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: StartUp – Season 1 (2016)

Before we get started with the review itself, I just want to take a second to mention that I think crypto seems like complete fucking bogus. Aaaaand that is all, let’s get into the main thing.

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

When they happen to cross paths for various reasons, a timid banker (Adam Brody), a struggling entrepreneur (Otmara Marrero), and a gangster (Edi Gathegi) team up to try to launch a new form of digital currency, all while a corrupt federal agent (Martin Freeman) lurks around, causing trouble. I found the story of “StartUp” to be pretty enjoyable… but seldom did it go beyond that. There’s a few moments where it perked up a bit more, a few dramatic turns where I was like “Hey… a bit of drama!”. Otherwise it’s sort of just another perfectly enjoyable crime-drama featuring good people and bad people crossing paths in various ways. It’s kinda hard to describe how I felt about the storytelling here, because it doesn’t stick out that much. It’s just sort of there, serving up 10 episodes of not-bad-but-also-not-great story. I wasn’t ever bored, but never did I find myself super engaged either. Like I said, it’s roughly seven hours of alright crime-drama storytelling.

The characters in this are all decently interesting. Not necessarily the deepest ever, but they had enough going on to the point where I found them quite engaging. First off is Nick Talman, a kind-hearted banker who decides to help another one of our leads with her project. He’s arguably one of the blander characters in our cast, but he works as a good buffer to balance out the cast. Plus, Adam Brody gives a really nuanced performance, which does add another layer of depth. Next we have Ronald Dacey, a family man and gangster. He is my favorite character in the show, because he shows a lot of interesting layers, all while having one of the more substantial arcs of the season. And Edi Gathegi is absolutely fantastic in the role. Next we have Izzy Morales, the entrepreneur and hacker who sort of gets the ball rolling on that new digital currency thing. She’s driven, she’s flawed, she’s layered, and she’s just generally a really interesting character, with Otmara Marrero giving a damn good performance. And then we have Phil Rask, our resident bent federal agent. He’s an interesting fella, works really well in terms of writing… so let’s talk performance. Rask is played by Martin Freeman, an actor I like a lot. And when he has to be a little quiet, friendly, vulnerable, that sort of stuff, Freeman’s good, that’s the type of stuff he works for. But he also has a good amount of moments where he has to be menacing and a bit of tough guy, aaaaaand I just don’t believe Freeman in those moments. He is acting his heart out in those moments, which I do have to give kudos to. But he really feels a bit miscast in this role. Like I said, I like Freeman a lot, and he has his moments in this, but on the whole he feels a little off for the part. As for supporting cast, we got people like Tony Plana, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Jared Wofford, Aarony Yoo, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the season was composed by Chris Hajian, and I think he did a good job with it. The score’s mostly based in an electronic, synthesized sound to sort of fit with the whole tech, start-up type setting/story we got, and while it doesn’t necessarily stick out in my mind, I did think it worked well enough for the show. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout the season, and they all work well for their respective scenes.

“StartUp” was created by Ben Ketai, with writing and directing over the season being done by him and various other people. And I think the direction on display here is alright. It does everything it’s supposed to, but never sticks out that much in my mind. Shots are well done and well paced, action beats are handled just fine, it’s just fairly solid craft on the crew’s part. Again, much like the story, it’s well done, but also doesn’t go above and beyond. It’s good.

This show/season has gotten a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 36% positive rating.  On Metacritic the season has a score of 52/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.8/10.

While it does stumble a little bit in some regards, season 1 of “StartUp” is still a solid enough crime-drama. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, and good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “StartUp” is a 7.66/10. So I’d say it’s worth watching.

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

“The future of currency”, my ass.

Some British TV Shows That I Like

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Oh hey there, how are you? I hope you’re doing well. Anyhow, I realized it’d been a while since I did some list-based content on this here blog. So I thought, “Why not make a list of stuff for once?”. And as I racked my brain for a topic to cover, it finally hit me… like a tea kettle dropped from a balcony. I talk a lot on this blog about how I love British TV, but besides regular reviews, I’ve never gone out of my way to just list a bunch of personal favorites… so I guess I could do that.

Let it be known that these are in no particular order. These are just various titles that I have a personal fondness for that I wanted to shout out. Who knows, maybe you’ll check out one or two you hadn’t heard of before. So let’s get into it.

Line of Duty (2012-2021)

This show follows the members of AC-12, an anti-corruption unit within the UK police, as they solve cases of potential corruption. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’d already know that this is a show I LOVE. Gripping personal drama, intense thriller narratives that put me so far on the edge of my seat that I started floating in the air, and amazing performances make this one of my favorite shows. We’re talking top 10 of all time here.

Friday Night Dinner (2011-2020)

“Friday Night Dinner” is a comedy series about the Goodman family as they meet every Friday for dinner. However, what should just be a nice, quiet family dinner quickly turns into chaos in one form of another. From their own bickering, to enigmatic neighbors, to crazy relatives, there is never a quiet Friday in the Goodman house. I only started watching this one a few years back after asking some friends about it, and boy, am I glad I did. It’s a deliriously funny, brilliantly performed, and endlessly watchable comedy that just clicked with me from the get-go. MVP in this series is Paul Ritter (may he rest in peace) as Martin, the oddball patriarch of the family. Just sheer brilliance in every delivery and mannerism. That said, everyone in this show is absolutely superb and I love it.

Shetland (2013-still going)

Based on a series of novels by Ann Cleaves, “Shetland” is about DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) as he, along with his colleagues, solve murders on Shetland, all while also dealing with their own personal drama from time to time. Does this at the offset sound like every police show ever? Yes, kinda. But “Shetland” manages to stand out thanks to its well-rounded characters, relatively unique setting, engaging plotlines, and spectacular cast. It’s just one of the better police dramas available at the moment.

Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)

Of course I had to include this show. The 12 episodes comedy series about hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his employees is a classic that goes on reruns over and over, and for good reason. Nearly 50 years since its inception, and it’s still making people (myself included) laugh. Don’t think I need to explain much more why this is here.

Peaky Blinders (2013-2022)

Much like with “Line of Duty” before it, if you’ve followed me for an extended period of time, then you’d know about my affection for this show. A gangster drama set in  early 1900s Birmingham, following Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his family as they try to stay afloat amid political evolution and gang uprisings. Unpredictable, suspenseful, emotionally rich, masterfully performed, stunningly shot… what else do I need to say? It’s one of the most popular dramas of the last decade. If you’re one of the four people who somehow haven’t seen it yet… then what are you doing? GO!

Black Books (2000-2004)

“Black Books” follows Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), a drunken, cynical man who runs a bookshop. And we get to see how he, his employee Manny (Bill Bailey), and his “friend” Fran (Tamsin Greig) get into various misadventures. Now, it’s been a few years since last I watched this, but I still have such fond memories of “Black Books”, so I just had to mention it here. It’s a really funny comedy series about some people who aren’t very good.

Primeval (2007-2011)

Oh hey look, it’s Douglas Henshall again! Anyhow, “Primeval” is a sci-fi series about strange time portals (known in the show as anomalies) opening across the UK, unleashing all sorts of  prehistoric (and future) creatures, leading to Professor Nick Cutter (Henshall) along with his team having to capture these creatures and bring ’em back to their own time. I caught this on a random whim, just flipping through channels years ago, and being a lover of both sci-fi AND dinosaurs, of course I got instantly hooked. Revisiting a few years later, and I still really liked it. It’s a fun adventure series with a great cast, fun time travel adventures, surprisingly good CG for a mid-to-late 2000s tv show, and, as previously mentioned… dinosaurs. Really can’t wait to revisit this.

Endeavour (2012-still going)

Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) as he, along with his partner Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), solve various murders in and around Oxford. History lesson: Once upon a time there was a tv show called “Inspector Morse”, and this is a prequel to that. And while I never watched that original series, I can still say that I love “Endeavour”. Each episode is a sprawling 90 minute narrative, showing Morse, Thursday, and the other people in their department working tirelessly to solve the various crimes, all while they have to deal with their own personal situations. “Endeavour” is another one of those police dramas that manages to somehow be a cut above the rest, partly due to the intricate plots, but mainly due to the absolutely phenomenal cast. There’s not a weak link here, and it leads to a lot of spectacular performances that elevate the already solid writing.

Pointless (2009-still going)

Up until this point we’ve basically only talked about scripted television, so I thought we’d wrap up this post with something a bit different. “Pointless” is a game show hosted by Alexander Armstrong and, up until recently, Richard Osman, and is all about contestants trying to score as few points as possible by finding the most obscure answer in questions polled from 100 people. These questions can range from all sorts of topics, including films, music, geography, food, and fucking anything. It’s entertaining to watch for a few different reasons. First off, I love quiz shows, as I can sort of get involved from the safety of my own home to test my knowledge. But then there’s also the angle of trying to guess which of the answers might have the lowest score to it, partly due to my love of puzzles in general, but also because UK people are really unpredictable in their knowledge, often leading to frankly baffling results. But another reason why I love it are the two hosts, Armstrong and Osman, they are an absolute delight together, which makes it a shame that Osman has decided to step away from the show (though I respect his decision and wish him the best). Either way, “Pointless” is super fun to watch.

So those were some British shows that I love. I don’t know what else to say, I had fun talking about positive things for a bit… felt nice.
Anyhow, have a good one.

Movie Review: Unhinged (2020)

On the Crowe again, just can’t wait to watch Russ Crowe agai- Oh hi, didn’t see you there. Uuuuuhhhhh… let’s talk about Russell Crowe road movie.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Unhinged”.

After she has an altercation with a man (Russell Crowe) while in traffic, Rachel’s (Caren Pistorius) day turns into a living nightmare as the man begins stalking and terrorizing her. What I like about the story in “Unhinged” is that there’s no pretense of greatness here. At first glance it’s a popcorn thriller, and upon further inspection, still a popcorn thriller. And that is sort of the story’s biggest strength, as it’s just 80 minutes of relentless tension, Crowe chasing Pistorius around, wreaking havoc. It makes it a bit of  a breeze to watch.

The characters in this are fine. Rachel, our leading lady hasn’t really been given much in terms of personality, but what little there is works well enough to make me root for her, and I think Caren Pistorius does a really good job with the material. Now, let’s talk about the man… that’s how he’s listed in the credits, so don’t blame me for the vagueness. Anyhow, Russell Crowe is fucking terrifying in this. Just an unhinged, surprisingly calculating psychopath that I never really knew what to make of. He’s just a mysterious agent of chaos, and Crowe’s performance is absolutely fantastic. Anytime he was on screen, he was electrifying. Supporting cast’s solid too, limited though their screentime may be. Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie, Juliene Joyner, they’re all good.

Score for the movie was composed by David Buckley, and I really liked it. Nice mix of electronic sounds with a few regular instruments every now and then, helps to add nicely to the tension throughout. Sure, it’s not the most groundbreaking of scores, but it worked well for this movie. So yeah… good stuff.

“Unhinged” was directed by Derrick Borte, and I think he did a really good job behind the camera. Action scenes are well shot and feature some really gnarly stunts and even grisly violence at times that really add to the intensity of the movie, making the danger of the situation and Crowe’s character feel all the more visceral. Borte really knew how to make the most out of the premise and out of Carl Ellsworth’s script, crafting some really suspenseful scenes that never really let up until the credits.

This movie’s been pretty mixed in its reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.0/10.

Is “Unhinged” one of the greatest movies ever? No. But if you’re like me and you like brisk, tense, pulpy thrillers right out of the 90s, then I can easily recommend it for a rainy afternoon. It has a fun story, okay-ish characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Unhinged” is a 7.88/10. So I’d say it’s worth a rental.

My review of “Unhinged” is now completed.

Vroomssel Crowe

The Fable: The Movies That I Really Like

Hey there, friends, been a while. I got no excuse for my absence, it just accidentally happened. But I wanted to get into the swing of things, so I thought I’d go with something a little less structured and more freeform than usual, and just talk about some stuff I watched during my brief blogging hiatus. So anyhow, let’s talk about some Japanese movies.

“The Fable” is a 2019 action-comedy based on a manga by Katsuhisa Minami, and it tells the story about a man known only as The Fable (played by Jun’ichi Okada). The Fable has been trained since childhood to become  a cold, ruthless, and highly skilled hitman. This bloody status quo comes to a halt however when his boss (Koichi Sato) tells him to lay low and not kill anyone for a while. And so he assumes the identity of Akira Sato, and moves with his partner-in-crime (Fumino Kimura) to Osaka to live a quiet life for the time being. But since this is a movie, troubles start to slowly crop up that may threaten Sato’s new, quiet life. It’s pacing can be a little ass-draggy at times, but “The Fable” is one hell of a fun time.
The setup in itself is a lot of fun and can lend itself to a lot of great comedy. Here’s this cold, matter of fact, calculating assassin, and he has to find something else to do in life, all while trying to keep his identity a secret. One way they play around with this is a scene pretty early in the movie where he gets into a scuffle with some local punks. The movie’s already established that he’s the biggest badass ever, so he could absolutely wreck them without any problem. But since he has to lay low, he not only takes the beating, but also calculates his reactions to sell the illusion to these douchebags. I know my explanation is very cut and dry, but that’s also because there is no way to sell the sheer creativity and comedy of the scene in words alone. Luckily, I won’t have to, as I found the scene on youtube. Sadly it has no English subtitles, but hopefully the visuals speak for themselves, so you get somewhat of an idea how of the film’s comedy and creativity.

But they of course play around with this as Sato tries to be a mundane man, trying to find a job, watching tv, making friends. But he also has his own unique quirks that add a few more layers to the humor. And it’s all done in really funny and unique ways that I just enjoy a lot. But the movie’s not all laughs, as it also flashes back to Sato’s youth a lot, showing what led to him being the way he is. And this helps build a lot of heart and genuinely interesting drama within the story.

I also love the action scenes in this. Kan Eguchi directed the movie, and he brings this really energetic flair to the action. Shootouts, close quarters fighting, the movie has a bit of most types of action, all of it incredibly creative and well choreographed.
The only point where the movie falls apart is the pacing. As previously mentioned, it does drag a bit in parts. Otherwise, it’s a really fun movie that I can happily recommend.

The Sequel: The Movie That is Better Than the First?

In 2021 we got a sequel in the form of “The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill”. Sato’s still laying low in Osaka, living with his “sister”, working his mundane job. His peaceful existence is once again threatened however when his past actions come back to haunt him.
As was very unsubtly hinted in the headline for this section, I like this more than the first. If the first one’s around an 8/10, this one’s a solid 9/10 for me. It takes a lot of the ideas set up in the first one and polishes them marvelously. The story is more intriguing and emotionally affecting, the character development is a bit stronger, the action is kinetic as hell and feels more confident than in the first one, and the comedy, while a bit toned down compared to what we got in the first, is still REALLY funny.

Despite how bright and colorful the poster is, this movie can actually get quite dark at times. The narrative largely centers around a young woman who has some past connection to Sato/The Fable. Her arc in this movie is tragic and uplifting in equal measure, and they manage to wring a lot of tension and emotional investment out of it. Her narrative is also connected to the film’s main antagonist (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi), who is an outwardly kind and delightful man, but who we quickly find out is a bit of a twat. Their personal arcs intersecting with that of Sato’s makes for some really strong dramatic storytelling, while still allowing a lot of room for action and shenanigans.

Let’s talk villain for a second. In the first one there were a few, but beyond two semi-memorable, half-joke characters, I really don’t remember anything, most were just kinda there. Here however, we have that guy I talked about before, a seemingly benevolent and affable businessman. He makes so much of the drama work here, which is partly done thanks to his excellent writing, but most of it due to the spectacular performance from Shin’ichi Tsutsumi, who has to convey a lot of different things throughout the movie, and just knocks it all out of the park.

While I did mention that the comedy is toned down in this one, that’s not to say that this isn’t a funny movie. You still get Sato’s quirks clashing a bit when in a social setting, you still get other characters being used for comedic beats, and there’s still the occasional funny visual gag. The movie is still funny as hell, even if the movie relies less on overt goofiness like the first movie did.

The action is also better, feeling way more confident and intense than in the first on, giving us some beautiful, exciting, and insanely fun fights and chases spread inbetween the compelling drama and funny comedy. It’s just good shit.

I guess I’m just trying to say that I really like “The Fable” and its sequel. They’re really fun action-comedies that also happen to feature some really good characters and stories. As for how you can watch them, I can not answer. Over here in Sweden I watched ’em through Netflix, but I’m not sure where you, my international friends, might be able to catch them. Hopefully you’ll be able to figure that out, because these movies are a ton of fun.

Have a good one.

Series Review: Luther – Season 5 (2019)

My friends, we are finally here. My final review in this little series of mine. So let’s just get the phrase said one last time and then get into the review itself… Beware the Ides of Elba.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 5.

DCI Luther (Idris Elba) is back for his hardest challenge yet, having to solve a complex and violent series of murders, all while having to deal with people from his past coming in and causing a lot of trouble for him. And I am happy to report that this season of “Luther” feels way better structured than the way too short season 4. Going back to the four episode structure of previous entries, it gives the story time to breathe, keeping it from feeling so crammed and overstuffed. As for the writing itself, it’s good. It doesn’t *quite* have the same terror and suspense of some of the previous seasons, and its relentless, actiony pace doesn’t always work to the show’s benefit, but generally it’s still solid. It still dabbles a lot with morals, the darkness of the human condition, and how one’s actions might affect your life. And it does all of that very well. But what I also really find interesting about the storytelling here is the sense of inevitability and finality, you can tell that this was the end of the show, with how it escalated and the overall tone of everything. And I think it makes the drama feel even more engaging. So yeah, I liked the story here.

In terms of characters, there’s not much I can say here that I haven’t touched on before. Both recurring characters and newcomers are interesting and have some interesting development in this story. And the performances are of course off the charts great again. Idris Elba, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Wunmi Mosaku, Paul McGann, Michael Obiora, Patrick Malahide, and Ruth Wilson, they’re all brilliant.

As per usual, Paul Englishby did the music, and he did a damn good job with it. Strings, brass, some electronics, the man has established a high quality soundscape for the show, and he keeps it going this go around as well. It’s just damn good stuff, y’all. The licensed songs used throughout work pretty well too.

As with its previous seasons, all episodes of “Luther” S5 were written by series creator Neil Cross, with Jamie Payne stepping in as director. And as with the other seasons, the craft here is impeccable. Nice shot composition, a really good flow to action scenes, a lot of decently length shots that let moments simmer and allow us to get really invested in what’s going on. I don’t know what to say, really. If you liked the way the show was shot, edited, and crafted before, and you’re willing to accept a faster pace and a bigger focus on action, then you’ll likely enjoy this too.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 64/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While not the show’s best entry, season 5 of “Luther” is still a major return to form and a good ending for the show. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Luther” season 5 is a 9.45/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 5 is completed.

And it’s finally over… *ring ring, ring ring* Hello? Yes? WAIT, THERE’S A MOVIE COMING!?

Series Review: Luther – Season 2 (2011)

Beware the Ides of Elba, for they resume… funnily enough smack dab in the middle of the month, I’ll be damned. Anyhow, let’s continue talking about this British crime show. Oh, and there will be a few spoilers for the end of season 1, as that leads into this… so you’ve been warned.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 2.

Still reeling from the death of his ex-wife, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) finds himself going back to work, once again having to solve a series of violent cases. His life gets even more complicated when he finds himself having to look after and protect a young woman from the darkness of her past. What’s interesting about season 2 of “Luther” is that it somehow manages to have this almost over-the-top/silly popcorn feeling to its crime stories, while still managing to retain a sense of suspense that somehow feels even darker and even more grim than what we got in season 1. And then we got John’s personal arc over the season, which delves into even more morally grey territories than the first season, which I found utterly compelling. And it all comes together in a really interesting set of episodes that I found absolutely riveting from start to end. Even the reduced episode count (going from 6 to 4) holds up, as it never feels like they’re actually skimping out on plot or character development, despite that being a very real risk when lowering the amount of episodes you produce. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s emotionally charged, it’s tense… yeah, season 2 of “Luther” has some great fucking storytelling.

The characters this season remain utterly compelling this season, with no one feeling like a weak link at any point. All of them have this nuanced to them that makes them deeply fascinating, and they all get some really interesting development. What also helps is the cast, who once again are all superb. Idris Elba is still amazing as our lead and Ruth Wilson is still electrifying as Alice Morgan. The rest of the supporting cast, containing people like Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley, Paul McGann, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Lee Ingleby, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Michael Smiley, Steven Robertson, and more, are all great. Just superb acting all around.

The score was once again composed by Paul Englishby, and I feel he really stepped up his game this time around. His score is a bit bigger, more grandiose, more emotional, while still being able to retain the brooding quality that was established in the first season, making for a dynamic and engaging score that just elevates each scene so much. The few licensed songs used throughout the season also work pretty well in their respective scenes.

Season 2 of “Luther” was written by series creator Neil Cross, with Sam Miller directing all four episodes. And once again, the craft here is absolutely superb. In slower, more character-driven scenes, the direction finds nice ways of feeling intimate, yet distant, giving us a surprisingly objective, yet really engaging look at the characters. And when things need to get intense, it does that insanely well too, keeping me on the edge of my seat for the entire scene(s). Basically it takes what was good about season 1’s craft and improves upon it.

This show/season has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic the season has a score of 78/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #248 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 2 of “Luther” takes what made season 1 great and further improves upon it, giving us four episodes of dark, morally complex police drama. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Luther” is a 9.77/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Two down, three to go

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.

Movie Review: Scream 4 (2011)

My friends, this is it. The final movie in this franchise… until I see the new one on Saturday. But for now, this is the final “Scream” movie. I’m finally caught up (woo!). So without further ado, let’s talk about it and see if it’s a good one.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Scream 4”!

15 years have passed since the Woodsboro murders, and we see Sidney (Neve Campbell) return to her old hometown as the first stop on her book tour. However, what should be a simple visit soon turns into a complex nightmare when people start getting murdered by another masked killer. Right from the get-go, “Scre4m” shows that it’s not fucking around, giving us arguably the most clever and expectation-subverting opening in the series. And from that point on, it doesn’t let up with its meta nature. The entire series has had a very meta approach to telling its stories, but this one leans into it the most, while also being a surprisingly prescient takedown of fame and social media, all while subverting and indulging in slasher tropes to great effect (as it has in the past), creating possibly the most intense, fun, and clever narrative in the series. Yeah, I really liked the story here.

The characters in this are all really solid, either through being well written and nuanced, or through being fun and colorful. But what does also help is that they all have some level of self-awareness, perfectly befitting the story told, which does also make it really tricky to identify who can be trusted and who can’t, keeping me on my toes from start to end. And the entire cast is terrific, featuring returning people like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox, along with newcomers like Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Roger Jackson, Alison Brie, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Adam Brody, and more.

For the fourth time in a row, Marco Beltrami came in to do the score, and once again he did a damn good job. You get some familiar note progressions, some more typical horror stings, and some subtle, creeping tracks. It’s a solid score that works really well for the movie. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work well in their respective scenes. It is a bit of a shame to not have “Red Right Hand” back in this one, but it doesn’t completely ruin it for me.

“Scream 4” saw Kevin Williamson come back as screenwriter, with Wes Craven once again directing (THE DREAM TEAM IS BACK, BAYBEEEE!). And the craft behind it is once again top tier. Intense, creepy direction once again manages to build a fair bit of suspense, it’s Craven at the height of his powers. Also, there’s a lot of really intense violence and gore in this. And while I don’t necessarily think more gore = scarier, I do think it adds a certain unrelenting intensity to this movie that makes it a bit more disturbing and scary. It’s just really well made.

This movie’s gotten a bit of a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 61% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 52/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

I might get severely shamed by people for this, but “Scream 4” might be my favorite of the bunch. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score.  *AAAAAAAAAH*. My final score for “Scream 4” is a 9.80/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Scream 4” is now completed.

Alright… let’s hope the Radio Silence dudes can do this franchise justice.

Movie Review: Scream (1996)

Hi there, I hope your holidays have been good. Time to kick off the new year! And I thought that with the upcoming fifth “Scream” coming out next week, it could be fun to go through the first four movies leading up to it. So with that out of the way, let’s talk about this movie.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Scream”.

The small town of Woodsboro, California is in for a real nightmare when a mysterious, masked man starts stalking and killing young people. While that might at first seem like the setup for any ol’ slasher, “Scream” manages to stand above the crowd by being a satirical, yet loving send-up to them, playing around with the rules of the formula, subverting them as often as it indulges in them. And the subversive and knowing writing style keeps it feeling fresh and unpredictable, leading to storytelling that is equal parts suspenseful, clever, and quite fun, making for one hell of a solid horror story.

The characters in this are all very fun and colorful, but also a lot more layered than most of your typical slasher characters. Take for example Sidney Prescott, our leading lady. A kind young woman with a traumatic past, she’s arguably one of the most well developed characters in this, and I find her deeply engaging to follow, with Neve Campbell delivering a terrific performance. And the rest of the characters are solid too, played by people like Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, W. Earl Brown, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, and more, all delivering really good performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco Beltrami, and I think he did a damn solid job with it. There’s a nice mix of styles here, blending loud, intimidating orchestrations with eerie choir vocals and even some hip hop-influenced percussion to create an interesting and unique sound that really elevates the storytelling. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work really well in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has some damn good music in it.

“Scream” was written by Kevin Williamson, with directing duties being handled by Wes Craven, who absolutely killed it behind the camera. The man is an expert at when it comes to building suspense, keeping me on the edge of my seat at all points, even during scenes that technically could be considered “safe”. This also translates to the more action-packed bits, which manage to be quite tense, exciting, and even kinda disturbing. And Craven does all of this while balancing the act of subverting and indulging in slasher tropes. It’s just a really well crafted movie.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

“Scream” is a terrific film that absolutely deserves its status as a classic. It ha a great story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Scream” is a 9.71/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Scream” is now completed.

What’s your favorite scary movie? Mine’s “Alien”.