Series Review: Chernobyl (2019)

Usually I make some kind of cute remarks in these intros that relate to the thing I’m reviewing. But in this case I just can’t. There’s nothing clever I can say. So I guess we should just get into the review itself.

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… “Chernobyl”.

The Chernobyl power plant, Ukraine, April 1986. It’s in the middle of the night. The people working the plant notice something going awry. The core has exploded. So we follow in the aftermath of that, showing how it affects the people either working the plant or trying to stop it from getting worse. We also get to see how scientist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) tries to figure out ways to fix it, while dealing with all the red tape of the Soviet government. So now we have our historical drama. And man, this is a fucking masterclass in storytelling. Sure, it doesn’t give you any major twists or turns, but it instead takes the relatively straightforward events and tells them in a very nuanced, respectful, and anxiety-inducing way. There isn’t a scene in this show that didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. It may not technically be listed as horror, but it sure as hell felt like it at times.

The characters in this all feel layered, flawed, nuanced, realistic, and overall very interesting. Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, the scientist put in charge of trying to fix the whole conundrum of the Chernobyl explosion. He’s one of those people who tries to make sense of everything, but also gets frustrated when people won’t listen to him. And it’s interesting to see him go through the various issues he has to deal with in the series. And Harris is fantastic in the role. We also get performances from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Barry Keoghan, Con O’Neill, Paul Ritter, David Dencik, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for “Chernobyl” was composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, and it was fantastic. It’s dark, it’s eerie, it’s emotional, it’s anxiety-inducing… it’s exactly the kind of score that is befitting of the storytelling. So yeah, it fits quite well.

Based on the horrifying nuclear disaster in 1986, the show was created and written by Craig Mazin, with Johan Renck directing. And the craft behind this is stellar. The direction is always eerie, never letting up any of the suspense. It’s claustrophobic, but also intimate with its characters, really bringing you into their personal struggles. And the cinematography by Jakob Ihre is quite eerie too.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,7/10 and is ranked #1 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“Chernobyl” isn’t a fun show… but it is quite fantastic. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Chernobyl” is a 9,94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Chernobyl” is now completed.

You know what’s interesting? The guy who wrote this show also wrote the “Hangover” sequels and some of the later “Scary Movie” entries.

Series Review: The Expanse – Season 2 (2017)

As some of you might remember, I reviewed the first season of this show a couple of weeks back. You might then also remember that I kind of loved it. So, now that season 2 is watched, the question is: Is it any good? Let’s find out. Oh and by the way, there will be some spoilers for season 1 here. So if you haven’t seen that first season, maybe go catch up and come back. Or you just don’t care. Anyhow, let’s get on with the review.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Expanse” season 2!

After they discovered the Protomolecule and succesfully escaped from Eros, the crew of the Rocinante (Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham) and detective Miller (Thomas Jane) are once again out in space. So now they have to find out who/what’s behind this infection and also if there’s a way to fully stop it. We also once again follow Chrisjen (Shohreh Agdashloo) as she navigates the tough world of politics, trying to keep the tense relationship between Earth and Mars from brewing into a full blown war. I’m not gonna dilly-dally too much… fuck me, the plot here is fantastic! The conspiracy/mystery behind the Protomolecule that Holden and gang have to solve is extremely fascinating and helps give a bit more depth to the universe. And the political side of the plot is extremely interesting, adding a surprising amount of tension to everything that happens throughout the 13 episodes. That’s right, this season is 13 episode long instead of 10. Increasing the amount of episodes like that can sometimes go poorly, but here they handle it spectacularly. It is overall a bigger season in every sense of the word, and while “bigger doesn’t mean better” can apply to a lot of situations, this isn’t one of them… the expansion of “The Expanse” (HA!) is very well handled.  The plot here is dramatic, exciting, suspenseful, intense, and just overall fantastic!

The characters in season 1 were already quite interesting, and here in season 2 they get even more development, and not just singularly, but the relationships are developed a bit more too. Steven Strait once again played Jim Holden and while he at times can seem a little dumb in his decisions, he’s still an incredibly interesting character. And Strait is great in the role. Dominique Tipper returned as Naomi Nagata, a very clever woman who can let her emotions get the best of her at times. And Tipper is great in the role. Cas Anvar returned as Alex Kamal (my favorite character in season 1), the Martian-born pilot of the Rocinante. Like in season 1, he is quite a funny character, but he’s also given a lot of good dramatic moments that really helps make the character even more compelling, and Anvar is great in the role. Wes Chatham returned as Amos Burton, the Roci’s resident knucklehead. But he’s not just a big, dumb piece of bicep, he is also a character that clearly cares about his friends. And after he experiences something in the season (no spoilers), he gets some dramatic weight to him. And Chatham is great in the role. Shohreh  Aghdashloo returned as Chrisjen Avasarala, the extremely interesting UN politician. She knows how to cleverly mainpulate people to get her will across, without seeming like a villain. And Aghdashloo is fantastic in the role. Thomas Jane returned as detective Miller, the stubborn man out to do his job. I don’t wanna say more about him because there’s some spoiler-y stuff. So I’ll just leave that by saying that Jane is really good in the role. Now let’s talk about the newcomer of the season. This season introduced us to Roberta “Bobbie” Draper, a Martian soldier who goes through some shit. She’s played by Frankie Adams and she’s great in the role. We also get some killer supoorting performances throughout from people like Jared Harris, Chad L. Coleman, François Chau, Hugh Dillon, Shawn Doyle, and various other actors.

The score, like in season 1, was composed by Clinton Shorter and it’s just as great as season 1. Dramatic, tense, epic, cool, and it just overall fits the show perfectly. Really, there’s not much else I can say here.

Like I said in my review of season 1, this show was created by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby and written/directed by a whole bunch of people. Season 1 was very well directed, making use of the claustrophobic ships, the futuristic/shit towns, and the big, open space to create a tense atmosphere. And they nailed it once again, making perfect use of their sets/environments. And the shots look great, with some interesting cinematography. And yes, there are some shootouts here and they are very well handled. I also have to mention, in season 1 the effects were great… but here they really upped their game. They seem to have given the CGI some extra polish/work because holy shit, it looks even better than in season 1 (somehow). They even have space battles which are handled in a very realistic but still exciting way. This show really is pure eye candy.

This show/season has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10.

“The Expanse” season 2 manages to be both bigger and better than the (excellent) first season. It has a fantastic plot, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, fantastic directing, and fantastic visual effects. Time for my final score. *Space*. My final score for “The Expanse” season 2 is a 9,97/10. This of course means that it gets the one and only “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Expanse” season 2 is now completed.

I’m still stunned that a show this good can come from the same channel as “Sharknado” and “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus”. 

Series Review: The Expanse – Season 1 (2015 – 2016)

Space, the final frontier. Alright, that is enough “Star Trek” for now. Time to move on to a different science fiction thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first season of… “The Expanse”.

The Canterbury is a giant ship flying around in outer space collecting ice. During one of their missions they get a distress call and part of the crew gets sent out to investigate it. At the same in a different location we follow detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) as he is trying to find a missing woman who happens to be the daughter of a very important businessman. And soon we find out that these two seemingly unrelated stories might be connected somehow. So now we have a sci-fi story that actually turned out to be pretty fucking good. The story of the Canterbury crew makes for an exciting space-thriller, with Detective Miller’s story makes for an intriguing detective noir. But none of them feel out of place in any way, as they complement each other very well. The season also gives us a good look at the politics and such of this universe, which helps everything feel more deep and well realized. And the political stuff actually has a purpose in the story and it’s a welcome addition. The plot also takes a few interesting twists and turns throughout that I didn’t expect. So yeah, the plot here is great.

The characters in this movie are all interesting and get a fair amount of development over the ten episode season. Thomas Jane (sporting an interesting haircut) plays Joe Miller, a detective who’s determined to find this missing woman. And Thomas Jane is really good in the role, giving one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. Steven Strait plays Jim Holden, one of the people from the Canterbury investigating the distress call. He can often seem like he’s making dumb decisions, but the more time we spend with him over the season, the more we understand why he does that. And Strait is great in the role. Dominique Tipper plays Naomi Nagata, another one of the Canterbury crew members. She’s a tough and determined woman who wants to get the job done soon, and Tipper is great in the role. Cas Anvar plays Alex Kamal, the pilot who goes along to investigate the distress call, and he’s probably the closest thing we have to comic relief in the show. I mean, he does get some of the funnier lines in the show, but his humor never clashes with the overall serious tone of the season, and he does have serious moments in the season. And Anvar is great in the role. Wes Chatham plays Amos Burton, another member of the Canterbury crew. He’s basically the muscle of the group, I’d even say that he’s kind of a knucklehead. But he’s not a bad guy, he’s just impulsive and brash. And Chatham does a good job in the role. Shohreh Aghdashloo (aside from having one of the most unique voices ever) plays Chrisjen Avasarala, a politician on Earth, and she’s terrific in the role. Then we get a lot of solid supporting performances throughout the show from people like Shawn Doyle, Chad L. Coleman, Elias Toufexis, Jared Harris, and Jay Hernandez. So yeah, this is a very well acted show.

The score for the show was composed by Clinton Shorter and I think he did a great job. His score doesn’t really do anything original in terms of a sci-fi score, but the overall execution is great. The score is tense, exciting, inspiring, and just overall fit the show very well.

“The Expanse” was created by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and is based on the book series of the same named written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the shared pseudonym James S. A. Corey. I haven’t read any of the books, so I can’t speak on if this is a good adaptation or not, but I can at least speak on it as it’s own show. And what Fergus, Ostby, and any other writers/directors managed to create is pretty fantastic. It’s a very well directed show with a lot of suspense being created even when very little is happening. It has a cold and kind of blue look, really making it feel like a different world than our own. There are also a lot of cool sets in this show. Sure, we’ve seen very similar things before in other shows and movies and even video games, but that doesn’t discredit any of the sets on display here… because they’re great. And the CGI, especially on a TV budget, looks fantastic. Definitely some of the best effects I’ve ever seen in a TV show. And to answer your question, yes there is action in this show. It isn’t the main focus, but action does happen in this show. And when it does it is fun and exciting and badass.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 77% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10.

“The Expanse” season 1 is pretty fucking great. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, great directing, and fantastic visual effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Expanse” is a 9,93/10. Which means that it of course gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Expanse” season 1 is now completed.

Bit of “Star Trek”, a splash of “Mass Effect”, bit of detective noir and voila… good show!

 

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Remakes and reboots. Attempting to make such a thing of a beloved movie/show is qutie a gambit. Often they are hated by people because people don’t like things changing. Reboots and remakes will happen, we have to accept that. That said, you can still silently curse the people making them.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”!

Welcome to the 1960s. American CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Soviet KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to team up to stop a mysterious and villainous organization from proliferating nuclear weapons. So now we have our cold war spy plot. The idea in itself works fine, problem is that this plot in itself is executed pretty mediocrely. I was never really invested in the plot. Look, I don’t need a spy-action movie to have a deep and symbolic plot, but if it aims to have a plot, then maybe try to make it engaging on some level. And I never felt fully engaged here. Overall it is an entertaining and well paced journey that I would just call… fine.

What this movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in characters. The characters in this movie are pretty interesting and really entertaining. Napoleon Solo as a character is supposed to be this lovable rogue with a snarky attitude and tons of charm, and Henry Cavill portrays these things very well. Basically he’s James Bond if James Bond was American and more likable. Illya Kuryakin is the more serious of the two, he’s a big dude with a twitch and a fairly serious attitude. And while his accent can be a little on and off at times, I think Armie Hammer overall worked really well in the role. I also have to mention that these two main guys work very well together, they got great chemistry. Alicia Vikander plays a woman that our two heroes work with to find and stop the bad guys, and she was really good in the role. Elizabeth Debicki plays the villain of the movie and she’s good in the role. Yeah, this movie is filled with good/entertaining performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Daniel Pemberton and it was quite good. It was energetic, fun, exciting, and just overall worked very well for the movie. It even includes the classic “Guy Ritchie movie flute” as I call it. I first heard it making a very notable appearance in the score/soundtrack from “Snatch”. And it made a very triumphant return in this movie. Not complaining, just thought it would be worth pointing out. Ritchie seems to love his crazy flute.

As you probably understood from the previous paragraph, this movie was directed by Guy Ritchie, and I think he did a good job here. Like with most of his movies, he brings a lot of energy which makes scenes a lot more fun and interesting to watch. And the action scenes in this movie, they’re good. Not great, but definitely entertaining. There’s of course also a good amount of humor in this movie, and I thought it was funny… for the most part. There was one or two jokes that didn’t really entertain me here, but for the most part I thought the comedy in this movie was funny.

This movie has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a really fun spy-action-comedy movie. It has an okay plot, good characters, really good performances, great music, really good directing, and good comedy. The only thing that brings it down was the plot not being that great. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is an 8,88/10. While flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is now completed.

This was fun.