Series Review: The Good Lord Bird (2020)

We all agree that slavery was one of the worst things in human history, right? Alright, good. At least we’re on the same page on that.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Good Lord Bird”.

The story follows Henry “Onion” Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a young slave who gets freed by abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) and then joins his merry band of freedom fighters. And we follow Onion as he follows along on Brown’s crusade to free the slaves. What I found fascinating about “The Good Lord Bird” is the interesting use of of tonal shifts to tell its story. While at its core it’s a serious drama about the liberation of shackled people, the writers use a surprising amount of comedy throughout, which adds quite a bit of nuance to proceedings. But it’s not just a tonally unique slavery drama, but it’s also largely a coming of age story, since we get to see how this young boy gets to evolve while following along with Brown’s crusade. And while this sounds like it could be quite messy, it really isn’t. I found the story here to be utterly engrossing and entertaining, having me utterly engaged throughout the seven episodes.

The characters in this are colorful, flawed, surprisingly layered (like an onion, HA!), and really entertaining. Joshua Caleb Johnson plays Onion, the young slave who becomes part of Brown’s gang. He has quite an interesting and highly enjoyable personal arc in this, while also serving as the audience in this story, being our look at Brown and his antics. And I think Onion is a really fun protagonist, with Johnson giving a great performance. Next we have Ethan Hawke as John Brown, preacher and abolitionist. He is a fascinating individual, being really passionate about the emancipation of the slaves. And when I say passionate, I mean PASSIONATE, borderline fanatic. His heart is of course in the right place, it’s just that he’s maybe also a bit gung ho about it all, making his methods seem a little insane at times. But that’s what makes him such a fascinating character. And Ethan Hawke is terrific in the role, selling every bit of Brown’s eccentric personality wonderfully. We also get supporting work from people like Beau Knapp, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Ellar Coltrane, Mo Brings Plenty, Nick Eversman Daveed Diggs, and many more, all giving top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jamison Hollister, and I thought it was really good. If you’ve heard a western score in the lat 30 years, you probably know what you’re getting. A fair bit of strings, high energy, and just a vibe that says “this is a fun western”. There’s also a fair amount of licensed songs used throughout, and they work surprisingly well in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on the novel of the same name by James McBride, “The Good Lord Bird” was developed for Showtime by Mark Richard and Ethan Hawke, with writing and directing by a whole load of cool people. And the craft on display here is superb. Usually when I watched a tv show, even ones on high budgets with super talented crews, I can still usually tell by how it’s shot that it’s a tv project. But I don’t really get that feel here. They’ve taken careful steps to make sure it blurs the line between cinema and television with their shots and camera movements here. This comes partly from Peter Deming’s beautiful cinematography, and partly from the directing which crackles with energy and feels so lively. This doesn’t mean that anything feels rushed, because the crew really know when to slow down and let moments simmer, creating a perfect balance between the fun, the emotionally charged, and the exciting.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 84/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

“The Good Lord Bird” is a highly entertaining, fascinating, and unique take on slavery-themed drama, and is one of the best shows of 2020. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Good Lord Bird” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Good Lord Bird” is now completed.

Ethan Hawke has two modes in this show: Low grumbly growling and PASSIONATE, THROAT-RUINING SCREAMING.

Series Review: The Comey Rule (2020)

Politics, a clusterfuck of ideologies clashing. I will never find myself truly understanding it, but I’ll do my best. So anyhow, let’s talk about a political drama.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “The Comey Rule”.

The story follows FBI director James Comey (Jeff Daniels) as he and his team investigate allegations of Russia attempting to meddle with U.S. politics leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election. So yeah, we’re dealing with sensitive shit here. And I honestly think the storytelling here isn’t great. And before you accuse me of some political bias, no, stop. The story here feels like it skims over a lot of details, like it only plays the “greatest hits” of those strange times. And even those moments feels rushed, so as to get onto the next one. There are admittedly moments I do like in the series, most relating to Comey’s reaction to certain events, and I was also never bored. But the storytelling feels incomplete and undercooked, making for an unmemorable and hollow experience, despite the potential for a great narrative.

The characters in this are whatever… yeah, that’s it. I don’t think they’re the most uninteresting necessarily, but like the story they feel slightly underdeveloped. Jeff Daniels plays Jeff Comey, a hard-working, kind, well spoken man who also happens to be the director of the FBI. He’s our main focal point throughout the very short series, and we do get to know him decently well, and he’s a pretty interesting character. And Daniels is great in the role. Brendan Gleeson shows up in this too playing Donald Trump (oh dear), and it’s uncomfortable how fucking good his performance is. We also get really solid acting from other people like Holly Hunter, Scott McNairy, Michael Kelly, Steven Pasquale, Shawn Doyle, Amy Seimetz, Oona Chaplin, Jonathan Banks, Brian d’Arcy James, Jennifer Ehle, and many more. So yeah, mediocre characters, great performances.

The score for the show was composed by Henry Jackman, and it was pretty good. It’s overall well composed and could fit in almost any drama… and that’s the issue here. It doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t say “THIS is the Comey Rule score!”. It just says “Drama!”. I love Henry Jackman, but just like any other person, you can’t always hit a homerun.

Based on “A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey, “The Comey Rule” was created, written, and directed by Billy Ray, and I have mixed feelings here. I am a fan of Billy Ray’s previous works, he’s made two movies I’d happily put in “best of the year” lists. I do however feel like this isn’t as strong as those. A lot of scenes are nicely helmed and have this beautiful cinematic quality. But then there are also times where Billy Ray wants to hammer home a point so hard that his imagery is a bit too abrasive. And let’s not talk about the inconsistent color grading. Sometimes it looks somewhat believable, if mildly exaggerated to create a beautiful cinematic image… but then there are times where it looks insanely artificial and bafflingly bad. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that some of it came from rushed production… but it’s hard to tell.

This show has gotten mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 64% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

“The Comey Rule” is a disappointing biopic that at times does entertain. It has a meh story, meh characters, great performances, pretty good music, and mixed directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Comey Rule” is a 5.9/10. So while very flawed, I can still kinda recommend watching it.

My review of “The Comey Rule” is now completed.

*sigh*. So much missed potential.

Movie Review: Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

I took a break from Swedish films for a bit, but now I’m back, ready to continue this Summer of the Swedes thing I’m doing. So let’s go.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “Borg vs. McEnroe”.

Famous tennis players Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) have a bit of an ongoing rivalry, both at the top of their game, both well known. And soon this rivalry might come to a head in the 1980 Wimbledon tournament. However, the movie is not just one long tennis match. It jumps back and forth in time a lot, showing us the upbringing of these men, as well as giving us a lot of their issues relating to their present situation. It’s very much a character study of these two complex and honestly fucked up individuals. And for the most part I found myself quite engaged by it, as the writing does give a lot of nuance to proceedings. It’s not a pure “hero/villain” or “adoration of giants” narrative, this shows that none of these guys are perfect. The story does step into a fair bit of the trappings that can be found within the biopic genre, and the pacing can be a little wonky in the first half, but overall I do still think the story works here thanks to some of the nuances within the writing.

The characters in this are layered, and overall just quite interesting. Sverrir Gudnason plays Björn Borg, a seasoned tennis player with multiple world titles under his belt. However, while this skill and fame is something people look up to, he is a much more tragic and meticulous individual, his mind isn’t all joy and tennis wins. I don’t know how else to explain it, the dude’s a fascinating person. And Gudnason is great in the role, giving a very reserved but still nuanced performance. Next is Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe, Borg’s rival. He too carries a lot of emotional baggage, which we do find out about through the movie. And he is quite a compelling character, with LaBeouf giving what might be a career best performance. We also get supporting work from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Scott Arthur, Ian Blackman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

Unlike most movies, which have one composer, this one has four. Vladislav Delay, Jon Ekstrand, Carl-John Sevedag, and Johan Struck all contributed in some way to the score here. And despite there being so many names attached to it, the music is surprisingly coherent, giving us an intriguing blend of traditional orchestral elements with some electronic mixing to give it an intriguing and emotionally resonant sound that works pretty well within the movie. There’s also a few licensed tunes used throughout, and they work alright too.

“Borg vs. McEnroe” was directed by Janus Metz, who I think did a really good job with it. He knows how to really get you in the minds of the characters, all without losing the wider scope of the scene around them, giving us a good look at the full situation. This is further helped out by Niels Thastum’s slick cinematography, along with the spectacular editing from Per Kirkegaard and Per Sandholt. In terms of the technical craft, this movie is terrific.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 63/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While it does fall into some biopic trappings at times, “Borg vs. McEnroe” is still a damn fine character drama. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Smacks ball*. My final score for “Borg vs. McEnroe” is an 8,77/10. So it’s certainly worth buying.

My review of “Borg vs. McEnroe” is now completed.

SPORTSBALL, WOO!

Movie Review: The Guardian Angel (1990)

Oh hi. Ready for another Summer of the Swedes entry? Cool, let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Guardians Angel” (Original title: Skyddsängeln).

Some fictional European country, the 1910s. A revolution rages on, and one of the country’s ministers (Etienne Glaser) has decided to have a nice, relaxing summer with his family in the countryside. He has also brought his new bodyguard (Philip Zandén). And we follow these people as they go through ups and downs throughout the summer. This film tries to say things about stuff, but it never succeeded in putting it in my head. I don’t mind a movie trying to say something about humanity or politics or whatever the fuck, but you got to have a clever way of saying it that speaks to people. This right here is just fucking pretentious and boring, seldom doing anything remotely engaging. And even in those rare moments where something that could be called mildly interesting happens, the presentation (which we’ll get deeper into later) pushes it into nonsensical pretentiousness again. And while pretentiousness can be acceptable (see Ingmar Bergman), you’re gonna need something interesting to back it up… which this tale doesn’t.

The characters try to be dramatic and engaging and interesting, but guess what… nah. They all clash, as if they’re in different movies. Take Etienne Glaser for example. He very much has the vibe of an uptight asshole in a 50s drama. But then you have Björn Kjellman who feels like he should be in a 90s rom-com. And then there’s Philip Zandén whose performance feels like what Matthew Macfadyen would end up as if he wasn’t allowed to be expressive. The actors are trying, and generally I can’t actively say anything about their performances (except for Björn Kjellman, whose performance just feels weirdly anachronistic).

What’s interesting about the music in this movie is that there isn’t much of it. And the little we get is music licensed for the film. It doesn’t have a typical score. But how do these few licensed tracks work throughout? Eh. The tracks themselves aren’t bad, but the way they’ve been implemented just feels slightly off.

Based on a novel by Ricarda Huch, “The Guardian Angel” was directed by Suzanna Osten. And I have mixed feelings about the execution of her directing. It’s clear that she knows what she wants in her direction, the confidence is very evident in what we see. However, some of the choices made don’t really work for me. There are some shots that are a bit… off. But even more baffling is the editing, which is all over the fucking place, often just leaving me stunned as to why you would make a lot of those cuts, sometimes causing a weird sense of nausea even.

On imdb.com this movie has a score of 6.6/10. That’s all I got… the movie barely fucking exists on my usual sites.

“The Guardian Angel” is a bit too slow and pretentious for me, just ending up being a drab and less than engaging experience. Its plot is slow and nonsensical, its characters not that engaging despite (mostly) good acting, weirdly chosen music, the direction okay, and the editing being fucking baffling. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Guardians Angel” is a 3,11/10. So I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “The Guardian Angel” is now completed.

Zzzzz…

Movie Review: White Boy Rick (2018)

Don’t do crimes.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “White Boy Rick”.

Detroit, the 1980s. Teenager Richard Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) comes from a broken home. But soon he finds himself on quite an interesting rise, as he starts getting involved both as an FBI informant and a drug trafficker. So now we have our crime-drama. The premise of it all I find highly intriguing, and there are some decent moments and ideas going on throughout the movie. But looking at the package as a whole, it feels quite underwhelming, with the script, while not bad, feels severely underwritten. The writer’s should’ve probably done another draft or two to truly flesh out a lot of the storytelling, because as it stands, it doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights it sets out for. And this makes it often feel a lot more boring and uninteresting than one would want a fascinating premise like this to be.

Much like the story, the characters in this story suffer due to the undercooked script. I can see what the team were going for with all of them, but they never quite get far enough to make ’em that compelling. Richie Merritt plays Richard Wershe Jr, the young man at the center of the story. He’s the closest we get to a compelling character, as he gets the biggest arc of the bunch (probably due to his status as “protagonist”). And Merritt is okay in the role. Next we have Matthew McConaughey as Richard Wershe Senior, the father of our main character. He’s a bit of a hick, while also trying to be a decent dad. As said before about other things: Good idea, mediocre execution. At least McConaughey gives a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Eddie Marsan, and more, all doing pretty well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Max Richter, and it was really good. Richter’s a talented composer, and he managed to bring some really compelling synth/piano goodness to the soundscape of this movie. It manages to take scenes that are mediocre at best, and manages to make them alright. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work fine I guess.

“White Boy Rick” was directed by Yann Demange, and I think he did an okay job with it. There are scenes in the movie that I think are really well directed, but then there are also scenes that I feel are a bit drab in execution. Again, it’s kind of a mixed bag in execution, which unfortunately really brings me out of the experience. There are scenes where Demange’s directing truly shines, and I applaud those moments. But there are times where it dips too, which is a shame.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 59% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 59/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,4/10.

“White Boy Rick” has some decent elements to it, but in the end is a disappointment. It has an undercooked story, less than compelling characters, good performances, really good music, and okay directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “White Boy Rick” is a 4,78/10. So despite some bright spots, I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “White Boy Rick” is now completed.

Mustache McConaughey.

Movie Review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

If you were to ask me for perfume related advice, then I’d simply tell you that you’d gone to the wrong guy. All I can say “this one makes my nose burn” or “this one doesn’t make my nose burn”. So you better go ask someone else. But if you wonder about a perfume related movie, then I’d be happy to assist.

Mesdames et Messieurs… “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) was born with an insanely powerful sense of smell, putting him on a quest to make perfumes. But as he searches for that ultimate scent, he starts spiraling a dark and sinister path from which there is no return. This setup shows a lot of promise, and even has some moments that could make for excellent drama. And yet I never gave a shit about anything going on throughout the story. That’s not to say I was bored, or that anything was outright bad, because it was all perfectly watchable. It’s just that the storytelling felt quite flat and lifeless. I’m not sure how else to explain it. The tale itself is interesting, but the way that it’s told just never felt like it had any actual purpose or even interest in adding actual depth to proceedings.

The characters, like the story, have interesting enough setups, but in execution falls somewhat flat, only really being elevated by the actors playing them. Ben Whishaw is excellent as Grenouille, giving a mesmerizingly restrained performance that was hard to take my eyes off of. Dustin Hoffman is really good as Grenouille’s cantankerous mentor. Alan Rickman is great in his role. Really, every actor in this kills it. Just wish the material they were given had more life to it.

The score for the movie was composed by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, and Tom Tykwer, and I thought it was quite good. It’s quite eerie, but also has an underlying sadness to it, making for a somewhat haunting soundscape that helped in keeping my attention through the movie.

Based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Süskind, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” was directed by Tom Tykwer, whom I think did a mostly great job. Where the screenplay (which was co-written by Tykwer, Andrew Birkin, and Bernd Eichinger) falters at times, they often make up for it with the production values. Tykwer’s otherworldly direction makes for an almost hypnotic experience, especially when combined with Frank Griebe’s breathtaking cinematography, which often had me going “wow”.

“Perfume” has gotten mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 59% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10.

“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” may have a lifeless narrative and slightly underdeveloped characters, but I can kind of recommend it if you want to experience great acting, music, and cinematography on a rainy Sunday. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” is a 6,08/10. So while heavily flawed, I can still say that it could be worth renting.

My review of “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” is now completed.

Meh.

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

As a self-proclaimed fan of this director, you’d have thought I’d gotten to this movie sooner. But sometimes life is a bit more unpredictable than that, Skipper.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dunkirk”.

1940, World War 2 is going on. British, French, and Belgian forces have been surrounded by the Germans, stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk. And we follow people on the various fronts as they try to sort this situation out or simply survive. Simple setup, good setup… but there’s something about the overall narrative that just didn’t fully click for me. I wasn’t ever bored, and I was invested in what was going on… so why didn’t it ever click fully for me? It’s so close to reaching the greatness status, and yet something feels like it’s missing. There are some fucking terrific moments of tension and drama throughout, and they are really effective. But there’s something about the connecting thread that just never crossed that final line for me. Again, the plot here is pretty good, if not quite on the level it could be.

This movie doesn’t exactly have the deepest characters ever, but I still knew enough about them that I could at least somewhat care about them as chaos happened around them. Sure, I couldn’t really tell you anything about them, but I could still see them, recognize them, and know who they were in relation to the narrative (the soldier boy, the boatman, the pilot, etc.). But what I can say is that all the actors are terrific in their respective roles. Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, James Bloor, Mark Rylance, Barry Koeghan, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and many more, they all did a great job.

The score for the movie was composed by Hans Zimmer, and mother of god, this man can do no wrong. His score has a way of generating genuine suspense, blending ear-grinding strings, heavy brass, ominous synthesizers, and even a ticking clock. The score maintains a rising sense tension throughout, and it’s simply spectacular.

“Dunkirk” was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, one of my favorite directors. And he did a damn job with it all. While Zimmer’s score carried a lot of weight in terms of building suspense, Nolan of course brought a lot to that too, with a lot of clever camerawork that really made the soldier just feel small, like they’re just a minor cog in the machinery of war… like they could be taken out all of a sudden, which creates some really good tension. And when combined with Hoyte van Hoytema’s amazing cinematography, you get some truly breathtaking sequences.

This movie has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 94/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10. The movie won 3 Oscars in the categories of Best film editing, Best sound editing, and Best sound mixing. It was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best cinematography, Best original score, and Best production design.

While I don’t really love it as much as a lot of people, I still think “Dunkirk” is a damn fine movie. It has a pretty good plot, okay characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dunkirk” is an 8,62/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Dunkirk” is now completed.

Am I gonna get in trouble for not giving this movie a perfect score? Should I barricade my house?

Series Review: Peaky Blinders – Season 5 (2019)

Yes, I finally got the opportunity to catch up. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d know that I’m a big fan of this show. I’ve reviewed every season (*not so subtle nod*), and I’ve loved each and every one of them. So now we got the question: Does the latest outing land on that list, or is it somehow a big pile of disappointment? Let’s have a look.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Peaky Blinders” season 5.

1929. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) tries to balance his life as a politician with keep tabs on his family business, all the while antagonistic forces, including fellow politician Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), fight against his every move. More scheming, more violence… more “Peaky Blinders”. And I’ll be up front about my thoughts, I loved the plot this season. There’s a lot going on, making episodes feel very dense, but it’s handled in such a smooth and clever way that you never get lost. The tone also feels darker and more dire than before, partly due to it being set during one of the toughest times in modern history (the depression), but partly also because it focuses so heavily on Tommy’s rapidly deteriorating mental state. There wasn’t ever really a moment in the season where it felt like I could figure out what was gonna happen next, due to clever and subversive drama that was brought to life by the spectacular writing. I was on the edge of my seat for all six episodes, and I adored every minute of it.

The characters of season 5 are just as flawed, nuanced, human, and interesting as they’ve ever been… maybe even more so, due to developments in the previous season and in this one. Seeing Tommy go so far down in the abyss this season was enrapturing, and Cillian Murphy is once again fucking amazing in the role. Arthur has possibly had the biggest arc in the entire show, and it’s interesting to see him at this point in his life, wonderfully portrayed once again by Paul Anderson. Helen McCrory is still an absolute badass as Aunt Polly. Sophie Rundle, Finn Cole, and Harry Kirton all kill it once again in their roles. Aidan Gillen was once again great as Aberama Gold. Let’s talk newcomers. First up we have Sam Claflin as Oswald Mosley, who apparently was a very real person. Now, I can’t speak to how accurate Claflin’s portrayal was to the real deal, as I am neither old nor British. I can however talk about his role in the show. He’s a level-headed, scheming, and highly intelligent conservative politician, clashing with Tommy’s ideology and work at multiple points, making him a most dangerous opponent, even without guns or violence. And Claflin is great in the role. Then we got Anya Taylor-Joy as Gina, the recent wife of Finn Cole’s character Michael. It’s not clear at first what purpose she’ll serve within the show’s dramatic developments, but soon enough you’ll find out, and she’s made an intriguing part of the cast. And Taylor-Joy does a good job in the role. The entire cast is fucking great, yo.

As with previous seasons of “Peaky Blinders”, season 5 relies on a lot of licensed music to add to its storytelling, mainly within the hard rock and blues-rock genres. When I first heard it back in the day, I was very much taken aback by it. But now it’s so ingrained in the show’s identity for me that I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are also a few tracks made for the show, brought to us by Anna Calvi, and those are good too.

Series creator Steven Knight handled writing for all the episodes, with Anthony Byrne handling direction on all six episodes, and Si Bell doing the cinematography. And the craft is the best the show has ever given us. Plenty of impressive camera movements suck us further into the character drama, with some gorgeous wide shots on occasion to make us go “Wow!”. The show’s always been impressive from a craft standpoint, but they’ve truly stepped up their game this time around.

The show/season has of course been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it… exists. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.8/10 and is ranked #54 on the “Top 250” tv list.

I think it comes as a surprise to absolutely fucking no one when I say that I loved season 5 of “Peaky Blinders”. It’s a darker season that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout all of it, furthering my investment in the characters. It has a great plot, fantastic characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Peaky Blinders” season 5 is a 10/10 (fuck yeah). So of course it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Peaky Blinders” season 5 is now completed.

If you haven’t (for whatever reason) watched this show, THEN BY ORDER OF THE PEAKY FOOKIN’ BLINDERS, YOU WILL.

Series Review: Invisible Heroes (2019)

History is full of interesting situations. Some get adapted, some remain untouched. So let’s talk about one I hadn’t heard about before.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Invisible Heroes”.

1973. Finnish diplomats Tapani Brotherus (Pelle Heikkilä) and Ilkka Jaamala (Ilkka Villi) find themselves located in Chile, trying to save the lives of many people during a massive coup started by the anti-socialist military. As we go through the series, we see all kinds of parties that are involved in this situation, from the diplomats, to resistance fighters, to international politicians, and how all their actions affect not only the overall plot… but each other’s plans too. And it is absolutely riveting. I have a soft spot for political dramas/thrillers, so this already had my attention during the first few minutes. Luckily for me, it managed to hold that for all six episodes. It’s less of a “Jack Ryan” type of thriller where it’s all about actions, but more about the people involved, making decisions to do something. And the way that all their various schemes intersect makes for some really compelling tv.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall just really interesting. Pelle Heikkilä (hey-key-leh, if you need help with pronunciation) plays Tapani Brotherus, a Finnish diplomat and family man/our main-main character. He’s generally a good man, wanting to always help everyone and be a decent dude, do what’s right. But what makes that even more interesting is seeing his ideology get clashed with at every turn due to the intentions of other parties. And Heikkilä is great in the role. Next we have Ilkka Villi as Ilkka Jaamala, Brotherus’ colleague. He’s a bit more skeptical to some of Brotherus’ actions, looking at things a bit more practically, while still generally wanting the same things as his colleague. And Villi is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Sophia Heikkilä, Aksa Korttila, Mikael Persbrandt, Juan Cano, Sönke Möhring, Néstor Cantillana, Cristián Carvajal, Paola Lattus, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Timo Hietala, and I thought he did a good job with it. It does a good job fitting the Chilean setting while also creating the right emotions for the politically driven drama. ’tis good.

Based on a true story, “Invisible Heroes” was written by Mika Kurvinen, Tarja Kylmä, and Manuela Infante, with directing handled by Mika Kurvinen & Alicia Scherson. And the craft in this show is stellar. The creators manage to create a show that can put the viewer on the edge of their seat with very few actual means, because they zero in on the importance of these people and how they act in this overwhelming situation. Yes, there are violent situations in this show (all of which are tense and unsettling), but they are never the sole focus of the show, and come in at just the right times. And to complement the great directing, we have some really good looking cinematography done by Harri Halonen.

This show doesn’t exist on most of the sites I use. But on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Invisible Heroes” is one of the better Scandinavian productions I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Invisible Heroes” is a 9,72/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Invisible Heroes” is now completed.

These guys aren’t invisible, I can see them right there, on my screen. False advertising, 0/10.

Movie Review: Coming Home (2014)

Sometimes life is complicated.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Coming Home”.

Set during and after China’s cultural revolution, the story follows Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) and Feng Wanyu (Gong Li), a devoted loving couple who get separated when Lu Yanshi gets arrested and thrown into a labor camp. But when he returns years later, his beloved does not recognize him. So we follow the two as they deal with this situation. What we have here is a melodrama that could feel pandering and very dull in lesser hands, but thanks to a well constructed script in tandem with a confident and talented director, it manages to become quite a powerful tale that managed to rip out my fucking heart more than once. But it’s not just an emotional family drama, as it’s also a sociopolitical critique, which gave me an interesting look into a historical period I didn’t really know about. Blending all these elements makes for a really compelling story that has gained a spot in my heart.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall simply fascinating to follow. Gong Li plays Feng Wanyu, the main lady in our story. She’s a bit split at first, because she wants to love her man, but also don’t want to be arrested for being associated with him due to the political climate of the era. And what we learn about her throughout the movie is quite interesting, especially when put contrasted against the other characters. And Gong Li is fantastic in the role. Next we have Chen Daoming as Lu Yanshi, the man sent away who later comes home (there’s your title reference, whoop-de-doo). He has a fantastic arc in this movie that is utterly compelling, and Chen Daoming is fantastic in the role. We also get Zhang Huiwen as the daughter of our two mains, who has an interesting dynamic with the two, with Zhang Huiwen giving a really good performance. So yeah, this is quite well acted.

The score for “Coming Home” was composed by Chen Qigang, who I think did a really good job with it. It’s not used too much throughout the movie, but when it shows up, it’s quite emotionally effective. It’s heavily based in strings like violins (and a little bit of cello), with the occasional bit of piano for good measure. And it makes for a sound that is as heartbreaking as the story.

Based on “The Criminal Lu Yanshi” by Yan Geling, the movie was directed by Zhang Yimou. And while I can’t say anything how this fares compared to the book, I’d still like to say that Zhang Yimou did an excellent job in the craft here. Based on the little I’ve seen from him before (namely “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”), he’s a very visual director. This movie isn’t without dialogue, but it often relies more on the subtle emotions of individual scenes rather than just blatantly expositing what the hell is going on in the characters’ skulls. What helps bring this to life even more is the cinematography by Zhao Xiaoding, which is absolutely beautiful, and helps sell the vibe of the movie incredibly well.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 81/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

While the slow and deliberate pace of “Coming Home” might scare away some people, I found the movie to be a heartbreaking and engrossing drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and terrific directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Coming Home” is a 9,64/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Coming Home” is now completed.

Since we’re talking about Zhang Yimou, let’s put some pressure on distributors. I’ve been waiting for his latest movie, “Shadow” to come out here for quite a while. Where is it, yo? Gimme.