Series Review: Seis Manos – Season 1 (2019)

Is it time to talk about animation? I believe it’s time to talk about some animation. Hell, I’d say it definitely is time to do that. That’s the perk of running your own blog. No editor who can say “No, you can’t talk about animation now”.

Dames y hombres… “Seis Manos” season 1.

1970s Mexico. When a vicious gangster (Danny Trejo) starts unleashing hell upon the world, a group of varying people get brought together to try to stop him. This motley crew includes some martial artists (Aislinn Derbez and Johnny Cruz), a local cop (Angélica Vale), and an American DEA agent (Mike Colter). “Seis Manos” is fascinating in the sense that it’s a pretty eclectic mix of ideas, inspirations, and styles. On the surface it seems be a mix of crime-drama and martial arts action, but then you also start mixing in stuff like grindhouse, comedy, fantasy, body horror, eastern philosophy, and even elements of Blaxploitation. And then you of course also take the Mexican setting into account, which means a lot of that culture gets mixed into proceedings. So you’d think the storytelling of this show would be an absolute clusterfuck… but no, the crazy songs of bitches pulled it off. While it does lose a little bit of focus towards the end, I do still feel that there’s some really solid storytelling going on here. Yes, it’s eclectic, but that also adds a lot of personality to it, while still being a generally entertaining narrative to follow. It does have a fair bit of emotionally resonant drama, but it also generally serves as a fun and unusual tale that is just plain fun to follow.

The characters in this are of course based on tropes and archetypes we’ve seen before, but we do also see them played around with to a decent extent, making for some enjoyable development. Like the three martial artists Isabela, Jesus, and Silencio. One a tough but loving woman, one a big, lovable goof, and one a dark and quiet man. All three start out with that one detail and get some enjoyable development throughout. Then there’s Garcia, the local police officer who gets tangled up in this insanity. A tough but fair cop trying to prove herself while still staying true to herself. And she’s very interesting too. Then there’s Brister, a fridge of a man working for the DEA, working to take down bad guys. He’s a smart-aleck with a lot of colorful lines and a very “I don’t have time for this shit” kind of attitude, which gets tested at every turn for not only great comedy, but some genuinely interesting character development. And the villain, El Balde, is one vicious motherfucker, making for one hell of an intimidating presence. And the voice cast, containing people like Aislinn Derbez, Jonny Cruz, Mike Colter, Danny Trejo, Angélica Vale, Vic Chao, and more, all do very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Carl Thiel, and I think he did a really good job with it. Much like with the narrative it complements, the score takes inspiration from many sources. Of course it has some familiar use of strings, keys, and brass for action stuff. But there’s also some traditional Mexican stuff throughout, a little bit of 70s noir-inspired funk, and probably some other specific styles I currently forget. Either way, it’s an interesting mix of sounds that pays off in making for giving the show an interesting soundscape.

“Seis Manos” was created for Netflix by Brad Graeber and Álvaro Rodríguez, with Willis Bulliner handling the directing. It’s also animated by Powerhouse Animation, a studio that I’ve talked about a few times before on this blog (*Shameless* and *Plug*). So as to be expected, I was excited to see how this show would end up looking. And it looks really good. Character designs are charming and fight scenes are kinetic and exciting. While it isn’t Powerhouse’s overall strongest piece of animation, it’s still really well handled, giving us some terrifically directed animation/action to enjoy. Plus, we don’t get much in terms of martial arts animation here in the west, so this show delivering on that was an absolute treat for me.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

While the final act of the story is a little bit lacking in focus, season 1 of “Seis Manos” is still a highly entertaining and refreshingly unique bit of animation. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/animation/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Seis Manos” season 1 is an 8.87/10. So while flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching!

My review of “Seis Manos” season 1 is now completed.

I hope we get a season 2. Or should I say… SEISON!?

Series Review: History of Swear Words – Season 1 (2021)

This is a bit exciting. First 2021 release to be covered on the blog. Are you excited? Because I’m excited. So let’s get into it!

Ladies and gentlemen… “History of Swear Words”!

Fuck you. Don’t worry, I don’t actually mean that. But it’s an interesting phrase. Especially the first word, “fuck”. Why is it like that? Why do we use it as an expletive? Well, this show seeks to answer that. Every episode sees Nicolas Cage introducing us to a well known swear word. And then various linguist experts and entertainers come in as well to give us facts and opinions on swear words and their etymology. You’d think this premise might be a bit of a one trick pony, something that’ll get old after the first five minutes. But you (and I) would be wrong. They not only manage to keep the funny side of the premise going throughout all six episodes, but it also manages to be incredibly informative about the expletives and even language as a whole. They balance comedy and history really well to create a fun whole that is both really entertaining and surprisingly informative. And it’s also interesting when we get the entertainers coming in and giving their thoughts on each of the six curse words, as it sparks a lot of thoughts and discussions within my own head. Am I saying that this is the most nuanced and perfect documentary series ever? No. But the fact that they manage to keep it feeling fresh and entertaining throughout all six episodes deserves to be commended. By the end I felt both amused and educated. Plus, living legend Nicolas Cage makes for a really good host/presenter, so that’s a great bonus.

One thing I like about the craft behind “History of Swear Words” is just how snappy and energetic it is, despite using a lot of familiar documentary tricks. The editing is fast paced and manages to keep things from feeling stale. It also helps that they use a lot of cute little animations when explaining some of the backstories of the words. Basically the directing, editing, and all that manages to ground the show without sacrificing any of the silliness around the premise, making for a highly enjoyable whole.

At the time of writing (I am an early bird) the show has no real ratings on any of my usual sites. So I’m just gonna attach the links and you can see for yourself how the ratings may evolve over time, because I’m too fucking lazy to edit this shit later down the line. Here’s Rotten Tomatoes. And here’s imdb.

While not a revolutionary piece of media, Netflix’s “History of Swear Words” is still a highly enjoyable little piece of edutainment, featuring interesting facts, plenty of laughs, and living legend Nicolas Cage. Time for my final score. *God damn ahem*. My final score for “History of Swear Words” is an 8.73/10. So I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

My review of “History of Swear Words” is now completed.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUDGe is delicious.

Movie Review: Parasite (2019)

Well hello there, friends of the interwebs! How are you? Welcome to 2021, where dreams are made and/or shattered, and where Markus catches up on movies that everybody already have seen. So let’s go, yo!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Parasite”!

Shortly after young man Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) gains employment as a tutor for the daughter of a wealthy family, he starts scheming with his family to get them employed for these wealthy folks too. What’s fascinating about “Parasite” is that it spans more genres than the entire filmography of more directors. Is is a crime story? Yes. But it’s also a family drama. And a black comedy. And a thriller? But despite all of this, there never is any clashing as we flow through the movie. They blend together beautifully, held together by some of the tightest writing I’ve experienced in a film in recent memory. All of this making for a brilliant satire on class differences within modern day South Korea (and possibly other parts of the world), while in general also being a highly enjoyable narrative to follow on a surface level. The storytelling of “Parasite” can be enjoyed both as this deep, nuanced satire, and as a general piece of entertainment. It’s just great stuff.

The characters in this are incredibly interesting, because it’s clear that a lot of time and love has gone into making them feel as real and nuanced as possible. I believe every second of their characterization, and that makes them extremely compelling. And when you pair that with an excellent cast, featuring people like Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Park So-dam, Choi Woo-sik, Jang Hye-jin, Jung Ji-so, Cho Yeo-jeong, and more, you get some extremely engaging character work going on.

The score for the movie was composed Jung Jae-il, and it was terrific. It’s a fairly minimalist score, all things considered. It’s based mainly around piano, some strings, and light percussion, which helps give the movie a uniquely fascinating vibe that is equal parts fun and uncomfortable. And I love it.

“Parasite” was directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho, and I think he did a superb job with it. Few directors have as much control over every scene as he has here. Every moment is perfectly crafted and calibrated in a way that I seldom see in movies. I also have to take a second to praise the cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo, because it is not only ridiculously pretty, but it also adds so much to the overall storytelling, with each shot being able to convey so much about a moment. And when you take the superb editing into account, you get one of the most perfectly crafted movies I’ve seen. It’s insane how perfectly constructed this is.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 96/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #30 on their “Top 250” list. The movie won 4 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best original screenplay, and Best international feature. It was also nominated for an additional 2 Oscars in the categories of Best production design and Best film editing.

Yeah, guess I’m joining the choir in saying that “Parasite” is fucking fantastic. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Parasite” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Parasite” is now completed.

Not a bad start to my movie watching this year.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Final Part)

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen. The final part in my 12 Films of Christmas series. And honestly, it’s most likely not only for this year. While fun has been had with this series, I do feel that it’s getting a little stale. Plus, it is a little draining cranking out themed content at this rate. So consider this series retired… at least for the time being, I might get the urge to bring it back in a few years. But seeing as it’s the alleged final 12 Films of Christmas post, I thought it only appropriate to bring out the grandfather of all holiday films.

So today we’re talking about “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the acclaimed 1946 holiday drama. It follows George (James Stewart) and the many ups and downs of his life. Yeah, it’s basically this man’s life story from child to depressed businessman. It’s a fascinating little holiday tale with sads and happies and other emotions. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t find the story perfect. I do feel that it does drag a little at times, mainly in the first two acts. It’s not film-breaking, but it does bring it down a little for me. While I generally think George is a fascinating fella, and the story an intriguing and pretty nuanced one, I do feel that the film’s weird pacing hurts it to some degree.
But I can’t deny just how fucking good that final act is. That’s when the story truly kicks into high gear. That’s where the film really starting hitting me in the ol’ heart. The final act is perfect.
So yeah, I don’t love this as much as the rest of you… but I still think it’s really solid and I’m definitely glad I watched it.

On the twelfth day of christmas, this series it did die
But to this blog Markus he’ll never say goodbye

Merry fucking christmas, friends. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna take a few days off.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 11)

Only one more of these left after today. THANK GOD. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing for you guys. But writing for 12 days straight is a bit draining. So when this is over I’m gonna take a few days off. But until then, let’s talk about the penultimate movie for this series.

So for today we’re talking about a brand new movie (oh my god). That movie is “Happiest Season”, a christmas dramedy about Harper (Mackenzie Davis), a young woman who is bringing her girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) along for christmas with the family… except they don’t know that Harper isn’t gay, so the pair have to keep it a bit of a secret until Harper feels ready to come out of the proverbial closest. Cue the sneaking around, misunderstandings, emotional baggage, and personal demons. While I wouldn’t say that “Happiest Season” is the best movie I’ve seen this year, I still think it’s really solid. It handles its subject matter with a fair bit of tact, giving us a pretty nuanced take on this premise. While the movie primarily acts as a comedy, it isn’t afraid to get a bit more serious, really letting us sit with the characters and their emotions for a bit. And while I do think it gets the balance of comedy and drama down quite well, it doesn’t always hold up perfectly in that regard. When you have serious contemplations about the nature of your relationship one minute and awkward slapstick the next, it can get slightly jarring. It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it did take me out for a sec.
Also, I just have to go off on one thing for a second. Dan Levy. Dan god damn Levy. This guy is gutbustingly funny. Any time (bar one more serious part) he was on screen he made me absolutely lose it. The rest of the cast is great too, there’s not a weak link in that department… but Levy is definitely the MVP here.
So in conclusion, “Happiest Season” may not be perfect, but it’s still a really solid holiday dramedy that both made me laugh, and made me care about these characters. I’d happily watch it again next year.

On the eleventh day of christmas, I watched something gay
And hey guess what, it was truly quite good, yay

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 10)

Hello there, friends, I hope you’re doing great. Not many more of these to go. So soon enough you’ll get a break from my holiday rambling. Just gotta be a little bit more patient. Also, this post is dedicated to my good friend over at iamjacsmusings. He’s not dead or anything, he just helped me pick this one.

So today we’re talking about “Anna and the Apocalypse”, a British indie musical-horror-comedy released in 2018. It’s about Anna (Ella Hunt), a young woman who finds herself trying to survive the zombie apocalypse along with a group of other people, while also trying to find the group’s loved ones. And how will they accomplish this? By bashing the zombies of course! And also SINGING! So it’s a holiday zombie movie that also features people singing and prancing around. It’s one of the most unique mixtures of elements I’ve ever seen in a movie. Yes, we’ve seen holiday musicals. Yes, we’ve seen British zombie comedies. But we’ve never seen all those four combined before… I think, I could be very wrong. Either way, “Anna and the Apocalypse” was my first exposure to it. And it’s a fun time. It’s a breezy jaunt filled with endearing characters, fun jokes, and some really boppin’ tunes.
Now, it does struggle a little bit in the tonal department. I get that a zombie apocalypse is gonna have some serious shit going on (even “Shaun of the Dead” had that), but the shifts in tone don’t feel quite as seamless. It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it does bring it down a little bit. But with this said, it’s still a fun time.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” is a fun little zom-com-holiday-musical, and definitely worth checking out this holiday season if you haven’t already. And with that, I’ll just leave you with one of the catchy tunes in its soundtrack.

Series Review: Dragon’s Dogma – Season 1 (2020)

I love animation. I love video games. So the two smashed together should be heaven, right? Right? Why are you so quiet?

Ladies and gents… “Dragon’s Dogma” season 1.

Ethan (Greg Chun) lives a nice, relatively quiet life with his wife. This peace doesn’t last however when the entire town is destroyed and Ethan’s heart gets eaten by a giant dragon. Shortly after our hero finds himself resurrected by a mysterious magical lady (Erica Mendez), and vows to find and slay the dragon that ruined his life. It’s a mostly classic fantasy/revenge setup with elements that we’ve seen before. Where it tries to stand out somewhat though is in its storytelling… keyword being tried. The idea with each episode is that as Ethan travels the country in search of the big spooky lizard, he encounters different monsters and situations mirroring the seven deadly sins (which can even be seen in each episode title). And while they have some wonderful ideas for how that will work, I feel like they undercooked this heart steak a bit. While the show’s fast pace keeps it from getting too stale, it does hurt the storytelling. Nothing really gets to simmer. They have interesting developments and ideas within each episode, but I never feel as invested as I could be given the interesting subject matter. So instead of getting the nuanced fantasy narrative that I know the crew’re striving for, we get a story that never reaches its full potential, bar one thing in the final episode.

Where the story does falter… the characters don’t do much to help. I will say that Ethan, our main protagonist, does have some interesting stuff going on. Each episode we see some mild developments on his side, and it does make him a somewhat compelling character. And Greg Chun does a great job with his voice work there. Then we have the pawn (also known as Hannah), the mysterious magical lady I mentioned earlier who resurrected Ethan. She is a little bit of a blank slate, only there to serve as a somewhat logic-driven sidekick to Ethan. There is great potential with her character, but it’s never fully achieved. At least Erica Mendez does a good job with her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t necessarily as great though, because most of them attempt some form of British accent (‘ullo gov’nah), with a majority sadly falling flat on their face.

The score for the show was composed by Tadayoshi Makino, and I think his music here is great. It is of course based in a lot of the brass, strings, and piano we have heard in fantasy before. But Makino puts his own spin on it to some degree, making for a score that is exciting, emotional, and ear candy of the highest degree.

Based on the 2012 video game from Capcom, “Dragon’s Dogma” was animated by studio Sublimation for Netflix, with Shinya Sugai handling direction. Aaaaaand I have mixed feelings. Lookign at the overall shot composition, you can tell that these guys have a good eye, there’s a lot of good “camera” movements and nice ideas for stills. This is however brought down by the studio’s choice to go with a pseudo 3D style of animation. Now, in the few instances I’ve seen this styles pop up in other things, it hasn’t been very good. And while it certainly looks slightly less shit than some other instances of this weird 2D/3D amalgamation, it still doesn’t work. All the characters look lifeless dolls, and movements look really janky. This is almost even worse with some of the creatures in this show, who get these pretty murky textures draped over them, which makes them look really bad. There are moments of good animation however. Fleeting moments of regular, hand-drawn 2D animation. And it’s a shame that these are such brief moments, because those instances look amazing. But overall, the animation here isn’t great.

This show’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a critic rating of 100%, but an audience rating of 50%. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.3/10.

While it has a lot of potential for greatness, Netflix’s “Dragon’s Dogma” sadly doesn’t live up to the potential. It has a mediocre plot, okay characters, good acting, great music, and bad animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dragon’s Dogma” is a 4.89/10. So sadly I’d have to recommend skipping it.

My review of “Dragon’s Dogma” is now completed.

Hopefully the game’s better…

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 9)

After today’s post there will only be three parts left. Almost there, we can power through this, friends. So let’s go.

So today we’re talking about “Holiday Rush”, a 2019 Netflix dramedy about Rush Williams (Romany Malco), a popular radio DJ who gets fired just before the holidays. So he plans to find new ways to get back on the air, but in the meantime grabs his spoiled kids and moves in with his aunt (Darlene Love) just to stay safe over the holidays. Considering the cast, I expected this movie to be a straight up comedy. But no, it’s more of a dramedy, which in itself is fine. But hoo boy, I found myself bored. Due to none of the writing being particularly nuanced, along with poor pacing, you get a narrative that had me checking my watch every few minutes. Which is a shame, because there are some incredibly talented people in this cast. From Romany Malco, to Sonequa Martin-Green, to Darlene Love, to Deon Cole, you have a lot of genuine talent in this… that said, they don’t feel like they get properly used. Take Deon Cole for example. He can be extremely funny. But he gets no good jokes here at all. And before you ask, yes, there are a few genuinely chuckle-wrothy lines/moments in this. I counted three. But still, that kind of just reiterates what I said. The cast feels somewhat wasted on an undercooked script that otherwise has some decent potential.
So in conclusion, “Holiday Rush” isn’t great.

On the ninth day of christmas, I watched something quite dull
But at least no one bashed in my damn skull

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 8)

Hey there, friendos. Time for another christmas movie post. So yeah, let’s talk about it.

I can already imagine at least two of you furrowing your brow. “But MAAAAAAARKUUUUUS, Lethal Weapon is not a christmas movie, it’s a detective thriller”. Watch and learn, kids.
It’s December in Los Angeles, and aging police detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) gets forced to team up with volatile detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) to solve a complex case. Okay, the immediate plot may not strictly be about saving christmas, but there’s holiday iconography littered all over the god damn place. Christmas trees, colorful lights, other stuff… yeah. Oh, and the movie opens with “Jingle Bell Rock” playing. That aside, I do love the story here. It’s exciting and suspenseful and surprisingly heartwarming. And in the end, isn’t warmth in our hearts something we want to feel during the holidays?
I think it goes without saying how great the characters in this are. They’re nuanced and endearing and I love them to death. And so must other people too, considering this god damn movie got three sequels. Part of this comes down to Shane Black’s pitch perfect script, a dark and emotionally charged affair with hints of black humor. But largely we also love the main characters because of the excellent chemistry between Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. What they have in “Lethal Weapon” is unparalleled to this day. And the supporting cast is brilliant too, with people like Darlene Love and Gary Busey being standouts among them.
So maybe “Lethal Weapon” isn’t the traditional definition of a christmas movie, but I feel that it has enough iconography and relevant themes to warrant its status as one. It’s one of my favorite movies and I never tire of watching it.

On the eighth day of christmas, Markus watched a classic hit
 Meanwhile Danny Glover’s too old for this shit

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 7)

Only five days until this little series is over. Which also means only five days until christmas… it’s celebrated on the 24th here in Sweden, don’t argue with me. Anyhow, shall we get on with today’s holiday film?

So today we’re talking about “Arthur Christmas”, a 2011 animated holiday film from Aardman animation. Except you’d be forgiven for not realizing it was Aardman, because this doesn’t use their traditional claymation style. Anyhow, “Arthur Christmas” is about Arthur (James McAvoy), the clumsy son of the current Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent). However, when Santa misses one present, Arthur teams up with his grandfather (Bill Nighy) to deliver it, despite being told that it’s a futile quest. What we get is a charming little fantasy adventure with themes of legacy and overcoming your fears and all those other familiar things we’ve seen in family holiday films. But the execution here is really good, giving us a fast-paced and generally well-written story that I had fun with. It’s also very funny, especially whenever grandsanta (the grandfather) is on screen. He is a goofy, hammy, and a little crazy old man that serves as a comic relief, and does so really well. And with Bill Nighy hamming it up with his vocal performance, you get some absolute fucking gold from grandsanta. The rest of the cast is great too, with people like James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, and many other awesome people filling out the cast list.
I guess I should also briefly touch on what I said at the start. This is an Aardman film, except it doesn’t look like it. “Arthur Christmas” is completely CGI, with hints of the typical Aardman visual style. And while I am slightly sad about that, I’m not complaining. The movie still looks good, it’s a very well animated movie, filled with plenty of nice colors and movements.
But yeah, “Arthur Christmas” is a charming and funny little holiday adventure. I’d recommend sticking it on if you got 90 minutes to kill and want something lighthearted.

On the seventh day of christmas, Markus spent no money
Lucky for him, he could still watch Bill Nighy be funny