Along with the Gods: The Two Movies

Hi there. So this won’t be a typical review style post of mine (though it shares minor aspects of those). Instead it’ll be more like my post on the Fable movies (AHEM AHEM), loosely rambling about them in a bundled post. I should mention that both movies will from here on out simply be referred to by their subtitle, as it’d be too long and clunky to use the full title each time. So anyhow… let’s go.

The Two Worlds

After perishing in the line of duty, a firefighter (Cha Tae-Hyun) finds himself in the company of three spirit guides (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-Hoon, Kim Hyang-gi) who have been tasked with guiding him through the afterlife in order for him to potentially earn the right to reincarnate. Based on a webtoon by Ju Ho-min, “The Two Worlds” is an interesting blend of inspirations and tones. Most noticeably, it uses Buddhist philosophy as a springboard to tell an interesting and really fun fantasy adventure story, a morality tale that also happens to have some really fun VFX-driven action and colorful characters. Taking us through visually distinct environments to tell a nuanced fantasy story.
As we follow the firefighter’s journey through the afterlife, we get to know him more and more, seeing what led him to the initial incident. We see why he does what he does, we get to know the deepest inner workings of his soul, and finding out just how complex even the most seemingly good people are. And the way that affects the events of the movie, the ways his guides have to assist him, it makes for some compelling drama and some surprising suspense. So when we get to the climactic trials that are crucial in determining his fate, it put me on the edge of my seat, and also may have caused the waterworks to begin operating. Because while someone might come to this for the spectacular VFX, fun action scenes, or extremely good looking cast, soon enough they’ll also find that this movie has a strong emotional core as well. I am not ashamed in admitting that this movie made me cry. It’s one of those flashy action flicks that also happens to have some truly compelling characters and drama. But it can also be quite funny at times, especially with the quips and general demeanor of Ju Ji-Hoon as the delightful Haewonmaek.
What else is there to say? It’s a big popcorn flick with a great story, plenty of heart, a wonderful cast of characters, and some mesmerizing visuals. I loved it.

The Last 49 Days

Released a year later, “The Last 49 Days” sees our favorite spirit guides as they take on the task of helping a new soul towards reincarnation, all while also trying their damndest in trying to retrieve a fellow guardian (Ma Dong-seok) who’s been living on Earth for a long time. “The Last 49 Days” is once again a blend of things. Fantasy action, historical epic, domestic dramedy, and I think all these individual pieces are great… but together they don’t flow super well. I get that you need all the bits together to tell the complete story, take one piece out and the tower comes crashing down, but there is a whole lotta movie to this movie. And I’m not just talking about runtime, as it’s really only like 5 minutes longer than the first one, but rather it’s how much is crammed into it. There’s an exhausting amount of narrative threads going on at any one time, and while I found all of them pretty compelling on their own, their flow is just almost non-existent. It’s especially horrid near the middle of the movie, where things really begin to drag. You know that deep sigh you make when you’re bored? Yeah, that happened here. It’s just an exhausting drag at times.
So while the story is a mess, the characters do get some really interesting extra depth, which also leads to the actors getting more to chew on. The cast was great in the first one, but they really get to flex their acting chops here, and I think they give terrific performances here. And it’s just nice to have Ma Dong-seok be part of proceedings, the man just slots in flawlessly and brings such a unique charisma.
Action scenes are once again a lot of fun, not quite as flashy as what we saw in the first one, but definitely still highly enjoyable. Effects are still top notch (bar one or two obvious green screens), costumes and makeup are solid, and there’s some really fun cuts and transitions spread throughout. It’s just stellar on a technical level.
So while nowhere near as strong as its predecessor, I can’t say that I disliked “The Last 49 Days”. It still has some great stuff to it. If the first one’s a strong 9/10 for me, then this is maybe a weak 7/10. Hurt by its poor pacing, but still has a lot to admire.

So yeah, I watched and generally liked the “Along with the Gods” movies. Basically if you like big spectacle with plenty of heart and don’t mind reading subtitles, then I can easily recommend them. And apparently there’s a third and fourth one coming at some point… so I’ll be cautiously looking forward to those.

Have a good one.

Series Review: The Patient (2022)

Therapy, an important asset in our society, there to (hopefully) help people. Aaaand that’s all I got on that right now, so let’s get into the review.

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

On a day like any other, therapist Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) finds himself in a bit of a pickle when he wakes up in the basement of one of his patients (Domhnall Gleeson), who Alan soon finds out is a serial killer. And as Alan tries to find a way to get out alive, he finds himself reluctantly having to council his captor. I find the premise of “The Patient” to be quite fun, a high concept thriller that lends itself to some really interesting bits of suspense. And in execution the narrative is quite compelling, creating an interesting dynamic between our leads, exploring their relationship, and the complexities that it carries. Because obviously Alan wants to simply survive, but the show also goes to great lengths to show that he, on some level, actually cares about helping Sam (his patient/captor). But it’s not just about a therapist delving into the psyche of this horrible man, but it’s just as much, if not more so, about Alan dealing with his own trauma and demons, which further escalates the drama and makes for a much more dynamic emotional spectrum, both when it comes to Alan’s personal stakes, and the story at large. There’s also this quiet undercurrent of awkward, dark humor to a lot of it, which I think adds to the show’s unique vibe. However, for as good as the story here can be, I do think there are things that bring it down a peg. Mainly, it’s the runtime, or more specifically the episode count. Ten episodes is usually a perfect length for a season of tv, but here it feels dragged out, mainly with the last few episodes, as if they had/wanted to pad it out to that length. Adding further to that sensation, the last few episodes are longer than the first half of the show. The first several episodes are roughly 22-28 minutes long. The rest are 30+, which really does add to the feeling of things being a bit stretched out more than needed. Again, the overall narrative is really strong, and it ends on a real high note, but those last few episodes does bring it down with the padding sensation.

The characters in this I found to be really interesting, as they’re never really shown to be simple, one-note things, but fully rounded and surprisingly complex individuals. Especially our two leads, they have so many interesting layers to them, which the show plays around with to give them a really electrifying dynamic. What also helps is that both Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson are fantastic, giving career best performances and playing off of each other really well. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Laura Niemi, Andrew Leeds, Linda Edmond, Renata Friedman, David Alan Grier, and more, with no one feeling like a weak link.

The score for the show was composed by Nathan Barr, and I thought he did a pretty solid job. It’s nothing too unique or memorable, a fairly standard droning thriller score that occasionally brings in some piano when a little extra sadness needs to be injected. It’s not bad, and it works well enough for the show. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and those work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Patient” was created and written by Joel Fields and Joseph Weinberg, with directing done by a few different people (names will be in tags). And I think this show is generally well crafted. Scene direction have a nice pace to them and have just the right amount of linger to build a nice suspense, editing has a really fun flair to it, and there’s some really interesting shots throughout. It’s just solidly built stuff.

This show’s been pretty 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 7.0/10.

So while it might be a bit longer than I felt necessary, “The Patient” is still a really fun and compelling little thriller series. It has a really good story, really good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Patient” is an 8.01/10. So while it certainly is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Patient” is now completed.

Steve Carell’s a bit good at this whole acting stuff, isn’t he?

Series Review: The Gambling Scandal (2022)

Been quite a while since I covered something from my home country (I’m Swedish, for any potentially new people). So how about we deal with that right now?

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… “The Gambling Scandal”.

The early ’90s. Always on the lookout for the next big win, Piteå-based sports and gambling enthusiast Bosse (Björn Elgerd) soon finds himself walking down a tense line when he gets embroiled in the world of match fixing. And over the course of six episodes we see how his actions, both in betting and in his romantic life, change the course of his life. I found the story here to be pretty interesting. One of its strengths, that also happens to be a little bit of a weakness, is that it has a really snappy pace. On one hand, it makes it so no moment or scene gets a chance to be boring, making for a breezy and fun experience. But on the other, it makes it so some bits don’t always have time to settle properly, despite maybe being in need of it. It makes it so, even if it stays enjoyable, it can feel a little underdeveloped and lacking in nuance at times. Aside from the weird pace, the storytelling also has some really fun style to it, namely in its narration and occasional fourth wall breaks, where our protag talks to camera. It gives the show an interesting edge that makes it stick out amongst Swedish TV dramas. I do think it is a little too sporadic at times and could be weaved into a few more scenes, but when it happens it’s stil a lot of fun and works pretty well for the story. It is a fun story of morality and gambling and the consequences a man’s action may have. A little too snappy in its pacing at times, but overall it’s a fun and pretty engaging narrative.

I like the characters in this, they ride the line between walking tropes and a surprising naturalism pretty well, finding just the right balance to make them both entertaining and compellingly believable at the same time. Bosse Lundkvist is our leading man, a charismatic, clever, and slightly short-sighted dude who I found really engaging as a protagonist. It’s hard to explain without getting into too many/spoilery details, but I found his arc in this show to be really fascinating, with Björn Elgerd giving a really good performance in the role. We also get supporting work from Josefin Asplund, Edvin Bredefeldt, Eva Melander, Ulf Stenberg, Sara Shirpey, Mattias Silvell, and more, all delivering really solid performances.

The score for the show was composed by Andreas Tengblad, and I enjoyed it. Not the most memorable necessarily, but it has a playful nature that makes scenes pop a bit more. Especially the main theme song, I thoroughly enjoyed that, a bouncy little piano ditty that wouldn’t feel out of place in a heist movie. There’s also a fair bit of licensed music used throughout the six episodes, and those tracks work well in their respective scenes too. So yeah, the show has some good music.

Loosely based on some real life events, “The Gambling Scandal” (original title: Spelskandalen) was written by Dennis Magnusson, with directing by Patrik Eklund and Jens Östberg, and I really like how this show was directed and edited. The shots themselves are nice, everything has a good flow, and they have a good grasp of what to show or not show. But where it really comes together for me is the editing, which has this almost Guy Ritchie/Edgar Wright type of snappiness to it (though slightly more reigned in), which as alluded to in the story section, gives this show a stylistic edge over many other shows that I’ve seen from my home. It makes it a bit of a treat, made me say “Whoa” when it first occurred. But aside from the general fun factor, it does actually help in making the storytelling more interesting as well. It’s just well crafted in ways that I don’t see much from my home. Good on them.

So at the time of writing, this show does not have a page on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, and I will not come back to change it in the future because I’m lazy. It does however exist on imdb.com, where it has a score of 7.3/10.

While it’s not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Gambling Scandal”. It has a good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Gambling Scandal” is an 8.21/10. So while flawed, it’s definitely worth a watch.

My review of “The Gambling Scandal” is now completed.

So I don’t know if/when it makes it to other shores. But keep an eye out, because this is a goodun.

Movie Review: Tremors (1990)

Friends, we’ve reached the end. The final Month of Spooks review of the year. So if you’re tired of me rambling about horror, then you’re about to get a well earned break. And if you wish you could get only horror content from me all year, then tough luck… go watch Dead Meat or Ryan Hollinger on youtube, they provide excellent spooky content all year round. Anyhow, with further ado… let’s finish this.

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

Welcome to Perfection, a small backwater town in the middle of god damn nowhere. They’re in for the experience of a lifetime when a group of giant, underground worms start killing people and animals around the area. So it’s up to a group of locals, led by best friends Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), to find a way of surviving this nightmare situation. The story of “Tremors”, on paper, would be absolutely fucking terrifying. Giant worms that kill everything they come into contact with? That can collapse buildings? Horrifying. The movie plays it a little more light however. While the Graboids (as they’re known nowadays) are given the intimidating power and reverence they deserve, the movie isn’t afraid of also being a bit goofy. The town of Perfection is filled with colorful, eccentric people, and they’re used to great effect in creating scenarios that are equal parts intense and funny. Had the movie played it all completely straight, then I doubt the story would’ve been as enjoyable. It is that generally lighthearted and campy tone, along with some really creative set pieces, that makes it so much fun to watch. Not necessarily THE most fun ever, but I can’t deny that I had a fun time with it.

As alluded to in the story paragraph (storagraph?), the characters in are a so insanely colorful and a million flavors of fun. From a pair of slightly dim good ol’ boys, to mildly crazed survivalists, to smart grad students, we’ve got all sorts in this here dust bowl of a town. And holy cow, the cast is just wonderful. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, Victor Wong, and more, all delivering delightful performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ernest Troost, with a few tracks being done by an uncredited Robert Folk, and I think their music here is a lot of fun. While it’s sad that some of Troost’s music got replaced (without him knowing, mind you), I do think that Folk’s additions still work within the context of the movie. How to tell them apart? If it’s fun and a little country-ish, Troost. If it’s more typical serious orchestral movie score, Folk. Either way, the music in this movie is solid. There’s even a really fun song during the end credits sung by Reba McEntire, which is nice.

“Tremors” was directed by Ron Underwood, and I think he did a really good job. The man has a good way of making the action and Graboid attacks feel big and intense, while also creating this intimate tension with the unknown surrounding when and where the Graboids will pop out next. Speaking of which, the creatures themselves were created by Amalgamated Dynamics, the VFX company of living legends Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and the creatures look awesome. The designs are super fun, and the overall effects work is so good, really making them feel alive. It’s just a really well made movie.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/100.

Yeah, “Tremors” is a good time. A fun monster flick. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tremors” is an 8.77/10. So yeah, I’d definitely say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Tremors” is now completed.

Aaaaand that’s it for the Month of Spooks this year, good night, everybody!

Movie Review: You’re Next (2013)

We’ve covered all various kinds of horror this Month of Spooks so far. Vampires, body horror, zombies… whatever the fuck we call “A Quiet Place”. So how about we bring it down from the supernatural and immediately monstrous for a bit and go with a good ol’ home invasion, yeah? *Police sirens ring out* NO, NOT LIKE THAT!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “You’re Next”.

During the Davison parents’ (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) 35th anniversary, they have gathered their children (with significant others) for a nice little family gathering. Their pleasant reunion is interrupted however when several masked killers start picking them off one by one. So it’s up to the family to find ways of hopefully making it out alive. At first glance it’s a fairly standard home invasion setup, but “You’re Next” quickly sets itself apart from other movies of the subgenre. First off by having a leading lady (Sharni Vinson) with a lot of valuable survival skills, which gives the usual cat and mouse antics a fun spin, making it feel like more of an equal fight. Some might say it takes tension out of it, but I say yes kind of, but it also inserts in a different kind of tension, as that capability means it becomes harder to see exactly how the survival chips may fall. The second reason it stands out is how the story progresses. I can’t say that I entirely saw how things were gonna pan out, and not just who and how they die, but also some of the reveals that go on. It’s a surprisingly involved story with intriguing turns that I can’t say that I 100% pegged. So you get both a fun, surprisingly involved story and slasher carnage, making for one a pretty enjoyable narrative. Is it necessarily among the best horror stories I’ve seen? No, but still a lot of fun.

The characters in this are all pretty well written. Right from the word go you get a decent idea of who they are and what their personalities are like, which helps things get going quickly. And it’s interesting to see how their personalities clash and play as the violent quest for survival continues. And the performances in this all work. I won’t sit and say that everyone gets as many opportunities to shine, but there’s no one here I’d call outright bad. I really dug Sharni Vinson as our lead, she has a commanding presence and it’s fun seeing her figure out ways to deal with the villains. Rest of the ensemble consists of people like Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Nicolas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, and more. It’s a pretty solid cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Lee, Kyle McKinnon, and Adam Wingard, and it’s an interesting mix. Early on it’s fairly typical horror/suspense droning, with a few stings, and it’s fine. It’s fairly generic, does its job fine, I won’t remember it in a day. But as the movie goes on the music gets a bit more interesting, taking on a more fun, synthy style that adds a bit of flair to everything going on. It still goes back to some regular stuff on occasion, which is whatever, but when that synth beat hits, it is so good. So yeah, the score here is… a little mixed, some great and some less so.

“You’re Next” was written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard. And I think Wingard did a damn fine job with his directing, the man has a good way of having a creeping tension loom in the background, even as fast-paced and intense shit happens in the foreground. It makes for a pretty intense and fun experience that gives any action extra weight and eerieness to it. West is also great about showing violence. He’s not above showing the blood and gore, but he also shows that he has good grasp of when to cut or what to obscure in order to give violence its impact.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 66/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

So yeah, “You’re Next” is a really enjoyable home invasion thriller. It has a really good story, pretty good characters, really good performances, mixed to good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “You’re Next” is an 8.70/10. So it’s definitely worth buying.

My review of “You’re Next” is now completed.

Maybe I’m next? *Door knocks*. Coming!

Movie Review: Malignant (2021)

More spooky reviews comin’ your way! And before we begin, I just want to point out the silliness that is me reviewing the movie I used as basis for last year’s Month of Spooks poster a full year later. There’s some weird form of irony to it. Anyhow, let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents,  non-binaries… “Malignant”.

While trying her best to simply get by, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) starts getting grisly visions of a shadowy figure brutally killing people. And we follow her as she tries to make sense of these visions and hopefully find a way to stop them. I found the story here to be okay. It’s a fun enough mystery with a few enjoyable turns. That said, the story parts of the story aren’t necessarily what makes proceedings as enjoyable as they are. Because in all honestly, the main narrative feels more like it’s there to serve as an excuse for wild and creative set pieces. This is a bloody, campy-as-fuck sendup to old school supernatural slashers, but with the polish and tech of today to amp it up to 11. And the campy shenanigans are generally what I enjoyed about the story, as those bits are when the movie comes alive. And a fair bit of those sequences are stacked in the second half of the movie, with the first one, while not completely devoid of fun shenanigans, delivering a fair bit of setup, which does drag a bit. But when it’s going, the story here is a fun, bonkers, camptastic time.

The characters in this are fine. They aren’t given that much depth, which usually can be an issue, but weirdly works here since it weirdly adds to the fun and general vibe of the movie. They’re sort of shallow tropes that are there to serve the trope. The one with the most depth is arguably the lead character, as her and her past is explored in the movie. And she’s a decently compelling protagonist, with Annabelle Wallis giving a really solid performance. The supporting cast is pretty solid too, featuring people like Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jake Abel, Ray Chase, Marina Mazepa, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Bishara, and it is tons of fun. Panicky strings, blaring brass, exciting and fast-paced electronics, thrilling percussion, Bishara leaves very little off the table and this creates this insanely fun and never dull soundscape. It’s an absolute blast to listen to and adds so much to the movie. There’s also a little bit of licensed music throughout, and I think that works really well too. I just really dig the soundtrack here, it’s fun, easy to listen to, and really works well for the movie.

“Malignant” was directed and co-written by James Wan, and hooooooweeee, you can feel him really flexing and letting loose here. As mentioned previously, this movie isn’t afraid of going camp, and Wan’s direction further elevates that fact, which makes me very happy. Dutch tilts, camera snapping into position, fun pans, sweeps across big spaces, fun reveals, kinetic action and editing. It’s all so insane and makes for one hell of a fun viewing experience, especially in the various set pieces, where things get crazy, hectic, and GORY AS FUCK. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s an absolute riot to follow, giving us some really creative and delightfully ludicrous sequences. It just put a big, dumb smile on my face so many times.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While it does drag in its first half, I still had a lot of fun with “Malignant”. It has a fun plot, okay characters, good performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *OOGA BOOGA!*. My final score for “Malignant” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s still certainly worth buying.

My review of “Malignant” is now completed.

Sometimes it’s a bad thing if a horror movie doesn’t scare me. But this one was just so much fun that I don’t care.

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

My friends, it is that time of year once again… electricity price incre- I mean the Month of Spooks! For those ones who maybe be new, during the month of October, I will be dedicating the blog to the spookier side of entertainment. So yeah… let the spooky shit commence!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “A Quiet Place”.

The world has gone to shit. Society has been broken down by monsters that will hunt and kill you if you make a noise. In the middle of this apocalypse is the Abbott family, just trying their best to stay completely silent in order to survive. I enjoyed the story here, because it’s very simple. It takes the one sentence premise of “Shut the fuck up or the blind monsters will nom on your bits” and works to create a suspenseful and and engaging survival thriller out of it. And while I do think it loses some of its intensity and creepiness towards the end, as it goes for a big-ish finale and showing off the monsters a bit much, I still think it mostly succeeds in otherwise creating tense scenarios that had me invested. I also think that the filmmakers were smart in making this movie a brisk 90 minutes, as it keeps it flowing along nicely and never letting any bit overstay its welcome. It’s a solid, if simple horror story.

The characters in this are… fine? There is an attempt to give them *some* depth, but it rarely strikes the gold they’d need in order to get me to say “Yeah, I care about all of these people”. I will say that the arc between the father and the daughter is the most interesting aspect, but I feel like they don’t do enough with it to call it a truly compelling character arc/dynamic. I like the idea with it, and there’s some interesting moments involving it, but it still feels VERY surface level. What I can say however is that the performances in this are great. John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe all deliver top tier work. Especially Simmonds, she’s the MVP here.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco Beltrami, who we talked about a fair bit earlier this year when we went through the “Scream” movies. Anyhow, Beltrami’s score in this movie is really good. His big, intense set piece tracks are really fun, playing around with brass, strings, and even some fun sound effects mixed in. And his quieter, more emotional tracks are really good too. Beltrami’s a composer I’ve liked for years, and this is another hit from him.

“A Quiet Place” was directed and co-written by John Krasinski, and I think he did a solid job here. He has a good way of using space to sell action and building the suspense around the situations. And holy hell, the cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen is gorgeous, striking the perfect balance between general eye candy and solid visual storytelling. Christopher Tellefsen’s editing is also pretty solid. It’s just a generally well crafted movie.

This movie’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its characters are a bit underdeveloped, “A Quiet Place” is a tense and highly solidly well made horror movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has a good story, okay-ish characters, great performances, great music, and really good direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO!*. My final score for “A Quiet Place” is an 8.01/10. So while flawed, it’s worth buying.

My review of “A Quite Place” is now completed.

Ssshhhh, be quiet, or the monsters will find my dumb ramblings.

Series Review: Angel – Season 1 (1999 – 2000)

Hi. So as some of you may be aware of, from 2020 to earlier this year (2022, for future readers) I reviewed every season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as I was rewatching it with my mom. It was a fun experience for me, and at the end of my review of the final season I made a tease that I might cover its spin-off. Well, now it’s happening. So let’s go.

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

Following the end of “Buffy” season 3, the vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) moves away from Sunnydale and finds himself a new home in Los Angeles. And shortly after settling in, he meets friends new and old, which prompts him to become a private investigator, helping the people of L.A. fight the supernatural problems that haunt them. I  generally enjoyed the story/ies here. It’s nowhere near as rough as the first season of its older sister series, which likely comes from the extra experience gained between the two. The overarching elements are solid, further developing this already interesting world and lore, while also giving us some interesting present drama for our characters. That said, the overarching stuff is generally taking a backseat to mostly being monster-of-the-week stories, which is where it falls apart a little bit. Not only because it means there’s little to no central hook, but also because, as with most of these types of shows, not all episodes are created equal. For every “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, you got a “She”. What I will say is that even some of the lesser episodes here are nowhere near the lows of some of the lesser episodes in “Buffy”, so even at its lowest, it’s still decently watchable. And when an episode is good, it is GOOD, just quality TV. So on the whole the storytelling here is pretty solid.

The characters in this are just great, all bring their own unique flavor to the buffet that is the cast, and make for a vital part of the ensemble. First up is of course our titular 90 degree, Angle… I will not apologize for my dumb jokes. Anyhow, Angel, the vampire with a soul, his dreams and conscience haunted by the crimes he committed when he was evil. He’s trying to redeem himself, and he’s an interesting protagonist. At first he might just seem like a moody broody bitch, but we’ll soon see more sides to him, making for quite a fun and dynamic character. And David Boreanaz is really good in the role. Next we have Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, a former mean girl from Sunnydale that Angel runs into early on. Cordy already saw some interesting development in the other show, and here we see that further fleshed out through some of the shit that happens throughout this season, and I quite like it. Plus, her very blunt personality provides a lot of laughter throughout, which is fun. And Carpenter does a damn good job in the role. Next we have Glenn Quinn (R.I.P) as Doyle, a half demon who gets visions of the future to help Angel in his quest to help people. He’s a bit of a cowardly shyster with a surprising amount of heart, and he’s a fun character, with Quinn giving a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Alexis Denisof, Christian Kane, Elisabeth Röhm, Stephanie Romanov, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the season was composed by Robert J. Kral and Christophe Beck, and they did a great job. Big bold brass for action scenes and spooky scares, but also quieter string and piano pieces when they want to be eerie or heart-wrenching. It’s not necessarily the most original score out there, but it’s very well composed and I highly enjoyed listening to it and thought it worked great for the show.

“Angel” was created by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. And before we continue, the elephant in the room: We all know by now that the latter person is a turd of a man, just a horrible piece of shit. I am not condoning what he did, and he’s rightfully getting pushed away from Hollywood. I will have positive things to say about the craft here, but I want to be clear that I am not saying it made any of his actions acceptable. Alright? So let’s talk about the craft of this show, which was handled by many different, very talented people.
It’s well made, has a fun noir atmosphere to it in tandem with the darkly whimsical tone that “Buffy” established, making the vibe of this show familiar, yet unique. It sets it apart from its sister show, without straying too far and making it completely separate. And I dig that about it. And generally speaking the direction here is really good. Some fight scenes can be a bit too closely shot and quickly cut, but generally the direction in the show is good. Effects for the time are great too, love seeing a lot of the creature makeup here. But yeah, aside from a few minor snafus, it’s well put together.

This show/season has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has no critic score, but at least an audience rating of 94%. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.9/10.

While its storytelling doesn’t quite reach its potential, season 1 of “Angel” is still a damn good season of TV. It has a good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Angel” is an 8.88/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

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

One down, four to go.

Series Review: Guilt – Season 2 (2021)

Hiya. So almost a year ago (September 2nd, so very close) I reviewed the first season of this show. It was flawed, but on the whole I was quite fond of it. And recently season 2 arrived on our shores, and I’m ready to talk about it. Oh, and beware of spoilers for season 1, as the end of that does tie into the start of this. So yeah, can’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Guilt” season 2.

Two years after ending up in prison, Max McCall (Mark Bonnar) gets released and immediately starts working to trying to get his shit back on track. Meanwhile on the other side of town, two people die in the basement of a woman named Erin (Sara Vickers). And over the course of the series how these two seemingly unrelated events slowly converge, leading to a complex web of backstabs, betrayals, and other forms of sneaky shit. Season 2 of “Guilt” continues the twist-filled storytelling of the first outing, weaving a complex set of threads that cross in all sorts of intriguing ways. I liked the story here, it builds a good bit of intrigue and has its share of good dramatic beats. It’s also kind of the inverse of the first season, where the first two episodes were the best, and the latter two were still good, but not *as* good. But here the first two episodes are pretty good, but then the latter two are where it really woke me up and had me more or less glued to the screen. And yeah, I enjoyed where the narrative went, it’s a fun crime-thriller with some decent suspense and a few dashes of dark humor to give it that extra flavor. Admittedly the highest highs of season 2 never gets to the level of season 1’s highest points, but it also doesn’t quite get to the lowest lows either, making for a slightly more consistent experience. So on the whole it’s a solid story.

The characters here are all flawed, colorful, and very interesting to watch. Even when the story doesn’t reach as far as it might want, the characters still end up being fun to follow. First up is of course Max, our returning… hero? Villain? Occasionally decent twat? Anyhow, Max is back, still  complex, scheming, self-centered dude who is an absolute delight to follow. And once again, Mark Bonnar knocks it out of the park, he’s simply fantastic in the role. Next up we have newcomer to the show Erin, a young woman with a troubled past and shady family members. To see her arc here in this is quite fascinating, as she’s trying to lead a normal life, but gets dragged into shady dealing by what happens on that fateful night. And Sara Vickers does a damn good job in the role. We then see the return of Emun Elliott as Kenny, the private investigator once used by Max for shady means, now sober and trying to be a good boy. He has a few arcs this season, all of which are really fun to watch unravel, but what I like most about his presence this season is his dynamic with Max. Back in season 1 he was this sad puppet of Max’s, manipulated through his weakness to alcohol. But here he’s a bit clear in the head, and they do a lot of fun stuff with him and Max that ended up being my favorite parts of the season. Anyhow, Kenny’s great, and Emun Elliott does a great job in the role. Then we also get supporting work from people like Henry Pettigrew, Rochelle Neil, Stuart Bowman, Phyllis Logan, Greg McHugh, Ian Pirie, and more, all delivering really solid performances.

Arthur Sharpe returned to compose the music once again, and I think he did a damn good job with it. Some fun jazzy instrumentation, some panicky strings, bit of piano, there’s just a good variety of instrumentation from Sharpe to create an interesting and engaging soundscape for the show. There’s also a fair bit of licensed songs used throughout the soundtrack, and they all fit quite well too.

Season 2 of “Guilt” was completely written by series creator Neil Forsyth, with Patrick Harkins handling the directing duties. And the craft here is just good stuff. Nicely shot, every scene has a nice flow in its direction and editing, and especially comes alive during some of the more tense scenes, where Harkins really shows what to do and not to do in order to build the suspense. It’s just a well made show.

While the season itself doesn’t have many actual ratings on my usual sites, I’ll still put them here just to keep with my habits. So here’s Rotten Tomatoes. Here comes Metacritic. And on imdb.com the show overall has a score of 7.3/10.

So yeah, season 2 of “Guilt” is another solid crime romp. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Guilt” is an 8.44/10. So while not perfect, it’s still definitely worth watching!

My review of “Guilt” season 2 is now completed.

Mark Bonnar is a treasure.

Series Review: We Own This City (2022)

*Ted Hastings voice*. Bent coppers.

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… “We Own This City”.

Baltimore, Maryland, 2017. Within this city exists the Gun Trace Task Force, a special squad created to try to find illegal guns and drugs. We soon find out however that things aren’t quite so black and white, as the members within it are investigated for corruption. And so we jump back and forth between the main investigation of the present, and the past events that led to it. “We Own This City” is a compelling true crime sort of series, weaving a complex and compelling drama about the corruption within Baltimore’s law enforcement, and how that creates mistrust from and fraught relationships with the public. Now, while the drama in itself is compelling, I do have my issues with the overall structure of the storytelling. This show has to cover A LOT of ground in only six episodes, and when combined with the jumping back and forth within the timeline, it can make it feel a bit choppy and overly bullet-pointy (for lack of a better word). It’s not necessarily bad, as I do still find the situations really interesting and engaging, but I do think the overall structure does remove some of the impact. But despite it being a little let down by that, it’s still a really well written story.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, and overall really interesting, all feeling very believable and natural. There’s this lived-in feel to them, and their interactions and relationships work really well in creating engaging drama, and at times even a little bit of humor. What also helps is the cast, all of which are fucking superb, featuring people like Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, Josh Charles, McKinley Belcher III, David Corenswet, Delaney Williams, Dagmara Dominczyk, and many more.

The score for the show was composed by Kris Bowers, and it was fine. Nothing stood out as really good or bad, it was just kinda there. A perfectly passable score. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and those work well in their respective scenes.

Based on a book by Justin Fenton, “We Own This City” was developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, with writing by them and a few other cool people, and directing handled by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I would like to say that Green’s direction is really good. His directing isn’t very flashy, but he has this uncanny ability of giving scenes this subtly crackling energy, even during more quiet moments, which keeps each moment really engaging. It’s just really well crafted.

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

While its structure lets down some of its impact, “We Own This City” is still a compelling and engaging drama about the darker side of Baltimore law enforcement. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, alright music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Own This City” is an 8.56/10. So even if it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “We Own This City” is now completed.

Shoulda sent AC-12