My Favorite Albums of 2019

Well howdy there, ladies and gents, I hope you’re all doing great. It’s that time of year again. That time when I go over my favorite albums from the year that’s recently passed. It’s a yearly tradition on this blog, and I have no intention of stopping it yet. So, let’s go over some rules first.

Rule 1: Please keep it civil. These are my picks. If you don’t agree with them, that’s fine. If you want to have a discussion about good music from last year, then I’m very much open to it. All I ask is that you keep it civil. Be kind and respectful.

Rule 2: No movie soundtracks/scores. I love listen to movie music, but if I included any of those albums, this list would go on for days, and no one has time or patience for that.

Rule 3: No “Greatest Hits” albums. I think that explains itself, no compilations of a band’s best songs. That’d be cheating.

That should about cover it. Now, without further ado.. my favorite albums of 2019!

Number 15: Rival Sons – Feral Roots (Sample: Do Your Worst)

Kicking off the bottom of the list (bottom does not equal bad, just means least awesome) is the latest release from Californian rock band Rival Sons. These dudes have a very old school approach to their style that I appreciate, since good ol’ fashioned hard rock doesn’t dominate the airwaves as much as it once did. So it’s good to hear a band keeping that sound alive. It’s a fun album.

Number 14: Dream Theater – Distance Over Time (Sample: Untethered Angel)

At number 14 we got the latest release from long running  prog-metal band Dream Theater. It’s a slightly more stripped back and focused affair than some of DT’s other releases… but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun, epic, and frankly fun album to listen to. It doesn’t really do much to seem like something new in the band’s discography, but it also doesn’t need to, because it’s still a badass album.

Number 13: Whiskey Myers – Whiskey Myers (Sample: Die Rockin’)

At number 13 we find the latest release from Whiskey Myers, an American country/southern rock band from Texas. I actually discovered them earlier in 2019 when I heard two of their older songs in an episode of “Yellowstone”. Obviously liking what I heard, I of course started checking out the band more (like their previous album/social media). And that’s when I found out they were releasing a new album, which had me interested. And when I listened to it… well, the inclusion of it on this list should be a dead giveaway as to my feelings on it. The band is like a heavier version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I really like that sound, which is why this is on the list.

Number 12: Beth Hart – War in My Mind (Sample: Bad Woman Blues)

Next up we have the new release from American blues singer Beth Hart. In this release, Beth strikes a nice balance between blues, funk, and soul to create a sound that is simply magical. I’ve enjoyed Hart’s music for a few years, and this album doesn’t disappoint at all, it is a blast to listen to.

Number 11: Phil Campbell – Old Lions Still Roar (Sample: Rocking Chair)

Coming in at number 11 we have the solo album debut of former Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell. Even with the experience as guitarist in one of the greatest metal bands of all time, you never know how well your solo stuff might turn out. But Campbell (along with his many guest acts) really knocked it out of the park. Some are more stripped back affairs like “Rocking Chair”, but then you also got tracks like “Faith in Fire”. But one thing one notices throughout it all is that Campbell is quite contemplative in his tunes, which makes for a rock album that pleases both poetically and in terms of being fun to listen to.

Number 10: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Sample: Bright Horses)

Now we’re getting into the meat and p’taters of this list, the top ten. And kicking off this section is “Ghosteen”, the new release from Australian artist Nick Cave, and his band, The Bad Seeds. It’s a direct follow-up to their previous album, “Skeleton Tree” (which also made it to my best of the year list when it came out). In that album, there were moments where Cave was dealing with the recent death of his son, and Ghosteen is him fully embracing that dark and contemplative process, making for a beautiful and haunting album that, while not something I’d put on at any time, still had a lasting effect on me thanks to its beautiful production, and Cave’s soulful and pained vocals.

Number 9: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Truth and Lies (Sample: Shock & Awe)

At number 9 we have “Truth and Lies”, the new album from blues-inspired hard rock act Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. If you like heavy blues-rock, then this should be right up your alley. I certainly like that sound, and I really like this album, it’s cool.

Number 8: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Sample: Norman fucking Rockwell)

Every year there’s usually at least one album that sneaks onto my list that I didn’t expect in the fucking slightest. And this time, it’s the latest release from American pop singer Lana Del Rey. It’s a soulful and cleverly written album which features Lana discussing some interesting stuff, all while a beautiful strings and piano-based production backs her up. And it’s all great, making for an enjoyable trip that I wouldn’t mind listening to again.

Number 7: Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Colorado (Sample: Olden Days)

More like Neil Old, am I right? Joking aside, how the fuck is Neil Young still releasing good music. Sure, his voice isn’t quite what it once was. But the fact that the songwriting still hits me and his voice still conveying every emotion perfectly is testament to his skill. Combine that with his first teamup with Crazy Horse since 2012, and we got a really well produced album that finds Young still knows how to reach into my heart and make me think.

Number 6: Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (Sample: Western Stars)

From one old legend to another, at number 6 we have the latest release from The Boss himself, Bruce god damn Springsteen. And he hasn’t lost his touch yet, “Western Stars” is a beautiful country/soft rock album that shows Springsteen at his strongest once again. I don’t know what else to say here, Bruce Springsteen making good music shouldn’t really be much of a surprise to anyone.

Number 5: Airbourne – Boneshaker (Sample: Burnout the Nitro)

From nice and soulful, to high octane rock n roll. This was seriously one of, if not my most anticipated album of the year. I am a huge fan of this band and their AC/DC-esque sound. A new Airbourne release is always fun to listen to, because they just make some badass rock n roll. When I first listened to it, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this one. I thought it was fine, not making much of an impact. But further listens have made me appreciate it more. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s certainly… a boneshaker.

Number 4: The Highwomen – The Highwomen (Sample: Redesigning Women)

At number 4 we have a self-titled album from all-lady country band The Highwomen. Sound-wise, it’s a classic country sound, showing that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Where it stands out however is in the lyrical department, making some interesting commentary on society and women’s role in it, which I find quite fascinating and engaging, especially when paired with the beautiful country composition.

Number 3: Leonard Cohen – Thanks for the Dance (Sample: Thanks for the Dance)

We’re getting into the nitty-gritty now, y’all. In the bronze position, we find the new release from the late, great Leonard Cohen, which he of course recorded before his passing in 2016. Produced by Cohen’s son, Adam, this is a beautiful, emotionally charged, and soulful experience that sees Cohen at his finest. It’s a nice posthumous send-off for one of the greatest songwriters ever.

Number 2: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rat’s Nest (Sample: Planet B)

Well, this is certainly a leap in genres. In second place is the newest release from Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (possibly the greatest band name ever). And it’s an old school thrash metal album, hearkening back to mid-80s Metallica or Slayer, while still putting in some minor flourishes of their own to make it stand out. And good god damn, I am in love with this album. I only heard it for the first time very recently, and yet it has made quite an impact for me. Partly because of the interesting storytelling concepts throughout the songs, but mainly because I am a big fan of old school thrash metal, and this is one of the finest takes on that genre.

NUMBER 1: Gangstagrass – Pocket Full of Fire (Sample: You Can Never Go Home Again)

In previous years, I’ve had a rule against including live concert albums. But I decided to loosen that rule this year because 1, this my blog (so I can do whatever I want). And 2, I really really really wanted to mention this. What we have here is American hip-hop/bluegrass band (yes, that mix does work) Gangstagrass at various live venues, playing their songs, and making it all sound fantastic. Seriously, these are some of the best and most head-bobbing recordings I’ve heard of these songs. So yeah, my number 1 is technically cheating my own rules, but I also don’t care, because great music transcends everything.

So those were my favorite albums of 2019. But now I’d love to hear from your guys, what are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.
Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 7)

That’s right, this series is still going. I am not giving up on it, even remembering to do a post each day is a surprisingly stressful act. Anyway, here’s today’s post.

Based on a book by Ron Hansen, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was released in 2007, and directed by Andrew Dominik. It follows a young man named Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) who has idolized legendary American outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) for many years, and then finally gets the chance to join his gang at the age of 19. The movie is a character-driven psychological drama all about demythologizing Jesse James while also deconstructing its central protagonist, Robert Ford. So now you’re probably wondering how I’m gonna contrive this to be a christmas movie? Well, watch and learn, my friends. This is how the pros (read: idiots) do it.

Now, one or two of you might assume I’m gonna use the scenes set in snowy landscapes for this. Well, as I’ve probably established earlier in this series, I’m not that fucking shallow. That’s not contrived enough. No, I got something else.
What we see in the movie after Bob joins Jesse’s gang is how much he notices what a psychotic, paranoid disappointment Jesse actually might’ve been, and not this awesome cowboy legend you might read about and enjoy following in a dime novel. So one of the basic messages one can sort of get out of this movie is “Don’t meet your heroes, because you’re just gonna be disappointed”. And that works as our christmas analogy, because as a kid you might be celebrating the holiday with your family, both immediate and extended. And all of a sudden Santa Claus shows up, lets kids sit on his lap, and give them presents. But then one of your dumbass cousins decides to tug at Santa’s beard and find out that it’s just your uncle in a cheap costume, and it turns out there is no actual magical lobster man. Bob getting to know Jesse is kind of the same thing. Instead of this magically awesome being he thought he knew, it turned out to be something a bit more disappointing. So “The Assassination of Jesse James” is a christmas movie in the sense that the truth about the legend is a fucking disappointment, just like Santa Claus.

The movie on the other hand isn’t a disappointment, it’s fucking fantastic. One of my favorites.

Have a good one.

Series Review: Chernobyl (2019)

Usually I make some kind of cute remarks in these intros that relate to the thing I’m reviewing. But in this case I just can’t. There’s nothing clever I can say. So I guess we should just get into the review itself.

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 and gentlemen… “Chernobyl”.

The Chernobyl power plant, Ukraine, April 1986. It’s in the middle of the night. The people working the plant notice something going awry. The core has exploded. So we follow in the aftermath of that, showing how it affects the people either working the plant or trying to stop it from getting worse. We also get to see how scientist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) tries to figure out ways to fix it, while dealing with all the red tape of the Soviet government. So now we have our historical drama. And man, this is a fucking masterclass in storytelling. Sure, it doesn’t give you any major twists or turns, but it instead takes the relatively straightforward events and tells them in a very nuanced, respectful, and anxiety-inducing way. There isn’t a scene in this show that didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. It may not technically be listed as horror, but it sure as hell felt like it at times.

The characters in this all feel layered, flawed, nuanced, realistic, and overall very interesting. Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, the scientist put in charge of trying to fix the whole conundrum of the Chernobyl explosion. He’s one of those people who tries to make sense of everything, but also gets frustrated when people won’t listen to him. And it’s interesting to see him go through the various issues he has to deal with in the series. And Harris is fantastic in the role. We also get performances from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Barry Keoghan, Con O’Neill, Paul Ritter, David Dencik, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for “Chernobyl” was composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, and it was fantastic. It’s dark, it’s eerie, it’s emotional, it’s anxiety-inducing… it’s exactly the kind of score that is befitting of the storytelling. So yeah, it fits quite well.

Based on the horrifying nuclear disaster in 1986, the show was created and written by Craig Mazin, with Johan Renck directing. And the craft behind this is stellar. The direction is always eerie, never letting up any of the suspense. It’s claustrophobic, but also intimate with its characters, really bringing you into their personal struggles. And the cinematography by Jakob Ihre is quite eerie too.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,7/10 and is ranked #1 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“Chernobyl” isn’t a fun show… but it is quite fantastic. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Chernobyl” is a 9,94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Chernobyl” is now completed.

You know what’s interesting? The guy who wrote this show also wrote the “Hangover” sequels and some of the later “Scary Movie” entries.

Series Review: Line of Duty – Season 3 (2016)

Yes, I know, you’ve been getting a lot of “Line of Duty” content from me in relatively quick succession, but I can’t help if the show is very bingeable. Or, well, technically it is, but also not… Shut up. Let’s just get into it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Line of Duty” season 3!

When a suspect is fatally shot during a police raid, Arnott (Martin Compston), Fleming (Vicky McClure), and the rest of AC-12 have to look into the possibility of corruption and misconduct within the strike team involved in the shooting. But as they work this case, they soon discover that it isn’t as simple as it might seem at first. And this is how “Line of Duty” weaves its most complex, layered, intense, and unpredictable plot yet… and I loved ever second of it. Not discrediting the first two seasons, they were great… but season 3’s web is so broad and layered with intrigued that it almost puts them to shame. In scope, storytelling, and suspense, it is probably the peak of any police show that I have ever watched, and honestly better than a lot of movies too. It takes the idea of “Line of Duty”, and not only creates a new, interesting plot in it, but weaves in elements from previous seasons too to create this big, elaborate plot… and yet it never feels messy. And at no point could I predict what was going to happen, which is quite nice to see in a police show. So yeah, the plot here is pretty fantastic.

The characters (new and returning) are all flawed, layered, engaging, and overall just really interesting. Martin Compston of course returns as DS Steve Arnott, still being the tenacious  investigator that we know and love. Seeing him do his job would’ve been interesting enough, but then they also give him some interesting development here too to keep it feeling fresh, which is a welcome addition. And Compston is great in the role. Vicky McClure returns as DC Kate Fleming, who as per usual, has to go undercover, this time with the strike team that’s under investigation. And while she doesn’t have the biggest arc this season, she still gets a fair amount of good stuff to chew on here. And McClure is great in the role. Adrian Dunbar returns as everyone’s favorite superintendent, Ted Hastings. Seeing him deal with the complexities of the case while also dealing with some personal things is really interesting. And Dunbar is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Daniel Mays, Craig Parkinson, Polly Walker, Arsher Ali, Keeley Hawes, Jonas Armstrong, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As with the first two seasons, the music here was composed by Carly Paradis, who once again delivers a tense, emotional, dramatic, and just plain great score. It’s probably the best work she’s done for the show up up to this point. The compositions are layered, yet simple, which works incredibly well in creating the sound of the show.

Series creator Jed Mercurio returned to write all the episodes, and directing duties were split between Michael Keillor and John Strickland. And once again, this crew has really upped their game. The directing is more steady, more confident, and overall more intense, creating a truly electrifying viewing experience. Sure, the writing in itself is already amazing, but the addition of the season’s excellent direction creates a unique and awesome style that I really liked. It also makes the suspenseful bits even more uncomfortable.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,6/10 and is ranked #162 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Once again, “Line of Duty” has one-upped itself. The plot is fantastic, the characters are great, the performances are great, the music is really good, and the writing/directing is fantastic. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Line of Duty” season 3 is a 9,95/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Line of Duty” season 3 is now completed.

For fuck’s sake, show, stop* getting better and better.

*Don’t actually stop.

Movie Review: Leaving Las Vegas (1996)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Sometimes a movie just breaks you. And that’s what happened to me here. So let’s just get into the review itself.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Leaving Las Vegas”.

After he loses everything due to his alcoholism, screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) moves to Las Vegas to try to drink himself to death. But those plans get a little halted when he meets and forms a bond with a prostitute named Sera (Elisabeth Shue). But don’t think that this is some happy redemption story, because it fucking isn’t. It’s a tragic and depressing character study about a very self-destructive man. And god damn, it is incredibly well handled. It deals with its subjects with a lot of subtlety and nuance, making it feel very grounded. There are moments throughout where it looks up for a bit, but for the most part it’s a heartbreaking story that honestly made me tear up at multiple times throughout. So while the story made me feel like shit, I still found it to be pretty fucking great.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, nuanced, and just overall feel fairly realistic. First up we have Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter who gets the boot due to his devotion to the bottle. He is a surprisingly self-aware man, he knows that what he’s doing is bad for him, but he’s just kind of accepted it as his reality, fully embracing the self-destructiveness of his behavior. Not saying it justifies it all, but it makes him quite an interesting figure within the whole “characters who are alcoholics” spectrum. And Nicolas Cage is fantastic in the role. Yeah, you read that right. There is some of his quirky expressionism sprinkled in throughout, but for the most part this is a relatively subdued and almost haunting performance. Next we have Elisabeth Shue as Sera, the prostitute that Ben meets forms a bit of a bond with. She of course already has a bit of a tragic existence, involving the life she’s been leading. And seeing how it alters when she meets Ben makes her quite an interesting character too. And Elisabeth Shue is great in the role. She doesn’t always show it in big, loud scenes, but you can read every emotion she has to portray in her eyes. We also get supporting work from people like Julian Sands, Graham Beckel, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Mike Figgis and Anthony Marinelli, who I think did a brilliant job with it, weaving sad and tragic piano pieces with some chaotic jazz and haunting blues to create a vibe that suits the story of a man’s downfall, while also kind of fitting the Las Vegas environment. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work very well in their respective scenes.

Based on a novel by John O’Brien, this movie was written and directed by Mike Figgis, who I think did a brilliant job with it. He gives the movie a very unpredictable vibe that both made me feel relaxed and uneasy. Relaxed in the sense that it’s not too chaotic in camerawork, and uneasy because it doesn’t really pull punches with this tale of self-destruction. While there is some style to it all, Figgis still presents everything in an honest, exposed way that makes it feel real.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Cage). It was also nominated for an additional 3 Oscars in the categories of Best actress (Shue), Best director, and Best adapted screenplay.

While it’s far from an easy watch, I still think “Leaving Las Vegas” is an absolutely fantastic film. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Leaving Las Vegas” is a 9,89/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Leaving Las Vegas” is now completed.

Usually Cage makes me laugh or at least feel entertained… but today he made me cry.

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.

Movie Review: Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

I know, I know, you’re probably sick of me talking about “Mission Impossible” at this point after all the previous reviews. But like I promised you in my “Rogue Nation” review, that would be my last “Mission Impossible” post until “Fallout” came out. And now it’s out. And after this post, no more “Mission Impossible” stuff… unless they come out with a new one, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it. So let’s go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mission Impossible: Fallout”!

When a group of terrorists get hold of some items that could cause a nuclear holocaust, it’s up to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team to find these items and stop the terrorists. Right, there are elements of this plot that certainly are recycled from other movies, but they’re all mixed together in such a way that it feels fresh and interesting. What I also like is that the plot doesn’t really hold your hand, it respects its audience enough to not spoonfeed them everything, trusting us to pay attention to what’s going on. Combine that with the usual “MI” twists and turns, genuinely engaging drama, as well as some real suspense, and you get what could be the best and most intriguing plot in the franchise so far.

The characters in this are layered, unique, and quite interesting. After all the previous reviews, I don’t need to go into Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, I already did in my previous reviews, and not much has changed in that regard, but I don’t mind since Ethan is such a well realized action protagonist. And yes, Cruise is still great in the role. Same with Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg. Rebecca Ferguson reprises her role from the previous movie, and she’s still great. Same with Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris. So let’s talk about the newbie that is Henry Cavill as August Walker, a CIA agent who’s been tasked to help Ethan and the gang out with this operation. He’s an intense bruiser who is constantly at odds with Ethan and his ways, which creates an interesting character dynamic. And Cavill is great in the role. Then we get supporting performances from people like Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Kristoffer Joner, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles. Sorry if I’m being a bit vague with this, but I do it to either not repeat stuff from previous reviews or to not spoil some character stuff that’s better left experienced.

The score for the movie was composed by Lorne Balfe, and I think the score here is great. It really does help improve on an already well crafted movie by adding to the intensity or overall fun-factor of a scene. Not much else I can say, it’s a badass orchestral score that works very well for the movie.

Returning as director we have Christopher McQuarrie. That’s right, first “Mission Impossible” movie where the director hasn’t been switched out. And I’m glad, because McQuarrie is one of the best action directors working today. I loved his work on “Rogue Nation”, and also really liked his work on “Jack Reacher”, so I was actually happy to see him return for “Fallout”. And he fucking outdid himself here, giving us fast-paced, suspenseful, and badass direction. Both in the quieter scenes and the action. And yes, the action is spectacular. From fights, to shootouts, to chases, to insane Tom Cruise stunts, this movie has all the action… and all of it is amazing. Not only because we know it’s Tom Cruise actually doing stunts, but because of how visible it is. Not shaky shit here, this is sleek and brutal action that is shown beautifully through McQuarrie’s direction and Rob Hardy’s cinematography.

This movie came out fairly recently, but it’s been very well received so far. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 86/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10 and is ranked #133 on the “Top 250” list.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout” is an action lover’s wet dream and it’s absolutely my favorite of the franchise. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic directing/action/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is a 9,90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is now completed.

This is how you do action.

Series Review: Young Justice (2010 – 2013)

I wanna preface this review by saying, I’ve watched this show before. It’s just that after it was announced that it would finally get a third season, I really wanted to talk about this show before the third season was released. So now that I’ve gone through it again (slightly biased), I am ready to talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Young Justice”!

The story of the show follows the sidekicks of famous DC superheroes as they form their own team (creatively known as “The Team”), and have to learn to come into their own as they face major threats while also learning to work as a team. So now we have our superhero story. And as you probably sort of gathered from some mild clues in the intro, I think the plot here is fantastic. Yes, at first it’s more of a “villain of the week” type format, but there is also an overarching plot involving some shadowy organization that lurks in the background of it all. The story is compelling, because they take their time in setting things up, rather than rushing through them like some would. It’s a layered and nuanced story filled with twists and turns, as well as compelling drama, all without sacrificing the fun superhero part of the plot. It’s a highly creative and engaging plot that I loved following

Like the plot, the characters here have a surprising amount of depth to them. Across the show’s two seasons we see the characters go through some major development that gives them so many layers. In the cast we see characters like Robin (Jesse McCartney) , Kid Flash (Jason Spisak), Aqualad (Khary Payton), Superboy (Nolan North), Artemis (Stephanie Lemelin), and Miss Martian (Danica McKellar) go through a lot of things together, developing their relationships with each other while also growing as individuals. It also helps that the actors for each of the characters do very well in their respective roles, no one felt out of place). And yes, there are more characters in the show than those mentioned, but those are the central ones for the first season, and I don’t wanna say too much since a lot of characters are best left experienced. But I can say that there’s a lot of good main characters in this show, and a lot of great supporting characters and cameos. Great characters, great actors.

The score for the show was composed by DC regulars Kristopher Carter, Lolita Ritmanis, and Michael McCuistion. And I think it’s fantastic. Of course it contains a lot of big and epic tunes for the cool superhero fight scenes as expected, but it does also have some tunes for the quieter moments or when they need something a bit more emotional. All the tracks in this show are well composed, and they fit their respective scenes perfectly.

Based on a shit-ton of characters from DC comics history, this show was created by Greg Weisman & Brandon Vietti (and written by those two and a bunch of other talented people). And what they’ve done is take a lot of well known DC characters and tropes, and created their own, fully realized world, featuring some familiar characters. And the animation here is fantastic, with fluid movements, and plenty of detail throughout. This helps in getting the viewer invested… and also makes action scenes a lot more awesome. Seriously, they’re fantastic.

This show has been well received (though barely exists on my usual sites). On Rotten Tomatoes it exists, but has no rating. On Metacritic it doesn’t exist. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,7/10 and is ranked #103 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Did I make this review just so I could talk about “Young Justice”? Yes. But I feel like it’s also worth talking about since it’s such a great show. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/writing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Young Justice” is a 9,94/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of the first two seasons of “Young Justice” is completed.

I am really excited for season 3, which should be released later this year.

Great Music #26: International Women’s Day Edition

Hello there, my friends! Welcome back to “Great Music”, the series where I talk about songs I like. The series that has been dead since… *Checks blog*… July 2017, holy shit. Well, now we’re back. And this is a special one. Because I am writing this on the International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate half the world’s population, a day to celebrate those amazing females in our lives and all over the world. And I decided to do that by doing a post about some great songs by female musicians. Now, this isn’t a top ten or something like that, it’s just a selection of various songs sung/performed by women. No rankings… just good music. So let’s have a listen at these awesome women and their songs.

Song number 1: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock n Roll.

You know how I said these weren’t ranked? Well, I sort of lied. And by that I mean that this is my favorite song picked out for this list. I won’t rank all the songs… just putting my favorite of them all first. Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about this song. Originally recorded by The Arrows in 1975, this song was popularized by Joan Jett in 1982. Not long after Jett’s previous band, The Runaways, split up, she went and formed her own band (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts). They went on to become quite successful, properly starting this good run in 1982 with their awesome cover of “I Love Rock n Roll”. I don’t think I need to explain this choice, as anyone that’s heard the song would understand why it’s so good. But I’ll just say that it’s a cover that surpasses the original thanks to the badass attitude of Joan Jett. It’s an awesome song.

Song number 2: Alannah Myles – Black Velvet.

Next up is “Black Velvet”, a song from the eponymous debut album of Canadian singer Alannah Myles. What we have here is a song that is heavily steeped in blues-rock, but with just a tinge of pop, giving it a really cool sound that is complemented by Myles’ stunning vocals. It’s one of the coolest songs I’ve ever heard and it’s one I highly recommend.

Song number 3: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams.

Now, while Fleetwood Mac is made up of 60% male members, there’s no denying that it’s female members, Stevie Nicks & Christine McVie, contribute a ton to the band. And “Dreams” is a very big showcase for that. Written and sung by Nicks, this song is one of two songs from Fleetwood Mac’s amazing “Rumours” album that is about the breakup of Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (the other one being “Go Your Own Way”). And this is a fantastic song with some of the most beautiful vocals I’ve ever heard.

Song number 4: Samantha Fish – Blood in the Water.

Followers of mine with a good memory might remember that this isn’t the first time that Samantha Fish (and this song) has appeared on this blog. She also appeared on my favorite albums of 2017 list (TWICE!). And this is the song that I used as sample for the list. She has a good amount of great songs, but this is one that has just stuck with me. Plus, it’s one of the few I know that I could find a good, not live, youtube vid for. But yeah, this is a great song. Fish is a blues singer with some really great and surprisingly diverse tracks in her discography. Taking some inspiration from country and even a little bit of folk music in this song, she creates a really cool sound with some interesting lyrics. Highly recommend this song and the rest of her discography.

Song number 5: First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar.

Here comes a band that comes from the same country as me. First Aid Kit is a Swedish folk/country/rock/pop/something band that I love. They have such a unique and awesome sound that has made them insanely popular. From their stunning harmonies, to the solo vocals, to the instrumentals, their music is just fantastic. And “The Lion’s Roar” is one of their best.

Song Number 6: Garbage – The World is Not Enough.

This band is Garbage. You may now reluctantly laugh. Jokes aside, this song is great, and I honestly can’t think of any artist being able to do it as well as they did. Led by Shirley Manson, Garbage is an alternative/rock band form the 90s that I have mixed feelings about (some good songs, some less than stellar ones). But I can safely say that “The World Is Not Enough”, the title track from one of Brosnan’s “Bond” movies, is one of their best. From the pseudo-electronica instrumentals, to Manson’s vocals, this is an absolutely stunning song and one of my favorite “Bond” themes.

Song number 7: Sandi Thom – I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker.

This really takes me back. I first heard it on the radio around 2006, and it has just sort of stuck with me since then. This is a song with some social commentary in it’s lyrics, but none of it is overbearing. And even if you don’t care about the lyrics themselves, you can still appreciate Thom’s fantastic vocals, combined with the mainly acoustic instrumentals. Recently she’s taken a slightly more blues-y approach (which I love), but I think this pop/folk tune is the one she will be most known for, and I am completely okay with that. Because this is a beautiful song.

Song number 8: Vera Lynn – We’ll Meet Again.

Can’t forget the classics. Very well known for it’s use in “Doctor Strangelove”, this song by English singer Vera Lynn is one of the most well known songs of the 20th century (and probably of all time). Taking a very optimistic approach, this song warmed the hearts of many during some tough times during the last century. And who wouldn’t get happy after listening to this song. It’s one of those that I can’t help but smile at when I hear it… and I’d assume that you readers might be the same.

Song number 9: Pink – Fuckin’ Perfect.

I’ve kept my swearing under control pretty well so far during this post. So I’m jsut gonna take this opportunity to say fucking-fuckity-fuck. Now, “Fuckin’ Perfect” is one of my favorite songs. I’m a fan of Pink in general, she’s one of my favorite artists of all time, and this song might be her best. The song is about a woman who goes through a tough and kind of horrible life, only to come out on the other side a much stronger person. It is inspiring, and it features some gorgeous vocals from Pink, and some of the best instrumentals on any of her songs. And to any potential prudes out there… there is a version of the song with no F-bombs in it, but I don’t think it’s as powerful as this version. This song is fucking perfect.

Song number 10: Amy Winehouse – Back to Black.

A song about sadness and going back to one’s old ways, from a musician who was taken from us way too soon? Oh my. That’s right, the tenth song on this list is Amy Winehouse’s (R.I.P) “Back to Black”. A haunting yet still catchy tune with some great lyrics, Winehouse’s stunning voice, and one of the catchiest piano hooks I’ve ever heard. This song is tragic, especially when you look at what happened to Winehouse later in her career. An amazing song from an amazing artist.

Song number 11: Adele – Skyfall.

Could any list of great female artists really be complete without Adele? And it’s another “Bond” theme? It was between this and “Rolling in the Deep” for me. But I went with this because I’m a sucker for these kinds of ballads. I haven’t seen “Skyfall” yet, but this song is one of the main reasons why I actually might check it out soon.

Song number 12: Annie Lennox – Into the West.

Another movie song? Yes, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. And Annie Lennox is amazing, so shut up. Also, “Lord of the Rings”. This is the song used at the end of “Return of the King”, the culmination of that trilogy of films. The epic finale to the masterful trilogy. It’s my favorite of the series. And this song is a fitting end theme for it all. Emotional, sweeping, beautiful… it’s simply amazing. Lennox’s vocals here fucking amazing. Yes, “Sweet Dreams” is also great, but this is a better showcase of Lennox, in my opinion. I almost get teary-eyed when I listen to this song.

And that’s the end of my list. Of course there are many many many more awesome female artists out there, but I don’t have the time to make a list featuring a million songs here. So if you have any further suggestions, leave them in the comments. Some of your favorite female artists/bands/songs, leave them in the comments.
Have a good one.

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Ah, limited releases. I don’t like you. It’s stupid. Just let everybody get movies at the same time. Stop with the limited bullshit. I don’t like getting shit late.

Ladies and gents… “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.

When the local police fails to find whoever killed her daughter, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) aims to get their attention using three billboards located just outside of the town. And soon enough Mildred finds herself having a bit of a feud with the local police. And despite what the trailers might’ve indicated, this isn’t so much a crazy Coen-y comedy as much as it is a drama featuring bursts of dark comedy. Yes, there are parts in this movie that are of a more comedic nature, but this is for the most part a layered and emotionally charged drama. And I found myself engaged by this plot from start to finish. This is one of the few movies I’ve watched recently where I’ve felt emotionally invested. I might’ve been interesting and somewhat engaged by other movies, but none of them have been able to grab me quite as much as “Three Billboards”. It’s a fantastic plot.

The characters here are deep, interesting, engaging, entertaining, and they felt real (even amidst some of the crazier moments). Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, the lady utilizing the title of the movie. She’s tough and determined, but she also has a more vulnerable side that comes froth every now and then. She feels like a fully fleshed out character and I really cared about her. And McDormand is of course fantastic in the role. Woody Harrelson plays William Willoughby, the chief of police in Ebbing, Missouri. He’s a family man who wants to find whoever killed Mildred’d daughter, but he can’t exactly do it. There’s also another aspect to the character that I won’t go into, but it does add another emotional layer to him. And Harrelson is great in the role. Then we have Sam Rockwell as Jason Dixon, a police officer. He’s a racist, bigoted, sack of fucking shit. And he does have an interesting arc in this movie that I won’t go into, but I found it quite engaging. And Rockwell is absolutely fantastic in the role. And then we get some supporting performances from people like John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones, Zeljko Ivanek, Amanda Warren, and more. And they range from okay to great. ’tis a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Carter Burwell and it was terrific. It was dramatic, emotional, tense, and just overall well composed. It worked very well for the scenes it was used in, adding a lot to those scenes. There were also a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout, and they were all used very well in their respective scenes. This movie has some damn good music.

This movie was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, and I think he did a fantastic job on both those fronts. The movie is very well directed, with him managing to fully engage me in a scene. He even managed to get some decent tension out of a couple moments in the movie. And the writing is of course on point. It’s engaging and and fully grips ya. And let’s talk about the humor here. It’s darker than the asshole of black void. it made me cringe but it also made me laugh quite a bit. And it works very well with the drama of the movie. The balance is perfect, and McDonagh manages to get a very good flow between the two without making any of it feel jarring. And the cinematography by Ben Davis is really good, giving us some damn pretty shots.

This movie 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 88/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10 and is ranked #129 on the “Top 250” list.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is another win for Martin McDonagh, it’s absolutely fantastic. It has a fantastic plot, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/humor. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a 9,89/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is now completed.

Sam Rockwell better get an Oscar.