Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

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 show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Movie Review: Wind River (2017)

The frontier. A wild, unpredictable, and untameable part of our world. As beautiful as it is dangerous. Something that Taylor Sheridan seemingly likes to explore in his scripts.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Wind River”.

Set in the cold mountains and forests of Wyoming, we follow an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as she has to investigate the death of a young woman with the help of a local tracker (Jeremy Renner). So now we have our murder mystery that isn’t just a murder mystery. Yes, the investigation is a big focus of the movie, but the plot is also largely about the exploration of this place and the people who live there. Like with the two previous movies written by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario”, “Hell or High Water”), it sets up one basic plot, and then gives it a few extra layers to explore certain themes. So what we get here is a deep, suspenseful, emotional, haunting, and just overall intriguing story.

The characters in this are all layered, interesting, and feel quite real. Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, the tracker tasked with helping out in this investigation. He’s a skilled hunter with a tragic past that gets explored in a very interesting way through the movie. And Renner is fantastic in the role, playing the character with a very understated sadness and intensity, this is the best performance I’ve seen from him. Elizabeth Olsen plays FBI agent Jane Banner. She’s a bit of a fish out of water in this, as she’s not used to the cold, unforgiving frontier. This doesn’t make her useless, as she shows herself as quite capable through the movie. She’s tough, but she also does have a more vulnerable side, which gives her some layers (which is important to have out in the cold). And Olsen is really good in the role. Next we have Gil Birmingham as the father of the dead girl. While we don’t get too many details on him as a character, seeing him in pain and trying to cope with his daughter’s death is utterly heartbreaking and makes him an interesting enough character. And Birmingham is great in the role. Then we get some supporting performances from Graham Greene, Julia Jones, Martin Sensmeier, Hugh Dillon, Eric Lange, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, and if you’ve read any other reviews of mine where they’ve been the listed composers, you should suspect that I loved their score for this. It’s eerie, dark, emotional, and haunting, perfectly capturing the feel of the area, while also working very well for the murder mystery plot of the movie. I am slightly biased towards their music, but I do genuinely think their compositions for this movie are fantastic.

As I’ve not so subtly alluded to, this movie was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. I already liked the other movies he’s written, so I was curious to see how he’d do at directing. And I have to say that I am quite impressed. His direction is manages to be sweeping and ambitious, while still tight and intimate with the characters/situations. He also manages to build a lot of suspense throughout, especially during the final act where that tension escalates to a whole new level. But none of it ever feels Hollywood-ized, which feels quite fresh in our modern world. And the cinematography by Ben Richardson is pretty great.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,8/10.

“Wind River” is a fantastic little drama, and another great showcase for Taylor Sheridan’s writing. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Wind River” is a 9,88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Wind River” is now completed.

We’re going back to the wild frontier…

Series Review: Mindhunter – Season 1 (2017)

I know what you’re thinking. “Markus, you said that October was about spooky shit, and maybe some trailers and Thor!”, and that is true. However, sometimes an idiot like me has to make exceptions. Plus, this could technically count as Month of Spooks stuff… ’cause serial killers are scary.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mindhunter” season 1.

Set in 1979, “Mindhunter” follows FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) as he investigates various murder cases while also developing a system for psychologically analyzing criminals. So now we have our drama plot. And is it any good? Yeah. Seeing the early stages of criminal psychology and how it develops is fascinating, and the way they use it to investigate these horrible crimes is quite riveting. The pace here is deliberately slow as a tortoise, which will turn some people off, but I thought it worked quite well for the show. But the plot isn’t just the development of the criminal profiling system, it is also an engaging character-drama. Seeing how these characters react to all the shit going on and how it affects their lives is quite riveting. So yeah, it’s a solid plot.

As you probably could understand from the end of the previous paragraph, the characters here are all quite interesting and engaging. It’s also pretty refreshing to have a cast where I didn’t know any of the main players. I recognized a couple of the supporting people, but for the most part I knew no one. Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford, the young man who we follow for the majority of the show. He’s slightly naive, but means well and shows great intelligence. And Groff is really good in the role. Holt McCallany plays Bill Tench, Ford’s colleague/partner. A slightly stern family man, Tench often get slightly annoyed at Ford’s plans and action, but understands that they can be important. And McCallany is great in the role. Anna Torv plays Wendy Carr, a consultant who gets brought in to help Ford and Tench in their work. She’s determined to get shit done, and she’s an interesting part of the team. And Torv is great in the role. Hannah Gross plays Debbie, a woman that Ford meets and starts a relationship with. She’s sassy, she’s smart, and she’s a nice foil for Ford. And Gross is really good in the role. The entire cast does a solid job here.

The score for the show was composed by Jason Hill and it was great. It was dark and quite chilling, reminiscent of the movie scores by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. It often helped elevate certain scenes, making them feel a little eerie and slightly uncomfortable. There were also licensed tracks used throughout the show and they were used pretty well.

This show was created by Joe Penhall, and directed by three people. The directors are Asif Kapadia, Tobias Lindholm, Andrew Douglas, and David fucking Fincher. And yes, the only reason why I listed all of them was for that dramatic effect on Fincher. And even though he only helmed four of the ten episodes, all of them feel very Fincher-esque. Cinematic, cold, steady, confident, it just oozes of David Fincher. So yeah, it is incredibly well directed. This show is also R-rated. Cursing, nudity, sex, some violence. Sure, it’s not “Game of Thrones” levels of R-rated, but it still has some stuff that makes it inappropriate for younger audiences. Also, this show was produced by Charlize Theron… not trying to make a point, just think that’s pretty cool.

This show just came out but has already been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,2/10 (but will most likely drop in the near future).

“Mindhunter” is great… don’t know what else I can say. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mindhunter” season 1 is a 9,65/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Month of Spooks, not Month of Spooks… Killers are scary, Month of Spooks.

“The X-Files” season 11 trailer!

Hello there, my friends! More trailer talk coming your way! So let’s just jump into it!

So thanks to New York Comic Con we have gotten a trailer for season 11 of “The X-Files”. Now, for those unaware (fucking cave dwellers), “The X-Files” is a show created by Chris Carter and was first aired in 1993. It’s about two FBI agents named Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) who investigate a series of weird cases (AKA the titular “X-Files”). It ended in 2002, had two movies released in 1998 and 2008, and was revived for a tenth season which aired in early 2016. Then earlier this year it was announced that the show would come back for an eleventh season. While the tenth season wasn’t one of the show’s strongest, I was still excited about the season 11 announcement. Because one, season 10 ended on a bit of cliffhanger. And two, I will never say no to more “X-Files”. So now we have our season 11 trailer. And how does it look? It looks fine. More conspiracy stuff, the smoking man up to shady shit as always, some creature shit going on. Basically it’s more “X-Files”, but with a seemingly bigger focus on an overarching plot (though I could be slightly wrong about that last part). Am I excited? Like I said, I will never say no to more “X-Files”. The eleventh season of “The X-Files” will air in 2018.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited for season 11 of “The X-Files”? And what are your thoughts on season 10 (I’ve seen a lot of mixed thoughts)? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy the trailer!

Movie Review: Sicario (2015)

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The war on drugs is one that I would dare call a neverending story. Take one distributor down, another will pick up the torch. And that is how it’s gonna go forever until the world gets swallowed by the sun. Although I have to admit, it is fun hearing about law enforcement actually succeeding in taking down big drug lords.

Ladies and gents… “Sicario”.

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is an FBI agent who have been hired by the government to work with a special task force to try to find ways to take down some big Mexican drug cartels. And at the forfront of this task force we find it’s leader Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). So now we get to see Kate work with these men to find a way to take down these cartels while also experiencing some intense shit. And I absolutely loved the plot of this movie. Sure, it’s quite a simple and not too original idea, but the execution of it is absolutely outstanding. The plot has a lot of suspense which makes for an interesting watch, but it also presents a few pretty great plot twists along the way that I didn’t see coming. I really loved every part of the plot of this movie.

The characters all have several layers to them and they’re all very interesting. Emily Blunt is absolutely fantastic in the movie. The longer her career goes on, the better she seems to get. There are so many little nuances to her performance that just make it all the more impressive. Josh Brolin plays what I would call the team leader of this task force and he’s excellent in the movie. What is so interesting too is that he brings a bit of levity to the movie without it feeling forced and terrible, his humor works in the movie. And then we have Benicio Del Toro…. Del Toro is fucking fantastic in this movie. Throughout the movie you don’t know much about him as a character, and that is what makes him so interesting. And Benicio’s performance just makes it so much better because of how great he is in this movie. We also get some really good supporting performances from actors like Victor Garber, Jeffrey Donovan, Jon Bernthal and Daniel Kaluuya. There is no such thing as a bad performance in this movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson and I would say that it’s pretty amazing. It’s heavy, intense and dark. A lot of times throughout the movie it helps to build tension and even make the scenes a bit disturbing because of the style of the score. But that’s jsut a great thing because it then evokes some kind of emotional response from the viewer.

The movie was directed by Denis Villneuve who also made the movies “Prisoners” and “Enemy”, two movies I really loved. So you can see how I had pretty high hopes for this movie in terms of directing. And my expectations were met because this is one of the most well directed movies of the year. And thank you so much, Mr. Vileneuve for bringing back Roger Deakins to do the cinematography because the movie looks absolutely amazing. A good example I can give that doesn’t spoil anything are the nighttime scenes which actually look like it’s nighttime. You know how in movies people’s faces are all lit up in an unnatural manner as if there were studio lights there? Well there is none of that bullshit here, this shit looks real. Remember that extreme tension I mentioned early on in the review? Yeah, that also translates into the action scenes in the movie and that makes the scenes as terrific as they are. And the gunshots all sound pretty real too, kind of like in a Michael Mann movie. I also have to mention that “Sicario” is a lot like “Se7en” in a few scenes. And what I mean by that is that you get to see some fucked up shit that will make you sick to your stomach if you’re a normal person. So yeah… don’t eat anything when watching this movie.

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 81/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Sicario” is a drug bust movie with a great plot with some unexpected twists, interesting characters & fantastic acting, a fantastic score, excellent directing, gorgeous cinematography and some fantastic “edge of your seat” tension. TIme for my final score. *Clears throat*. My final score for “Sicario” is a 9,90/10. It most certainly gets the one and only “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

My review of “Sicario” is now completed.

Well… I guess Benicio is cool again.

Series Review: The Beast (2009)

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Hello and welcome back to this corpse known as “Series Reviews” where as the title states, I review TV series. I wanna do more of these, it’s just that it takes a while to finish a season of a show (or an entire show) and I am also really lazy and dumb and I am sorry, please forgive me. With that out of the way, let’s review a short-lived show.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Beast”.

“The Beast” follows veteran FBI agent Charles Barker (Patrick Swayze, R.I.P) as he unwillingly takes on a new and young partner named Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel). Thing is though that he doesn’t know that Ellis was recruited as a sort of double agent to investigate Barker and his activities. You see, Barker isn’t your typical by-the-books agent, he does everything his way and is suspected of some shady shit. So throughout the show we get to see both how these two solve cases as the undercover agents that they are, but we also see Ellis question his loyalties. And while we have seen similar things before, maybe this show could still do it in an original way. But it didn’t. While the plot offers a few pretty decent twists throughout, it never really feels original or even that engaging. I didn’t completely hate, I mean like I said, there were a few decent twists every now and then. It was also pretty entertaining to see how our heroes would solve these cases every episode. However I feel like the episodes could be a little slow at times. There are so much potential for the plot to be something truly great, but there are almost an equal amount of stuff holding it back which is a shame.

What really helps the show stand out a little more is Patrick Swayze. And I’m not saying that simply becuase I have been a fan of him for a long time, I am saying it because he was legitimately good in this show. This is most definitely the most rugged and dark I have ever seen him. While he isn’t the typical “Charming Mr. Swayze” in this show, he still has some charm to him in the show. Not gonna lie, this might be the best performance I have ever seen form the guy, and I fucking loved him in “Ghost”. Next up is Travis Fimmel who I know stars in the show “Vikings” which I will see at some point. He will also be in the upcoming “Warcraft” movie which is kind of fun. Anyway, how was he in the show? Eh, he was fine. He never really impressed me, but he was also never bad. He was good enough. I did however really like how well he and Swayze played off of eachother. They had pretty good chemistry. Every other actor were pretty good in the show too. Also, Lou Diamond Phillips showed up in an episode. Fun to see that guy still get work.

The music was done by a man named W.G. Snuffy Walden (Pffffft, hahahaha!). And it was decent. Nothing I haven’t really heard before, but it was also not bad. It was good, it worked for the show, that’s it. Although I did really like the opening theme, that I thought was really good.

While I haven’t really truly praised the show for anything yet, let’s give it some props. The cinematography for the show was really good. It gave the show a dark and gritty look that really benefited it. I also really liked some of the writing in the show, it was really well done. The parts I liked were either smart & insightful or darkly funny. And the action in the show was pretty good too I suppose.

The show actually got some pretty good reviews over it’s short run but never really had a lot of watchers. But overall it got pretty mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 59% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Beast” is a show that had tons of potential to be great, but never really reached those heights. It had an okay plot, good characters/acting, decent music, good directing & cinematography, good action and some pretty solid writing at times. Although the show moves a little slowly at times. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Beast” is a 7,98/10. While not great, it’s still worth a watch.
Worth a Watch

Review for “The Beast” is completed.

I miss Patrick Swayze…