Series Review: Bodyguard – Season 1 (2018)

I may be four years behind everyone else, but I’m finally caught up on this show… so let’s talk about it.

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

The story follows police sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) who in the wake of increased terror presence gets assigned to protect highly controversial politician Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And throughout the season we get to see David try to balance a rocky home life and his duty to protect Montague, who seems to have more enemies than allies. I found the story here to be quite riveting, it’s six episodes of unrelenting tension, a grey as hell and thematically complex conspiracy thriller that constantly made me question who was on the side of whom, who can be trusted, and why certain events happen. And while it generally tries to put David and his plight as the element we’re supposed to root for, the writing does a good job of still making that feel layered and make it clear that it’s not all black and white, even for our supposed hero. And even when the show gets a little less murky about what’s going on, it still found ways of keeping me in suspense, making my heart race and stomach churn at many points. It’s a damn good suspense thriller narrative.

The characters in this are all very layered, flawed, and have a certain wornness to them, like they feel like they’ve actually been around for a while and didn’t just pop into existence when the camera first shows them. First off we have David Budd, the titular bodyguard, a former soldier and current policeman who gets put through the absolute wringer in this show, getting some of the most interesting development I’ve seen from a protagonist in a while. He’s an engaging character, with Richard Madden delivering an absolutely fantastic performance. Next is Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague, a brash, no-shit-taking, kinda manipulative politician. She has a really interesting thematic presence within the show and the way her relationship to David evolves is always interesting, which leads to a lot of the grey area I mentioned earlier. And Hawes does a great job with the role. And we also get supporting work from people like Sophie Rundle, Stuart Bowman, Ash Tandon, Tom Brooke, Nina Toussaint-White, Anjli Mohindra, and many more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Ruth Barret and Ruskin Williamson, and it is great. Utilizing a mix of classic orchestration and complexly woven electronics, the pair create a score that manages to perfectly nail home the uneasiness of every situation David finds himself on. It also has its own weird quirks at times that’ll stick in my mind for a while. For example, in one track there was this one faint ringing sound that I at first thought was a nearby car alarm, but turns out it was just the score doing something odd to ratchet up tension. So that’ll stick in my noggin for the foreseeable future. But yeah, the music here’s great.

“Bodyguard” was written and created by Jed Mercurio, with directing duties divided between Thomas Vincent and John Strickland, and cinematography handled by John Lee. And the craft here is absolutely superb, with every piece coming together to a show that somehow manages to feel both grand and claustrophobic at the same time, making the conspiracy and situation feel huge while still allowing the tension to always feel near, always in the room with you, smothering you, never really allowing you to breathe properly. It’s just some of the most chest-tensing tv craft I’ve ever experienced. Mercurio and Strickland are no strangers to this, having worked together on the anxiety-inducing “Line of Duty” before (and after) this, but it really feels like they were allowed to really ratchet up the intensity and stakes here to a scope and degree that “Line of Duty” never really seems to have had the chance to. I still adore that show, don’t get me wrong. Just saying, this just seems… bigger in a way, and it allowed them to play around more with what kinds of suspense they could craft.

This show/season 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 8.1/10.

So yeah, “Bodyguard” is a fantastic bit of suspense television. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bodyguard” is a 9.56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bodyguard” is now completed.

Apparently they’re gonna make a second season, but I have no god damn clue how they’d be able to follow on from this.

Movie Review: Spiderhead (2022)

Spiderhead, Spiderhead, is a head on a Spider’s neck. Though it is, also a, brand new film, on Netflix. Look ooouuuut… it is a Spiderheeeeeaaaad.

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

The near future, convicts are given the opportunity to reduce their sentences by taking part in some medical experiments involving emotion-altering drugs. One such convict is Jeff (Miles Teller), who soon starts to question these experiments, and their charismatic creator (Chris Hemsworth). I love this premise, it’s open to so much interesting shit. It sets itself up to be a really intriguing suspense thriller and potential mindbender. And while I didn’t hate the execution of the narrative in the movie, I did feel that it was a little undercooked. What we get works just fine, even though it never reaches the heights of its potential. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t dislike any of it, but it plays things a bit too safe to fully engage.

The characters in this are alright. Again, the script is a little undercooked and plays things safe, so they never reach the depths that they potentially could. But I also didn’t find them utterly uninteresting, just underdeveloped. But what really saves them from being walking flatlines are the actors, all of whom do a solid job here. Miles Teller is really good in the lead role. Jurnee Smollett is great as Teller’s friend inside this odd facility. And then there’s Chris Hemsworth, who is by far the best part of the movie. He is clearly having a ball playing this shady, yet highly charismatic and outwardly friendly dude. He plays it really well, and he clearly has that glint in his eye that says “I am having so much fun right now!”, which makes his performance even more enjoyable for me. The supporting cast is solid too, containing people like Nathan Jones, Tess Haubrich, Mark Paguio, Angie Milliken, Charles Parnell, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Trapanese, and it was fine. It’s this low-key, synth-based score that works fine within its respective scenes. It doesn’t really stick out that much, but it also doesn’t ruin any scene. It’s fine. There’s also a good amount of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work really well for their respective scenes, they feel well integrated into the storytelling.

Based on a short story by George Saunders, “Spiderhead” was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with Joseph Kosinski handling directing duties. And I will say, Kosinski does a damn good job directing this. His direction is slick, but never feels too perfect or glossy. One thing I really like about his directing is his usage of space. He gives the actors plenty of space to work in, while still making it feel confined and intimate, really benefitting the thriller vibes the story goes for. Really, Kosinski’s style really helps elevate this and make it a bit more watchable. And on a sidenote, the dude’s certainly having one hell of a summer ain’t he? He’s got this out on Netflix right now, but he’s also got the new “Top Gun” out in cinemas, which people seem to really like. So you know… good for him for finding work!

This movie just came out, so exact numbers can and will change somewhat. But at the time of writing it’s gotten quite a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 52% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 55/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.7/10.

While it admittedly doesn’t live up to its potential, I still found “Spiderhead” to be a decently enjoyable little thriller. It has an okay story, okay characters, great performances, good music, and really good direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Spiderhead” is a 6.32/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Spiderhead” is now completed.

Can’t wait for the sequel, Scorpionbutt.

Series Review: The Journalist – Season 1 (2022)

Journalism! I got nothing else, I thought that excited expression might inspire a more nuanced intro on the importance of journalism, but I got jack shit. So I guess we should just get into the review itself.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Journalist” season 1.

Japan, 2019. We follow journalist Anna Matsuda (Ryoko Yonekura) as she doggedly investigates suspicions of government corruption. At the same time, we follow a few of the people working within said government, seeing their personal conflicts as they deal with covering of said corruption. I found the story here to be kind of a mixed bag. It’s a slow burn investigative drama, happily showing you the tedium that comes with both the journalism and the governmental bureaucracy. And at times I do like that, for a good chunk of the show (mainly episodes 2-5) it is decently engaging. Even the melodrama in those episodes can be pretty enjoyable. First and final episodes however feel like they drag a bit, and even the better middle episodes never do anything particularly outstanding. It’s one of those narratives that shows great potential, and even does engage for a fair bit of the runtime, but never quite hits the heights it reaches for. So for the most part I enjoyed the story here, despite some of its flaws.

The characters in this are all decently interesting, working well to make the show a little more engaging. I think some of my favorite ones here are the ones who work within the government, as the show actually does an alright job of exploring their inner conflict with having to deal with some shady shit. I can also happily say that the cast in this are all great, featuring people like Ryoko Yonekura, Go Ayano, Ren Hanami, Keisuke Hoashi, Ryusei Yokohama, Shinobu Terajima, and more, all delivering damn good performances.

The score for the show was composed by Taro Iwashiro, and I think he did a really good job with it. For the most part it relies on a melancholic piano to create this serious and emotional tone that I think works really well for the show. There are also occasional strings, guitars, and percussion used for extra impact in certain scenes, and I think that works pretty well too.

Based on a movie of the same name, “The Journalist” was written and directed for Netflix by Michihito Fujii, who I think did a really solid job here. His direction has this cold, slow burn feel to it, which complements the story quite well, and even adds a surprising amount of suspense to it at times. Even in the moments where the writing doesn’t fully engage, Fujii’s direction has a way of keeping me at least somewhat interested in the scene. So yeah, he did a good job with that.

The show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic the general consensus seems to be a 60/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/10.

While it never quite reaches the heights of its ambition, and even drags at times, season 1 of “The Journalist” is still a pretty solid political/investigative drama. It has a pretty good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Journalist” is a 7.21/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

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

Come for Go Ayano, stay for… I don’t know, stuff being pretty good, I guess.

Movie Review: Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

You know what’s kinda weird? Despite being a musician since childhood, I’ve never really been a huge fan of musicals. Or I should say, live action musicals. I don’t know why, it’s just a weird quirk of mine. But on occasion there might be one that cracks my grumpy heart. Is this one of them? I guess we’ll find out.

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, gents, and non-binaries… “Tick, Tick… Boom”

The story follows Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield), a young, aspiring theater composer as he struggles to keep his life afloat, trying to balance love, friendship, and putting together his first musical. I really loved the storytelling within “Tick, Tick… Boom”. There are moments it can seem slightly scatterbrained, but I think it really adds to it, since it perfectly encapsulates just how hectic Jon’s life is. The story takes an interesting look at the man’s life as well as the struggles of trying to be creative in a world where that can’t be a guarantee of success. But what carries the story the most is the sheer amount of heart. Right from scene one, it carried this warm, sincere charm that had me immediately hooked, and carried it all the way to the ending. It’s just such a nice and emotionally resonant story that hit me in a way that I haven’t felt in quite a while.

The characters here are colorful, charming, layered, and overall just all feel very real. Something about them all made them feel like actual people and not just characters performed by actors. Our lead character, Jon, was just an absolutely endearing and fascinating character that I loved following throughout the movie. And Andrew Garfield was absolutely fantastic in the role. Then we also get supporting work from people like Robin de Jesus, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Bradley Whitford, MJ Rodriguez, and more, all giving terrific performances. It’s just a damn good cast.

The music in this was composed by Jonathan Larson, and I loved all of it. The instrumentation, the melodies, the lyrics, it all comes together beautifully to create tracks that make me want to dance, cry, laugh, rethink my life… it’s all wonderfully introspective and I think all actors brought the songs to life marvelously.

Based on the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I think he did a really solid job. His direction can be a little rough around the edges at times, but even then, it’s really good for someone making their feature debut. The man has worked with musicals in different ways for years, so he has a good grasp of how it should work, and that experience and talent does help elevate his direction a little. Speaking of musicals, I love the way the musical numbers are handled. They flow nicely, and they’re wonderfully edited, beautifully moving between people and spaces in ways that few other musicals do. So yeah, this is really well helmed.

The movie just came out, but so far it’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

“Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a fantastic little movie that I absolutely loved. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, fantastic music, and really good directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a 9.90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

I’m gonna end up listening to that soundtrack a lot, aren’t I?

Movie Review: 7 Prisoners (2021)

I’ve been trying to come up with some relevant and mildly interesting thing to put as the intro for this one, but I’m coming up short. It’s just hard when you’re talking about something covering some serious shit. So I guess we should just jump into it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “7 Prisoners”.

Mateus (Christian Malheiros) lives a rough life with his family, barely scraping by on what they have. So to be able to provide for his family, he takes a job at a junkyard in São Paolo. But he soon finds out that this new life of his is way more rough and dangerous than he could have ever imagined. “7 Prisoners” is a hard movie to watch, due to its gritty, grimy, fly-on-the-wall style of storytelling. There’s nothing flashy or filmy about it. The movie has this very grounded and real feel to it, which often makes it a really uncomfortable watch. Throughout the movie, the story tackles some very real and heavy topics in really interesting, nuanced, and often even disturbing ways. And I was utterly enthralled by it all from start to end. Maybe it could be *slightly* longer, as a few moments feel a little brief, but on the wholeI do think it’s a terrific narrative.

The characters in this are interesting, layered, and all feel very real. They have this believable, worn out quality to them, like they’re real people in this world and not actors just hopping into a role. Mateus is more or less our leading man, and he’s a really complex character, beautifully brought to life Christian Malheiros who delivers a fucking fantastic performance. Then we have Rodrigo Santoro as Luca, Mateus’ boss/warden/captor. He is a terrifying antagonist. Part of it is because he can be very intense at times, but what really brings the scariness home is that he also shows a fair bit of humanity. It makes him more layered, and that honestly makes him more terrifying to me, and Santoro is fantastic in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Vitor Julian, Josias Duarte, Clayton Mariano, Lucas Oranmian, and more, all giving great performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Felipe Puperi, and it was good. It’s a somber, moody piece that never really stands out too much, subtly complementing the low-key style of the movie. It works really well.

“7 Prisoners” was directed and co-written by Alexandre Moratto, and I think he did a terrific job. His style is very simple, gritty, and very subtle. Like I said about the storytelling, it has a very fly on the wall vibe to it. It doesn’t stick out or feel filmy, it just feels like we’re observing a very real situation and it helps really add to the sense of unease built throughout. It’s just really well crafted.

This movie’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

“7 Prisoners” is a great Brazilian crime-drama I highly recommend. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “7 Prisoners” is a 9.66/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “7 Prisoners” is now completed.

Brazil: Come for the sun, surf, and scary crime.

Movie Review: The Trip (2021)

Marriage. Should be all about love and support. But sometimes it doesn’t quite go so smoothly. I mean, I’ve never been married, so I wouldn’t know, but I am a very observant man, so I know that not all marriages are perfect. In fact, few are… fuck, got a bit real there… let’s talk about a movie.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Trip”.

While going through a bit of a spat, married couple Lars (Aksel Hennie) and Lisa (Noomi Rapace) decide to take a nice little trip to their cabin for the weekend, both unaware that they both have violent, sinister plans for the other one. In a way it is “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” via “Gerald’s Game”, and I found that to be a really fun premise. It alternates between pitch black comedy and surprisingly tense and uncomfortable thriller quite well, handling both tones quite well and making it all feel like a solid, cohesive whole, while also managing to be quite unpredictable. I do think however that the movie might be slightly longer than it needs to be. If you shaved off five to ten minutes, the pacing would feel way better. As the final product stands, it doesn’t ruin the entire thing, but it does bring it down a little bit. So overall, a solid story, if a little poorly paced at points.

The characters in this are weird, colorful, flawed, unique, and quite entertaining. It’s hard describing them without getting too much into it, but I will say that all of the characters play off of each other well and have some interesting role within the story. And the entire cast is great, in particular our two leads Aksel Hennie and Noomi Rapace. But the supporting cast is rock solid too, containing people like Atle Antonsen, Christian Rubeck, André Eriksen, Stig Frode Henriksen, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by Christian Wibe, and it was okay. Pretty standard thriller stuff, nothing that really sticks out in my mind. Worked well in the moment, but won’t be remembered afterward. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they are all full and help add to the mood of their respective scenes in really fun ways. So yeah, the music overall is pretty good.

“The Trip” (original title: I Onde Dager) was directed and co-written by Tommy Wirkola, and I think he did a great job here. He has this fun, snappy, off-kilter energy that really kept my eyes stuck to the screen, even when the movie dragged its feet a little. You can just tell that he has a lot of fun while crafting a scene, and that really helps keep it fun for the audience. But his style especially shines through in the more action-packed moments, as they are intense, fast, fun, and violent as all hell. If you’re in the mood for some really brutal and well made gore, it can be found here.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While its occasionally weird pacing does bring it down a little, “The Trip” is a highly entertaining thriller-comedy that I do recommend. It has a solid story, good characters, fantastic performances, pretty good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Trip” is an 8.01/10. So while it is flawed, I would definitely say it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Trip” is now completed.

And remember, kids: Don’t go on a weekend trip with your significant other if you’re going through something.

Movie Review: The Harder They Fall (2021)

Hello there! Now that we’re out of October and I’ve had a few days of rest, I can go back to talking about non-horror stuff for a bit. So let’s gooooo!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries. The bigger they are… “The Harder They Fall”.

When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds out that the man (Idris Elba) responsible for once causing him great trauma is getting released from prison, he unites with his old gang to track down and get revenge on this nemesis. “The Harder They Fall” is interesting in its storytelling due to how formulaic yet fresh it feels. I know, that’s a bit of a paradox, but hear me out. At the core is a very typical revenge western, something we’ve seen god knows how many times before, but then there’s a lot of times where there’s an interesting and unique spin put on one of the tropes, which keeps it feeling fresh and a little unpredictable. But then there are also other tropes that the story embraces with such gusto that those moments never feel dull or uninteresting. It manages to ride that balance between familiar and fresh beautifully, giving us a fun and engaging narrative that both entertains and engages.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, nuanced, and quite interesting. They’re all based on real people, but this isn’t adhering to any biopic format, so these real people can be used to dramatize in all kinds of interesting ways. And I found them all really engaging, with each actor firing on all cylinders. Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Lakeith Standfield, Edi Gathegi, Damon Wayans Jr, Deon Cole, Danielle Deadwyler, Delroy Lindo, they’re all fantastic, as are every other actor appearing in this.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeymes Samuel, and I really liked it. It creates a very fun and unique vibe by mixing traditional western strings and brass with elements of hip hop, funk, a little bit of jazz, and some other elements I can’t quite pinpoint. But it’s an interesting blend that may seem a little anachronistic on paper, but works insanely well within the film itself.

“The Harder They Fall” was directed and co-written by Jeymes Samuel  for Netflix, and I think he did a great job with it. Samuel has this really fun and electrifying energy to his direction, making each scene crackle in a way that keeps each moment highly engaging, while still allowing for more dramatic scenes to breathe and take their time. His style and energy especially comes alive during the action scenes, which are all kinetic, bold, and and absolute blast to watch. Adding further to the enjoyment of the movie is the editing by Tom Eagles, which maintains this snappy and fun kineticism that you don’t necessarily see in many films nowadays. It’s just an insanely well crafted film

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.3/10.

“The Harder They Fall” is an absolute treat, serving as both a send-up and subversion of the western genre. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing and editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My review of “The Harder They Fall” is a 9.67/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Harder They Fall” is now completed.

A rootin’ tootin’ good time

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…

Movie Review: Army of the Dead (2021)

Hello there, my friends, I hope you’re doing well. So now we’re moving onto the final stretch of the Month of Spooks. Only seven days left. So how are we kicking off this last week then? More zombies? Okie doke, let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Army of the Dead”.

The world has gone to shi- actually, most of the world’s fine for once. Really, Las Vegas is the only place that’s gotten fucked by a zombie outbreak. Anyhow, an enigmatic businessman (Hiroyuki Sanada) has decided to hire a group of mercenaries from all walks of life to bust into the outbreak zone and pull off a daring heist. So yeah, part heist flick, part zombie flick… and I had quite a bit of fun with it. The narrative doesn’t ever really do anything we haven’t seen in either of those sub-genres, but it instead just chooses to do them in a gleeful, bombastic, and sometimes insane way that I had a lot of fun with. Now, I’m not saying that the enjoyment was absolute, because there were a few things holding it back a little. First off, this movie is two and a half hours long, and while it for the most part moves at a clip, there are times where it drags a little. And that dragging comes from the second issue, and that’s some of the more serious drama spread throughout. I don’t mind having serious character drama in my goofy action movies, that can be surprisingly effective, but I just didn’t think it quite worked here. Had they given the script another pass and tried to iron it out more, then maybe. But as it stands, the drama just bogs it down for me a bit. Otherwise, I had fun with this apocalyptic heist story.

The characters in this are… fine? I didn’t necessarily mind them, and a few I did actually kinda like. But on the whole they all feel a little underdeveloped and like they could’ve been a little more fleshed out. But what I can happily say is that the cast itself is great. Dave Bautista is great as the tough yet kind leader, Matthias Schweighöfer is great as the comic relief safe expert, and Hiroyuki Sanada (despite very limited screen time) is as cool as always. The rest of the cast, containing people like Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwicke, Nora Arnezeder, Garret Dillahunt, Raúl Castillo, Tig Notaro, Athena Perample, and more are all great too.

The score for the movie was composed by Tom Holkenborg (AKA Junkie XL), and I enjoyed it. Nice mix of brass and electronics to create a score that hearkens back to more old school films, while still feeling quite contemporary. It’s solid stuff. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and I have slightly mixed feelings. Some work well enough and can add a nice bit of fun, but one or two didn’t fully click for me, with one specific track eliciting the biggest eyebrow raise I’ve given in a while. So yeah, the music in this is mostly good.

“Army of the Dead” was shot, directed, produced and co-written by Zack Snyder for Netflix. Aaaaand I think he did a really solid job here. The dude knows how to craft some bombastic, fun action set pieces, and he delivered on that front here. When zombie carnage is going down, Snyder cranks it up to 11. It’s generally well shot, insane, intense, and insanely gory. Speaking of which, I love the gore in this movie, as it’s not only well crafted, but also plentiful and quite creative, making for one hell of a fun time. The only thing I didn’t necessarily enjoy about Snyder’s ways here is his frequent use of shallow focus. I don’t mind shallow focus at all, and there were times where it helped create a nice shot in this movie. But he uses it a bit more than maybe needs to be done, which can be a little distracting at times. For the most part I like what Snyder does with his directing and such here, but that part was a little iffy at times.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 57/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.8/10.

While it does have its fair share of flaws, I still had a really fun time with “Army of the Dead”. It has a fun plot, okay characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/action/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Army of the Dead” is a 7.99/10. So while flawed, it’s still certainly worth watching.

My review of “Army of the Dead” is now completed.

Viva Las Veg- AH, IT’S BITING MY LEG!!!

Movie Review: Before I Wake (2017)

Good *insert the time of day you read this in here*, hope you’re doing well. Time for more spooktacular content. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Before I Wake”.

Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are a loving couple who have made the decision to adopt a young boy (Jacob Tremblay). What they don’t know however is that this boy carries a special, strange secret. The story in this movie is an interesting one, often leaning more towards a dark fantasy rather than outright horror… at least early on. Towards the later half it leans heavier on the horror elements. And I must say that I found the story here quite enjoyable. It has some interesting themes that we’ve seen discussed multiple times in works by this director, and while this isn’t his most engaging or nuanced take on the subject matter, it’s still a generally well written and enjoyable narrative that managed to creep me out a few times.

The characters in this are alright, not the most deep or interesting ever, but they work well for the story. Kate Bosworth does a really good job as Jessie, Thomas Jane is great as Mark, Jacob Tremblay is of course great as Cody, the kid that the couple adopts. And then you also have an interesting supporting cast, featuring people like Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok, Kyla Deaver, Jay Karnes, and more!

The score for the movie was composed by Danny Elfman, along with the Newton Brothers (talk about one hell of a teamup), and I’d say they did a solid job together. It’s an ambient score that manages to build a fair bit of drama, helping add a good bit of emotion to certain scenes. There’s also of course some classic loud horror hits, and they work fine, even though we’ve heard that sort of stuff a kajillion times.

“Before I Wake” was directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan (hell yeah), and also has a bit of an interesting production history. Apparently Relativity Media bought the rights in 2014, slating the film for a 2015 release, but later got pulled due the company going bankrupt. Eventually after much back and forth it then landed in the hands of Netflix, who finally released it in 2017 worldwide… except for the states who got it in 2018. So yeah, it’s an interesting tale. Anyhow, back to Flanagan.
This man doesn’t miss when it comes to directing. Even in this film, which isn’t one of my favorites he’s done, he still does a damn good job. His direction has this simmering, slowly burning, often dreamlike vibe that just makes each scene a hell of a lot more engaging.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 66% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While not my favorite film from Flanagan, “Before I Wake” is still an enjoyable little horror-fantasy that I can recommend. It has a good plot, pretty good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Before I Wake” is a 7.44/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Before I Wake” is now completed.

I don’t know about you, but before I wake, I sleep.