Disney Plus/Marvel Series Roundup: Part 1

Hello there, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays. So earlier this autumn I finally got on board with the Disney+ streaming service. On a quick note, I’m a big fan, as it has plenty of interesting film and tv, and I find it to be easy to navigate. Anyhow, as was expected/announced, D+ would be home to a bunch of new original content based on the company’s various IPs. Among these would of course be a bunch of shows connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, since there were so many released, with many more to come, I didn’t feel like making individual posts for each one. So instead, I’ll be doing a bundle post similar to what I did for “The Fable” and “Along with the Gods“, making one of these when I’ve gotten through say four of these. Oh, and I guess spoilers. Not for the shows themselves, but rather for what’s come before in the MCU, as their connectivity drives a lot of the setups for these shows. So yeah, Marvel movie spoilers abound. But if you’re caught up or simply don’t give a hoot, then let’s get into these shows!

WandaVision

Following the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”, superpowered beings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have settled into a nice, quiet existence in suburban America, living happily married in a… sitcom styled life? But this happy life starts getting disrupted when strange things start happening around them. “WandaVision” was the first show to be released in this new slate of Marvel TV content, and I would say it kicks things off with an absolute bang. While the first episode being more “I Love Lucy” rather than “Avengers” might be a bit of an odd situation at first, I found it to be quite refreshing, both parodying and embracing sitcom tropes of various eras while mixing in superpowers in cute and funny ways. But as mentioned, they start weaving in mystery sci-fi elements, which adds a little bit of an “X-Files” vibe to it. And the show balances the goofs with the intrigue wonderfully, creating an atmosphere all its own within the MCU, making for some highly engaging TV. Add on some pitch perfect performances from Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, and various other supporting actors, and it kept me engrossed from start to end… for the most part.
While I do love the initial episodes and what they do, the back end, while not terrible, does lose some steam for me when they start going more for the typical VFX heavy superhero finale type stuff. It’s still pretty fun, but it just doesn’t feel a strong or creative as what came before. On a more positive note, it does add some fun mythology to the overarching Marvel story, and the action itself is pretty fun, and there is even a bit of drama in those parts that hit me pretty hard.
So yeah, excellent first half, really good second. It’s a damn good way to kick off this new slate of Marvel content. 9/10.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Following on from the events of “Endgame”, the world is without a Captain America, and both Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are trying to find ways of moving on with their lives. But as they try to deal with their own personal issues and past demons, the odd couple are forced to team up when a group of seemingly enhanced beings start wreaking havoc in the world. This show builds on a lot from what the Russo bros did with both their “Captain America” sequels, trying to imbue the usual superhero adventuring with somewhat of a political thriller edge. Like Tom Clancy stories but with more quips and people getting flung around. And while I don’t think the show is quite on par with the “Cap” movies, I still enjoyed where the story went. A globetrotting adventure trying to deal with the morality of vigilantism and if it’s possible to move on from what you’ve done, a story of legacy, of potential redemption and evolution. And while I don’t think it’s perfect, and I do have to question if this shouldn’t have been a movie instead, I had a lot of fun with it. I liked that they tried to discuss some heavier themes while also giving us our superhero action, I like the way it gave these returning characters something to chew on in order to perhaps move on with their lives, I like how it attempts to confront us and the whole superhero thing as a whole. It makes for a fun action-thriller story and it makes for some really compelling character work.
The acting’s also quite good, with the chemistry between Mackie and Stan being quite an engaging thing to watch at all times as we see how they bounce off of each other as their characters’ relationship evolves. Newcomers to this universe like Wyatt Russell and Erin Kellyman make for fun additions, and the familiar guest stars round out the cast nicely as well.
I very much also like the action scenes in this. While the pew pew laser stuff of other Marvel flicks can be fun, I highly enjoy the relatively stripped back approach. Yes, it’s still big, superpowered showdowns, chases, and whatnot, but there are no shiny beams or plasma or magic for once. It’s a little refreshing.
So it stumbles a little bit in storytelling, and maybe it’s a little longer than it needed to be (coulda been a movie), but otherwise it’s a fun show. 8/10.

Loki season 1

After a little mishap involving the Avengers time traveling, a dropped magical space cube, and no one looking at him, an alternate timeline version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself escaping capture… only to get captured by someone else, this time by the TVA, a mysterious organization maintaining order in the the various timelines of the multiverse. So we follow Loki as he is brought by the TVA to help them stop a mysterious ne’er-do-well, or face eradication. A bit like “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” before it, I am not 100% certain this fit in this TV format, it almost feels a little dragged out at times. Otherwise, I had a blast with it. I loved seeing Loki hopping through time, I loved seeing how the TVA operates, I loved seeing Multiversal shenanigans, and I loved Tom Hiddleston getting to have a bit of fun. Not that he hadn’t had the chance before, the man has always been great as Loki, but since he’s THE main player in this series, he gets to stretch out a bit more and do way more silly antics than before, and it’s so clear that he revels in every second. But we also get to see more sides to him, he’s explored in really enjoyable ways. And as a fan of wacky sci-fi concepts, I was pleased to see so many different ones here, all used in ways that were either intriguing, exciting, or outright funny. Action’s also pretty good, solid mix of martial arts, VFX, and general creativity.
This also sports one of, if not the best supporting cast of all these shows so far, from people like Owen Wilson, Gugu M’batha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, Sophia Di Martino, Tara Strong, and various other very talented people. Everyone gets room to play, and everyone contributes something fun and compelling to proceedings.
And now for the best part of the show: The music. It was composed by Natalie Holt, and it is absolutely incredible. A strange, operatic mix of influences, from the usual superhero stuff, to classic fantasy, to really old sci-fi/horror, there’s a lot of ground covered. Brass, strings, piano, theremins(!), fucking MOOG synths, Holt plays around a lot with her music, and it makes for probably my favorite Marvel score. it’s so god damn good. Even if you don’t watch the show, do me/yourself a favor and check out the music at least.
A little long maybe, but otherwise season 1 of “Loki” is a really fun sci-fi series that truly opens the MCU up to the multiverse in really intriguing ways. Also, you did indeed read it right, season 1. So far it’s the only mainline/live action D+/Marvel series to get more than one season. So it’ll be interesting to see where they take it. 8/10.

Hawkeye

Jingle bells, New York smells, Hawkeye got a shoooooow. But yeah, this show follows Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) as he might have to put his christmas celebration on hold when a young. bold woman named Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) gets involved/chased by some bad dudes, all while his past mistakes come back to haunt him. I am slowly but surely running out of ways to say “I like this show”. It’s even harder now since “Hawkeye” almost never does anything too unique. The “I’ll be late for christmas” trope, the “I did some bad shit, and now it’s coming back to bite me in the ass” stuff, the “youngling idolizing a supposed hero” trope, it does a lot of very familiar stuff. Arguably it does them all quite well, and it’s fun to see those events unfold, but there’s not much to mention about the story. Where it’s strong as hell however is in the characters. This is the most depth we’ve gotten from Clint in all of the MCU, and I finally find him really compelling now that he’s gotten space to play. And his relationship to the young Kate is fun too, with the two sharing some really fun bits of character development. I’m also happy to say that I loved Renner and Steinfeld together, they are a lot of fun and share some wonderful chemistry. Supporting cast is great too, with everyone from Vera Farmiga, Tony Dalton (MVP), Fra Fee, Alaqua Cox, Linda Cardellini, and more delivering stellar work.
Action’s well handled, the score is enjoyable, and I love the warm christmas vibes it brings. Not much else to be said. “Hawkeye” is a fun action show. 8/10.

So on the whole, I very much enjoyed all of these. If I had to rank them, it’d probably be
“Wandavision”
“Loki”
“Falcon”
“Hawkeye”
But overall, I like all of these. They’re fun.
Have a good one and happy holidays.

Along with the Gods: The Two Movies

Hi there. So this won’t be a typical review style post of mine (though it shares minor aspects of those). Instead it’ll be more like my post on the Fable movies (AHEM AHEM), loosely rambling about them in a bundled post. I should mention that both movies will from here on out simply be referred to by their subtitle, as it’d be too long and clunky to use the full title each time. So anyhow… let’s go.

The Two Worlds

After perishing in the line of duty, a firefighter (Cha Tae-Hyun) finds himself in the company of three spirit guides (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-Hoon, Kim Hyang-gi) who have been tasked with guiding him through the afterlife in order for him to potentially earn the right to reincarnate. Based on a webtoon by Ju Ho-min, “The Two Worlds” is an interesting blend of inspirations and tones. Most noticeably, it uses Buddhist philosophy as a springboard to tell an interesting and really fun fantasy adventure story, a morality tale that also happens to have some really fun VFX-driven action and colorful characters. Taking us through visually distinct environments to tell a nuanced fantasy story.
As we follow the firefighter’s journey through the afterlife, we get to know him more and more, seeing what led him to the initial incident. We see why he does what he does, we get to know the deepest inner workings of his soul, and finding out just how complex even the most seemingly good people are. And the way that affects the events of the movie, the ways his guides have to assist him, it makes for some compelling drama and some surprising suspense. So when we get to the climactic trials that are crucial in determining his fate, it put me on the edge of my seat, and also may have caused the waterworks to begin operating. Because while someone might come to this for the spectacular VFX, fun action scenes, or extremely good looking cast, soon enough they’ll also find that this movie has a strong emotional core as well. I am not ashamed in admitting that this movie made me cry. It’s one of those flashy action flicks that also happens to have some truly compelling characters and drama. But it can also be quite funny at times, especially with the quips and general demeanor of Ju Ji-Hoon as the delightful Haewonmaek.
What else is there to say? It’s a big popcorn flick with a great story, plenty of heart, a wonderful cast of characters, and some mesmerizing visuals. I loved it.

The Last 49 Days

Released a year later, “The Last 49 Days” sees our favorite spirit guides as they take on the task of helping a new soul towards reincarnation, all while also trying their damndest in trying to retrieve a fellow guardian (Ma Dong-seok) who’s been living on Earth for a long time. “The Last 49 Days” is once again a blend of things. Fantasy action, historical epic, domestic dramedy, and I think all these individual pieces are great… but together they don’t flow super well. I get that you need all the bits together to tell the complete story, take one piece out and the tower comes crashing down, but there is a whole lotta movie to this movie. And I’m not just talking about runtime, as it’s really only like 5 minutes longer than the first one, but rather it’s how much is crammed into it. There’s an exhausting amount of narrative threads going on at any one time, and while I found all of them pretty compelling on their own, their flow is just almost non-existent. It’s especially horrid near the middle of the movie, where things really begin to drag. You know that deep sigh you make when you’re bored? Yeah, that happened here. It’s just an exhausting drag at times.
So while the story is a mess, the characters do get some really interesting extra depth, which also leads to the actors getting more to chew on. The cast was great in the first one, but they really get to flex their acting chops here, and I think they give terrific performances here. And it’s just nice to have Ma Dong-seok be part of proceedings, the man just slots in flawlessly and brings such a unique charisma.
Action scenes are once again a lot of fun, not quite as flashy as what we saw in the first one, but definitely still highly enjoyable. Effects are still top notch (bar one or two obvious green screens), costumes and makeup are solid, and there’s some really fun cuts and transitions spread throughout. It’s just stellar on a technical level.
So while nowhere near as strong as its predecessor, I can’t say that I disliked “The Last 49 Days”. It still has some great stuff to it. If the first one’s a strong 9/10 for me, then this is maybe a weak 7/10. Hurt by its poor pacing, but still has a lot to admire.

So yeah, I watched and generally liked the “Along with the Gods” movies. Basically if you like big spectacle with plenty of heart and don’t mind reading subtitles, then I can easily recommend them. And apparently there’s a third and fourth one coming at some point… so I’ll be cautiously looking forward to those.

Have a good one.

Series Review: Angel – Season 1 (1999 – 2000)

Hi. So as some of you may be aware of, from 2020 to earlier this year (2022, for future readers) I reviewed every season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as I was rewatching it with my mom. It was a fun experience for me, and at the end of my review of the final season I made a tease that I might cover its spin-off. Well, now it’s happening. So let’s go.

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

Following the end of “Buffy” season 3, the vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) moves away from Sunnydale and finds himself a new home in Los Angeles. And shortly after settling in, he meets friends new and old, which prompts him to become a private investigator, helping the people of L.A. fight the supernatural problems that haunt them. I  generally enjoyed the story/ies here. It’s nowhere near as rough as the first season of its older sister series, which likely comes from the extra experience gained between the two. The overarching elements are solid, further developing this already interesting world and lore, while also giving us some interesting present drama for our characters. That said, the overarching stuff is generally taking a backseat to mostly being monster-of-the-week stories, which is where it falls apart a little bit. Not only because it means there’s little to no central hook, but also because, as with most of these types of shows, not all episodes are created equal. For every “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, you got a “She”. What I will say is that even some of the lesser episodes here are nowhere near the lows of some of the lesser episodes in “Buffy”, so even at its lowest, it’s still decently watchable. And when an episode is good, it is GOOD, just quality TV. So on the whole the storytelling here is pretty solid.

The characters in this are just great, all bring their own unique flavor to the buffet that is the cast, and make for a vital part of the ensemble. First up is of course our titular 90 degree, Angle… I will not apologize for my dumb jokes. Anyhow, Angel, the vampire with a soul, his dreams and conscience haunted by the crimes he committed when he was evil. He’s trying to redeem himself, and he’s an interesting protagonist. At first he might just seem like a moody broody bitch, but we’ll soon see more sides to him, making for quite a fun and dynamic character. And David Boreanaz is really good in the role. Next we have Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, a former mean girl from Sunnydale that Angel runs into early on. Cordy already saw some interesting development in the other show, and here we see that further fleshed out through some of the shit that happens throughout this season, and I quite like it. Plus, her very blunt personality provides a lot of laughter throughout, which is fun. And Carpenter does a damn good job in the role. Next we have Glenn Quinn (R.I.P) as Doyle, a half demon who gets visions of the future to help Angel in his quest to help people. He’s a bit of a cowardly shyster with a surprising amount of heart, and he’s a fun character, with Quinn giving a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Alexis Denisof, Christian Kane, Elisabeth Röhm, Stephanie Romanov, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the season was composed by Robert J. Kral and Christophe Beck, and they did a great job. Big bold brass for action scenes and spooky scares, but also quieter string and piano pieces when they want to be eerie or heart-wrenching. It’s not necessarily the most original score out there, but it’s very well composed and I highly enjoyed listening to it and thought it worked great for the show.

“Angel” was created by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. And before we continue, the elephant in the room: We all know by now that the latter person is a turd of a man, just a horrible piece of shit. I am not condoning what he did, and he’s rightfully getting pushed away from Hollywood. I will have positive things to say about the craft here, but I want to be clear that I am not saying it made any of his actions acceptable. Alright? So let’s talk about the craft of this show, which was handled by many different, very talented people.
It’s well made, has a fun noir atmosphere to it in tandem with the darkly whimsical tone that “Buffy” established, making the vibe of this show familiar, yet unique. It sets it apart from its sister show, without straying too far and making it completely separate. And I dig that about it. And generally speaking the direction here is really good. Some fight scenes can be a bit too closely shot and quickly cut, but generally the direction in the show is good. Effects for the time are great too, love seeing a lot of the creature makeup here. But yeah, aside from a few minor snafus, it’s well put together.

This show/season has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has no critic score, but at least an audience rating of 94%. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.9/10.

While its storytelling doesn’t quite reach its potential, season 1 of “Angel” is still a damn good season of TV. It has a good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Angel” is an 8.88/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

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

One down, four to go.

Series Review: Primal – Season 2 (2022)

Roughly two years ago, I reviewed the first season of this show. It was one my favorite things I have ever watched. And now season 2 has finally wrapped up, and I’m ready to talk about it. So did it live up to the first one? Let’s find out. Oh, and there will be some spoilers for the end of season 1, as that sets up this season. So you’ve been warned.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Primal” season 2!

Following the capture of his new friend Mira (Laëtitia Eïdo) by some unknown enemies, Spear (Aaron LaPlante) heads out with his trusted dino friend Fang into the vast unknown to find and rescue Mira. Season 2 of “Primal” forgoes the more episodic nature of the first outing for a more overarching story. And while I do miss aspects of the episodic structure, such as the greater variety in creatures, I did still really dig the story here. It’s a fun adventure narrative that tests the mettle of a man on a mission, it also does an excellent job of showing the impact of Spear and Fang’s brutal survival tactics. Like yeah, we do still root for them to succeed, but we also get to see more stuff from the perspective of other characters, and how they react to our heroes. It adds a lot of nuance to proceedings and makes the misadventures of our leads way more compelling and even a little more suspenseful. I also enjoyed how the story explored more cultures. If you’re one of those people who was bothered by the first season’s historically inaccurate premise of “caveman plus dinosaur”, then you’re gonna have a conniption at the amount of historical mixing they do this season. But I like it, because it leads to a lot of fun story and character opportunities. Where the story falters a little bit for me is in the ending, or more specifically the execution of it. I get the idea they’re going for, and it’s not the worst one. But the last minute-ish feels kind of awkward, and bothered me a bit. There is a simple tweak they could’ve done to the script and I wouldn’t have said anything. But as it stands, the very ending here is a little mixed. The overall season on the other hand is fucking great. Fun, scary, compelling, anxiety-inducing, and even heartwarming.

I like the characters in this. Despite (or thanks to) the creator’s penchant for minimal to no (understandable) dialogue, the characters don’t really develop much through words. But they do a good job of humanizing them and making them really compelling through visual storytelling and the actions they take, and it makes them really fun and interesting. And while they don’t get to speak much, I can still say that the voice cast all do a great job with the material/noises they have. Aaron LaPlante Laëtitia Eïdo, Fred Tatasciore, Imari Williams, MyAnna Buring, and more all deliver solid performances.

As with the first season, the music was composed by Tyler Bates and Joanne Higginbottom, and once again they knocked it out of the park. The percussion, brass, strings, and woodwind come together in really fun ways, taking influence from various cultures and exploring various moods in beautiful ways. It’s just stellar stuff that helps elevate the storytelling.

Season 2 of “Primal” had its writing split up between series creator Genndy Tartakovsky, and various other cool people, with directing being handled exclusively by Tartakovsky himself. And yeah, the craft here is just spectacular. The work Genndy and his team did on season 1 was already great, using the medium of animation to great effect. But I think they really outdid themselves here, with more detail in every scene, more dynamic movements, really inventive shots, and some bits that frankly made my jaw drop. You can tell that they really aimed to push themselves and the show further than they had before, and it pays off marvelously. Also, the action’s still bloody as fuck, which might put some off, but I dig it. Really adds weight to this world the characters inhabit.

The show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 97/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.7/10 and is ranked #137 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While the veeeeeery end is awkward and brings it down a little for me, season 2 of “Primal” is still another stellar outing for the violent and contemplative caveman show. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Primal” is a 9.67/10. So it does still get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Primal” season 2 is now completed.

Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur…

Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

You almost gotta respect the sheer gall of Universal and its producers with this one. Fuckers were so confident that their *checks notes* “Dark Universe” was gonna kick off and be an instant hit, in order to try and ape the success of the MCU. But it flopped harder than a fish that was dropped from a plane. But hey, they did manage to get *checks notes again* one movie in, so let’s finally have a look at it, shall we.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Mummy” from 2017.

When Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) wakes from a millennia long slumber to wreak havoc on the world, it is up to soldier Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) to find some way of stopping the rampaging mummy’s crusade. Where to begin… well, I can begin by saying that the story here isn’t outright horrible. Reluctant hero, end of the world threat, ancient curses, destinies, there are ingredients here for a solid adventure flick… which was done very well in 1999, but I digress. As far as how it’s put together here, there’s nothing outright offensively bad here, but there’s also nothing that great either. It’s just a fairly uninspired rollercoaster, pretty much never rising above a shrug for me. It’s more or less the safest execution they could’ve tried for an action-fantasy-horror blockbuster in order to try and misguidedly kick off a cinematic universe. On occasion it threatens to include some fun world building, or there’s a cool idea for a set piece, but because of the lifeless execution, it pretty much just feels like a creative flatline from front to back.

The characters in this are… no, that’s it, they just are. Nothing of interest is really done with them. Our leading man, Nick, is a bit of a dick, a prick, a dude that should be smacked with a stick… but it’s not in an interesting way. He’s just a flatly written twat who we should find engagement from because he’s our hero, played by movie star Tom Cruise. Now, Cruise tries, and he’s fine in the role, but the character itself is just flat as hell. Annabelle Wallis plays an archaeologist who gets involved in the adventure, and she flip-flops between being a no-shit-taking lady who doesn’t sanction Nick’s buffoonery, and having a soft spot for him, but it’s not handled with enough grace and nuance to properly work. Wallis tries her best here, but she doesn’t get enough stuff to really dig her teeth into. Sofia Boutella is pretty good as Ahmanet, our main antagonist, and that’s mainly because she has such a great presence on screen. Otherwise the character is a fairly typical almighty entity type villain. Then there’s Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, the head of an organization that’s into chasing monsters. Character isn’t much on paper again, but I really liked Crowe in the role, because he got to have a bit of fun here, which led to one sequence that made me smirk because of his performance. So yeah, Crowe’s fun. The cast also includes people like Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance (wasted), Marwan Kenzari, and more, who try their best despite not having the best material.

The score for the movie was composed by Brian Tyler, and it’s alright. Some nice string work and decent brass sections… and that’s about it. Tyler’s a great composer, and he composed a score that worked alright here. Not his most inspired work, but it’s a decently solid bit of music.

“The Mummy” was directed by Alex Kurtzman, and I think he did *sigh* an alright job here. There’s nothing horrible about his direction, everything’s passably edited, and occasionally pretty well shot. He does decent work with the action scenes as well. The VFX here are solid, giving us a helthy blend of practical and CG. Really, the craft here is perfectly fine. It comes down to the uninspired writing and various production issues here. Nothing that really gets to feel inspired or like it has any heart to it.

This movie hasn’t been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 15% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 34/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.4/10.

Is 2017’s “The Mummy” one of the worst movies on the planet? No, not at all. But I also don’t recommend it, I feel like it’s a little too lifeless to really engage. Its story is a flatline, none of the characters really engage, the cast are okay, the music’s okay, and the direction and action is fine. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Mummy” is a 4.55/10. So I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “The Mummy” is now completed.

Look, having a series of movies about a secret organization going after classic monsters isn’t a horrible idea… I just think the approach by the producers was very misguided.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 7 (2002 – 2003)

My friends, after roughly two years, we’ve finally arrived. The end of my mom and I’s rewatch of this show is over. Which means that this will be the final review in this series. For some, that is a relief. For some, they’re neutral. And there may even be one or two goobers who are a little sad that they got no more Buffy reviews to look forward to from me. Well, either way… let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… the final season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

Following the traumatic events at the end of season 6, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends seem to be finding themselves working through it, trying to heal and get by. This relative calm is about to get ruined however when a great evil, more powerful than anything they’ve faced before, starts emerging and causing carnage, forcing the gang to have to gather strength and allies in order to hopefully have a chance at stopping it. While the final season isn’t the highest point in the show’s run, I would still say the story is mostly successful at what it sets out to do. It escalates decently, and it has some nice, engaging bits of drama and payoff. And even some of the more one-off episodes are solid too. It doesn’t always succeed, as I do find the big bad of the season to be a bit underwhelming in the end, and there are times throughout the 22 episodes that just don’t *quite* hit the mark. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had, some decent mini-arcs, and a relatively satisfying conclusion to the show.

The characters in this are mostly interesting. Returning cast members (bar one) get some great arcs, and I do like how they sort of evolve over the season. And Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Marsters, Anthony Head, and Emma Caulfield all deliver top notch work. As for newcomers, we got people like D.B. Woodside (MVP), Iyari Lemon, Sarah Hagan, Nathan Fillion, Indigo, Felicia Day, and more, all delivering really good performances in their respective roles.

The score this season was partly composed by Robert Duncan and partly by Douglas Romayne, and I think the music here’s good. Some more subtle, emotional beats, as well as big, bold, brass for the more action-packed moments. Really, it sort of takes what’s come before and just continues doing it well. There’s also a bunch of licensed songs used throughout, and they work well too. Overall, the music’s good, there’s not much I can say that I haven’t touched on in previous seasons.

Season 7 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of different people (including one horrible man), and the craft here is generally good. Makeup and prosthetics are great as usual, some of the CG is a bit jank (but in a charming, forgiveable way), and generally direction is as solid as ever. The only thing that can feel slightly off at times is cinematography. Certain episodes have this weird, blurry quality, odd lighting… it just distracts in those few episodes. It isn’t super often it happens however, so it doesn’t completely fuck up the overall craft of the season for me. For the most part, the crew did a damn good job.

This show/season has been decently well received, with a few mixed reactions thrown in there. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a user score of 4.8/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

While it is a little rocky throughout, the final season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still another really enjoyable batch of episodes that I think sticks the landing for the show pretty well. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/craft. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 7 of “Buffy” is an 8.56/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 7 is now completed.

And that’s it, no more Buffy for this blog… until I inevitably cover the spin-off show, that is.

Series Review: Demon Slayer – Season 1 (2019)

I really don’t talk enough about anime on this blog, which is kinda funny, because some of my first (and worst) reviews I did way back in 2014 were anime-related. But since then I haven’t really done much in that realm of entertainment. So maybe it’s time to try to remedy that.

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

After most of his family gets killed by demons, Tanjiro Kamado (Natsuki Hanae) vows to become a demon slayer in order to avenge his dead family, while also trying to cure his sister (Akari Kito) who’s been turned into a demon. And thus we follow Tanjiro as he goes on this journey, training to get stronger, attempting to save people, and meeting all sorts of colorful characters along the way. At first glance, it may seem like typical action-fantasy anime fare, and in a lot of ways, that is what it is. But then we also get a lot of moments that show something deeper, something… humane. For all the magic and monsters and over the top comedy, the show’s story grounds itself by often taking the time to let dramatic beats breathe and simmer, giving a very humane and emotionally charged perspective to the predicaments and stories that Tanjiro finds himself involved in throughout the 26 episode season. And this gives the show a weight that really makes the story of “Demon Slayer” something special. Admittedly I wouldn’t call myself “hooked” by the first few episodes. They’re still quite entertaining, but since they consist of a lot of setup, they do suffer from a tiny bit of good ol’ premiere sickness. Again, they’re still really solid, so it’s not a dealbreaker, just a slight hiccup in what is otherwise a great story.

The characters in this are all fun, colorful, entertaining, and overall just insanely compelling. Much like the story, at first glance they might all cover the typical archetypes found within this kind of anime, but given a bit of time, they start to show more depth, while still being able to embrace some of those classic tropes when needed. I also think the performances in here are spectacular. The cast consists of people like Natsuki Hanae, Akari Kito, Hiro Shimono, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (who plays my favorite character), Takahiro Sakurai, Takumi Yamazaki, and many more, all doing amazingly well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina, and my god, they did an amazing job with it. Sweeping orchestrations, moody strings and pianos, some horror stings, even a bit of rock and techno-infused stuff slips in, and it’s all terrific, adding so much to the show. The opening and ending themes by LiSA (god, that stage name really hates SEO) are also really solid. The music in this show’s just all round great.

Based on the hit manga by Koyoharu Gotouge, “Demon Slayer” was brought to us by the studio Ufotable, and they just knocked it out of the fucking park here. The art pops beautifully, the movement is smooth, the colors look super crisp, and everything just has an insane level of polish that is an absolute joy to behold from start to end. The animation especially comes alive during the action scenes, all of which are dynamic, breathtaking, and very creative. Long story short: This show looks fucking amazing.

This show/season’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.7/10, and is ranked #128 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Demon Slayer” is a wonderful fantasy-action anime with plenty of heart. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and amazing animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Demon Slayer” is a 9.65/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Demon Slayer” season 1 is now completed.

I should try to cover more anime in the future. Get the original intentions back on track… albeit with less terrible writing.

Movie Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Been quite a while since I talked about a Marvel movie on here… yeah, 2019, blimey. And before we move on, I know these movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. I just like watching them and I’m gonna keep talking about them as long as they’re made. So yeah… on with the review.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.

After having lived a quiet life in San Francisco for years, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must come out of hiding when his father (Tony Leung) begins stirring to enact a mysterious and potentially dangerous plan. The story in “Shang-Chi” is interesting to me, because it takes some of the familiar themes and structural pillars of other MCU movies, but makes them feel fresh by implementing elements usually seen more in wuxia stories and kung fu movies in general. But it also weaves in a pretty nuanced and surprisingly complex family drama throughout, which really makes the story feel more tangible and emotionally resonant. So when you blend all of these together, you get a narrative that feels familiar yet also fresh and unique for this franchise. And I loved it.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, pretty layered, and overall just quite interesting. Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi, our protagonist. He’s a man who’s gone through a lot of things in life, and it does create an interesting conflict with his more lighthearted side and the good stuff he’s experienced since moving to America. And I find him to be an interesting lead, with Simu Liu giving a damn good performance. Tony Leung plays Shang-Chi’s dad, Xu Wenwu, a mighty leader of the shady organization The Ten Rings. He’s a complex and interesting character that makes for a really compelling antagonist, and Leung is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, and many more, all giving great performances in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Joel P. West, and I think he did a great job with it. It’s big and epic, but it can also be quiet and emotional. And it creates this really cool vibe for the movie by blending elements of typical western action movie music with traditional Chinese music, and it makes for a really engaging soundscape that worked insanely well for the movie. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout, and they’re fine. They’re not something I’d really find myself listening to in my spare time, but they worked well enough within their respective scenes.

Based on various Marvel comics, “Shang-Chi” was directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton, and I think he did a great job with it. He has this really fun, yet grounded energy to his style that melds really well with a lot of the big budget comic book stuff. And it does help give the movie a nice vibe and flow that I highly enjoyed. I especially think his direction shines in the action scenes that are spread throughout this movie. There’s some nice, decently long takes, and we always get a good view of the action going on. But what I appreciate most about it is the focus on martial arts. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big, pew pew action of the other MCU movies, but there’s something so refreshing when instead of Iron Man flying around blowing shit up, it’s a dude using kung fu to fend off an opponent. And even when the action got way bigger in scale and effects budget, it was really fun and well handled. It’s just really well made and comes together so well.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a fun and absolutely wonderful action movie with some well written and nuanced character drama. The story’s great, the characters are great, the performances are great, the music is great, and the direction is great too. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Shang-Chi” is a 9.90/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now completed.

I really need to watch more Tony Leung movies.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 6 (2001 – 2002)

Been a while since we did one of these, wasn’t it? Hold on, lemme check… Yup, December 2020, Jesus Christ. Shocking delay aside, my rewatches and reviews of this show finally continue. So let’s fucking gooooooo. Oh, and spoilers for the end of season 5, because that stuff ties into a few plotlines for this season. So if you haven’t watched that and don’t want spoilers… begone, come back later. As for the rest of y’all…

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 6.

Picking up months after Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) heroic sacrifice at the end of season 5, she gets brought back to life by her friends. And we follow her as she’s reeling from that, seeing how what effect it has on her, all the while a new, yet familiar threat rises in Sunnydale, along with the usual subplots of the various members of the gang. Season 6 of “Buffy” has some interesting ideas within its narrative, and even has some great episodes and moments. But in the grand scheme of things it is quite dour and joyless. Yes, there is still fun to be had, ranging from the delightful “Once More With Feeling” to the charming “Tabula Rasa”, the latter of of which featuring one of my favorite visual puns in anything ever. But despite there being a decent amount of good stuff, there’s also a lot of things that really drag down this season for me. There’s the aforementioned tonal issues. The first half of the season isn’t quite as bad for that, but good god, the back half is almost pure misery all the time. Occasionally the seriousness leads to some good drama (the last episode for example, I think is damn good), but generally it becomes such an onslaught of pain that it becomes numbing. What doesn’t help is the general big bad of this season, which is a few people who’ve appeared in previous seasons. Not inherently the worst idea, and their specific plotline is oddly prescient to our society today. But in terms of how well it works within the show? Not really a big fan. They just become kind of annoying and don’t really add anything in terms of dramatic value. I see a lot of potential throughout the season, and there are some great fucking ideas throughout, but they either feel undercooked, incorrectly utilized, or missed. So yeah, in terms of story this season is a very mixed bag.

The characters here… you know, the characters of this show are usually a highlight. And obviously I still generally love them, but something about their development throughout this season is, once again, a mixed bag. Buffy herself remains pretty great, and her arc this season is one of the better ones, with Sarah Michelle Gellar once again absolutely fucking killing it. The only other arc I’ll talk about in a slightly longer format is that of Spike, played by James Marsters. Back in the earlier seasons he was the best. A Billy Idol-inspired vampire who was a crackerjack of charisma, violence, and badassery… Spike this season is a pathetic simp, and it’s one of the biggest mistakes the show’s made. Marsters still kills it with the material given, but the character’s development just doesn’t work. The rest of the cast, some get good stuff, some get less good stuff. Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Amber Benson, Emma Caulfield Ford, Michelle Trachtenberg, Anthony Head, they all put in good work.

The score for this season was composed by one Thomas Wanker (don’t laugh). And I think he did a good job. His style is generally understated, having a lower, more subtle tone that carries through, which I think sounds really good. This season also saw the return of Christophe Beck, as he did the music for the episode “Once More, With Feeling”, an episode which has some top tier tunes. So yeah, that’s cool. As for licensed tracks, there’s a handful used throughout, and they work pretty well in their respective scenes.

Season 6 of “Buffy the Vampire slayer” was, as always, written and directed by a whole slew of talented people, all bringing something interesting to it. It’s all generally well shot, with solid action and effects for the time.  Editing in some scenes can be a little too quick, but on the whole the craft is good. I don’t really know what to add, these guys basically found their groove around season 3, and there’s been much different in terms of improvement, it’s just a show that is well put together.

This season has been quite mixed in its reception. It has a 63% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 4.9/10. And while there’s no season average, the show overall has a score of 8.2/10 on imdb.com.

Season 6 of “Buffy” is, as you’ve most likely gathered from my ramblings, a bit of a mixed bag. While it does sport some really good episodes and moments, on the whole it’s quite a mess. The story is mixed, the characters are pretty good, the performances are great, the music’s really good, and the directing is really solid. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 6 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a 7.20/10. So while it does have a fair bit of missteps, I’d still say it’s definitely worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 6 is now completed.

Just one more season to go.

Series Review: Castlevania – Season 4 (2021)

This review is a bit of a bittersweet one. On one hand, I get to talk about this show once again (yay!)… but this has also been confirmed to be the final season (boo). I’ve loved every season that’s come before, so I was of course excited. But then we get to the question: Did they stick the landing? Let’s find out.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… the final season of “Castlevania”!

We once again find ourselves within the region of Wallachia as Trevor (Richard Armitage), Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), and Alucard (James Callis) once again must go on quests to save the people, and possibly also the world as we know it, from powerful forces. All the while Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her vampire sisters scheme to try and take over the world, with Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) working to find a way to kill her. As you can read, a lot of shit is going on here, and even then I left out A LOT of stuff as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But what’s my verdict on the story here? It’s great. They manage to make everything feel like it truly matters, like there are actual stakes, and they manage to keep it consistently engaging. Whether it’s through a big, over the top action scene or a slower, more conversational part, the writers manage to keep it really engaging throughout the entire 10 episode run. And when it’s all said and done, it wraps up in an emotionally satisfying way that works really well for the story and world that they’ve developed.

The characters of this show, be they new or old, remain some of the most colorful, layered, fun, and overall interesting ones in recent memory. Most of them get a good arc here, and I think it makes for some great dynamics between them, as well as just making them highly engaging on their own. And the cast is just as stellar as ever, with both returning cast members and newcomers giving it their fucking all. And within said cast we find people like Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Jessica Brown Findlay, Theo James, Jaime Murray, Yasmine Al Massri, Ivana Milisevic, Malcolm McDowell, Toks Olagundoye, Titus Welliver, and many other very talented actors.

As with the previous seasons, Trevor Morris stood for the music, and once again he’s killed it. Big, epic orchestral pieces, smaller and more somber pieces, even a little bit of synth, the man mixes a few different styles that fit beautifully into creating a highly engaging soundscape for the show.

As with its previous seasons, “Castlevania” season 4 was written by Warren Ellis, with the Deats brothers handling the directing. And once again, the craft on display here is out of this world good. And where that shines the most is of course the animation, which is utterly breathtaking, especially during action scenes. Sure, it looks really good during slower, talky scenes too, but it’s during action that it really comes alive, giving us some breathtakingly dynamic, gruesome, and utterly badass fights that I will not forget any time soon. Powerhouse Animation, man, they never slip up.

This show/season just came out, so it currently doesn’t have much data on my usual sites. But here is still the link for the Metacritic page. On Rotten Tomatoes it currently has a 100% audience rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

So yeah, the final season of “Castlevania” completely sticks the landing, making for an emotionally satisfying and highly entertaining end to this series that I love. The story is great, the characters are great, the performances are fantastic, the music is great, and the directing/animation is fantastic. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for the final season of “Castlevania” is a 9.97/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Castlevania” season 4 is now completed.

It’s… it’s over… *sad sniff*.