Series Review: Primal – Season 2 (2022)

Roughly two years ago, I reviewed the first season of this show. It was one my favorite things I have ever watched. And now season 2 has finally wrapped up, and I’m ready to talk about it. So did it live up to the first one? Let’s find out. Oh, and there will be some spoilers for the end of season 1, as that sets up this season. So you’ve been warned.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Primal” season 2!

Following the capture of his new friend Mira (Laëtitia Eïdo) by some unknown enemies, Spear (Aaron LaPlante) heads out with his trusted dino friend Fang into the vast unknown to find and rescue Mira. Season 2 of “Primal” forgoes the more episodic nature of the first outing for a more overarching story. And while I do miss aspects of the episodic structure, such as the greater variety in creatures, I did still really dig the story here. It’s a fun adventure narrative that tests the mettle of a man on a mission, it also does an excellent job of showing the impact of Spear and Fang’s brutal survival tactics. Like yeah, we do still root for them to succeed, but we also get to see more stuff from the perspective of other characters, and how they react to our heroes. It adds a lot of nuance to proceedings and makes the misadventures of our leads way more compelling and even a little more suspenseful. I also enjoyed how the story explored more cultures. If you’re one of those people who was bothered by the first season’s historically inaccurate premise of “caveman plus dinosaur”, then you’re gonna have a conniption at the amount of historical mixing they do this season. But I like it, because it leads to a lot of fun story and character opportunities. Where the story falters a little bit for me is in the ending, or more specifically the execution of it. I get the idea they’re going for, and it’s not the worst one. But the last minute-ish feels kind of awkward, and bothered me a bit. There is a simple tweak they could’ve done to the script and I wouldn’t have said anything. But as it stands, the very ending here is a little mixed. The overall season on the other hand is fucking great. Fun, scary, compelling, anxiety-inducing, and even heartwarming.

I like the characters in this. Despite (or thanks to) the creator’s penchant for minimal to no (understandable) dialogue, the characters don’t really develop much through words. But they do a good job of humanizing them and making them really compelling through visual storytelling and the actions they take, and it makes them really fun and interesting. And while they don’t get to speak much, I can still say that the voice cast all do a great job with the material/noises they have. Aaron LaPlante Laëtitia Eïdo, Fred Tatasciore, Imari Williams, MyAnna Buring, and more all deliver solid performances.

As with the first season, the music was composed by Tyler Bates and Joanne Higginbottom, and once again they knocked it out of the park. The percussion, brass, strings, and woodwind come together in really fun ways, taking influence from various cultures and exploring various moods in beautiful ways. It’s just stellar stuff that helps elevate the storytelling.

Season 2 of “Primal” had its writing split up between series creator Genndy Tartakovsky, and various other cool people, with directing being handled exclusively by Tartakovsky himself. And yeah, the craft here is just spectacular. The work Genndy and his team did on season 1 was already great, using the medium of animation to great effect. But I think they really outdid themselves here, with more detail in every scene, more dynamic movements, really inventive shots, and some bits that frankly made my jaw drop. You can tell that they really aimed to push themselves and the show further than they had before, and it pays off marvelously. Also, the action’s still bloody as fuck, which might put some off, but I dig it. Really adds weight to this world the characters inhabit.

The show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 97/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.7/10 and is ranked #137 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While the veeeeeery end is awkward and brings it down a little for me, season 2 of “Primal” is still another stellar outing for the violent and contemplative caveman show. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Primal” is a 9.67/10. So it does still get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur…

Series Review: Bodyguard – Season 1 (2018)

I may be four years behind everyone else, but I’m finally caught up on this show… so let’s talk about it.

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

The story follows police sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) who in the wake of increased terror presence gets assigned to protect highly controversial politician Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And throughout the season we get to see David try to balance a rocky home life and his duty to protect Montague, who seems to have more enemies than allies. I found the story here to be quite riveting, it’s six episodes of unrelenting tension, a grey as hell and thematically complex conspiracy thriller that constantly made me question who was on the side of whom, who can be trusted, and why certain events happen. And while it generally tries to put David and his plight as the element we’re supposed to root for, the writing does a good job of still making that feel layered and make it clear that it’s not all black and white, even for our supposed hero. And even when the show gets a little less murky about what’s going on, it still found ways of keeping me in suspense, making my heart race and stomach churn at many points. It’s a damn good suspense thriller narrative.

The characters in this are all very layered, flawed, and have a certain wornness to them, like they feel like they’ve actually been around for a while and didn’t just pop into existence when the camera first shows them. First off we have David Budd, the titular bodyguard, a former soldier and current policeman who gets put through the absolute wringer in this show, getting some of the most interesting development I’ve seen from a protagonist in a while. He’s an engaging character, with Richard Madden delivering an absolutely fantastic performance. Next is Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague, a brash, no-shit-taking, kinda manipulative politician. She has a really interesting thematic presence within the show and the way her relationship to David evolves is always interesting, which leads to a lot of the grey area I mentioned earlier. And Hawes does a great job with the role. And we also get supporting work from people like Sophie Rundle, Stuart Bowman, Ash Tandon, Tom Brooke, Nina Toussaint-White, Anjli Mohindra, and many more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Ruth Barret and Ruskin Williamson, and it is great. Utilizing a mix of classic orchestration and complexly woven electronics, the pair create a score that manages to perfectly nail home the uneasiness of every situation David finds himself on. It also has its own weird quirks at times that’ll stick in my mind for a while. For example, in one track there was this one faint ringing sound that I at first thought was a nearby car alarm, but turns out it was just the score doing something odd to ratchet up tension. So that’ll stick in my noggin for the foreseeable future. But yeah, the music here’s great.

“Bodyguard” was written and created by Jed Mercurio, with directing duties divided between Thomas Vincent and John Strickland, and cinematography handled by John Lee. And the craft here is absolutely superb, with every piece coming together to a show that somehow manages to feel both grand and claustrophobic at the same time, making the conspiracy and situation feel huge while still allowing the tension to always feel near, always in the room with you, smothering you, never really allowing you to breathe properly. It’s just some of the most chest-tensing tv craft I’ve ever experienced. Mercurio and Strickland are no strangers to this, having worked together on the anxiety-inducing “Line of Duty” before (and after) this, but it really feels like they were allowed to really ratchet up the intensity and stakes here to a scope and degree that “Line of Duty” never really seems to have had the chance to. I still adore that show, don’t get me wrong. Just saying, this just seems… bigger in a way, and it allowed them to play around more with what kinds of suspense they could craft.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

So yeah, “Bodyguard” is a fantastic bit of suspense television. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bodyguard” is a 9.56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bodyguard” is now completed.

Apparently they’re gonna make a second season, but I have no god damn clue how they’d be able to follow on from this.

Movie Review: Belle (2022)

Hi, how are you? Long time no see. Anyhow, let’s talk about some anime!

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

Following a traumatic event many years ago, high schooler Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) has become a shadow of her former self, becoming very quiet and withdrawn. But one day seh joins “U”, an online community where you can be whoever you want to be. In here she becomes Belle, an internationally beloved pop star. However, her reign soon takes a turn after she finds out about a mysterious user known as The Beast (Takeru Satoh). As you can probably tell, this story takes some cues from “Beauty and the Beast. And it uses some of those elements as a springboard to tell a tale of finding oneself again, exploring the effect of trauma on a person, and how it makes on act in real life and online. And I think it does a beautiful job exploring its themes, all while perfectly balancing emotional resonance with popcorn friendly fun, creating a magnificently wonderful story.

Much like the story before them, the characters in this strike a really nice balance between an emotionally rich realness and easily digestible tropes. Many of the characters at first glance sort of fit into familiar stereotypes in various animes and coming-of-age dramas. But as we go on throughout the movie, more is unveiled about our cast to add depth. And then you add the characters’ reactions to the immediate events of the story, they feel more dynamic and real and I found the entire cast quite engrossing. Speaking of cast, the actors in this are all quite good. Featuring people like Kaho Nakamura, Takeru Satoh, Ryo Narita, Lilas Ikuta, Shota Sometami, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Koji Yakusho, and many more, there’s not a weak link in this cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Yuta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell (SWEDEN REPRESENT!), Miho Hazama, and Taisei Iwasaki, and it’s great. It’s a varied mix of traditional orchestration with more more electronic/synthy sound, which I think perfectly marries the real world drama and cyberspace parts of the world/story marvelously. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, it’s fun, it just works so well. There’s also a few song-songs (for lack of a better word) done by Japanese group Millennium Parade, and holy fuck, they are so good. Not only are they a delight to listen to on their own, but they also help with the storytelling in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has some wonderful music.

“Belle” was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, with animation by his own studio, Studio Chizu. And once again, everything on that end is top tier. Every shot is lovingly crafted, drawing the eye to the visual splendor in every frame. What I also like is how they differentiate the real world from the world of “U”. The real world is pretty much all 2D animation, with fairly muted colors, whereas nearly everything going on inside of “U” is done in 3D with some really slick cel-shading and plenty of saturated and crisp colors. And just briefly, that 3D stuff is some of the best I’ve seen. Cel-shaded 3D in anime can often look really rough, but the insane wizards at Chizu managed to make it pretty much flawless. But pretty art/animation only gets you so far, but luckily I can happily say that Hosoda’s direction shine’s here. From the quiet scenes between characters, to the action scenes inside of “U”, to the more comedic bits, all of it is perfectly directed.

This movie’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

So yeah, I absolutely loved “Belle”. It’s an emotionally rich adventure that I can’t wait to revisit in the future. It has a fantastic story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic direction/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Belle” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Belle” is now completed.

Hosoda-san sure loves the internet, huh?

Series Review: The Responder – Season 1 (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Ted Hastings voice* Bent coppers.

Movie Review: Boiling Point (2022)

No, this isn’t a movie about that one Rat Boy song that was in “Need For Speed: Payback”. WHAT? What do you mean that reference is too niche? *sigh*. Anyhow, let’s check into the kitchen.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Boiling Point”!

It’s christmas time, and Andy Jones (Stephen Graham), the head chef at a nice restaurant, has to try to keep himself and his staff in check on what seems to be the busiest night of the year. Much like the title suggests, the story of “Boiling Point” is a constant simmering tension that is on the cusp of shit going boom at any point. Right from frame one when we first see Andy walking into the restaurant, there is this uncomfortable tension, and it never really lets up, in fact it just gets more and more tense as the night goes on, and things in the restaurant start getting more and more strained and uncomfortable for Andy and the other employees, confronting both their personal flaws and the demands of the customers. So yeah, I think the story here is fucking great. A really tense and highly compelling narrative of people trying to survive walls closing in on all ends.

The characters in this, much like the story, I find utterly compelling. They all have this lived-in quality to them, making them feel like real people in this world, and not just characters who’ve been plonked in there for the sake of a story. And what I also like is that the movie puts their flaws on display first and foremost, making for some really strong drama and character development. What also helps is the cast, all of whom are just on point. Stephen Graham is an actor I’ve admired for several years now, and once again he knocked it out of the god damn park. But I also have to commend the rest of the cast, containing people like Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Ray Panthaki, Hannah Walters, Malachi Kirby, and many more, all of whom are fucking spectacular.

The score for the movie was composed by David Ridley and Aaron May, and I will be frank… I have no memory of it. I watched it this evening, and I can’t recall any music of any kind, beyond the end credits song by Sam Fender (which is a good song). But the score itself, I sadly can’t comment on.

“Boiling Point” was directed and co-written by Philip Barantini, based on a short film he made a few years back (also starring Stephen Graham). And boy howdy, did he kill it. If you’re not aware, this movie was done in one long take, which is a gimmick we’ve seen in other movies, but I think “Boiling Point” uses it in a way that makes sense. It really helps capture the unrelenting pressure that is on the characters. There is no relief for them they’re constantly in the moment, and I think that’s beautifully captured through the tense direction, and Matthew Lewis’ impressive cinematography. It’s just incredibly well crafted.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 99% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

“Boiling Point” is a suspenseful and really compelling drama. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, and fantastic direction and cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Boiling Point” is a 9.60/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Boiling Point” is now completed.

You know, I wasn’t set on becoming a chef before I saw this, but now I’m even less inclined to do it.

Series Review: Luther – Season 5 (2019)

My friends, we are finally here. My final review in this little series of mine. So let’s just get the phrase said one last time and then get into the review itself… Beware the Ides of Elba.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 5.

DCI Luther (Idris Elba) is back for his hardest challenge yet, having to solve a complex and violent series of murders, all while having to deal with people from his past coming in and causing a lot of trouble for him. And I am happy to report that this season of “Luther” feels way better structured than the way too short season 4. Going back to the four episode structure of previous entries, it gives the story time to breathe, keeping it from feeling so crammed and overstuffed. As for the writing itself, it’s good. It doesn’t *quite* have the same terror and suspense of some of the previous seasons, and its relentless, actiony pace doesn’t always work to the show’s benefit, but generally it’s still solid. It still dabbles a lot with morals, the darkness of the human condition, and how one’s actions might affect your life. And it does all of that very well. But what I also really find interesting about the storytelling here is the sense of inevitability and finality, you can tell that this was the end of the show, with how it escalated and the overall tone of everything. And I think it makes the drama feel even more engaging. So yeah, I liked the story here.

In terms of characters, there’s not much I can say here that I haven’t touched on before. Both recurring characters and newcomers are interesting and have some interesting development in this story. And the performances are of course off the charts great again. Idris Elba, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Wunmi Mosaku, Paul McGann, Michael Obiora, Patrick Malahide, and Ruth Wilson, they’re all brilliant.

As per usual, Paul Englishby did the music, and he did a damn good job with it. Strings, brass, some electronics, the man has established a high quality soundscape for the show, and he keeps it going this go around as well. It’s just damn good stuff, y’all. The licensed songs used throughout work pretty well too.

As with its previous seasons, all episodes of “Luther” S5 were written by series creator Neil Cross, with Jamie Payne stepping in as director. And as with the other seasons, the craft here is impeccable. Nice shot composition, a really good flow to action scenes, a lot of decently length shots that let moments simmer and allow us to get really invested in what’s going on. I don’t know what to say, really. If you liked the way the show was shot, edited, and crafted before, and you’re willing to accept a faster pace and a bigger focus on action, then you’ll likely enjoy this too.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 64/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While not the show’s best entry, season 5 of “Luther” is still a major return to form and a good ending for the show. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Luther” season 5 is a 9.45/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 5 is completed.

And it’s finally over… *ring ring, ring ring* Hello? Yes? WAIT, THERE’S A MOVIE COMING!?

Series Review: Luther – Season 3 (2013)

Beware the Ides of Elba, because they’re here… again… but not for the final time. Anyhow, let’s once again delve into this show.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 3!

DCI Luther (Idris Elba) is once again back to solve a series of dark and violent murders, all while some other officers are trying to dig up enough dirt on him to take him down. I loved the storytelling here in season 3, it’s arguably the strongest in the show so far. Starting with the overarching element, it actually broadens its scope a bit, not just focusing on John himself, but also goes wider to explore how other people, in particular his colleague Justin (Warren Brown), sees him, and what effect Luther’s actions have on people. And I found those elements of the story utterly compelling. And as far as the procedural elements go, those are amazing as well. Much like with season 2, not only are there only four episodes, but it’s also only two cases getting two episodes each, and it really helps them flourish and feel way more tense and nuanced. They also delve into even darker, more unsettling waters than before, even going full-blown horror at a point. And it helps make for some really intense and kinda scary storytelling that I absolutely loved.

In terms of characters, season 3 of “Luther” succeeds greatly in further developing ones from previous seasons, and then also giving us some compelling new ones too. Luther remains a really engaging lead, with Elba still giving us some truly powerhouse acting. And then there’s Justin, Luther’s colleague, who is given a lot more space and opportunities to shine here, developing him further into a truly interesting character, with Warren Brown giving a great performance in the role. The rest of the supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Michael Smiley, Dermot Crowley, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sienna Guillory, David O’Hara, Kevin Fuller, Lucian Msamati, and more. It’s a very well-rounded cast playing some really interesting characters.

Paul Englishby returned to once again do the music, and once again its great. Low, brooding hums, dramatic brass, some emotional piano, some eerie strings… it’s just a brilliant escalation of the kind of sound Englishby made for the first two seasons, and it really adds so much to the episodes. The few licensed songs used throughout also work really well.

“Luther” season 3 was written by series creator Neil Cross, with direction split between Sam Miller and Farren Blackburn. And the craft here is on another level. It feels more grandiose, while still managing to remain intimate with the characters, and even claustrophobic and incredibly tense at times. The directing, editing, and cinematography just feels way more cinematic than in previous outings, which makes it stand out and feel even stronger.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 20 TV” list.

Season 3 of “Luther” is my favorite one so far, giving us an intense, scary, and thematically rich experience that I enjoyed from start to end. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score fro “Luther” season 3 is a 9.92/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 3 is now completed.

I am having such a good time going through this show.

Series Review: Luther – Season 2 (2011)

Beware the Ides of Elba, for they resume… funnily enough smack dab in the middle of the month, I’ll be damned. Anyhow, let’s continue talking about this British crime show. Oh, and there will be a few spoilers for the end of season 1, as that leads into this… so you’ve been warned.

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

Still reeling from the death of his ex-wife, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) finds himself going back to work, once again having to solve a series of violent cases. His life gets even more complicated when he finds himself having to look after and protect a young woman from the darkness of her past. What’s interesting about season 2 of “Luther” is that it somehow manages to have this almost over-the-top/silly popcorn feeling to its crime stories, while still managing to retain a sense of suspense that somehow feels even darker and even more grim than what we got in season 1. And then we got John’s personal arc over the season, which delves into even more morally grey territories than the first season, which I found utterly compelling. And it all comes together in a really interesting set of episodes that I found absolutely riveting from start to end. Even the reduced episode count (going from 6 to 4) holds up, as it never feels like they’re actually skimping out on plot or character development, despite that being a very real risk when lowering the amount of episodes you produce. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s emotionally charged, it’s tense… yeah, season 2 of “Luther” has some great fucking storytelling.

The characters this season remain utterly compelling this season, with no one feeling like a weak link at any point. All of them have this nuanced to them that makes them deeply fascinating, and they all get some really interesting development. What also helps is the cast, who once again are all superb. Idris Elba is still amazing as our lead and Ruth Wilson is still electrifying as Alice Morgan. The rest of the supporting cast, containing people like Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley, Paul McGann, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Lee Ingleby, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Michael Smiley, Steven Robertson, and more, are all great. Just superb acting all around.

The score was once again composed by Paul Englishby, and I feel he really stepped up his game this time around. His score is a bit bigger, more grandiose, more emotional, while still being able to retain the brooding quality that was established in the first season, making for a dynamic and engaging score that just elevates each scene so much. The few licensed songs used throughout the season also work pretty well in their respective scenes.

Season 2 of “Luther” was written by series creator Neil Cross, with Sam Miller directing all four episodes. And once again, the craft here is absolutely superb. In slower, more character-driven scenes, the direction finds nice ways of feeling intimate, yet distant, giving us a surprisingly objective, yet really engaging look at the characters. And when things need to get intense, it does that insanely well too, keeping me on the edge of my seat for the entire scene(s). Basically it takes what was good about season 1’s craft and improves upon it.

This show/season has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic the season has a score of 78/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #248 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 2 of “Luther” takes what made season 1 great and further improves upon it, giving us four episodes of dark, morally complex police drama. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Luther” is a 9.77/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Two down, three to go

Series Review: Luther – Season 1 (2010)

This is a show I’ve only seen an episode or two of over the years. So when I saw that it was leaving Netflix at the end of the month, I felt that it was the perfect time to catch up on the entirety of it over the next few weeks. So look forward to more reviews coming in this little project I’ve decided to call “The Ides of Elba”.

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

John Luther (Idris Elba) is a brilliant but rough-around-the-edges police detective as he’s reinstated after an extended absence following a horrible and traumatic case. And we follow him as he works to solve various dark and horrific crimes, all while struggling to keep his personal life together, along with developing an uncomfortable kinship with a deranged young woman (Ruth Wilson). At first glance, “Luther” might have the air of a typical police drama, it manages to stand out partly thanks to a gritty and dark tone, exploring much darker and heavier crime stories. But it also works thanks to the overarching storylines, involving Luther’s past, his tense relationship with his estranged wife (Indira Varma), and his newfound “friendship” with the aforementioned deranged young woman. Yes, there is a lot going on, and it can make the episodes feel slightly long in the tooth at times, but it’s all written with so much nuance and suspense that I can forgive some of the slower and more feet-draggy (that is now a word, shut up) moments. So yeah, the story here’s good.

What I love about the characters of Luther is that none of them are really written in a perfect black and white manner. Everyone’s written with a lot of ambiguity and nuance. Be they “hero”, support, or villain, all of them have many layers to them that make them deeply fascinating. Even our main character, while a policeman who tries to do good and save the day, is written incredibly grey, and it makes him an incredibly compelling character to follow. It also helps that Idris Elba is fucking incredible in the role. The supporting cast is great too. Ruth Wilson, Indira Varma, Steven Mackintosh, Warren Brown, Saskia Reeves, Paul McGann, there’s not a weak link in this cast.

The score was composed by Paul Englishby, and I think he did a really good job with it. Very brooding, very eerie, really helps maintain the gritty vibe that the writing goes for, often elevating the suspense of certain scenes. They also use licensed songs on occasion, and they work really well in their respective scenes. Overall, there’s good music here.

“Luther” was created and written for the BBC by Neil Cross, with direction by various cool people. And I think the craft here is superb. The scenes have a very deliberate pace to them, shots willing to linger for a while, slowly building this creeping suspense that often culminates in really intense and at times even brutal payoffs. It helps bring the material to life in a fresh and exciting way that wasn’t seen that much on tv back in 2010.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #247 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Luther” makes one hell of a first impression, giving us a dark and captivating six episodes that had me (mostly) enraptured from start to end. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Luther” is a 9.44/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Beware the Ides of Elba, for there’s more coming your way…

Movie Review: Ikiru (1952)

If you’ve followed me for a somewhat extended period of time, you’d know that I covered several movies by this director last year. Well, now the distributor behind those have another box set out (technically it’s been out since last spring, but I digress), and I’m gonna be covering those movies every now and then. So you know… fun?

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

After he discovers he has terminal stomach cancer, aging bureaucrat Kanji (Takashi Shimura) begins to reflect both on his past, and on the very meaning of life. The story of “Ikiru” is one that is hard to describe, at least from a personal and emotional standpoint. Objectively, it’s a slowly burning, melancholic, yet still hopeful exploration of what it means to live, a tender and humanist look exploration into a man’s heart heart and soul. But I feel that any words I use to try to explain its effect on me aren’t enough. It broke my heart and put it together again in ways I didn’t think possible. It made me think about my own life, both the good and the bad parts. It’s a tragic and beautifully told tale that reached into my very soul and hit in a way I haven’t experienced in a while.

The characters in this all feel very… human, as if they weren’t just characters, but actual people who were simply being filmed, thanks to the sheer amount of love and nuance that they clearly had been written with. What also adds to this are the performances, none of which feel flashy or theatrical. In particular I want to mention Takashi Shimura, the man who plays our lead character. His performance is just utterly devastating and beautiful. We also get supporting work from people like Nobuo Kaneko, Shin’ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and much like the story and characters before it, it was just beautiful. A gorgeously melancholic, yet hopeful chain of melodies played on strings, brass, and some woodwind. It’s just great. There’s also one song not originally composed for this movie used here, and it’s used to perfection. This movie just has great music.

Partly based on “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” By Leo Tolstoy, “Ikiru” was directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. And he once again proved here what a master he was. Perfectly flowing shots, all lingering for the perfect amount of time, all finding the right way of adding to the emotion of the scene. And the cinematography by Asakazu Nakai is absolutely breathtaking, from framing, to lighting, it all just looks stunning and adds so much to the storytelling on display here. It’s just a terrifically assembled movie.

This movie has been incredibly well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 91/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.3/10 and is ranked #100 on their “Top 250” list.

“Ikiru” affected me in a way that few movies have, it’s a stunningly beautiful exploration of what it means to live. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Ikiru” is a 9.95/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Ikiru” is now completed.

Just… wow.