already solid drama on display here. As far as the licensed music goes, some of it works fine, and some songs don’t. There’s one or two tracks that actually took me out of the scene because of how it didn’t completely fit with the intended tone. So yeah, score’s great, licensed music can be hit or miss.

The show was created by Lars Lundström, with Erik Leijonborg directing all five episodes this season. And I must say that while the show looks like it was shot on a Sony Potato™, I can’t fault the overall direction. Leijonborg’s direction may not be flashy or even necessarily visually appealing, but I do think that works to the show’s advantage, seeing that it kinda fits the blue collar perspective the characters come from. With this said, some of the editing in a few scenes felt a little… janky. For the most part it’s fine, fairly standard stuff, but there’s a few scenes where it could be a little bit off. It’s nothing totally game breaking, but I felt that it’s worth pointing out.

On imdb.com, the show has a score of 8.2/10.

While it does have a few flaws in the technical department, season 1 of “Brotherhood” is a surprisingly great little drama series. It has a really good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Brotherhood” is an 8,82/10. So while slightly flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

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

Most good Swedish shows I’ve watched have been comedies, so it’s nice finding a quality drama.

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.