12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Final Part)

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen. The final part in my 12 Films of Christmas series. And honestly, it’s most likely not only for this year. While fun has been had with this series, I do feel that it’s getting a little stale. Plus, it is a little draining cranking out themed content at this rate. So consider this series retired… at least for the time being, I might get the urge to bring it back in a few years. But seeing as it’s the alleged final 12 Films of Christmas post, I thought it only appropriate to bring out the grandfather of all holiday films.

So today we’re talking about “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the acclaimed 1946 holiday drama. It follows George (James Stewart) and the many ups and downs of his life. Yeah, it’s basically this man’s life story from child to depressed businessman. It’s a fascinating little holiday tale with sads and happies and other emotions. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t find the story perfect. I do feel that it does drag a little at times, mainly in the first two acts. It’s not film-breaking, but it does bring it down a little for me. While I generally think George is a fascinating fella, and the story an intriguing and pretty nuanced one, I do feel that the film’s weird pacing hurts it to some degree.
But I can’t deny just how fucking good that final act is. That’s when the story truly kicks into high gear. That’s where the film really starting hitting me in the ol’ heart. The final act is perfect.
So yeah, I don’t love this as much as the rest of you… but I still think it’s really solid and I’m definitely glad I watched it.

On the twelfth day of christmas, this series it did die
But to this blog Markus he’ll never say goodbye

Merry fucking christmas, friends. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna take a few days off.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 11)

Only one more of these left after today. THANK GOD. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing for you guys. But writing for 12 days straight is a bit draining. So when this is over I’m gonna take a few days off. But until then, let’s talk about the penultimate movie for this series.

So for today we’re talking about a brand new movie (oh my god). That movie is “Happiest Season”, a christmas dramedy about Harper (Mackenzie Davis), a young woman who is bringing her girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) along for christmas with the family… except they don’t know that Harper isn’t gay, so the pair have to keep it a bit of a secret until Harper feels ready to come out of the proverbial closest. Cue the sneaking around, misunderstandings, emotional baggage, and personal demons. While I wouldn’t say that “Happiest Season” is the best movie I’ve seen this year, I still think it’s really solid. It handles its subject matter with a fair bit of tact, giving us a pretty nuanced take on this premise. While the movie primarily acts as a comedy, it isn’t afraid to get a bit more serious, really letting us sit with the characters and their emotions for a bit. And while I do think it gets the balance of comedy and drama down quite well, it doesn’t always hold up perfectly in that regard. When you have serious contemplations about the nature of your relationship one minute and awkward slapstick the next, it can get slightly jarring. It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it did take me out for a sec.
Also, I just have to go off on one thing for a second. Dan Levy. Dan god damn Levy. This guy is gutbustingly funny. Any time (bar one more serious part) he was on screen he made me absolutely lose it. The rest of the cast is great too, there’s not a weak link in that department… but Levy is definitely the MVP here.
So in conclusion, “Happiest Season” may not be perfect, but it’s still a really solid holiday dramedy that both made me laugh, and made me care about these characters. I’d happily watch it again next year.

On the eleventh day of christmas, I watched something gay
And hey guess what, it was truly quite good, yay

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 1)

Ho ho hello there, friends. It’s that time of year again where for 12 days straight (good grief) give you posts about christmas movies. And yes, I promise that these are proper christmas films, and not just more of that wacky non-christmas movie experiment I did last year. So with that said, time to check out the first holiday film for this year’s editon of 12 Films of Christmas!

Today’s movie is “The Holiday Calendar”, a cheesy christmas rom-com about Abby (Kat Graham), a talented photographer who receives a nice little advent calendar from her grandpa (Ron Cephas Jones). And every day a door opens, revealing a small toy that may or may not have something to do with her coming day… So yeah, there’s some vague hocus pocus crap going on here, while also being a cheesy holiday rom-com. And everyone in the cast is attractive, a wise elderly man, or a comic relief sidekick. Basically it fills out every part of the cheesy holiday bingo card. If you can think of any other clichés associated with these kinds of films, then they more than likely get filled out too.
I’ll be honest, when this movie started, I didn’t hate it. The first third was genuinely kinda fun, there was enjoyable dialogue, it was pretty well shot, and the cast was charismatic. Basically I was actually enjoying myself, with some genuine smiles emerging on my grinchy face. But after that first third, things went downhill. We get a dull love story and the clichés get overbearing and the charisma just dissipates right out the window. The cast does the best they can with the material they’re given, but it still ends up being quite underwhelming. And the overabundance of christmas songs doesn’t help. Show some fucking restraint.
It’s not the worst of these bland holiday films I’ve seen, as it has some decent qualities to it at times. But I still wouldn’t necessarily recommend it… unless you have a soft spot for this kind of stuff. Then knock yourself out… so I can rob you while you’re unconscious.

On the first day of christmas, Markus put out the word
That this film isn’t a big fucking turd

Movie Review: The Mummy (1932)

More old school monster content coming your way! Woo!

Ladies and gentlemummies… “The Mummy”.

After some archaeologists manage to dig him out, ancient mummy Imhotep (Boris Karloff) goes searching for the reincarnation of his long lost love. As someone who watched the 1999 Brendan Fraser “Mummy” movie first when I was younger, that setup is familiar. Though this is of course a lot less action-focused, relying more on being an atmospheric procedural of sorts. And I think the story here is fine, it’s okay. At times it feels like a less fun and flamboyant “Dracula”, due to a similar story structure. And you guys know me, I don’t mind a bit of slow pacing, if it feels like it’s adding to a narrative, developing the plot and characters in interesting ways. But that’s not the case here, the pacing here is just slow-slow, with events simply transpiring without feeling that engaging. I’m sure someone out there loves the story here, and that’s great. But for me it’s just okay.

The characters in this are fine, they’re there to make story happen. The most interesting one is most definitely Imhotep, played by Boris Karloff. A well-spoken, conniving gentleman who just wants his love back. There’s something quite interesting going on there in that regard. And Karloff is of course great in that role. The rest of the cast, including Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Byron, and Edward Van Sloan (making his third Month of Spooks appearance this year) are all good… it’s just that their characters are a little underdeveloped.

Unlike the previous two Universal monster flicks I’ve talked about, this one actually has a bit of an actual musical score (fucking exciting, I know). It was composed by James Dietrich and shows up at a few key points. And I think it’s pretty good, helping sell the mysticism surrounding the Egyptian mythology used within the movie. So yeah, it’s good.

“The Mummy” is the first Universal monster not based on a specific novel, and it was directed by Karl Freund, who I think did a good job here. He knew how to build good atmosphere and he was good about what to show and what not to. He just did solid work here. And when paired with Charles Stumar’s really good cinematography, you get some really solid craft on display here.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/10.

While definitely my least favorite of the Universal monster movies I’ve seen so far, “The Mummy” is still a decently enjoyable little flick. It has an okay plot, meh characters, good performances, good music, and really good directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Mummy” is a 6.22/10. So while I don’t exactly love it, I still think it’s worth a rental.

My review of “The Mummy” is now completed.

That’s three Edward Van Sloan appearances in a week. Do you think I can get a free sandwich if I get one more?

Movie Review: Frankenstein (1931)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review of “Frankenstein” is now completed.

Now? Okay, cool. AHEM… IT’S ALIVE!!!

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: 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.

Movie Review: Lady Macbeth (2017)

That’s right, this summer isn’t just about films from my own country. I can review other things too if I’m in the mood. And right now I am in the mood to review something not in my own language.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Lady Macbeth”.

19th century England. Katherine (Florence Pugh) lives in an unhappy marriage that she’s been forced into. But as we follow her throughout the movie, we see her evolution as she slowly comes into her own, which may or may not stir some shit up in the house. Now, when the movie started out it felt somewhat familiar. A romantically inclined period piece drama with themes of personal liberation. However, as it went on it started leaning into directions I didn’t expect. And I really feel like this gradual shift in tone and even genre really helps “Lady Macbeth” stand out among the crowd of period dramas out there. It helps give the movie a unique identity and impact that I haven’t really seen before. It goes to some dark fuckin’ places at times, and I’d argue it really helped the storytelling out quite a bit. It is slow paced, which might put some people off, but I for one really found the story engrossing.

The characters in this are flawed, quite layered, and just overall quite interesting. Florence Pugh plays Katherine, a young woman who’s been forced into an unhappy marriage with a rich dickhead. Due to her situation she is a bit repressed, but over the movie we do see her evolving quite a bit as a character, making her really fascinating to follow. And Pugh is terrific in the role. The and the supporting work from people like Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, and more is all pretty great too.

The score for the movie was composed by Dan Jones, and it was good. Compared to so many other movies that use musical tracks in every other scene, this score only appears at a few points. And even then, none of the tracks are loud or particularly attention seeking, going for a more low-key suspense/emotional resonance, and I think that works pretty well.

Based on a novel by Nikolai Leskov, “Lady Macbeth” was directed by William Oldroyd. And I think Oldroyd did a really good job with it. He makes the most of the remote location the film is set in, really creating an engaging atmosphere that enhances the storytelling. And the cinematography by Ari Wegner is pretty fantastic too, both in the wide shots of the moorlands, and in the more cramped indoor scenes.

This film has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

“Lady Macbeth” is a uniquely engaging period piece that I highly enjoyed. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, good use of music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Lady Macbeth” is a 9,64/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Lady Macbeth” is now completed.

Florence Pugh? More like Florence Prettyfuckinggoodatacting.

Movie Review: Let the Right One In (2008)

Good afternoon, my friends. Or good whatever-fucking-time-it-is-when-you-read-this. Either way, time for another Summer of the Swedes entry.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Let the Right One In” (Original title: Låt den rätte komma in).

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) doesn’t have it easy. He tries to just live his life, which is made harder at every turn by some other boys who bully him. But one day on a chilly winter night, he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a weird and mysterious girl that he soon starts befriending, which will change his life in a major way. Initial setup sounds a tad similar to “We Can Be Heroes!”, which I reviewed a week or so ago. But in execution it’s very different. Instead of being a lighthearted and funny story about outcasts who learn to follow their dreams, this is a slowly burning, somber affair that incorporates elements of existentialism and of course also the supernatural. And I found it to be utterly fucking engaging. Some people might hate the slow pace of it, in combination with the lack of scares (since it’s technically a horror movie)… but for me it just really clicked in an emotionally engaging way.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, and overall just really interesting. Something about the characters here just feels real to me, at least more so than many movies I’ve seen recently. And while some of the kid actors here aren’t necessarily great, they do still sell their performances pretty well. Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Patrik Rydmark, they all do well. And the adult actors like Per Ragnar and Karin Bergquist all do really well in their roles. It’s a well rounded cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Johan Söderqvist, and I think he did a really good job with it. It’s a somber affair, helping create this electrifying, almost dreamlike vibe for the movie. It helps create a deeper emotional connection between the viewer, really adding a lot to the atmosphere of the movie.

Based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the script for “Let the Right One In” was written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, with Tomas Alfredson serving as director. The craft here is generally really good. Alfredson really knows how to make scenes feel both warmly engaging and weirdly unsettling. He also knows what to show, when to show it, and how long to show it. There is some genuinely disturbing imagery at times, and Alfredson does an excellent job in its usage. And the cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is really good as well, giving the movie a unique and stunning look that adds so much to the atmosphere.

This film has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Let the Right One In” is an excellent little horror-drama. It has a great plot, great characters, really good performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Let the Right One In” is a 9,78/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Let the Right One In” is now completed.

Finally, a great movie in this series of mine.

Movie Review: We Can Be Heroes! (2002)

Time for the Summer of the Swedes to keep going. So what’s on the menu today? A children’s film? Oh fuck.

Ladies and gentlemen… “We Can Be Heroes!” (Original title: Bäst i Sverige!).

Marcello (Ariel Petsonk) doesn’t have it easy. He’s bullied by some boys in schools, and his parents (Michael Nyqvist, Anna Pettersson) try to dictate where his life is supposed to go. But when he befriends the new girl in his class (Zamand Hägg), his life starts changing in a few ways. If some of these elements sound familiar, that’s because you’ve seen other movies. But just because this film borrows cliches from other ones doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, I’d argue the story here is pretty good, with writing that takes the cliches and uses them in charming and enjoyable ways. There’s a lot of times when our main character has really vivid dreams, both in the middle of the day and during the night, which serve to not only develop him as a character, but also further the plot and also entertain. And it helps make the storytelling here feel fresh and fun. There are one or two moments in the story that maybe don’t fit too much, since they push the suspension of disbelief a bit too much, but overall I really liked the story here.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, and at times surprisingly nuanced. Sure, they all might seem like walking cliches at first. But as the story moves on, we see most of them get some decent development that makes them endearing and likable. And the cast, which features people like Ariel Petsonk, Zamand Hägg, Michael Nyqvist, Anna Pettersson, Ralph Carlsson, Pontus Stenshäll, and more, all do pretty well in their respective roles.

The music in this movie is based heavily in a lot of pop tunes, which I guess is used to help add to the overall fun tone of the movie. I’m not saying all of them 100% fit all of the time, but I also don’t think any of the tracks ruin the mood at all. The songs work fine.

“We Can Be Heroes!” was directed and edited by Ulf Malmros, and I think he did a damn good job. The way he shoots a scene is energetic and fast-paced, while still allowing for some of the more quiet scenes to nicely simmer. And man, the editing is really good too. Malmros knows when to make perfect cuts and how to nicely transition between reality and Marcello’s dreams. The craft here is really good. And since this is a comedy (despite imdb not acknowledging it), how is the humor? Fucking funny. It’s charming, it’s silly, it’s cute, it’s even a little brash at times… and most of it made me laugh.

On Rotten Tomatoes it exists with no rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,8/10.

“We Can Be Heroes!” had a bit of an uphill battle with me, being both from my own home country and a children’s film. But god damn, it managed to win me over. It’s a charming little comedy about finding yourself. It has a good plot, really good characters, really good performances, pretty good music, great directing/editing, and funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Can Be Heroes!” is an 8,89/10. So I’d definitely say it’s worth buying.

My review of “We Can be Heroes!” is now completed.

Things are starting to look up.