Series Review: Brotherhood – Season 1 (2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movie Review: Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

I took a break from Swedish films for a bit, but now I’m back, ready to continue this Summer of the Swedes thing I’m doing. So let’s go.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “Borg vs. McEnroe”.

Famous tennis players Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) have a bit of an ongoing rivalry, both at the top of their game, both well known. And soon this rivalry might come to a head in the 1980 Wimbledon tournament. However, the movie is not just one long tennis match. It jumps back and forth in time a lot, showing us the upbringing of these men, as well as giving us a lot of their issues relating to their present situation. It’s very much a character study of these two complex and honestly fucked up individuals. And for the most part I found myself quite engaged by it, as the writing does give a lot of nuance to proceedings. It’s not a pure “hero/villain” or “adoration of giants” narrative, this shows that none of these guys are perfect. The story does step into a fair bit of the trappings that can be found within the biopic genre, and the pacing can be a little wonky in the first half, but overall I do still think the story works here thanks to some of the nuances within the writing.

The characters in this are layered, and overall just quite interesting. Sverrir Gudnason plays Björn Borg, a seasoned tennis player with multiple world titles under his belt. However, while this skill and fame is something people look up to, he is a much more tragic and meticulous individual, his mind isn’t all joy and tennis wins. I don’t know how else to explain it, the dude’s a fascinating person. And Gudnason is great in the role, giving a very reserved but still nuanced performance. Next is Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe, Borg’s rival. He too carries a lot of emotional baggage, which we do find out about through the movie. And he is quite a compelling character, with LaBeouf giving what might be a career best performance. We also get supporting work from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Scott Arthur, Ian Blackman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

Unlike most movies, which have one composer, this one has four. Vladislav Delay, Jon Ekstrand, Carl-John Sevedag, and Johan Struck all contributed in some way to the score here. And despite there being so many names attached to it, the music is surprisingly coherent, giving us an intriguing blend of traditional orchestral elements with some electronic mixing to give it an intriguing and emotionally resonant sound that works pretty well within the movie. There’s also a few licensed tunes used throughout, and they work alright too.

“Borg vs. McEnroe” was directed by Janus Metz, who I think did a really good job with it. He knows how to really get you in the minds of the characters, all without losing the wider scope of the scene around them, giving us a good look at the full situation. This is further helped out by Niels Thastum’s slick cinematography, along with the spectacular editing from Per Kirkegaard and Per Sandholt. In terms of the technical craft, this movie is terrific.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 63/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While it does fall into some biopic trappings at times, “Borg vs. McEnroe” is still a damn fine character drama. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Smacks ball*. My final score for “Borg vs. McEnroe” is an 8,77/10. So it’s certainly worth buying.

My review of “Borg vs. McEnroe” is now completed.

SPORTSBALL, WOO!

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.

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Part 3)

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. And welcome to the third part in my December 2016 christmas countdown thing. With that said, let’s listen to some music!

So I thought we’d tone it down a little bit this time. The previous two times we were listening to some rock music, so let’s get a little more chill this time. Today we have Swedish christmas song “Tänd ett ljus” by Triad. The title basically translates to “Light a Candle” and is about how we should be good and light a candle for everything we believe in, for everything that’s good in our world. I am more often than not on the fence about acapella, but this is a time where I think it really works. You have the singers doing the acapella while also snapping their fingers and it sounds great. There’s not a lot of christmas stuff in this song, there’s really just a tiny bit towards the end, but it has become kind of a christmas tradition here in Sweden, playing on the radio a bunch of times a day around christmas time. So now you know a little bit more about Swedish christmas… yeah.
Enjoy!