Series Review: The Responder – Season 1 (2022)

Sorry about the lack of posts in the last few weeks. Been running into various issues, including my laptop being dumb, the summer heat making things unbearable, and even catching the ‘rona. But here I am again, ready to share my terrible opinions with y’all again. I actually intended to get this review out a little over a week ago, but you know… aforementioned conundrums. Anyhow, British TV.

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

Set in Liverpool, the story follows first responder Chris Carson (Martin Freeman) as he works the night shift, trying to uphold order in the city, all while his own life starts to crumble. I thought the story here was absolutely fantastic, giving us a very tense and nuanced take on some familiar cop show elements. It manages to give us this dark and nuanced crime-drama, presenting plenty of suspenseful twists and developments, while also blending in elements of real police work. It’s not a glamorous, action-packed crime solving fest, and the show gains so much by showing the less clean (for lack of a better word) side of the job. And then it also does one hell of a job in developing the personal plights of Chris and the other characters, tackling things such as PTSD, addiction, and abuse, building an emotionally rich and deeply engaging web of drama. So yeah, the narrative here is great.

The characters in this are all very flawed, layered, and all feel very real. They are written with an incredible amount of nuance, that make them very compelling, and surprisingly real-feeling. First up is our main man, Chris Carson. He’s a good-hearted man who cares about people way more than he may let on, all while also being very bent, and dealing with a lot of psychological trauma from shit that’s happened to him in the past. He’s a deeply fascinating protagonist, played to perfection by Martin Freeman, who gives what might be the best performance of his career. Next up we have Rachel, a young officer who works alongside Chris. I don’t wanna say too much about her, but she has two arcs, one involving her work with Chris, and one on a more personal level, and they intertwine really nicely, making her a really interesting character. And Adelayo Adedayo who plays her is fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Ian Hart, MyAnna Buring, Josh Finan, Emily Fairn, Warren Brown, Philip Barantini, David Bradley, and more, all delivering top tier work.

The score for the show was composed by Matthew Herbert, and I think it’s really good. Low percussion, droning synths, some light stringwork, it’s this moody score that really helps emphasize the darkness of not only Chris’ situation, but also the darker side of Liverpool that we get to see. But at times it also brings out this beautifully tragic side that helps the soundscape feel even richer. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they work well in their respective scenes.

“The Responder” was created and written by Tony Schumacher, with directing duties split between Tim Mielants, Fien Troch, and Philip Barantini, and I loved the craft behind this show. It manages to feel very cinematic (and not just because of the letterboxing) while also having a very fly-on-the-wall quality to it. It somehow rides that line marvelously, having this sweeping feel without feeling flashy, giving us some of the most engaging filmmaking of this year. It’s just wonderfully crafted television.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.4/10.

So yeah, season 1 of “The Responder” is an absolutely fantastic bit of television. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Responder” season 1 is a 9.76/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

*Ted Hastings voice* Bent coppers.

Series Review: Demon Slayer – Season 1 (2019)

I really don’t talk enough about anime on this blog, which is kinda funny, because some of my first (and worst) reviews I did way back in 2014 were anime-related. But since then I haven’t really done much in that realm of entertainment. So maybe it’s time to try to remedy that.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Demon Slayer” season 1.

After most of his family gets killed by demons, Tanjiro Kamado (Natsuki Hanae) vows to become a demon slayer in order to avenge his dead family, while also trying to cure his sister (Akari Kito) who’s been turned into a demon. And thus we follow Tanjiro as he goes on this journey, training to get stronger, attempting to save people, and meeting all sorts of colorful characters along the way. At first glance, it may seem like typical action-fantasy anime fare, and in a lot of ways, that is what it is. But then we also get a lot of moments that show something deeper, something… humane. For all the magic and monsters and over the top comedy, the show’s story grounds itself by often taking the time to let dramatic beats breathe and simmer, giving a very humane and emotionally charged perspective to the predicaments and stories that Tanjiro finds himself involved in throughout the 26 episode season. And this gives the show a weight that really makes the story of “Demon Slayer” something special. Admittedly I wouldn’t call myself “hooked” by the first few episodes. They’re still quite entertaining, but since they consist of a lot of setup, they do suffer from a tiny bit of good ol’ premiere sickness. Again, they’re still really solid, so it’s not a dealbreaker, just a slight hiccup in what is otherwise a great story.

The characters in this are all fun, colorful, entertaining, and overall just insanely compelling. Much like the story, at first glance they might all cover the typical archetypes found within this kind of anime, but given a bit of time, they start to show more depth, while still being able to embrace some of those classic tropes when needed. I also think the performances in here are spectacular. The cast consists of people like Natsuki Hanae, Akari Kito, Hiro Shimono, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (who plays my favorite character), Takahiro Sakurai, Takumi Yamazaki, and many more, all doing amazingly well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina, and my god, they did an amazing job with it. Sweeping orchestrations, moody strings and pianos, some horror stings, even a bit of rock and techno-infused stuff slips in, and it’s all terrific, adding so much to the show. The opening and ending themes by LiSA (god, that stage name really hates SEO) are also really solid. The music in this show’s just all round great.

Based on the hit manga by Koyoharu Gotouge, “Demon Slayer” was brought to us by the studio Ufotable, and they just knocked it out of the fucking park here. The art pops beautifully, the movement is smooth, the colors look super crisp, and everything just has an insane level of polish that is an absolute joy to behold from start to end. The animation especially comes alive during the action scenes, all of which are dynamic, breathtaking, and very creative. Long story short: This show looks fucking amazing.

This show/season’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.7/10, and is ranked #128 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Demon Slayer” is a wonderful fantasy-action anime with plenty of heart. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and amazing animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Demon Slayer” is a 9.65/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Demon Slayer” season 1 is now completed.

I should try to cover more anime in the future. Get the original intentions back on track… albeit with less terrible writing.

Movie Review: Frankenstein (1931)

Greetings, friends. As promised every other review will be of a classic Universal monster movie from a snazzy blu-ray set I bought. So yeah… today we’re doing one of those.

Ladies and gents… IT’S ALI- I mean, “Frankenstein”.

With the help of his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) aims to perform one of the biggest scientific feats ever seen… stitching together body parts and try to animate it into a living creature. And as we all know by now, this experiment succeeds. We all know the story at this point. But how good is the execution of it? I would argue it is fantastic. You get that dark, gothic, spooky goodness, but you also get a surprisingly nuanced exploration of the line between genius science and mad science, and I am honestly surprised how much relative depth there is in here, while still being an accessible and enjoyable monster movie.

The characters in this are, much like the narrative, a lot deeper and more interesting than they have any right to be. For example, seeing the duality of Dr. Frankenstein is quite interesting, as he often teethers the line between a little mad and quite compelling and relatable. And Colin Clive is really good in that role. And let’s not dilly-dally, Boris Karloff plays the reanimated creature. And his performance is amazing. It does have some of the monster menace one expects from that look, but there is also a childlike innocence to him, making him kind of a tragic figure. Dwight Frye (who also was in “Dracula”) is really good as Fritz, the humpback assistant of Frankenstein. And in supporting roles we have Mae Clarke, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, and more, and they all do well in their respective roles.

Like with “Dracula”, this movie doesn’t really have a score. And that works well here. There is music in like the opening and end credits, but between that there’s really nothing. And for those asking “If there is no music, why still have a music section?”. Because if nothing else, I am consistent… also, I gotta find a way to waffle that word count up somehow, ya know.

Based on the 1818 novel of the same name by Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein” was directed by James Whale, and I think he knocked it out of the park. He shows here how to build a quiet intimacy with his characters, while still being able to create haunting and eerie images that add to the drama of movie. And when you mix this with Arthur Edeson’s frankly beautiful cinematography, you get one of the most visually inspired and gothically stunning movies ever.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 91/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

So yeah, “Frankenstein” holds up marvelously nearly 90 years later (blimey). It has a great story, good characters, great performances, and excellent directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *IT’S ALI-*, no not yet. My final score for “Frankenstein” is a 9,78/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Frankenstein” is now completed.

Now? Okay, cool. AHEM… IT’S ALIVE!!!

Great Music #37

Hello there, friends! I hope you’re doing well. So it’s time for another Great Music post. You know, those irregularly posted things of mine where I ramble about music I enjoy. Nothing deep, nothing analytical… just good tunes. So let’s get into it.

So last time we went for a somber ballad. But today is a little different. It’s still a song with an interesting narrative baked into it, but it’s presented in a slightly more digestible and (for lack of a better word) fun package. Today we’re talking about “I Was Just a Kid” by Nothing But Thieves.

Hailing from Southend-on-Sea in the UK, Nothing But Thieves is a rock band in a similar vein to Royal Blood. And in 2017 they released their album “Broken Machine”, an album all about how nothing in this world is perfect. On said album is “I Was Just a Kid”, a fast-paced rock tune with relatively mellow vocals on verses and loud shouts on the chorus, a combination befitting a song about the loss of innocence. Combine this with thumping percussion, driving guitar, and some nice bass to back it up, and you get a really great song. So on the surface it can be seen as just a fun hard rock tune, but if one cares to delve deeper, nuance can be found. And I guess that dichotomy is part of what has helped me appreciate it. Because I first discovered it while playing “Need For Speed: Payback”, getting pumped up by it as I tried to beat my opponents in various races. And since then I’ve learnt to appreciate its deeper meaning. So that’s cool.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Series Review: Transformers Prime – Season 2 (2012)

There are probably those in the world who would say “You’re 23, stop watching cartoons!”. And to that I say “Be quiet, fool, I’m trying to watch a cartoon”. Oh, and there will be spoilers for the end of season 1, just so you don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ladies and gents… “Transformers Prime” season 2.

At the end of the previous season, we saw Optimus (Peter Cullen) defeat the mighty Unicron. But that doesn’t mean him and his fellow Autobots get any time to rest, since they find themselves in a race against Megatron (Frank Welker) and his Decepticons to find and gather up mighty Cybertronian artifacts, all scattered across Earth. Yes, most of this season is a MacGuffin hunt, but so are all the “Indiana Jones” movies, and those are great. And “Transformers Prime” does it really well too by throwing in a lot of enjoyable character development, some clever twists, and genuinely fun sci-fi concepts. It also continues the show’s exploration of “Transformers” lore in really nuanced ways. The narrative manages to be a lot more compelling than a lot of contemporary cartoons… and a lot more compelling than the live action movies… what I’m saying is that the story here is great.

The characters here are flawed, layered, colorful, and just in general great. In season 1, they kinda started out one way, kind of being a cliche. But by the end of it, they had developed further. And they kept that going here in season 2. A lot of cartoons return to the status quo every now and then, just to make syndication easier. But none of that’s here. Character development sticks, and even gets furthered throughout the season. And the voice cast is great too. Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jeffrey Combs, Sumalee Montano, Josh Keaton, Tania Gunadi, Steve Blum, Ernie Hudson, and a few more all return from the previous season, all delivering damn good voice performances. And some of the newer additions, including the likes of Tony Todd, David Kaye, and Nolan North, are also great great.

As with the previous outing, the music for season 2 was composed by Brian Tyler, and he once again did a good job with it. It’s a big, bold, badass, brass-based score that fits the tone of the show really well while adding an extra layer of emotion to certain scenes throughout.

In my review of season 1, I praised the show’s animation for being fluid and dynamic without sacrificing much in terms of detail. Well, I can happily say that it’s still the case here. The animation is beautiful. Sure, the human characters look a bit like putty, but that’s an acceptable compromise for the titular robots. My god, they look amazing. The amount of detail on them, from parts, to shine, to wear and tear in their paint… you can tell that the crew really cared to make them look amazing. And the good animation carries over to the action too, which has plenty of exciting fights, shootouts, and chases. It’s all fluid and super fun, without compromising on any of the detail.

On imdb.com the show has a score of 7,8/10.

The crazy bastards did it. They somehow managed to give “Transformers Prime” another terrific season. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and excellent animation/direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Transformers Prime” season 2 is a 9,82/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Transformers Prime” season 2 is now completed.

Roll out…