Series Review: Fargo – Season 4 (2020)

How I’ve waited for this season to drop. I am a huge fan of this show, loving every season so far. So I was of course anxiously waiting for this one to start airing. It was even supposed to air this spring, but then it got delayed. But it finally started this Autumn, and now it has wrapped up. So let’s talk about it!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Fargo” season 4!

Kansas City, 1950. We follow two crime syndicates, one an African-American group led by Loy Cannon (Chris Rock), and the other an Italian gangster family led by Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman). And as we follow their struggle against each other, a bunch of other interesting figures get involved in both their own dealings, and the antics of the syndicates. From a nurse (Jessie Buckley) with some shady secrets, to a policeman with PTSD and OCD (Jack Huston), to a devoutly Mormon U.S. marshal (Timothy Olyphant), all kinds of colorful figures occupy this season of “Fargo”. The story in this is a lot more straightforward than some of the previous ones, being less strange than some of the previous outings. But with this said, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot going on. Because this season has more threads going on than one might at first assume. And while I am more often than not interested and entertained by everything going on, I do feel like the storytelling here is the weakest of all the seasons. That said, this season has a bunch of great parts, and when this season is on top, it’s fantastic. But then there’s a fair amount of times, especially towards the middle of the season, where it loses a bit of steam for me. It does lose some of its momentum in those parts, but never enough to be considered outright bad. The overall package here is till solid.

Where the storytelling falters at points, the characters remain the best part of this show. All are colorful and nuanced and really fascinating. And the cast is fantastic too, featuring top tier work from people like Chris Rock, Jessie Buckley, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw, Timothy Olyphant, Jack Huston, Salvatore Esposito, E’myri Crutchfield, Andrew Bird, Jeremie Harris, and many more.

As with previous seasons, the score was composed by Jeff Russo, and as per usual he did a fantastic job. It’s a little eclectic in its instrumentation, creating a lot of different sounds for different scenes, and I love it, it works so well within the colorful canvas of this show. And the handful of licensed tracks used throughout work quite well too.

All episodes of “Fargo” season 4 were co-written by series creator Noah Hawley, with direction by a whole batch of cool people. And the craft here is just as stellar as before. There’s a lot of energy within the directing, crackling in a way that feels wholly unique to this show. All of it wrapped up wonderfully in some really beautiful cinematography.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.9/10 and is ranked #36 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While it’s my least favorite iteration of the show so far, season 4 of “Fargo” is still a damn fine season of tv. It has a good story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Fargo” season 4 is an 8.78/10. So while it is pretty flawed, it is still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Fargo” season 4 is now completed

Is Olyphant gonna get typecast as a marshal for the rest of his career?

Series Review: Yellowstone – Season 3 (2020)

This show is fascinating to me. It’s never been one of my favorites, but I always feel compelled to come back to it when a new season airs. It’s like Al Pacino says in “Godfather Part 3”: Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. So let’s see if this third season is any good.

Ladies and gents… “Yellowstone” season 3.

It’s summer in the valley, and everyone of the Dutton clan is slowly settling back into their lives after the tumultuous events of season 2. But just when the characters think they might be able to take a breather, a seemingly friendly, yet cunning businessman (Josh Holloway) starts making moves to get hold of the Yellowstone ranch for his own businesses. And as per the norm with this show, things start escalating from there, both for the Duttons themselves, and for the people around them. When this season started, something fascinating happened. I felt fully invested in what was going on. In previous seasons that was a little hard at times, either due to weird pacing or overbearing melodrama. But for the first few episodes there was no real sign of that. It felt like new life had been breathed into the show. But then towards the middle the show fell back into that aforementioned pit for a bit. But towards the end it really swung up to greatness again. But I do think the story on the whole this season is really strong. While the things I didn’t enjoy in previous seasons occur, there’s certainly less of them this time around. And when this season isn’t wallowing in some of that melodrama, then it is fucking fantastic. The dark moments are truly dark, the stakes feel truly high, and when a moment wants to leave a visceral impact, then it really does. Again, it’s still not a perfect line, but it’s damn close to getting there.

The characters in this are flawed, colorful, fascinating, and quite entertaining. The returning main cast of Kevin Costner, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Luke Grimes, and Kelsey Asbille all give great performances, and we get to see their characters develop in some really great ways. Returning supporting cast of people like Jefferson White, Brecken Merrill, Cole Hauser, Forrie J. Smith, Gil Birmingham, Denim Richards, Ian Bohen, and Mo Brings Plenty are all great too. Let’s talk about newcomer Josh Holloway, who plays Roarke, a well spoken, outwardly friendly businessman who creates some tension for the Dutton empire. At first he seems like a breath of fresh air, compared to the sliminess of Danny Huston’s Jenkins or the intensity of Neal McDonough’s Beck. But then he barely has any real presence within the narrative. Roarke’s shareholders and attorneys and such take up more space than him, and it almost makes him feel like he has little place within the story. Holloway does a good job with his performance, but the characters just kinda fizzles out in interest over time. So main antagonist aside, the characters here are great.

The score for this season was composed by Brian Tyler and Breton Vivian, and I think they did a really good job with it. The score retains that pseudo-western vibe that we’ve come to expect, and uses it to create a compelling soundscape that works really well for the show. There’s also a bunch of licensed songs used throughout, and they work pretty well too.

As with the previous two seasons, all episode of “Yellowstone” season 3 were written by Taylor Sheridan, with some other cool people directing. And the craft on display here is of course top notch, they’ve really come into their own in this department. The direction is confident and bold, really capturing the sweeping scale of the setting, all without sacrificing the intimacy to the characters. And this helps keep every scene feel somewhat interesting, even if the writing may dip a little bit. And the cinematography by Jim Denault and William Wages is terrific. It’s just well crafted, yo.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 83% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.5/10.

While not perfect, season 3 of “Yellowstone” is still a massive step in the right direction for the show, giving us the best season so far. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Yellowstone” season 3 is an 8.88/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

My review of “Yellowstone” season 3 is now completed.

Yeehaw.

Series Review: Yellowstone – Season 2 (2019)

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first season of this show. And now the second one has come to an end over here. So I guess that means I should talk about it. So here we go.

Ladies and gents… “Yellowstone” season 2.

We once again follow rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) as he tries to protect his land from opposing forces, new and old. All the while his three kids (Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley) deal with a lot of personal issues of their own, while there’s also stuff going on with the people working for John. So now we have a more “Yellowstone”… in all the ways that entails. On one hand you do get a lot of that epic crime-drama that the show mostly sells itself on, and that shit is insanely compelling, always riding a line of grey morality perfectly, giving us some truly great tv at times. Buuuuuut then it also wallows a bit in family melodrama. At times that stuff doesn’t bother me, as there are points when it’s decently well handled. But then there are times when it sort of just drags the show down, and makes it kinda boring at times. I don’t need the crime-drama stuff all the time, but the family drama here isn’t always that great. So overall the story is pretty good. Flawed, but solid.

The characters here are flawed, layered, and quite interesting. Kevin Costner returns as John Dutton, the aging patriarch of this family. He has to come to terms with his own age a bit this season, at the same time as all this crazy shit happens around him, and it’s pretty interesting. And Costner is once again really good in the role. Luke Grimes returns as John’s son Kayce, a father who has to deal with some issues with his wife and son, while also having to manage his new role at his father’s ranch. And while I had slightly mixed feelings about him last season, he kinda grew to become my favorite this time around. And Grimes is really good in the role. Kelly Reilly returns as Beth, John’s take-no-nonsense daughter who often acts as a bit of a wild card, even if she is a bit more restrained this time around due to development from last season. And once again, she’s an interesting character, with Reilly giving a great performance. Wes Bentley plays Jamie, John’s lawyer son, and holy shit, he gets some actual development this season. They made Jamie interesting! And Bentley is great in the role, even if he still constantly scowls like someone shat in his backyard. Cole Hauser returns as Rip, the ranch hand/resident tough guy, and he’s once again great in the role. The stuff with returning antagonists Danny Huston and Gil Birminham is still solid. And new antagonist Neal McDonough, he’s pretty good. We of course also get supporting performances from people like Kelsey Asbille, Brecken Merrill, Jefferson White, Forrie J. Smith, Hugh Dillon, Ryan Bingham, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As with season 1, the score for season 2 of “Yellowstone” was composed by Brian Tyler. And it was once again good. Tense, emotional, and fitting of the semi-western tone that the show goes for. It’s solid stuff that fits the various scenes it’s used in.  There’s of course also a lot of licensed music used throughout (especially from the band Whiskey Myers). And that music works well enough for the respective scenes they get used in.

The show was created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, with Sheridan staying on as writer for all the episodes, but let a bunch of other cool people handle directing. And the craft on display here is generally good. A lot of nice looking shots of the sweeping vistas, some decent looking shots for smaller moments. The directing often elevates the material here, which is what makes some of those melodramatic scenes I mentioned earlier a bit more tolerable. And the direction also helps make some scenes quite suspenseful when needed. ’tis a solidly crafted show.

This show/season has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating. On Metacritic it exists, but has no overall score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,4/10.

Season 2 of “Yellowstone” reaches some great heights, but wallows enough in some melodramatic lows to still bring it down overall. It has a pretty good plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and really good writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Yellowstone” is an 8,52/10. So while not perfect, it’s still certainly worth a watch.

My review of “Yellowstone” season 2 is now completed.

Cooooooostneeeeeer.

Movie Review: Wind River (2017)

The frontier. A wild, unpredictable, and untameable part of our world. As beautiful as it is dangerous. Something that Taylor Sheridan seemingly likes to explore in his scripts.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Wind River”.

Set in the cold mountains and forests of Wyoming, we follow an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as she has to investigate the death of a young woman with the help of a local tracker (Jeremy Renner). So now we have our murder mystery that isn’t just a murder mystery. Yes, the investigation is a big focus of the movie, but the plot is also largely about the exploration of this place and the people who live there. Like with the two previous movies written by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario”, “Hell or High Water”), it sets up one basic plot, and then gives it a few extra layers to explore certain themes. So what we get here is a deep, suspenseful, emotional, haunting, and just overall intriguing story.

The characters in this are all layered, interesting, and feel quite real. Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, the tracker tasked with helping out in this investigation. He’s a skilled hunter with a tragic past that gets explored in a very interesting way through the movie. And Renner is fantastic in the role, playing the character with a very understated sadness and intensity, this is the best performance I’ve seen from him. Elizabeth Olsen plays FBI agent Jane Banner. She’s a bit of a fish out of water in this, as she’s not used to the cold, unforgiving frontier. This doesn’t make her useless, as she shows herself as quite capable through the movie. She’s tough, but she also does have a more vulnerable side, which gives her some layers (which is important to have out in the cold). And Olsen is really good in the role. Next we have Gil Birmingham as the father of the dead girl. While we don’t get too many details on him as a character, seeing him in pain and trying to cope with his daughter’s death is utterly heartbreaking and makes him an interesting enough character. And Birmingham is great in the role. Then we get some supporting performances from Graham Greene, Julia Jones, Martin Sensmeier, Hugh Dillon, Eric Lange, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, and if you’ve read any other reviews of mine where they’ve been the listed composers, you should suspect that I loved their score for this. It’s eerie, dark, emotional, and haunting, perfectly capturing the feel of the area, while also working very well for the murder mystery plot of the movie. I am slightly biased towards their music, but I do genuinely think their compositions for this movie are fantastic.

As I’ve not so subtly alluded to, this movie was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. I already liked the other movies he’s written, so I was curious to see how he’d do at directing. And I have to say that I am quite impressed. His direction is manages to be sweeping and ambitious, while still tight and intimate with the characters/situations. He also manages to build a lot of suspense throughout, especially during the final act where that tension escalates to a whole new level. But none of it ever feels Hollywood-ized, which feels quite fresh in our modern world. And the cinematography by Ben Richardson is pretty great.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,8/10.

“Wind River” is a fantastic little drama, and another great showcase for Taylor Sheridan’s writing. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Wind River” is a 9,88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Wind River” is now completed.

We’re going back to the wild frontier…