Series Review: Vigil (2021)

I’ve talked about my fair share of British tv shows over the years. And now it’s time to talk about yet another one, let’s gooooo!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Vigil”.

Following a death on board the submarine HMS Vigil, DSI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) gets sent aboard to investigate it. But what starts out as a somewhat death investigation soon turns into a much larger conspiracy involving the Royal Navy and potentially various other, high level sectors. So it’s part mystery, part conspiracy thriller, and then also part melodrama. So let’s break things down a little, starting with the mystery and conspiracy angle. At the off-set it feels fairly grounded, just a standard Beeb cop drama of a death being investigated, and as it goes on it becomes more complex, more improbable, and even a bit silly… and I liked that. It’s a conspiracy thriller right out of Robert Ludlum or or Tom Clancy’s typewriter, and there’s something about those kinds of stories I find quite compelling. It keeps it fun and engaging. Now let’s talk about the third part I alluded to earlier… the melodrama. Interspersed throughout is a backstory involving Amy and her relationship to fellow policewoman Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie). And while a bit of personal drama can add some nice weight to a show like this, it didn’t feel super well implemented in this. There are a few moments involving the two that I don’t mind, but a lot of these scenes of romantic melodrama just don’t feel as naturally baked into the show as they could be. So yeah, the story here is a little bit mixed. Mostly good, but has some things that let it down.

The characters in this are all decently interesting, sporting interesting personalities and mostly having interesting dynamics between each other. But what really makes them stand out is the cast. Every actor in this cast is at the top of their game, bringing the characters to life beautifully. Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans (my personal standout), Paterson Joseph, Stephen Dillane, Daniel Portman, Martin Compston, Adam James, Anjili Mohindra, and more, are all fantastic in this show.

The score for the show was composed by Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory, and I think it was pretty good. It’s a mostly ambient affair, taking a low-key and almost sneaky approach  to build creeping tension or have you more invested in the personal drama. And I think it works fine, it’s a decent score that works well for the show.

“Vigil” was created for the BBC by Tom Edge, with writing by him, Chandni Lakhani, and Ed Macdonald, and with directing duties split between Isabelle Sieb and James Strong. And I think this show has some strong direction. While the submarine seems waaaay bigger than an actual sub, they still find good ways of making it feel claustrophobic, which adds a little to the suspense in the scenes set down there. But even the ones set on the surface, following the investigations up there are really well helmed with good shots and editing. It’s just a well crafted show.

This show has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 75% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

While its melodramatic bits drag it down at times, “Vigil” is still a highly enjoyable, if ludicrous, conspiratorial police thriller. It has a fun plot, good characters, fantastic performances, pretty good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Vigil” is a 7.98/10. So while it’s far from perfect, I’d still say it’s worth watching.

My review of “Vigil” is now completed.

We all live in a Vigil submarine…

Series Review: The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

And here we are, my friends. The last post of Month of Spooks 2021. It’s been a fun ride, but it is time to wind down a bit. And to cap it off, we’re ending it the way we started it… with a Mike Flanagan show. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Haunting of Hill House”.

The story follows the Crains, a fractured family as they try to confront the haunting memories of what had happened to them in the past. “The Haunting of Hill House” blends a grief-driven family drama with a ghost story, and it is insanely effective. It’s difficult discussing the story and themes and general impact it had on me without delving into spoilers, but I’ll try my best. The spooky stuff is good on its own, it’s solid horror. But what carries my attention is how the family drama and character-driven subplots and the meditation on grief develops throughout, showing how everyone in this family’s been broken by the traumatic events in their past, and how they’re trying to cope with all of that. It’s a very nuanced, tender, and emotionally charged story that hit me in a way that few shows manage, even making me cry multiple times throughout. It’s a beautiful, scary, and sad story that I absolutely adored.

The characters in this are some of the most nuanced and believable I’ve seen in a show. They all feel so real and I found their personal stories and developments extremely engaging and interesting. And for the show we also have a huge cast, with everyone giving top notch performances. So I’m just gonna list them off, because I want to shout them out. So we have Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Mckenna Grace, Lulu Wilson, Victoria Pedretti, Paxton Singleton, Timothy Hutton, Anthony Ruivivar, and many more. It’s just a stellar cast all perfectly playing stellar characters.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, and they absolutely killed it, this might be my favorite work from them. They have this brooding eerie tension at times, and for a lot they go for a more somber, emotionally charged piano style that hit me right in the god damn heart, further amplifying the heartache that this show creates. It’s just excellent stuff.

Based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, “The Haunting of Hill House” was created, directed, and co-written by Mike “Let’s make sad stuff” Flanagan. Aaaaand, the man just doesn’t fucking miss. His direction here is stellar, building tension when needed, but also letting more dramatic moments breathe just the right amount for maximum emotional investment. I don’t know what to say here about his style that I didn’t mention in my reviews of “Midnight Mass” or “Doctor Sleep“, I can’t really elaborate much beyond it. The dude’s amazing. And Michael Fimognari’s cinematography is beautiful as always. It’s just an insanely well crafted show.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10, and is ranked #132 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“The Haunting of Hill House” is a masterful horror-drama, and a further showcase for why Mike Flanagan is one of the best filmmakers around. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Haunting of Hill House” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Haunting of Hill House” is now completed.

And with that, the Month of Spooks is over. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have tears to mop up. God damn it, Flanagan…

Series Review: Midnight Mass (2021)

It’s finally here, friends… THE MONTH OF SPOOKS! That’s right, Oc-fucking-tober, a month of spooktacular content! Yeah, I’m excited. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Midnight Mass”.

“Midnight Mass” follows the residents of Crockett Island, a remote little mound somewhere in America, as strange things start happening around their home following the arrival of a new, charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater). This show is at its core a character-driven drama, delving deep into themes of grief, guilt, faith, and past traumas, and I find all of it compelling. The way that this stuff is handled throughout the seven episode run is some of the most nuanced and beautiful storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in any show. This even gives extra weight to the sections which lean more on classic horror, both in terms of thematic depth and  in terms of how much suspense and terror it is able to generate. So yeah, the story here is emotionally resonant, nuanced, unpredictable, scary, and overall just fucking spectacular.

The characters in this show are all very flawed, layered, colorful, and insanely interesting to follow. All of them have some past (or present) trauma going on, and it makes for some incredibly engaging character work. What helps this further is the frankly insane cast, featuring people like Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater (who is the standout for me), Henry Thomas, Kristin Lehman, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, Annarah Cymone, and many more, all giving top tier performances.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, who absolutely knocked it out of the park with the music here. I’ve enjoyed their work in the past, but I feel like they really outdid themselves here. Of course you do have some traditional horror stings, but there are also a lot of quieter, more emotional pieces throughout the show as well, along with some frankly haunting bits as well. It manages to hit every kind of emotion possible, making for a very engaging soundscape that adds a lot to the show.

“Midnight Mass” was created for Netflix by Mike Flanagan, who also directed and co-wrote all the episodes. And I gotta say, the dude knocked it out of the fucking park with his directing here. Not that Flanagan’s direction has ever been bad, but you can tell that this was a real passion project for him just by how all out he goes with the way his shots flow, how tightly edited it is, and how just how ambitious it can be at times. Further adding to this is the cinematography by Michael Fimognari, which is beautiful and really adds to the storytelling. The special effects in this are all great as well. It’s just an insanely well crafted show that you can tell everyone involved put 250% into. I know that is mathematically illogical (and possibly impossible), but I don’t care, it’s how I feel.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.9/10.

“Midnight Mass” is an absolutely phenomenal horror show that had me glued to the screen from start to end. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Midnight Mass” is a 9.94/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Midnight Mass” is now completed.

Month of Spooks is off to one hell of a start!

Series Review: Des (2020)

Been a while since we covered a tv show, so I’m a bit excited right now. Also, don’t murder people.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Des”.

The year is 1983. Police have arrested Dennis “Des” Nilsen (David Tennant) on suspicion of homicide after human remains are found near his home. And throughout the show we follow the cops a they try to identify the various victims, as well as trying to get information out of Nilsen regarding everything he did. This is an interesting little crime drama. Now, it does fall back on a lot of tropes from these type of true crime murder mystery type stories, which is possibly the show’s biggest fault. It’s not outright bad, but the sometimes formulaic nature does take away some from it. But with this said, I did still find the story here decently interesting. It has this sort of eeriness that I feel we don’t necessarily get in similar things. I don’t know how to explain it, but the whole vibe around it just makes it a bit more interesting. And I do still think the investigation around Nilsen and his victims is a pretty interesting one, especially as we learn more about him as a person. There is also some stuff set around the bureaucracy of the investigation, which does add a decent bit of drama. On the whole I do think the story here is solid enough, just a little familiar in its structure.

The characters in this are pretty interesting. Especially our main two, who are both really compelling. First up we have Daniel Mays as Detective chief inspector Peter Jay, the man leading the investigation into Nilsen’s murders. He’s a man of principle, someone determined to see this all through, even when the higher ups try to get in his way. He’s a compelling lead, and Daniel Mays gives a really good performance. And then we have David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen, AKA Des. He’s a really frightening character. But not in a Hannibal Lecter or Annie Wilkes kinda way where they’re made to be frightening. Nilsen is frightening in how blunt and forward he is. Right from the start he’s like “Yeah, I killed them” and has no problem telling how it happened, like how you might tell your friends about your trip to Spain. He’s frightening because he is so… human. And Tennant is fantastic in the role, giving one of the best performances of his career. We also get supporting work from people like Jason Watkins, Barry Ward, Jay Simpson, Bronagh Waugh, and more, all giving good performances.

The score for the show was composed by Sarah Warne, and I think she did a pretty good job. It’s very low key, going for a somewhat eerie, almost droning sound to add to the atmosphere of the show. It really helps create an engaging soundscape within the show.

Based on the book “Killing for Company” by Brian Masters, “Des” was created by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, with Arnold directing, and Neal serving as lead writer. And I think the craft here is really strong. One thing I really appreciate about the directing and such here is how remarkably restrained they are. So many other people would probably give us the gory, graphic details of the entire situation, but the crew here didn’t. They hold back quite a bit, just giving us the explanations of everything that happened. And while too much exposition can be a bit bothersome, I feel that they found the right balance here. I must also commend Mark Wolf on his cinematography, because it’s really frickin’ good and fits the story being told really well.

This show has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

While its formulaic nature does bring it down a little bit, “Des” is still a pretty compelling crime drama. It has a good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Des” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s definitely still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Des” is now completed.

Symphony of Des-truction…

Series Review: The Good Lord Bird (2020)

We all agree that slavery was one of the worst things in human history, right? Alright, good. At least we’re on the same page on that.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Good Lord Bird”.

The story follows Henry “Onion” Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a young slave who gets freed by abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) and then joins his merry band of freedom fighters. And we follow Onion as he follows along on Brown’s crusade to free the slaves. What I found fascinating about “The Good Lord Bird” is the interesting use of of tonal shifts to tell its story. While at its core it’s a serious drama about the liberation of shackled people, the writers use a surprising amount of comedy throughout, which adds quite a bit of nuance to proceedings. But it’s not just a tonally unique slavery drama, but it’s also largely a coming of age story, since we get to see how this young boy gets to evolve while following along with Brown’s crusade. And while this sounds like it could be quite messy, it really isn’t. I found the story here to be utterly engrossing and entertaining, having me utterly engaged throughout the seven episodes.

The characters in this are colorful, flawed, surprisingly layered (like an onion, HA!), and really entertaining. Joshua Caleb Johnson plays Onion, the young slave who becomes part of Brown’s gang. He has quite an interesting and highly enjoyable personal arc in this, while also serving as the audience in this story, being our look at Brown and his antics. And I think Onion is a really fun protagonist, with Johnson giving a great performance. Next we have Ethan Hawke as John Brown, preacher and abolitionist. He is a fascinating individual, being really passionate about the emancipation of the slaves. And when I say passionate, I mean PASSIONATE, borderline fanatic. His heart is of course in the right place, it’s just that he’s maybe also a bit gung ho about it all, making his methods seem a little insane at times. But that’s what makes him such a fascinating character. And Ethan Hawke is terrific in the role, selling every bit of Brown’s eccentric personality wonderfully. We also get supporting work from people like Beau Knapp, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Ellar Coltrane, Mo Brings Plenty, Nick Eversman Daveed Diggs, and many more, all giving top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jamison Hollister, and I thought it was really good. If you’ve heard a western score in the lat 30 years, you probably know what you’re getting. A fair bit of strings, high energy, and just a vibe that says “this is a fun western”. There’s also a fair amount of licensed songs used throughout, and they work surprisingly well in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on the novel of the same name by James McBride, “The Good Lord Bird” was developed for Showtime by Mark Richard and Ethan Hawke, with writing and directing by a whole load of cool people. And the craft on display here is superb. Usually when I watched a tv show, even ones on high budgets with super talented crews, I can still usually tell by how it’s shot that it’s a tv project. But I don’t really get that feel here. They’ve taken careful steps to make sure it blurs the line between cinema and television with their shots and camera movements here. This comes partly from Peter Deming’s beautiful cinematography, and partly from the directing which crackles with energy and feels so lively. This doesn’t mean that anything feels rushed, because the crew really know when to slow down and let moments simmer, creating a perfect balance between the fun, the emotionally charged, and the exciting.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 84/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

“The Good Lord Bird” is a highly entertaining, fascinating, and unique take on slavery-themed drama, and is one of the best shows of 2020. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Good Lord Bird” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Good Lord Bird” is now completed.

Ethan Hawke has two modes in this show: Low grumbly growling and PASSIONATE, THROAT-RUINING SCREAMING.

Series Review: Dracula (2020)

Look, I know that the Month of Spooks is over, so I should logically take a break from horror stuff for a bit. But I’ve been watching this recently, and I have some shit I have to say about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dracula”, the Netflix/BBC adaptation.

Transylvania, the late 1800s. Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) finds himself recounting his less than pleasant stay with Count Dracula (Claes Bang) to a kindly, if sassy nun (Dolly Wells). As we go through the three episodes of this show, we get to see what happened before, during, and after Jonathan’s meeting with this nun. And the narrative in this show is quite fascinating, because it fluctuates wildly in quality… sort of. Episode 1 is honestly fantastic, a scary, fun, and emotionally engaging way to bring us into this new take on a classic tale. Episode 2 isn’t as fantastic, but it’s still a really solid episode of television. Then episode 3 completely shits the bed. There are good ideas within that episode, but the drop in quality is still ridiculously vertical. How do you go from one of the most exciting and electrifying new horror-dramas around to that mess, that quickly? I don’t know. But while that last episode can be classified as bad, what came before is good enough that I can’t give the show/story too much grief. Two thirds being this good has to count for something. And it does. I can still say I liked a lot of the story on display, even if there’s still that one final chunk that tarnished the overall package.

The characters in this are fascinating, because some of them are really fascinating and engaging, and some of them are in episode 3 (I’m being a salty bitch, aren’t I?). Let’s start with the Count himself, played by Danish actor Claes Bang. He is one charismatic motherfucker, manipulating people with his charm, wits, and general presence. And Bang is absolutely amazing in the role. Next is Dolly Wells as Agatha, the nun I mentioned earlier. She has quite a fascinating presence within the narrative that I won’t spoil, because it’s genuinely interesting. But what I can say is that Dolly Wells is great in the role, and has some excellent chemistry with Bang when they get to verbally spar. John Heffernan is great as Jonathan Harker, Morfydd Clark does an okay job as Mina. And we get some great supporting work from people like Sacha Dhawan, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Aris, and more. Many actors do a really good job, and some aren’t great (guess where they were).

The score for the show was composed by David Arnold and Michael Price, and I think they did a fantastic job with it. That’s right, no shade thrown here, just admiration for good compositions. Their music here is creepy, intense, emotionally charged, and just overall helps add to a lot of scenes throughout the three episodes.

Based on the classic Bram Stoker novel, “Dracula” is a Netflix/BBC collaboration written and created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (who also gave us “Sherlock”). And as discussed before, the writing takes a bit of a dive in that final episode. But leading up to that, this is a well written show. And the directing, split up between Paul McGuigan, Damon Thomas, and Jonny Campbell, is generally great. There’s a good sense of pacing to the directing, no shot or moment lingers too long or too briefly. And when paired with the beautiful cinematography, set design, and visual effects, you get one of the most visually arresting tv shows I’ve had the pleasure of looking at. Speaking of visual stuff: There’s some really brutal and grisly body horror going on throughout this show, and it is awesome. Kudos to the crew for going all out on that.

This show has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 70% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

While it does end on a sour note, “Dracula” still has enough good stuff to warrant a recommendation. It has a mixed plot, mixed characters, great performances, great music, and excellent directing/cinematography/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dracula” is a 7.12/10. So while it is heavily tarnished by that final episode, I can still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “Dracula” is now completed.

One, two, three episodes. Ah-ah-ah!

Series Review: The Comey Rule (2020)

Politics, a clusterfuck of ideologies clashing. I will never find myself truly understanding it, but I’ll do my best. So anyhow, let’s talk about a political drama.

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 gents… “The Comey Rule”.

The story follows FBI director James Comey (Jeff Daniels) as he and his team investigate allegations of Russia attempting to meddle with U.S. politics leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election. So yeah, we’re dealing with sensitive shit here. And I honestly think the storytelling here isn’t great. And before you accuse me of some political bias, no, stop. The story here feels like it skims over a lot of details, like it only plays the “greatest hits” of those strange times. And even those moments feels rushed, so as to get onto the next one. There are admittedly moments I do like in the series, most relating to Comey’s reaction to certain events, and I was also never bored. But the storytelling feels incomplete and undercooked, making for an unmemorable and hollow experience, despite the potential for a great narrative.

The characters in this are whatever… yeah, that’s it. I don’t think they’re the most uninteresting necessarily, but like the story they feel slightly underdeveloped. Jeff Daniels plays Jeff Comey, a hard-working, kind, well spoken man who also happens to be the director of the FBI. He’s our main focal point throughout the very short series, and we do get to know him decently well, and he’s a pretty interesting character. And Daniels is great in the role. Brendan Gleeson shows up in this too playing Donald Trump (oh dear), and it’s uncomfortable how fucking good his performance is. We also get really solid acting from other people like Holly Hunter, Scott McNairy, Michael Kelly, Steven Pasquale, Shawn Doyle, Amy Seimetz, Oona Chaplin, Jonathan Banks, Brian d’Arcy James, Jennifer Ehle, and many more. So yeah, mediocre characters, great performances.

The score for the show was composed by Henry Jackman, and it was pretty good. It’s overall well composed and could fit in almost any drama… and that’s the issue here. It doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t say “THIS is the Comey Rule score!”. It just says “Drama!”. I love Henry Jackman, but just like any other person, you can’t always hit a homerun.

Based on “A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey, “The Comey Rule” was created, written, and directed by Billy Ray, and I have mixed feelings here. I am a fan of Billy Ray’s previous works, he’s made two movies I’d happily put in “best of the year” lists. I do however feel like this isn’t as strong as those. A lot of scenes are nicely helmed and have this beautiful cinematic quality. But then there are also times where Billy Ray wants to hammer home a point so hard that his imagery is a bit too abrasive. And let’s not talk about the inconsistent color grading. Sometimes it looks somewhat believable, if mildly exaggerated to create a beautiful cinematic image… but then there are times where it looks insanely artificial and bafflingly bad. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that some of it came from rushed production… but it’s hard to tell.

This show has gotten mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 64% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

“The Comey Rule” is a disappointing biopic that at times does entertain. It has a meh story, meh characters, great performances, pretty good music, and mixed directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Comey Rule” is a 5.9/10. So while very flawed, I can still kinda recommend watching it.

My review of “The Comey Rule” is now completed.

*sigh*. So much missed potential.

Series Review: Devs (2020)

Technology is fascinating. The way it’s evolved in the past hundred years alone is fucking insane and amazing. And I am always fascinated by how they use it for storytelling. So let’s see if this little tech-drama does that well.

Ladies and gents… “Devs”.

When her boyfriend disappears after starting work at a mysterious tech department, Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) starts investigating what happened, leading her down a dangerous and complex path. Talking about the plot of “Devs” without revealing too much is challenging. It’s a nuanced show that tackles a fair bit of complex and mature subject matters in interesting ways. The show’s slow pace might test the patience of some people, but I feel like it adds to the storytelling, as it gives a lot of moments time to breathe. It’s a clever little thriller that’s more about the brains than pure thrills, making for a unique kind of cerebral experience that we haven’t seen much of in tv before.

The characters are flawed, layered, and interesting. Sonoya Mizuno plays Lily, our protagonist. She’s a computer engineer with some baggage, trying to deal with the recent developments in her life. Seeing her develop throughout the show is quite interesting, and Mizuno does a really good job in the role. Next we have Nick Offerman as Forest, the enigmatic CEO of the tech company at the center of the story. He’s generally a quiet and kindhearted dude, but who carries some shit with him that makes him a bit more complex in his morality. And Offerman is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Jin Ha, Alison Pill, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Cailee Spaeny, Zach Grenier, Karl Glusman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, with assistance from experimental jazz group The Insects. The score has a very interesting vibe, at times sounding a little “Blade Runner”-esuqe, but never feeling like it’s ripping that off. The sound is very dreamlike, helping in create a really unique and eerie vibe that stays with the viewer after an episode ends.

“Devs” was created, written, and directed by Alex Garland for the FX network, and I think he did a great job with that stuff. His directing is slow and very deliberate, going for that almost dreamlike vibe I mentioned in the music section. And when combined with the immaculate set design and Rob Hardy’s mesmerizing cinematography, you get one of the mot stunningly crafted shows I’ve had the pleasure of laying my eyes on in a while. There were a lot of scenes in this show that made my jaw fall to the floor. I still have trouble keeping it on when thinking about those scenes.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 70/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.9/10.

“Devs” is an excellent little tech-thriller, featuring a great plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography/etc. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Devs” is a 9,87/10. Which of course means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Devs” is now completed.

Alex Garland will basically get my time anytime he releases something.

Series Review: The Outsider (2020)

Alright, first review of an actual 2020 release. We’re finally getting into the new year properly.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Outsider”.

When a young boy is found having been raped and murdered, the evidence points to local baseball coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) having done it. But as Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) looks further into it, there seems to be more to the case than meets the eye, leading Ralph down a dark and complicated path. So now we have our dark mystery series. And I would say the story here is a really intriguing one. The way this case evolves the further we get into the show is fascinating, making for some really interesting and often suspenseful television. It’s often also quite disturbing, but in a way that serves the story and doesn’t feel like cheap exploitative crap. Now, there are parts of the show where not much happens, and that drags it down ever so slightly. I don’t mind a slow burn (hell, most of this show is a slow burn), but there’s a difference between slowly burning drama and no real development. That said, it doesn’t full on ruin the show for me… it’s still a great and chilling story.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall quite interesting. First up we have Ben Mendelsohn as Ralph Anderson, an aging police Detective who’s the lead on this case. He’s a determined man, ready for action at any point, while also dealing with some personal demons. And Mendelsohn is great in the role. Next we have Cynthia Erivo as Holly Gibney, a private investigator who gets brought in to help out with the case at a point in the story. She’s a bit eccentric, but also absolutely brilliant at what she does, making her a very valuable part of the cast. And Erivo is great in the role. Jason Bateman is good as disgraced baseball coach Terry Maitland. Bill Camp is great as defense attorney Howard Salomon. Yul Vazquez is great as fellow detective Yunis Sablo. Julianna Nicholson is good as Terry’s wife Glory. We also get supporting work from people like Paddy Considine, Jeremy Bobb, Mare Winningham, Derek Cecil, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (two names we haven’t seen on this blog in quite a while). And I think they did a great job in creating an eerie and chilling score that perfectly encapsulates the dark and creepy vibe that the rest of the creative team were going for. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout the show, and they work well enough in their respective scenes.

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, “The Outsider” was developed for HBO by Richard Price, with writing by him and a bunch of other cool people (including my favorite author, Dennis Lehane), and directing by a few other cool people (including Jason Bateman and Karyn Kusama). And this is where the show is at its best. The craft is fucking immaculate. The slow burn of the story is very much part of the directing too, and I like that, as it gives the show this cold and almost otherworldly vibe that constantly kept me on my edge to some degree. And the cinematography, split over the ten episodes between Kevin McKnight, Zak Mulligan, Rasmus Heise, and Igor Martinovic… it’s stunning. Each shot is meticulously planned, making for quite an engaging visual experience.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 69/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #192 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While it does drag a little in parts, “The Outsider” is still a damn good show that I highly recommend. It has a great plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Outsider ” is a 9/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

My review of “The Outsider” is now completed.

I need to read more Stephen King.

Series Review: Invisible Heroes (2019)

History is full of interesting situations. Some get adapted, some remain untouched. So let’s talk about one I hadn’t heard about before.

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… “Invisible Heroes”.

1973. Finnish diplomats Tapani Brotherus (Pelle Heikkilä) and Ilkka Jaamala (Ilkka Villi) find themselves located in Chile, trying to save the lives of many people during a massive coup started by the anti-socialist military. As we go through the series, we see all kinds of parties that are involved in this situation, from the diplomats, to resistance fighters, to international politicians, and how all their actions affect not only the overall plot… but each other’s plans too. And it is absolutely riveting. I have a soft spot for political dramas/thrillers, so this already had my attention during the first few minutes. Luckily for me, it managed to hold that for all six episodes. It’s less of a “Jack Ryan” type of thriller where it’s all about actions, but more about the people involved, making decisions to do something. And the way that all their various schemes intersect makes for some really compelling tv.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall just really interesting. Pelle Heikkilä (hey-key-leh, if you need help with pronunciation) plays Tapani Brotherus, a Finnish diplomat and family man/our main-main character. He’s generally a good man, wanting to always help everyone and be a decent dude, do what’s right. But what makes that even more interesting is seeing his ideology get clashed with at every turn due to the intentions of other parties. And Heikkilä is great in the role. Next we have Ilkka Villi as Ilkka Jaamala, Brotherus’ colleague. He’s a bit more skeptical to some of Brotherus’ actions, looking at things a bit more practically, while still generally wanting the same things as his colleague. And Villi is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Sophia Heikkilä, Aksa Korttila, Mikael Persbrandt, Juan Cano, Sönke Möhring, Néstor Cantillana, Cristián Carvajal, Paola Lattus, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Timo Hietala, and I thought he did a good job with it. It does a good job fitting the Chilean setting while also creating the right emotions for the politically driven drama. ’tis good.

Based on a true story, “Invisible Heroes” was written by Mika Kurvinen, Tarja Kylmä, and Manuela Infante, with directing handled by Mika Kurvinen & Alicia Scherson. And the craft in this show is stellar. The creators manage to create a show that can put the viewer on the edge of their seat with very few actual means, because they zero in on the importance of these people and how they act in this overwhelming situation. Yes, there are violent situations in this show (all of which are tense and unsettling), but they are never the sole focus of the show, and come in at just the right times. And to complement the great directing, we have some really good looking cinematography done by Harri Halonen.

This show doesn’t exist on most of the sites I use. But on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Invisible Heroes” is one of the better Scandinavian productions I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Invisible Heroes” is a 9,72/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Invisible Heroes” is now completed.

These guys aren’t invisible, I can see them right there, on my screen. False advertising, 0/10.