Movie Review: Lost in Translation (2003)

Life is quite a strange thing. The way it can change, the ups and downs we go through, the memories we make… such a strange and interesting thing that we just kind of take for granted. And sometimes we need the help of other people (or in this case a movie) to start examining our choices.

Ladies and gents… “Lost in Translation”.

Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), two very people. Bob an aging actor, Charlotte a young woman who’s feeling a bit neglected. When these two cross paths in Tokyo, they form an interesting connection. And we follow them as they hang out. That’s kind of it. There’s no big, dramatic arc. It’s kind of just them going to a few different places in Tokyo and hanging out, discussing their lives, and just kind of enjoying each other’s company. To some this kind of minimal-ish storytelling could be off-putting. But I enjoyed it, because it’s a simple yet nuanced look at some people finding a spark in their lives again.

The characters in this are layered, charming, and just overall interesting. Bill Murray plays Bob, the aging actor who has come to Japan to try and get some work. He’s charming and nice, but can be a bit sarcastic and such at times. He’s funny, but he also gets some decent dramatic moments as well. And Murray is great in the role. Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, a college graduate who’s feeling a bit neglected by her husband. Not gonna say much more as a lot of her character comes forth throughout the movie, but let’s just say that she’s quite interesting. And Johansson is great in the role. I also wanna mention that these two actors share some really good chemistry, I loved watching them interacting.

The score for the movie was composed by Kevin Shields and it was really good. It has a sort of ethereal “what is the meaning of life?” kind of feel that works for this movie, really playing into the two lost souls story. Then there are a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout that work quite well in their respective scenes.

This movie was written and directed by Sofia Coppola, and I think she did a really good job with it. Her direction is very tight and intimate, bringing us closer to the characters and their inner turmoils. I also really liked Lance Acord’s cinematography, I thought it looked really good and had a really nice and interesting style to it.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 89/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and put it on his Great Movies list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,8/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best original screenplay. It also got 3 more nominations in the categories of Best picture, Best actor (Murray), and Best director.

“Lost in Translation” is a very well made and highly engaging little dramedy. It has a really good plot, great characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Lost in Translation” is a 9,55/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Lost in Translation” is now completed.

*Whisper*. 

Series Review: Sneaky Pete – Season 2 (2018)

In early 2017 we saw the premiere of “Sneaky Pete”, a new Amazon series. I watched it, and I gave it a very positive review. So now season 2 has been out for a few days and I’ve watched it all. So let’s talk about it and see if it’s any good.

Ladies and gents… “Sneaky Pete”.

When we last saw Marius (Giovanni Ribisi), he found himself in a bit of a pickle. Two intimidating enforcers (Desmond Harrington & Joseph Lyle Taylor) thinking he was another man asked where “his” mother was. Why would they care about someone’s mother? Because she had gotten hold of eleven million dollars that their boss wanted. So we follow Marius as he tries to find this woman and her supposed eleven million. But we also follow the family that he’s snuck his way into as their lives start spiraling out of control as well. So now we have our plot. And while I think the first season had a somewhat more engaging plot, I still think that this season has a really interesting, suspenseful, and fun plot. It has a lot of twists and turns, and they all work quite well for the plot, keeping it all fun, fresh, and fairly unpredictable.

The characters in this are all quite colorful, unique, and interesting. Giovanni Ribisi is back as Marius/Pete, the con man posing as his former cellmate to get in with the cellmate’s estranged family. He’s an incredibly clever, quick-thinking, man who always tries to be one step ahead of everyone. In season 1 he was more of a no-good shyster who was only out for himself, but here in season 2 we see that he’s evolved a bit, like he actually cares for this family. He’s quite an engaging character, and he has a really solid arc this season. And Ribisi is great in the role. Marin Ireland plays Julia, the “cousin” of our main character. She works in a bail bonds office, and has (much due to Marius) gotten herself into some shit. And it’s interesting to see her go through that stuff and see what she does about it. Ireland is damn good in the role. Then we have Margo Martindale as Audrey, the “grandmother” of our main character, and the matriarch of the Bernhardt family. She’s tough, but she’s also a nice old grandmother. And she has one of the most interesting character arcs this season. And Martindale is of course fantastic in the role. Then we have Peter Gerety, Libe Barer, and Shane McRae as three more members of the family. They’ve all great characters with good arcs, but I’m lumping them together because I don’t wanna make this part too long. But I can at least say that they’re all great in the role. We also get a lot more of Ethan Embry as the real Pete this season, and he’s a fun and interesting character to follow. And yeah, Embry is really good in the role. Then you get supporting performances from people like Jacob Pitts, Jay O. Sanders, Justine Cotsonas, Alison Wright, Jennifer Ferrin, Jospeh Lyle Taylor, Desmond Harrington, Jasmine Carmichael, Jane Adams, and many more. And they’re all great.

The score for the show was composed by Nathan Barr, and I think he did a good job. His score isn’t the most standout thing ever, but it gets the job done. It helps create tension, it adds a little extra emotion, and it’s just overall well composed. There are also a whole bunch of licensed tracks used throughout the season, and thye work very well within their respective scenes. And I just wanna add that the show’s theme song, “Harder Out Here” by The Bight Light Social Hour, is such an awesome song.

The show was created by David Shore & Bryan Cranston, but Graham Yost stands as the showrunner. And it was written/directed by a whole bunch of different people. And this is a very well directed show. The direction here is fast-paced and fun, but never to the point of losing and seriousness/tension, because when a scene has to be serious and suspenseful, it fucking nails it. And at times it also has some fun humor in it. It’s not a comedy, but it does implement humor at various points throughout, and it works quite well.

This season/show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 83% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10.

While I still prefer the first season, season 2 of “Sneaky Pete” is still a great season of crime television. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Sneaky Pete” is a 9,75/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Sneaky Pete” season 2 is now completed.

Trust in me…

Series Review: Sneaky Pete – Season 1 (2017)

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Netflix, HBO, Hulu… Amazon. Services that let you stream tons of shows, both licensed and original. All of whom are doing very well. And today we will be taking a look at a show from such a service, specifically… Amazon.

Ladies and gents… “Sneaky Pete”!

Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) is a con man who’s just been released from prison. Problem is that there’s a ruthless gangster (Bryan Cranston) out there who wants to get hold of Marius. So to try to get away from this shit, Marius takes on the identity of his former cellmate Pete (Ethan Embry) and moves in with Pete’s estranged family. And with this we follow Marius as he lives with this family, starts working with them, and gets dragged into some serious fucking trouble… on top of the trouble he already kind of was in. And all this makes for a surprisingly engaging, suspenseful, and clever crime series that kept my interest through all ten episodes. The situations we see Marius/Pete go through are all very entertaining and at times even tense and I loved that. It was a fairly unpredictable plot that had a few good twists throughout. Sure, there were a few convenient moments throughout the show where someone was about to find out about Marius’ actual identity and then they got interrupted before it happened, but they didn’t really annoy me, just thought it would be fair to mention. But the plot overall I thought was great!

The characters in this show are all interesting, surprisingly layered, and very entertaining. Giovanni Ribisi was great as Marius/Pete (Mete? Parius? Mate?), playing him with a special kind of charm that I thought was endlessly entertaining. Also, I have a thing for con men characters… not sure why, I just enjoy them. Then we have Marin Ireland as Julia, the estranged cousin of Pete, and she did a great job. Shane McRae was great as Taylor, the slightly jerk-ish cousin of Pete. Peter Gerety was great as Pete’s grandpa. Margo Martindale, an actress I was already a fan of BTW, was fantastic as Audrey, the grandmother of Pete. And of course, I have to mention Bryan Cranston as Vince, the ruthless gangster who wants to get Marius… yeah, he was fucking great. Then we also got some great supporting performances from a lot of people, including Michael Drayer, Victor Williams, Karolina Wydra, Jacob Pitts, Virginia Kull, and Brad William Henke. Let me just put it like this: There’s a shit-ton of great actors in this show.

The score for “Sneaky Pete” was compsoed by Nathan Barr and I think he did a great job with that. The score is perfect for this sort of sneaky (hehe!) crime drama. It often helped elevate some of the tension and drama throughout. There were also plenty of licensed tracks used throughout, mostly various types of rock songs, and they all worked very well within the show.

The show was created by David Shore and Bryan Cranston (Say what?). Yeah, great actors can co-create TV shows apparently. What’s also interesting is that Shore left the series at some point in 2016, and was replaced with Graham Yost. Not sure why Shore left, but I am also not complaining because yost created my favorite show, “Justified”. Now, I also want to mention that “Sneaky Pete” is a very well directed show. Not only because of some shots looking good, but because the directing is genuinely tense and well handled throughout. It’s not an action show, but it’s also not a slowly burning show. It’s just a very well paced crime caper/family dramedy.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% (Holy shit) positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,5/10.

“Sneaky Pete” is another solid show from Amazon studios. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Sneaks envelope form someone’s pocket*. My final score for “Sneaky Pete” season 1 is a 9,88/10. So it of course gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
seal-of-approval

My review of “Sneaky Pete” season 1 is now completed.

Without really spoiling anything, the final episode sets up the plot for season 2 very well… so I’m glad that Amazon greenlit a second season!

Movie Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

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Gangsters, not sure what to say about them. They do bad shit, I guess that’s all I can say for now. Moving on.

Ladies and gents… “Gangster Squad”.

Los Angeles, late 1940s. Crime is everywhere, and the town is more or less run by the biggest criminal of them all: Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). This isn’t liked by those officers of the law who haven’t been corrupted yet. So police sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) forms a certain team that is willing to do whatever it takes to take Cohen down. And the plot in itself is… pretty good. The biggest problem with it is how it goes on for a while with a very straighforward story, but then opens a door leading to the theme of morals and such. They touch on that theme, but they don’t explore it. So it kind of bugged me a bit afterwards. At first it was basically just a gangster-based popcorn flick, but then it tried to be deep for two minutes and left the door open without using that little thing to it’s advantage to tell a compelling plot… so I have to take a little bit away from it. Don’t lightly touch upon a subject like that and then do nothing with it! (Advice for aspiring writers).

The characters in the movie are not the most interesting, but they aren’t bad. Josh Brolin is awesome as John O’Mara, playing a real badass with a clear goal/agenda. Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, he’s really good. Ryan Gosling plays a young cop who easily snaps and he’s good in the movie. We also get really good performances from people like Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, and Nick Nolte. Yeah, the it’s a very well acted movie.

The score was composed by Steve Jablonsky, and I think he did a pretty good job here. Sure, the score is kind of generic and I probably won’t remember it anytime in the near future, but it was pretty good and it fit the movie pretty well. There were also a lot of older licensed tracks throughout the movie that were really good and actually fit very well in the scenes.

This movie was directed by Ruben Fleischer and this is where I am a bit split. Because the movie is very well directed with scenes flowing pretty well, but the problem is that there are some tonal inconsistencies throughout. But that’s also kind of the risk when you take a director primarily known for comedy and then put him on a serious movie. But to make up for it, this movie looks fucking gorgeous, with some really good cinematography and a bit of stylish editing. This of course makes for some pretty cool and tense action scenes. Speaking of action, this movie is really fucking violent. I didn’t mind it too much, but I can tell that some people will have some problems with it.

This movie has not been too well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 31% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/10. Roger Ebert gave the movie 2/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“Gangster Squad” is an entertaining movie that wasted some of the potential that it had. The plot is okay, the characters are okay, the acting is great, the music is okay, and the directing/cinematography is terrific. Though it is bogged down by some narrative flaws, characters not being that interesting, and also some tonal inconsistencies. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “Gangster Squad” is a 7,99/10. So it’s far from from perfect, but it’s definitely worth a rental.
Rent it

My review of “Gangster Squad” is now completed.

This feels like what would happen if Zack Snyder would’ve directed “The Untouchables”.

 

Movie Review: Selma (2014)

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As I teased/promised yesterday in a tiny post that I would review this here movie. And Ya know what, I am a man of my word and shall therefore deliver a review.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to… “Selma”.

This movie follows civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) in one of the biggest periods of his life. As he is trying to make sure there are true equal voting rights for black people, he plans to start a giant march between Selma and Montgomery (Sidenote: Both towns are in the state of Alabama) as a sort of protest. And then drama. The story not only touches on the bigger aspects with the whole black rights thing, but it even explores a little bit of Dr. King’s family life and the relationship between and his wife. The story also decides to show you every terrible thing that happened to the people involved in the protests. What I am trying to say is that this movie got a lot of balls in the air at the same time. And I do think that it manages to juggle them perfectly. The story is full of excellent drama and it never feels like it is a “Ooo, white guilt” movie, it actually delves into all of the issues at the time in a very professional and superbly well-presented manner. I also like how the movie doesn’t present Dr. King as a flawless and god-like man, but actually presents him as human. It’s not always easy to watch, but I still thought the story was great!

Like I said, the character of Martin Luther King (jr) is humanized in this movie and is not presented as a god among men, but as a man with a really good heart which is kind of awesome. And holy fuckin’ shit, David Oyelowo gives us an incredible performance as the good Dr. I’m not joking, this is one of the best performances of last year. Carmen Ejogo as his wife was also terrific. A lot of great acting in this movie actually. Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Cuba Gooding Jr, Oprah Winfrey, Common. And hello Tim Roth, fun to see you in an awesome role again. There is only good, great and amazing acting in this movie and I think that really helps out a lot.

The soundtrack to this movie is pretty great. The score was done by Jason Moran and it is pretty great, with all the right emotions and tension in place. And the licensed tracks used are perfectly placed as well and really helps sell teh time period. And ouf course I’m gonna talk about the original song “Glory” by Common and John Legend that was made for the movie… it’s pretty great. Perfect for the movie and overall really good music. Great job, guys!

This movie looks pretty fucking fantastic. The directing is really good and the cinematography is absolutely fantastic. The cinematography was done by Bradford Young who also did it for the movie “A Most Violent Year” which I kind of loved and reviewed a while back (Shameless plug). I feel like I need to disclaim something; if you can’t stand violence (a.k.a. if you’re a little squeamish) then this might not be the movie for you since it is at times really violent (But for a reason).

This movie has gotten some pretty great reception from critics and people alike. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 99% (100% if you go by “Top critics” only) positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 89/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10. “Selma” also won an Oscar in the category of Best Original Song (Glory). And it was nominated for an additional Oscar in the category of Best Picture. 

“Selma” is a difficult movie to watch because of it’s often brutal scenes, but it is also a very emotional and well told movie with fantastic acting, great music, good directing and terrific cinematography. Time for my final score. I HAVE A DREAM… My final score for “Selma” is a 9,86/10 and definitely gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

Review of “Selma” is now completed.

… THAT ONE DAY THIS NATION WILL RISE UP…

Movie Review: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

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War. Dirty, brutal, terrible… the is nothing good about it. Of course we have the PMC’s (Private Military Corporations) out there that disagree with me on that, but that is only because war is their only income. Okay, weapon manufacturers will make a few bucks from it as well… but that is not the point. My point is that war is not something that should EVER be glorified. With that said, here is evidence of that.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Saving Private Ryan”.

“Saving Private Ryan” is about a squad of soldiers led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) who after getting through the brutality of Omaha beach get sent further into France to find paratrooper Private James Ryan (Matt Damon). Which sounds weird considering Ryan isn’t even part of their squad, but the order came from higher-ups for propaganda purposes. And while that isn’t overly clear in the movie, it is still there… to raise morale (Greedy fucking American military). But even though the basic plot is simple, it is still a thoughtful, brutal and well-written plot that works in every aspect. It is all portrayed in a way where you believe it and just want to see how it unfolds. In otehr words… it is pretty great.

This movie is just full of acting talent everywhere. You can’t go ten minutes without saying “Hey, it’s *insert actor here*!”. But let’s just go on the most important ones. Tom Hanks (as per usual) is great in this movie. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering he is a great dramatic actor (Sidenote: Don’t believe me? Go watch “Philadelphia” and then come back). Next up (and the final one I am going to mention) is the character of Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies). Now I hear your collective gasps and I will explain. Yes, Private Ryan is in the title, but he doesn’t show up until the third act of the movie. Instead I will focus on another (probably) young character who got a good amount of focus. Basically Upham is this young guy who have never really killed anyone before and Tom Hanks takes him under his wing(ish). Now I already liked Jeremy Davies as an actor after seeing him in shows like “Justified” and “Constantine”, but I didn’t know he was THIS GREAT as an actor. His character is pretty much a coward through the entire movie and he plays it fantastically. Hell, he plays the character well at all times. And I can mention that all actors in the movie were great. All of them.

The score was done by none other than John Williams. And as you probably know, he is one of the best composers of all time. He has made iconic scores, he has made emotional scores, he is just amazing. And he shows it here as well. Having emotional music when there needs to be emotional music and really intense battle music when there needs to be intense battle music. In other words… hell yeah, John Williams!

It is interesting how this movie was shot. I am not saying it does something incredibly unique like “Birdman”, but it is still a curious case. Spielberg is a director who is known for having very steady direction and camera work in his movies (Sidenote: Don’t believe me? Go watch “Jurassic Park” and “E.T.” and then come back). But in this movie he went for a more handheld style. No, it’s not the same as shaky-cam. I am not explaining the differences here, that is for another time. Anyhow, like I said, “Saving Private Ryan” is a rare example of Steven Spielberg going for a more handheld style. And I like it. It gives the movie a more gritty and realistic style, you feel like a fly on an exploding wall. And to add to that we have some of, if not the most brutal and shocking action scenes of all time. Limbs flying off, heads exploding… this isn’t traditional Spielberg. And while the brutality will be too much for some people to stomach, I feel like it just added to the movie and is part of why it is so great.

This movie is one of the most critically well-received movies ever(ish). On Rotten Tomatoes the movie has a 93% positive rating and is certified “Fresh”. On Metacritic it has the incredible score of 90/100. Roger Ebert also loved it, giving it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,6/10 and is ranked #33 on the “Top 250” list. The movie also won 5 Oscars in the categories of Best Director, Best cinematography, Best sound, Best sound effects editing and Best Film editing. It was also nominated for an additional 6 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor (Hanks), Best Original Screenplay, Best set decoration, Best makeup and Best original dramatic score. 

“Saving Private Ryan” is a brutal, gritty, thoughtful, dark movie filled with terrific performances, a terrific score, great direction/camera work, excellent action scenes and a beautiful ending. Time for my final score. God damn it, Jeff. Where is that son of a bitch? There you are, what took you so l- what the fuck happened to your leg? Nazis shot it off? Well do you have the envelope? Thank you! My final score for “Saving Private Ryan” is a 9,88/10. It does of course get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”
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“Saving Private Ryan” is now reviewed.

So much trouble for one guy? Damn…