Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

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 show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Movie Review: Shattered Glass (2003)

Fake news. A topic often brought up in our current environment, especially by a certain cheeto-colored individual. Sometimes what is referred to as “fake news” is just a certain asshole not agreeing with the truth. Other times the call is warranted.

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… “Shattered Glass”.

Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) is a young man who’s made quite a name for himself by writing very successful articles for various magazines, with his main base being the New Republic. But his life will soon get unraveled, when some other journalists start looking into one of Glass’ articles, finding clues to it potentially being fabricated. So now we have our fake news drama. And I was completely riveted by it. The plot here keeps a fairly brisk pace, but never do the degree where it skims over important details, which makes it both a dramatic, in-depth look at this situation and a generally enjoyable watch.

The characters in this are layered, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass, the man at the center of this story. He’s smart, charming, and excellent at bullshitting people in conversation. But when the pressure starts coming down on him, you start seeing the cracks in the glass. And Hayden Christensen is REALLY GOOD in the role. The reason why I emphasized that was because he’s caught so much shit for his acting in the “Star Wars” prequels, that I have to really be clear that he can be a really good actor. Next up we have Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Lane, one of Glass’ co-workers. He is one of those that kind of partakes in unraveling some of the clashing aspects of Glass’ articles, and he’s just really interesting. And Sarsgaard is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Hank Azaria, Rosario Dawson, Cas Anvar, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score was composed by Mychael Danna, and it was good. I wouldn’t call it that much of a standout, but it worked well enough within the movie, focusing more in smaller piano pieces than anything else, which I think just fits the various scenes well enough.

This movie was written and directed by Billy Ray, and I think he did a great job with it. What I like about his style here is that it often feels less like some small personal drama, as it often feels a bit more like a political thriller in execution. And that helps keep the movie feel a bit more exciting, it adds a bit of tension to it, which is nice as it makes it stand out a bit. But when it needs to slow down and focus more on the character drama, then Billy Ray’s direction delivers beautifully on that too.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

“Shatterd Glass” is a fascinating and engaging look into a very interesting situation/person. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Shattered Glass” is a 9,78/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Shattered Glass”.

Need a movie relevant to today’s society? Here you go.

Movie Review: Jarhead (2005)

*Ron Perlman voice activated*. War… war never changes. *Ron Perlman voice deactivated*.

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… “Jarhead”.

Anthony Swofford is young man who recently enlisted with the United States marines. And we follow him in the time leading up to and during Operation Desert Storm, and how much damage it does to him psychologically. There’s a lot of interesting scenes throughout that does develop the story, and I was somewhat interested in everything that was going on. But I never really felt as engaged as this type of story should’ve gotten me. There was never that emotional hook that a story like this should be able to get. Now, I’m not saying it needs to make me cry, just that it needs to grab me and hold onto me really tightly… which it never really did. I remember some really well done moments throughout, but never was I fully invested in it all. Overall, a fine story.

The characters in this are all assholes… but in a believable way. I really believe that this is what one would become if going through all of that. And I find them all to be quite interesting. Jake Gyllenhaal (as previously mentioned) plays Anthony Swofford, a smart young man who goes through the ups and downs of marine life. Seeing a good guy like him tested like this is quite interesting, and it makes him a pretty compelling character. And Gyllenhaal is of course fantastic in the role. And throughout the movie we get supporting performances from people like Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx, Evan Jones, Brian Geraghty, Lucas Black, Chris Cooper, Dennis Haysbert, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score was composed by Thomas Newman, and it was pretty good. It takes some inspiration from rock and a few middle-eastern influences, all of which comes together to create an interesting atmosphere for the movie. It’s tense, fun, and just overall pretty cool. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout the movie, all of them pleasing to the ear, and all of them working quite well in their respective scenes.

This movie was directed by Sam Mendes, and I think he did a good job. When he wanted to make me feel uneasy, he made me feel uneasy. When he wanted to build some suspense, he built some suspense. Mendes has a good eye for these things. And speaking of seeing things, the cinematography by Roger Deakins? Absolutely fantastic (what else would you expect from that man?).

This movie has gotten some slightly mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 61% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

“Jarhead” has a lot of good things going for it, but it’s far from perfect. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, it is brought down quite a bit by a lack of a good emotional hook in the story. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Jarhead” is an 8,54/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Jarhead” is now completed.

Bang a gong, get it on…

Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

mag7

Do I really need to say something? My love of westerns has been proclaimed on this blog so many times that it should be burnt into your brains by now. So yeah… let’s review a western.

Ladies and gents… “The Magnificent Seven”!

The town of Rose Creek is being held under the boot of the villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). So it’s up to a band of badasses led by Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to get over there to save the town and stop Bogue. It’s a tale that’s been told a million times. The plot in this movie does nothing new in terms of drama, but I didn’t really mind. You can tell that the plot here wasn’t meant to be an epic masterpiece that would grip us with it’s impressive dramatic heft. It’s just aiming to retell a classic plot for a newer generation without pandering to a certain demographic. And I thought the plot here was realy fun and pretty well realized.

The characters in this movie are all so fun and entertaining. Denzel once again knocked it out of the park, but there was never any doubt about that… it’s Denzel, he’s awesome! Chris Pratt was very likable and fun in his role as this gunslinger who likes card tricks and also being a little bit of a jerk. Ethan Hawke was great as troubled sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (actual name, I love it). Byung-hun Lee played Ethan Hawke’s sidekick/friend and he was really cool in the movie. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo played the outlaw of the gang, Vazquez, and he was really fun. Martin Sensmeier played the native American man Red Harvest, and he was a badass. Then we have Vincent D’Onofrio as the human bear, Jack Horne… how do I put it? He was really over the top… and I fucking loved it. D’Onofrio is an actor who knows how to be over the top in a role in just the right way, and that is exactly what was shown here… and he was awesome. Peter Sarsgaard was just the right amount of slimeball as Bogue, and he did it very well. And Haley Bennett was great as this determined young woman that hires Chisolm to help the town out. Overall, the cast was really good.

The music in this movie went through some interesting developments. It was originally set to be composed by James Horner, who had begun working on it before filming even began. However he sadly passed away before it could be officially finished, so the task was given to Simon Franglen to finish it. And the score for this movie is great. Tense, exciting, fun… perfectly fitting for the movie, really elevating a lot of the scenes. What was also kind of fun was that they played the theme from the original “Magnificent Seven” during the end credits. So you could say that the music in this movie was quite… magnificent (*crickets*). Jokes aside, rest in peace Mr. Horner… you did great and you are missed.

This movie was directed by Antoine Fuqua, a director I’m a bit of a fan of. And he proved once again that he is a really good director. This movie looks terrific, some of the shots actually made me go “Wow!”. Also, the action here is pretty badass. When action is happening in this movie, it is fast-paced, intense, fun, and awesome! There are a few standout moments in this movie, and those moments are two pretty badass shootouts. This movie was also surprisingly violent for PG-13. I’m not saying that there was a ton of blood and gore, but it gets pretty violent for a PG-13 movie. I’m not saying it gets quite as brutal as “Casino Royale”, but it is still pretty violent.

This movie has gotten some pretty good reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 63% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 54/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

“The Magnificent Seven” is an incredibly fun western movie. Is it a mindblowing and dramatically impressive film? No, but that was never the point of this film. It has a fun plot, great characters, great performances, great music, great directing, and great action. Time for my final score. *Quick draws envelope*. My final score for “The Magnificent Seven” is a 9,54/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
seal-of-approval

My review of “The Magnificent Seven” is now completed.

More movies like this, please.