Series Review: City on a Hill – Season 1 (2019)

Crime. Don’t do it. It’s bad. I was gonna do a more clever intro, but couldn’t come up with one. So I guess we should just jump into the review.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s discuss the first season of… “City on a Hill”.

Boston, the 1990s. A group of criminals commit a big robbery. So an attorney (Aldis Hodge) has to team up with a crooked FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) to try to solve this case, which leads them down a spiral that shows us the depths of Boston’s corruption. So now we have our crime-drama. And it’s a good one. The core plot is interesting, even if the writing can be a tiny bit sloppy at times. There are also a few plot threads that, while somewhat interesting, don’t serve a bigger purpose in the story than to fill out the runtime. But when it focuses on the main story, “City on a Hill” is a compelling crime drama that entertains and intrigues.

The characters here are layered, flawed, and overall pretty interesting. Kevin Bacon plays Jackie Rohr, a crooked FBI agent that works to solve the case at the center of the story, while also trying to serve his own ego. He’s an absolute scumbag, but you can also tell that there’s some goodness left in him, somewhere, hidden beneath the booze, coke, and jackassery.  And Kevin Bacon chews the scenery quite hard, which makes for a really enjoyable performance. Aldis Hodge plays Decourcy Ward, the assistant district attorney that Rohr works with to try to solve the core case. Unlike Rohr, Decourcy is straight as an arrow, wanting to do things by the book… but starts showing cracks the more he works with Rohr. So it’s interesting to see him work the case. And while Hodge sometimes seems like he’s half asleep, Hodge generally does a good job in the role. Next we have Jonathan Tucker as Frankie Ryan, one of the people involved in the robbery that helps spark the main plot. He’s a family man, trying to steer clear of trouble, but often gets dragged into shit partly due to previous action or because of his fuck-up of a brother (Mark O’Brien). And he’s certainly one of the more compelling characters in the main cast. And Tucker is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Mark O’Brien, Lauren E. Banks, Amanda Clayton, Jill Hennessy, Jere Shea, Kevin Chapman, Kevin Dunn, Sarah Shahi, Rory Culkin, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the series was composed by Kevin Kiner, and I think he did an okay job with it. It’s a bit bland, fitting snuggly in with most crime dramas, but with enough little Celtic elements to make it fit into the Boston setting a bit more. It’s not bad, and it works well enough in the various scenes it can be heard. There are also a fair bit of licensed songs used throughout the season, and they work decently in their respective scenes.

The show was created by Chuck MacLean, with writing by a whole bunch of different people (MacLean included) and direction by other people. And overall I’d say the show is well crafted, creating some decent tension throughout, while also keeping the viewer engaged with some pretty good camerawork. And I rarely mention this, but I have to kind of mention the dialogue, because it sometimes sounds like someone on the crew read a bunch of Dennis Lehane novels and thought “I’ll make my own version of this… ON TV!”. Not complaining, it’s just something I picked up on.

This show/season has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 74% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 64/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,6/10.

While not perfect, the first season of “City on a Hill” is still a really solid crime-drama. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, okay music, and really good directing/writing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “City on a Hill” season 1 is an 8,66/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “City on a Hill” season 1 is now completed.

Boston might have one of the funniest accents around.

Movie Review: The Next Three Days (2010)

What would you be willing to do if a loved one was falsely imprisoned? How far would you go to get him/her out? Ponder this as you read this review.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Next Three Days”.

After his wife (Elizabeth Banks) gets arrested for a murder she didn’t commit, John Brennan (Russell Crowe) aims to do anything in his power to get her out. so now we have our little drama-thriller. And is this plot any good? Kind of. The idea itself is pretty interesting (if unoriginal), and there are some solid dramatic moments throughout that made me feel really invested in the story, but the plot does have some issues. For one, there are a whole load of implausibilities in this movie, situations where the outcome makes no fucking sense. And the pacing at times isn’t very good. Both of these problems drag the plot down quite a bit, but not enough to make me think that it’s total shit. Just that it could be better.

The characters here are good. There are none that I feel are bad, but not everyone gets the same amount of development. Russell Crowe plays John Brennan, the man at the center of this story. Over the movie you seem him go from the average, loving, family man to something else due to this whole crazy situation with his wife. It’s an interesting character journey. And Crowe gives a really good performance. Elizabeth Banks plays Lara, John’s wife and the woman who gets falsely imprisoned. I’m not gonna say too much about her development, as that’s best left experienced rather than explained. But I can say that Banks is great in the role. Then you have Ty Simpkins as Luke, the young son of John and Lara. Sure, he doesn’t get that much development here, but he still works pretty well among the characters. And for someone so young, I thought Simpkins did a really good job in the role. Then we have Lennie James as a cop who gets involved with all this. Again, not that much development there, but his characters still works very well within the plot here. And James is really good in the role. Then you get a bunch of really solid supporting performances from people like Olivia Wilde, Daniel Stern, Jason Beghe, Aisha Hinds, Liam Neeson, and more. It’s a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Danny Elfman, and it is quite good. It’s emotional, tense, and overall well composed. Sure, it’s not necessarily one of Elfman’s best, but it’s certainly really good. The movie also uses a whole bunch of licensed tracks throughout, with Moby being the most frequent artist used throughout. And all the tracks work pretty well for the movie to elevate their respective scenes slightly. Good music.

This movie was written and directed by Paul Haggis, and is apparently a remake of a French movie called “Pour Elle”. Now, I haven’t seen that French original, so I don’t know how accurately this represents it, but as a movie on it’s own I think Haggis did a good job. The movie is pretty well shot and everything has a pretty nice flow to it in general. He even manages to create some half-decent tension in some scenes throughout.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 51% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 52/100. Roger Ebert gave it 2,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,4/10.

While it’s not anything truly great, “The Next Three Days” is still an enjoyable drama-thriller. It has an okay plot, okay characters, great performances, really good music, and good directing. As for flaws, there are points in the plot where it’s a bit implausible, and the pacing is a bit draggy at times. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Next Three Days” is an 8,11/10. While flawed, it’s still definitely worth a rental.

My review of “The Next Three Days” is now completed.

This is the third movie in a row I’ve watched/reviewed where Jonathan Tucker has popped up. It’s like that guy is following me everywhere… and it’s a bit eerie.

Movie Review: Sweet Virginia (2017)

Not sure what to say here really. I can usually come up with some pseudo-clever intro for these relating back to the movie. But right now I got jack shi- Hey look, it’s Punisher!

Ladies and gents… “Sweet Virginia”.

Sam (Jon Bernthal) is a former rodeo star who now runs a motel. One day a young man (Christopher Abbott) checks in and the two strike up a friendship. But what Sam doesn’t know is that this young man is a drifter who recently committed a triple homicide. So now we have our little thriller movie. And while it seems like I might’ve spoiled the movie, I only told you what happened in the beginning. I gave you what you needed to know. And is this plot any good? Yes and no. Let’s start with negatives… the pacing in this movie is weird. And by weird I mean that it drags at times, which is weird because it’s a 90-minute movie. And while I have no problem with a slower pace, it really dragged at times and wasn’t necessarily the most interesting in those parts. Now for the positives. In the parts where the pacing isn’t weird, the plot is tense and has some quite interesting aspects to it. And in those parts it does embrace the more thriller-y sides of this thriller, and it makes those parts suspenseful and pretty entertaining. Overall the plot here is… fine.

The characters her range from really interesting to… just being there. Jon Bernthal plays Sam, our protagonist. While he’s moved on from his old life, you can tell that he’s still slightly troubled by those times, making him a bit more of an interesting character. And Bernthal is of course great in the role. Christopher Abbott plays Elwood, the young and troubled man that Sam befriends. He can seem like an okay dude at first, but has a propensity for violence, and I found his character to be quite interesting in that way. And Abbott really impressed me here, I thought he was great. Then we have Imogen Poots as a woman named Lila, and while Poots gave a really good performance, the character wasn’t great. You can tell that the seed for her character was planted, but it had not fully grown yet. Then you have Rosemarie DeWitt as a character named Bernadetta. Same as with Poots, her performance is really solid, but the character could’ve used a bit more work. So in summary, the characters here are inconsistent in quality, but at least the performances are great.

The score for the movie was composed by Brooke & Will Blair, and they did a good job with it. Sure, the score doesn’t do anything unique, as it has similarities to other thriller scores, but it’s still really good and it does help to elevate some of the scenes throughout the movie.

The movie was directed by Jamie M. Dagg and I think he did a good job with it. It’s tightly directed, and shots have a nice flow to them. He also manages to get a lot of good tension out of multiple scenes. The dude really impressed me in that sense. And the cinematography by Jessica Lee Gagné was really good.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,2/10.

While flawed, I still think “Sweet Virginia” is a really good movie. It has a fine plot, mixed characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/cinematography. My flaws, as previously mentioned, are that the plot drags quite a bit at times, and that a good amount of the characters are kind of uninteresting. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sweet Virginia” is an 8,45/10. While flawed, I still think that it’s definitely worth a rental.

My review of “Sweet Virginia” is now completed.

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
Sweet Virginia…

Movie Review: Sleepers (1996)

It’s kind of incredible how something that at a point seems so innocent can turn into something horrible. This theme has been explored in film multiple times, “Atonement” (a movie I reviewed a while back) is only one example. And even though we’ve seen it several times, it is still endlessly fascinating.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Sleepers”.

The story follows a group of four friends. When they were young they meant to pull a prank, but it went disastrously wrong, which got them sent to a youth detention center. There they endured brutal abuse by multiple caretakers. And this plot follows the friends before, during, and after their horrifying time at this detention center and how it affects their lives. It might sound like I’m spoiling the plot of this, but I’m really not. I give you what you need to know to understand what it’s about… but I’m keeping enough away as to not spoil it. Anyhow, is this plot good? Yes. It’s dark, disturbing, and harrowing, but it’s still interesting and kept me engaged from start to finish. It is a long movie, and it does feel like it. While I’ve watched movies with much worse pacing than this, there were still moments where the pacing dragged a little bit. But those moments aside, this is a truly engaging plot.

I’m not gonna talk too much about the characters here, because their personalities and paths are better experienced rather than explained. But in the core cast of friends we have Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Billy Crudup, and Ron Eldard. And they are all great in the roles. Then we have Joe Perrino, Brad Renfro (R.I.P), Geoffrey Wigdor, and Jonathan Tucker as the young versions of the four friends. And they all do very well in the roles as well. Then we have Robert De Niro as a goodhearted priest, and he’s great in the role. Then we have Kevin Bacon as one of the “caretakers” at the detention center, and his character is an absolute fucking scumbag… and Bacon is really good in the role. And then there’s a bunch of great supporting work here from people like Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Vittorio Gassman (R.I.P), Frank Medrano, and many more. Not a weak link in this entire cast.

The score for the movie was composed by the one and only John Williams and let’s fucking face it, the man can do no wrong. The score is emotional, tense, and just overall fits the movie very well, often taking scenes from “pretty good” to “wow” levels. Seriously, it’s great. Williams is a master.

This movie was written and directed by Barry Levinson and is based on a book by Lorenzo Carcaterra. As for the accuracy to the book, I can not attest as I have not read it at the time of writing this. But I can speak for how Levinson did in writing/directing, and I think he did a damn good job. His direction is very tight and really pulls the viewer into the scene, making you feel like you’re there with the characters. He even manages to create some decent tension throughout, which is really cool. The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus is also pretty damn good. My only real flaw within this whole “technical/general stuff” part is that there were some weird edits thrown into certain parts of the movie. I kind of get what they were going for with those small edits, but it took me out of the movie for a moment or two when it happened. It’s not enough to break the movie for me, but it does bring it down a couple of notches.

This movie has gotten a little bit of a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 74% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,6/10.

“Sleepers” isn’t an easy watch, but it’s definitely worth your time. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, I did have a couple of flaws with it. The pacing in a couple of moments dragged a little, and there were a couple of weird edits. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sleepers” is an 8,99/10. While flawed, It is still definitely worth buying.

My review of “Sleepers” is now completed.

If you sleep through this movie, I will appreciate the pun and then yell at you.