Series Review: Castlevania – Season 2 (2018)

I am so excited to write about this. Partly because it’s another Month of Spooks review, and partly because I’ve been looking forward to season 2 of this show for over a year. And now we’re here, ready to talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Castlevania” season 2!

Picking up very shortly after the end of season 1, we once again follow Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) on his quest to find and take down Dracula (Graham McTavish). But this time he’s not alone, as he’s joined on this quest by sorceress Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso), as well as Dracula’s own son, Alucard (James Callis). So now we have our vampiric plot. And I thought the plot here was great. The first season already set up a good enough plot/foundation, but it was a bit on the short side with only four episodes. This time we have eight episodes, which means you can let things develop a bit more, which works very well for the show as I found this plot entertaining, compelling, exciting, and just overall really well told. It even managed to tug at my heartstrings a bit. Great stuff.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, really interesting, and also pretty entertaining. First up we have Richard Armitage returning as Trevor Belmont, the last member of the legendary Belmont clan. He’s kind of a sarcastic asshole, but not to a degree where I utterly dislike him, as you can tell that a lot of this comes from his broken life. Also, it’s just entertaining to see him play off of the other characters a bit. And Armitage does a great job with the role. Alejandra Reynoso returns as Sypha, a scholar and sorceress that has joined Trevor on his quest. She’s a tough-as-nails lady that is also smart, charming, and just generally interesting. And despite an accent that is weird and inconsistent, Reynoso does a really good job in the role. Next we have James Callis as Alucard, the half-vampire son of Dracula. He had a good life that then turned to shit after something happened that, and now years later he of course wants to take down his own father. Alucard is a clever, badass, fun, and just overall interesting character that I love seeing at the forefront like this. And Callis is great in the role. And finally have Graham McTavish returning as Dracula, this time having a much more prominent role than in season 1. He’s a tragic figure who has understandable motivations, but extreme methods, and I think he’s one of the most interesting villains in recent years. And McTavish is fantastic in the role. We also get some supporting performances from people like Theo James, Peter Stormare, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Emily Swallow, Matt Frewer, Jaime Murray, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As with season 1, the score here was composed by Trevor Morris, and it is utterly fantastic. It’s big and bombastic, but it’s also subtle and contemplative. Badass, but also emotional. His score, which utilizes brass, strings, choirs, and sometimes even synth, perfectly fits into each scene and elevates it all to a whole different level.

Based on the classic video game franchise of the same name, and written by Warren Ellis, this might be the most well crafted video game adaptation of all time. It has a lot of fun nods to the games, while still working on its own if you haven’t played them. The animation here is great. The designs look great, and everything just has a crisp quality to them that I like.  And holy shit, the action scenes in this are utterly fantastic, being fast-paced, fun, badass, and brutal as all hell… so much blood. What I was a bit surprised by this season is just how funny it was. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a comedy series in the slightest, but there’s a fair bit of humor spread throughout the season, and I found it all to be really funny without taking away from the darker and more dramatic parts of the show.

The season just came out, and doesn’t have so much data on my usual sites. It exists on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, but has no score as of writing this review. But on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

Season 2 of “Castlevania” takes what was good about the first season and ramps it up to fucking 11. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic writing/directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Castlevania” season 2 is a 9,90/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Best video game adaptation ever? Damn right, it is.

Series Review: Altered Carbon – Season 1 (2018)

So it’s a new sci-fi series? From Netflix? Sign me up!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Altered Carbon” season 1.

In the future people have found a way to sort of cheat death by transferring their consciousness from one body to another. Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is a man who gets to experience this as he’s brought back to life in a new body. And soon he’s hired to solve the murder of a very wealthy businessman (James Purefoy). And as Kovacs begins investigating this murder he soon notices just how deep and twisty this whole thing gets. So now we have our cyberpunk story. And is it any good? Yeah, it really is. Not only is it a complex whodunnit with plenty of twists and turns, but it’s also a journey of identity and life. I mean, with people more or less being able to cheat death, it’s got to lead to some interesting questions. And these explorations are quite interesting, and meshes quite well with this cerebral murder mystery. The only flaw I have with it is that it can get a little bit meander-y at times. For the most part it has a good focus on what the hell it’s doing, but there are times where the pacing meandered a bit too much. Luckily these meander-y bits aren’t too frequent, so it doesn’t kill it to much for me. So overall this is a really solid plot.

The characters here are layered, flawed, damaged, and just overall quite interesting. Joel Kinnaman plays Takeshi Kovacs, the cool guy at the center of this story. We learn quite a lot about Kovacs and his backstory throughout the season, and we see him get some decent development as it moves forward. And Kinnaman is great in the role. Martha Higareda plays Kristin Ortega, a cop that Kovacs runs into throughout the season. She’s a tough, take-no-nonsense kind of character that still shows a fair bit of vulnerability throughout, adding to her layers. And Higareda is really good in the role. Then we have James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft, the very wealthy businessman whose murder Kovacs has to solve. And I hear you asking “How could Purefoy get any acting/character development if he’s dead?”. Simple: His consciousness got put in a new body. He is the one that hired Kovacs to solve his murder. This isn’t a spoiler, it’s something you learn very early in the first episode. Either way, his character is slightly weird and seems a bit shady and is just an interesting addition to the cast. And Purefoy is good in the role. Then we have Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliot, a man that Kovacs runs into throughout the plot (and kind of starts working with). He’s damaged and has some things in his past that clearly trouble him, but he isn’t some broody and overly serious character, he feels fairly realistic. And Essandoh is great in the role. And the final one I want to go slightly in-depth with is Chris Conner as Poe. Poe is the manager of the hotel that Kovacs stays at throughout the season. While he is intended as a slightly less serious character than the others (often having a lot of funny moments), he still works well dramatically speaking. And Conner is really good in the role. As for the other characters in the show, they are interesting in some way, but I don’t wanna ruin it for you. But I can say that we get some really good supporting work from people like Kristin Lehman, Hiro Kanagawa, Antonio Marziale, Tamara Taylor, Adam Busch, Matt Frewer, Cliff Chamberlain, Will Yun Lee, and many more.

The score for “Altered Carbon” was composed by Jeff Russo, the man who also did the music for “Fargo” and “Legion” (two awesome shows). And once again he has killed it with the music. Sure, it clearly takes inspiration from “Blade Runner” (which we’ll get back to in a bit), but it still does enough differently to feel fresh. It’s tense, emotional, and just overall great. There are also a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout the season and they work quite well within their scenes, improving said scenes quite a bit. So yeah… this show has good music.

Based on a novel by Richard K. Morgan, this show was created by Laeta Kalogridis and written/directed by a whole bunch of people. And in terms of direction this show is excellent. The direction here is stylish and sweeping, but still tight and tense. And now we get to the bit that I alluded to before… visually speaking this has a lot of similarities to “Blade Runner”. At least when we see the skyline or follow the characters on the streets, it all looks a lot like Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. That said, I’m not bothered by it since that seems to be the general aesthetic of cyberpunk fiction. And I just generally like it… it shows that a lot of time and love went into crafting this show. That and an obvious fuckload of money. You can really tell that Netflix went balls out with the budget, wanting to make this as extravagant as possible. The props, sets, and CGI are all absolutely fantastic. My breath was taken away at a lot of the visuals here. And the action scenes in this are all really good. They’re tense, badass, and really well choreographed. From shootouts, to melee combat, to a chase or two… the action here is really good. Oh, and violent… really violent… many gallons of blood. So if you’re squeamish you might have have a hard time watching this. There’s also a lot of nudity. So if you hate naked people, don’t watch this. But yeah, this show has some good production value.

The show just came out, but it has already pretty good reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 65% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,9/10.

“Altered Carbon” isn’t for everyone, but I sure as shit liked it. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography/action/effects. Sure, the pace meanders a little bit at times, but it’s not too bad. Time for my final score. *Pew*. My final score for “Altered Carbon” season 1 is a 9,52/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Altered Carbon” season 1 is now completed.

“Blade Runner? Never heard of it!”

Series Review: Castlevania – Season 1 (2017)

I’ve been anticipating the release of this show for a while. From when the teaser poster and such was released, to when the first trailer dropped, it all seemed like it could be good. Could Netflix bring us a good video game adaptation? Well, let’s find out.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Castlevania” season 1!

After his wife gets burned at the stake, Dracula (Graham McTavish) unleashes an army of dark creatures upon the city of Gresit. So when Trevor (Richard Armitage), the last surviving member of the Belmont clan, shows up in town he has to try and save the city from this evil. So now we have our medieval fantasy. And while it’s only four episodes long, they manage to develop the story pretty damn well. They manage to establish backstories without getting too heavy with the exposition. And it actually creates some solid drama at times, giving the world and plot a little extra weight without sacrificing the fun and interesting fantasy elements of the plot. There’s also time dedicated to showing what a bunch of dicks members of the Christian church was at the time. Sure, there were no actual demons back then, but a lot of the bullshit they’re up to here actually happened in real life. So yeah, it’s a surprisingly layered story that stays true to the source material while still making it feel fresh and different.

The characters here are all pretty interesting. Trevor Belmont as a character is kind of an arrogant asshole, but he’s actually given a good reason in the show, so he’s not just an ass for the sake of being an ass. And you can tell that despite his arrogant façade, he is a good person (and badass warrior). And Richard Armitage is great as the character. Dracula doesn’t appear much in the show, but his presence is always felt. I also like that he’s not just a generic evil-doer that just wants to kill people because he’s the villain. They give him good motivation for doing it, making him a much more interesting antagonist. And Graham McTavish (again, despite not showing up a lot) kills it in the role. We also get Matt Frewer as a bishop who’s a huge dick, and Frewer is great in the role. We also get Tony Amendola as an elder that Trevor runs into/befriends, and Amndola is really good in the role. Really, every actor heard in this show does a good job.

The score for the show was composed by Trevor Morris, who also did the score for “Iron Fist” (*cough* read my review *cough*). And while that was good, I think this score is even better. The music in “Castlevania” is dark, eerie, epic, badass, cool, and just overall fits the dark and haunting atmosphere of the show. Morris composed some really solid stuff here.

“Castlevania” was produced by Adi Shankar, animated by Powerhouse animation & Frederator studios, directed by Sam Deats, and written by acclaimed comic book writer Warren Ellis. And it’s, as I’ve made pretty clear, an adaptation of the “Castlevania” video game franchise from Konami. And in terms of animation/direction, this show is very well handled. The animation is beautiful in a dark and haunting way, perfectly helping to create a dark and often eerie atmosphere for this show. The show shines especially in the action scenes which are badass, intense, and quite brutal. And I really mean it when I say brutal, there’s blood and dismemberment in this show. So yeah, this show has some fucked up visuals throughout, which I do think works for the show. Still… don’t bring grandma.

Seeing as this is a pretty niche show that just came out, there’s not much in terms of reception on the sites I tend to use. Keep in mind, i only report the reception as it is at the time of review… I refuse to edit. Anyhow, it does exist on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, but it has no critic scores at the time of this review. But it does have a score on imdb.com (based on very few votes at the time), and it is an 8,7/10.

Season 1 of “Castlevania” is one of the best video game adaptations available out right now. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great direction/animation. The only minor flaw I have is that it is so short (four episodes), but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Time for my final score. *Stabs demon*. My final score for “Castlevania” season 1 is a 9,65/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Castlevania” season 1 is now completed.

There is a season 2 planned… for 2018… fuck.