Movie Review: The Wolf Man (1941)

Oh hi there, I hope you’re doing well. Our journey through the Universal Monsters box set continues. So let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Wolf Man”.

After he returns to live with his father, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) finds himself on a late night trip with a beautiful woman (Evelyn Ankers). This trip takes a sinister turn however when Talbot has a violent encounter with a wolf. An encounter that would change his life forever. While not the first movie to feature a werewolf, it’s definitely the one that set the standard for that type of story. Several tropes originated from it, and that legacy can’t be ignored. And I enjoyed the narrative here. I don’t necessarily think it’s the most nuanced or even most well told of these Universal monster stories, but I did most certainly enjoy it. The tone is the right balance between the campy monster stuff and something more somber and dramatic. The storytelling hits just the right mark for me. Nothing overly special, but definitely quite enjoyable.

The characters in this have a decent bit of nuance to them, and I found them to be decently entertaining. Lon Chaney Jr. plays Larry Talbot, AKA the man who is a wolf. And he is definitely the most nuanced character here. Seeing his arc, from smooth talking and charismatic man to someone more tragic is genuinely engaging, and Chaney Jr. is fantastic in the role. Next we have Claude Rains (the Invisible Man himself) as John Talbot, the father of our protagonist. A man of god and science, he serves as an interesting dramatic foil in Larry’s development, and makes for an interesting presence. And Rains is great in the role. We also get supporting work from Evelyn Ankers, Maria Ouspenskaya, Warren William, and Bela Lugosi (fuck yeah), and they were all great in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Charles Previn, Frank Skinner, and Hans J Salter… not often we see a trio of composers, so I’m just gonna let this moment simmer for two seconds. One, two. Okay, how was the score then? Pretty good. It was decently atmospheric and eerie, perfectly complementing the vibe the movie was going for. It’s good.

“The Wolf Man” was directed by a man named George Waggner, and I would say he did a really good job with it. Shots flow nicely into each other, and the man shows here that he haad great skill when it came to create a gothic sense of dread, without making it feel too overbearing in any sense. Speaking of gothic, I love the sets here. Yes, they often look like just that: Sets. But they’ve been coated in this dark, eerie, gothic atmosphere that just makes me so happy.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

While not a top tier Universal monster movie, “The Wolf Man” is still a highly enjoyable one. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Wolf Man” is an 8.66/10. So I’d say that it’s definitely worth buying.

My review of “The Wolf Man” is now completed.

Of WOOOOOOOOLF, AND MAAAAAAAAAN!

Movie Review: Cronos (1993)

More spooky content coming your way. And this one kind of fits within a Month of Spooks tradition. For multiple years now, I’ve covered a movie from this director. And this is the only one of his movie’s I had not seen yet. So yeah, this is exciting for me.

Damas y caballeros… “Cronos”.

The story follows Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi), an antique dealer who one day comes across a strange device. And when he activates this device, it does something to him, something that starts turning him into something… not very human. So to put it bluntly, this is a different take on vampire mythology. And I found it to be quite enjoyable. Like with most other movies by this director, “Cronos” focuses more on the heart and humanity of the situation, leaning in towards the emotional spectrum of it all. And I found myself quite engaged by that. The only parts that didn’t fully click for me is the central antagonist, who is an old, sickly man (Claudio Brook) seeking eternal life. I don’t mind that cliché being used in a story, as I think it has some merit. But the way it’s used here feels a little undercooked. If a little more time had been spent with the antagonist, allowing us to get to know him more, then maybe I had been a little kinder to that aspect of the narrative. Or hell, maybe it could’ve been dropped to focus more on the antique dealer’s transformation and personal plight. But you know what? As it stands, I do still enjoy the narrative and its very charming narrative, as it does have cool ideas and plenty of heart.

The characters in this I find decently interesting and entertaining. Federico Luppi plays Jesús Gris, the antique dealer who goes through this strange vampiric transformation. He’s a kind, warmhearted man who lives mainly to take care of his wife and his granddaughter. And that’s where a lot of his personal conflict lies, between the rising bloodlust of his transformation and simply wanting to care for those he loves. And it’s quite the interesting character arc, with Federico Luppi giving a fantastic performance. Claudio Brook as the old man seeking the eternal life gives a solid performance, though as previously stated, I wish there maybe was a little more to him as a character. And then there’s Ron fucking Perlman as Angel, the old man’s nephew, a tough guy/charismatic dick. And he makes up for some of the old man’s shortcomings purely by the virtue of Ron Perlman being fucking awesome. And in supporting roles we see people like Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath, and Daniel Giménez Cacho, who all give really solid performances.

The score for the film was composed by Javier Álvarez, and I think he did a good job. It’s pretty unique for a horror score, going for a weirdly charming and quaint vibe that I guess is to catch the vibe of the quiet life our protagonist lived before the device. And I do think this unique soundscape works to the film’s advantage.

“Cronos” is the feature film debut of one Guillermo del Toro. And talk about starting your career with a bang. Even in this first feature, while not perfect in its construction, del Toro’s style shines through brilliantly. The tone and style we enjoy in his later movies is very much here, just on a smaller, slightly less refined scale. And that I think largely helps the movie stand out a lot. He knows how to bring us close to the characters, to feel intimate with their situation. And when you mix that with Guillermo Navarro’s beautiful cinematography, you get some of the most impressive craft I’ve seen for such a small, low budget feature debut.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 70/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.7/10.

While not my favorite of del Toro’s movies, “Cronos” is still a highly entertaining and impressive little movie. It has a good story, pretty good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/cinematography. *Ahem*. My final score for “Cronos” is an 8.32/10. So while flawed, Is till think it’s worth buying.

My review of “Cronos” is now completed.

So now I’ve seen all of del Toro’s films. Whoa.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 4 (1999 – 2000)

Disclaimer: This is not an official Month of Spooks post. I know it could easily slot into that, but it’s not. Mom and I simply got to this point in our rewatch of the show, and I might as well review the season now before I forget. So anyhow, let’s go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 4.

With high school behind them, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends can finally move on to something new and exciting… College! But just because they’re attending a new school it doesn’t mean they’ll get away from the vampires, demons, and a shadowy military organization… Yeah, this season gets a little different. Season 4 is a very ambitious one. Sure, that could be said about seasons 2 and 3 as well, but at least that ambition felt somewhat reasonable. However, the ambitious nature of the fourth season doesn’t always yield great results. There are a lot of problems with the overarching narrative this season, especially in the second half of the season, where a particular narrative choice happens. And even some of the one-offs aren’t great. Sure, this season does have the terrifyingly fantastic “Hush”, and the gut-wrenching “Wild at Heart”. But then there are some less than stellar ones too. Do I hate the story/stories here? No. I do kind of enjoy it, but it does feel slightly off overall.

As per usual, the characters of this season are what make it… for the most part. The main cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head, and Seth Green are all great and all get some good development. Some recurring guest stars such as James Marsters, Kristine Sutherland, and Emma Caulfield are also great. Now, let’s talk about newcomers… or at least one. Marc Blucas plays Riley, a teacher’s assistant who Buffy meets at college, and he serves as a bit of a new love interest. And while his character development is fairly whatever, I do think Blucas does a damn fine job with his performance.

As with the previous two seasons, the music was composed by Christophe Beck, and once again he did a damn good job. It was bombastic, it was subtle, it was emotional, it was fun… Beck is just a great composer. And as per usual, there was a fair bit of licensed music throughout, and all the songs worked well for their respective scenes.

As with the other seasons, writing and directing for season 4 of “Buffy” was handled by a whole bunch of people. And while some of the writing could be less than stellar (as alluded to earlier), the directing generally kept a decent level of quality. Of course this is highlighted the best in the season’s best episode “Hush”, which is just fucking masterful. But most other episodes are really well handled too. Even the effects are for the most part quite good. You can tell that they had found a rhythm with the craft of the show.

This season has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 7.3/10. And while there’s no season average, on imdb.com the show sits firmly on an 8.2/10.

Season 4 of “Buffy” is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I do still enjoy it (maybe my bias for these characters is showing). It has okay story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy” season 4 is a 7.23/10. So while quite flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 4 is now completed.

I guess college does ruin things… I’m joking, stay in school, kids.

Movie Review: Dracula (1931)

The Month of Spooks is something I do every year as a celebration of the spookier side of entertainment. However, I have seldom looked back on the REALLY old stuff, the big classics. So this year I sought to change that ever so slightly. This means that every other review you’ll see this month will be of a film from the Universal Monster Classics blu-ray set. So there… variety!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dracula”!

Transylvania. A real estate agent named Renfield (Dwight Frye) finds himself a guest of the enigmatic Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), only to succumb to the Count’s will and become his servant. The two then set out for London, where Dracula will continue his reign of terror. We all know the basic setup for this story, let’s not kid around with that. But how does it hold up in terms of storytelling here? Pretty good, actually (fucking anticlimactic, I know). It’s a simple gothic tale with occasional hints towards more nuance within certain developments, and I like that stuff. I do however have some issues with it. Those issues pertain mainly to the pacing throughout. Sometimes it rushes through parts and sometimes it drags a little. It doesn’t completely break the film in half, but it is noticeable enough that it should be mentioned. But overall it’s still an enjoyable little tale.

The characters in this are fine, they serve the story decently enough. Bela Lugosi plays the titular vampire in this. A silver-tongued, polite gentleman who also occasionally gives people a nibble or two on the neck. I enjoy his presence, he’s a good villain/monster for this story. And Lugosi’s performance is of course great, a wonderful mix of quiet menace and mildly campy flamboyance. The other one I wanna go into some detail with is Dwight Frye as Renfield, the poor fool who becomes Dracula’s pawn. A seemingly decent dude turned madman. He’s probably the most interesting character in this, as we see he’s seemingly both intelligent and crazy, making for a surprisingly nuanced character. And Frye is great in the role, really selling Renfield’s recent insanity in a way that genuinely creeps me out. And the rest of the cast, including people like Helen Chandler, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, and more, all do really well in their respective roles.

What’s fascinating about this movie’s score is that it doesn’t really exist. The movie does use excerpts from one or two stage shows at certain points (mostly notably one from “Swan Lake”), but for the most part this film lacks any real score. But that’s okay. Not every film or scene needs music.

Based on the book of the same name by Bram Stoker, “Dracula” was directed by Tod Browning (with uncredited help from Karl Freund), and I think the craft on display here is terrific. While we’ve seen many homages and parodies and references to the visual style of this movie in tons of other projects, there’s something truly special about seeing this original take on the classic gothic visuals. The visuals in this are fucking breathtaking, from the sets to the lighting to the framing, it all just looks amazing to this day. Sure, some of the effects don’t look as good today, but I think that adds to the charm of it. I just love that old school gothic aesthetic.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its occasionally wonky pacing drags it down a little, “Dracula” is still a really good gothic horror flick. It has a good store, okay characters, really good performances, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Bleh*. My final score for “Dracula” is an 8,77/10. So while a little flawed, it’s still definitely worth buying!

My review of “Dracula” is now completed.

Bela Lugosi, legend. Dwight Frye, MVP.

Series Review: The Righteous Gemstones – Season 1 (2019)

Quick anecdote before we get into this sermon… I mean review. I actually started watching this as it aired last year, but forgot to keep up with it. So I decided to finally remedy that recently. So now that it has been done, l can at last talk about the show.

Ladies and gents… “The Righteous Gemstones” season 1.

The story follows the Gemstones, a family of devout televangelists delivering the word of god to huge amounts of people on a regular basis. And we follow them in a peculiar period in their lives when a lot of their dirty laundry and hypocrisies start bubbling towards the surface. Now, looking at that setup might make one expect this show to be purely “Fuck Christianity, fuck religion”, that’s at least what I thought  going into it. But surprisingly, it doesn’t go for that low hanging fruit. Now, it does poke fun at organized religion and mega churches at times, but it does it in a way that still is respectful towards those who believe in the Christian beliefs. The characters in the show aren’t shysters and con artists, they genuinely believe in god and want to spread his love and teachings… they just also happen to be a little tempted by the less than savory sides of life sometimes. And I must say that I generally enjoyed the story here. It’s a darkly comical family tale with a surprising amount of nuance… however, I do have some issues with the storytelling here. It does feel a little unfocused and scatterbrained at a few points. It doesn’t always feel like they have all their priorities straight for what they wanna do with the narrative. If they had trimmed down some sub-plots a bit, maybe it could’ve felt less messy. But despite being a little less focused than it could’ve been, it’s still an enjoyable story.

The characters here are all flawed, colorful, and surprisingly nuanced, and to see how their personalities at the start clash with various developments in the show is pretty intriguing and entertaining. Danny McBride, Edi Patterson, Adam Devine, and John Goodman are all terrific as the main four Gemstones. And in supporting roles we see people like Walton Goggins (the absolute fucking standout), Tony Cavalero, Tim Baltz, Cassidy Freeman, Skyler Gisondo, Scott MacArthur, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music for the show was composed by Joseph Stephens, and it was alright. Fairly standard stuff that never really stands out. The only original music track that stands out is a sung song we experience in a flashback, and it’s absolutely wonderful. As for licensed tracks, there’s a handful throughout the season, and they work pretty well in their respective scenes.

“The Righteous Gemstones” was created by Danny McBride for HBO, with writing and directing by him and a bunch of other awesome people (including David Gordon Green). And I must say that the craft behind the show is pretty damn good, featuring a lot of visually pleasing shots and clever camera movements. It’s not often that a comedy makes this much of an effort to captivate in terms of directing, editing, and such, but “Righteous Gemstones” certainly did, and I appreciate that. Now, let’s talk about the humor in this. It’s an intriguing mix of dirty and crass jokes that stoners and teenagers can laugh at, with some decently clever stuff within dialogue at times. Now, some of it lands and some of it don’t. Sometimes I laugh hard and sometimes I sit with a blank stare. It all really goes up and down at times. But overall I’d say it’s pretty funny.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 75% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.0/10.

While it does have some flaws within its narrative, season 1 of “The Righteous Gemstones” is still a highly enjoyable batch of episodes that I can still recommend. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, great directing/cinematography, and decently funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Righteous Gemstones” is a 7,89/10. So while it is quite flawed, I’d still say it’s worth watching.

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

Flintstone, Gemstone, John Goodman plays ’em all. Yabba-dabba-Amen.

Movie Review: Mulan (1998)

Confession time: I have never actually watched this movie before. I know dishonor on me, dishonor on my cow, blah blah blah. But I then thought that since Disney recently released their live action remake, I might actually give this animated version a go (finally). So let’s get down to business.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mulan”.

Fearing that her father might die if he goes to war, young Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) steals his gear and pretends to be a man so she can take his place in the army. We all know the basic setup at this point, even if you haven’t seen this movie. And the way it’s handled here I quite enjoyed. It’s not without fault however. There are parts of the story that I feel they glossed over a bit, kinda rushing through some aspects in an effort to get to the “good stuff”. That’s not to say that the story here is bad, it’s still a fun family adventure without a good message at its core. I just wish it maybe slowed down a little more to let certain moments simmer more. But as it stands, the story and the way it’s told is still quite entertaining.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, fun, and surprisingly nuanced at times. First up is Mulan, title character and very relatable person. While the people around her want her to be a fancy girly-girl to honor her family, even though she’s not like that at all. And to see her development in the movie from somewhat clumsy and insecure to someone a bit more tough and confident, that’s engaging. And Ming-Na Wen does an excellent job voicing Mulan. Next we have Mushu, a guardian dragon who sets out to help Mulan become a hero… even if he’s only doing it for his own gain. He’s mostly there to bring laughs, but I think the filmmakers found a good balance in that and making him a valuable part of certain emotional developments. And while it might seem slightly jarring to put Eddie Murphy in a role like that at first, I must say that he was great in the role. Then you also get supporting work from people like B.D. Wong, James Hong, Harvey Fierstein, Soon-Tek Oh, Miguel Ferrer, Pat Morita, Frank Welker, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music of this film is quite good. The main score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and it’s an absolute treat for the ears, creating a lot of emotion through the various tracks, giving us a some great background ambiance. Then you have the songs (’cause you know, Disney) that were done by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel. While I don’t think that all of them are among the upper echelon of Disney musical songs, they still generally work pretty well for the movie. The peak of the tracks is of course “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (sung by Donny Osmond), a most excellent montage song. So yeah, overall this movie has good music.

Based on a Chinese folk legend, “Mulan” was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook (with writing credits given to a shitload of people, good grief). And I must say that the craft on display here is absolutely superb. The art style for example takes inspiration from traditional Chinese artwork, and blending it with traditional Disney animation to create an absolutely stunning look for this movie that feels wholly its own. The animation is especially breathtaking in motion, where it shows great fluency that is a treat for the eyes.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

While its storytelling isn’t the best, due to its fast pace, “Mulan” is still another winning movie within the Disney catalogue. It has a good story, good characters, really good music, and great directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mulan” is an 8,77/10. So while a little flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Mulan” is now completed.

Sometimes you just a need a film that can make you smile. This one did that for me.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 3 (1998 – 1999)

Yes, that’s right, still rewatching and reviewing all seasons of this show… mom and I just forget to keep watching every now and then, which is why it’s been so long between the previous “Buffy” review and this one. So let’s get into it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3.

After disappearing during the summer post season 2, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) returns once again to her loved ones in Sunnydale, all of them of course a bit peeved that she bolted without much of a word. And as we follow Buffy trying to get back in to the swing of slayer things AND earn back the trust of those she loves, a new slayer named Faith (Eliza Dushku) arrives in town and ends up stirring some stuff up. All the while the city’s affable mayor (Harry Groener) plots sinister things in the shadows. As with the previous seasons, the episodes here are a mix of one-off monster plots, main story, and whatever else the writers came up with. And the blend of these elements feels stronger than ever. Yes, there are moments and episodes that are somewhat weaker than others, as with any 20+ episode series, but compared to the first two seasons, there’s fewer of those dud moments in my opinion. The storyline here is more ambitious, the schlock a bit more fun, the consequences of characters’ actions a bit more impactful. It’s just overall the strongest in terms of storytelling (so far).

The characters are just as well written, nuanced, flawed, colorful, and interesting as they’ve always been, with their various dynamics being tested at every turn to great effect, creating engaging drama and character development. The returning main cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, and Kristine Sutherland are all terrific and all get moments to shine. Newcomer Eliza Dushku kills it as Faith, this new slayer in town who is a bit of a wild card, helping create some wonderful tension in the show. Harry Groener is wonderful as the town’s mayor/season’s main antagonist, playing him as this super friendly and clean (both literally and metaphorically) guy who also happens to be involved in some shady shit. And all other actors that appear this season are all great too.

As with season 2, the score for season 3 was composed by Christophe Beck, who in his previous outing already gave us a huge step up in the show’s background music. And yet the crazy motherfucker stepped it up even further this time around. The instrumentation is crisper and more playful, giving us a lot of interesting melodies and a unique soundscape that is perfectly fitting for this show. There’s also a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout, and they all work well in their respective scenes.

Season 3 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of talented people, all doing (for the most part) great work in their departments. Effects (for the most part) are improved, pacing holds up way better, and the cinematography generally is quite pleasing. The crew knew how to keep things exciting, intimate, or suspenseful in any given scene, showing how they’ve evolved since that rocky first season.

This show/season has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a user score of 7.6/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

Season 3 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is another step up for the show, giving us another stellar set of episodes. The story is great, the characters are great, the performances are fantastic, the music’s great, and the directing/cinematography is great. Time for my final score. *Bleh, I am vampire*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 is a 9.94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 is now completed.

Just kidding, by the way, I’m not actually a vampire… too much of a recluse to be bitten.

Movie Review: Lilja 4-ever (2002)

Hello there, friends. This is it. The final post.

Got ya there, didn’t I? But in all seriousness, this is the last Summer of the Swedes post I’m doing. I know I didn’t do many posts for this series of mine, but I didn’t intend for it to be an intense deep dive into my country’s filmography, just a bit of motivation to watch a few more films from it than usual. So my mad ramblings will go back to the usual versatility after this. So yeah. Here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Lilja 4-ever”.

16-year old Lilja (Oksana Akinsjina) doesn’t have a great life. Often neglected by her parents, scraping by in life, she finds herself dreaming of a better life somewhere far away from her home in Russia. This movie has a story that seldom lets up when it comes to its drama, it’s a profoundly depressing experience that absolutely haunted my soul for several hours after watching it. Even in some of the light moments where there’s joy on Lilja’s face, there is this underlying sadness to the situation, you know that even though there is this fleeting moment of joy, that is exactly what it is… fleeting. It’s a really well told story that I found utterly compelling, giving us a nuanced look at this young girl’s life… but man, it’s also incredibly sad.

The characters in this don’t really feel like characters, they feel grounded and very real. Oksana Akinsjina plays Lilja, the titular girl. She’s a very complex individual, showing off a ton of realistic nuance that is seldom seen in film And Akinsjina is fantastic in the role. Then we have Artiom Bogutjarskij as Volodya, a young boy who is one of Lilja’s only true friends. Devoted, a little sassy, and clearly crushing on her, he’s an interesting foil for the narrative that helps ground Lilja a bit more, giving her a bit of an anchor when things escalate around her. And Bogutjarskij is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Elina Benenson, Pavel Ponomarjov, Lilija Sjinkarjova, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nathan Larson, and it was good. It’s not very showy, going for a more low-key subtle string-based thing to create drama and emotion, which I think works pretty well. There were also some licensed music for a few scenes. And while I wouldn’t listen to those tracks in my own time, I think they work well enough in their respective scenes, fitting the narrative being told in those moments.

“Lilja 4-ever” was written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, who I think did a fantastic job. His direction has a very fly on the wall kinda of approach, never feeling flashy (bar one weird zoom early on in the film), therefore immersing me even more in the drama. Combine this with the dirty neighborhood we spend so much time in, and you get a world that feels very lived in. It all comes together into one hell of an engrossing and real-feeling experience.

This film has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

“Lilja 4-ever” is a really depressing drama that I highly recommend. It has a great story, good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and fantastic directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Lilja 4-ever” is a 9,57/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Lilja 4-ever” is now completed.

I highly recommend bringing a pet or a loved one. Not because it’s a good date movie, but because you might need someone to hug when your heart gets crushed.

Movie Review: The Wedding Photographer (2009)

I enjoy a bit of photography. I may not own an actual camera (though I’d really like to), but if I see potential in a spot or situation then I whip out my phone and snap a pic. Even during the Summer, this Swede takes some pictures. Wow, that was a clumsy tie-in to this series of mine… fuck it, it works.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Wedding Photographer” (Original title: Bröllopsfotografen).

After the place he works at shuts down, Robin (Björn A. Ling) decides to take this new opportunity to move to Stockholm and pursue his dream of becoming a wedding photographer. And as he starts acquiring work and nestling himself in with some of the finer folks of the city, his life starts changing quite a bit. What at the start just seems like a romantic comedy with a poor goofball in a rich man’s world spin soon turns into more of a satire of class divide and how people might change if they try to look good for the allegedly “fine” people out there. And I found myself very entertained by the narrative. Sure, it’s not the most original premise, I could probably even think of a few films with similar setups, but as per usual it’s the execution that matters. And the execution of the story here is fun and entertaining, with a few decent nuances on occasion. The pacing does drag a little in a few parts, but for the most part I found myself just having a good time with the story here.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, and overall just entertaining. Björn A. Lind (credited here as Björn Starrin) plays Robin, a likable and somewhat ambitious young man hailing from the boonies in the northwest of Sweden. He has a bit of an interesting arc here that I found surprisingly engaging. And Lind is really good in the role. Next we have Kjell Bergqvist as Jonny Björk, a former comedian trying to make it as a more serious actor. He’s the one helping Robin get his foot in the door, and their bond is one of the best parts of the movie. And Bergqvist is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Tuva Novotny, Johannes Brost, Lotta Tejle, Johan Östling, Anastasios Soulis, and many more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the film was composed by Jimmy Lagnefors, and it was okay. A bit charming, a bit dramatic, a bit eclectic. It works for the most part within the various scenes, even if it feels a little weird or eclectic at times.

“The Wedding Photographer” was written, edited, and directed by Ulf Malmros, and I think he did a really good job with it. He has a good way of keeping energy up in scenes without making anything feel rushed, creating a vibe that made me really feel part of the experience. I also have to mention the cinematography by Mats Olofsson, because it’s great. A lot of fun long takes, some clever camera movements, it just adds another layer of quality to the storytelling and overall enjoyment.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% audience score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

While I think some of the humor will get lost in translation, I highly enjoyed “The Wedding Photographer”. It has a fun plot, good characters, great performances, okay music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Wedding Photographer” is an 8,44/10. So I’d argue that it can be worth buying.

My review of “The Wedding Photographer” is now completed.

Say cheese.

Series Review: Brotherhood – Season 1 (2002)

What, you thought Summer of the Swedes was only about movies? Ahahaha, well to be honest, so did I at first. But hey, shit changes sometimes, you know. So anyhow, shall we get into the review?

Ladies and gentlemen… “Brotherhood” (original title: Tusenbröder) season 1.

Jan “Hoffa” Lenhoff (Ola Rapace) is a young family man who decides to open up a painting business with his friends (Shanti Roney, Danilo Bejarano). However, when things start going less than stellar for the business, the gang will have to resort to less legal methods to make ends meet. Generally speaking, this is a drama about family and the bond between the main trio (hence the show’s title), that just happens to feature some crime elements to help push the drama along. And I must say, I found myself quite compelled by the narrative here. I’m not saying that it’s one of the best stories out there, but I was definitely surprised at all the little nuances that the show presented. It’s not just “Oh, some good dudes falling on hard times, everything that happens can be somewhat justified”. The story here makes you question everything going on, makes you think about events from multiple angles, creating some really engaging tension and conflict throughout the five episodes.

Like the story before them, the characters of this show come with a surprising amount of nuance. Ola Rapace (credited in the show as Ola Norell) plays Hoffa, a man who loves his family, his friends, and wants to make sure his life goes smoothly. And over the course of the season we get to see his various conflicts, from his tense relationship with his dad, to the bond he has with his friends getting tested, to his inner turmoil around the illegal stuff he has to take part in. It’s all good stuff, and Rapace is really good in the role. Next we have Shanti Roney as Niklas, one of Hoffa’s best friends. At the start he just seems like the generally meek one of the group, and over the show we get to see him evolve in some really intriguing ways that make him a really fascinating character. And Roney is great in the role. Next we have Danilo Bejarano as Hamid, the third member of the main trio. He’s probably the one in the group with the least bit of development, while still being an interesting an vital part of the group when it comes to the drama. And Bejarano is good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Anja Lundqvist, Sofia Helin, Lisa Lindgren, Tomas Pontén, Krister Henriksson, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Martin Hansen and Mikael Nord Andersson. And I thought it was great. It’s generally speaking based around a blues-inspired acoustic guitar, which I think works in elevating the already solid drama on display here. As far as the licensed music goes, some of it works fine, and some songs don’t. There’s one or two tracks that actually took me out of the scene because of how it didn’t completely fit with the intended tone. So yeah, score’s great, licensed music can be hit or miss.

The show was created by Lars Lundström, with Erik Leijonborg directing all five episodes this season. And I must say that while the show looks like it was shot on a Sony Potato™, I can’t fault the overall direction. Leijonborg’s direction may not be flashy or even necessarily visually appealing, but I do think that works to the show’s advantage, seeing that it kinda fits the blue collar perspective the characters come from. With this said, some of the editing in a few scenes felt a little… janky. For the most part it’s fine, fairly standard stuff, but there’s a few scenes where it could be a little bit off. It’s nothing totally game breaking, but I felt that it’s worth pointing out.

On imdb.com, the show has a score of 8.2/10.

While it does have a few flaws in the technical department, season 1 of “Brotherhood” is a surprisingly great little drama series. It has a really good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Brotherhood” is an 8,82/10. So while slightly flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

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

Most good Swedish shows I’ve watched have been comedies, so it’s nice finding a quality drama.