Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

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 show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been 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 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Movie Review: Arlington Road (1999)

The 90s. Now, while that isn’t the most relevant thing to this movie, I just wanna take a second to mention what a great decade that was for film. Especially thrillers, as we got so many interesting and varied kinds of thrillers out of the decade. Let’s just give a nod or a clap for the thrillers of the 90s.

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to… “Arlington Road”.

Shortly after history professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) starts getting acquainted with his neighbors after an accident involving their son, he starts suspecting that there’s something a bit off with them. And we follow Michael as he investigates them to see what they may be hiding. And I must say that I really enjoyed this plot. Sure, there were a couple moments of “Really, movie?” throughout. You know, those types of conveniences that are a bit more noticeable than others? Yeah, a couple too many here, bringing the plot down a little bit. But other than those moments I thought the plot was great, filled with excellent suspense, highly engaging drama, and just a great sense of intrigue.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, and quite interesting. First up we have Jeff Bridges as Michael Faraday, the aforementioned history teacher who starts suspecting his neighbors. We find out early on that he lost his wife a while before the events of the movie, which still haunts him a little bit, which may or may not add to his paranoia throughout. And he’s quite a complex character. And Bridges is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tim Robbins as Oliver Lang, the father in the family he suspects. He’s a charming, fun, and just overall cool guy… and he may or may not be hiding something. He’s quite an interesting character. And Robbins is great in the role. And that’s all I’ll go in-depth about, since if I say more it could potentially ruin some stuff. But I can mention that in the supporting cast we see people like Joan Cusack, Spencer Treat Clark, Hope Davis, Robert Gossett, and Mason Gamble, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Angelo Badalamenti (with some additional tracks done by musical duo Tomandandy), and it was good. I didn’t notice it too frequently, and when I did it ranged from really good to kinda meh. Not saying any of it’s bad, since I do think all the tracks working fairly well for their respective scenes, just that I won’t find myself listening to it any time soon.

The movie was directed by Mark Pellington, and I think he did a damn good job. His direction is tight and suspenseful, often playing around with the main character’s sense of paranoia. He also plays around a lot with lighting, making for a bit of fun watching. There’s also some excellent use of the Dutch tilt in a couple scenes, perfectly encapsulating what is going on the character’s head. Really well done.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 62% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. Roger Ebert gave it 2/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

While not perfect, “Arlington Road” is still a really solid conspiracy thriller. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, and great directing. A previously mentioned, I do think there are moments throughout the plot that bring it down a little bit. Not enough to ruin it, but enough to bring the score down a little. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Arlington Road” is an 8,90/10. So while flawed, it’s still definitely worth buying.

My review of “Arlington Road” is now completed.

One more clap for 90s thrillers, they deserve it.

Movie Review: Four Lions (2010)

Terrorism. A horrible thing that I wish wouldn’t exist in our world, but unfortunately pops up a terrifying amount of times every year. Hopefully we’ll one day be free of it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Four Lions”.

The story follows a group of British jihadists who plan to commit an act of terror, and we follow them as they train and prepare to commit this horrible act. Luckily they aren’t the most competent of people. And that’s really it. You’d think a concept like this wouldn’t very good, relying more on tasteless shock humor for the sake of shocking audience members. But this is an incredibly clever, funny, and fascinating plot that has a surprising amount of heart to it. It very much has the feel of “The Thick of It” or “In the Loop” (makes sense given some of the crew members), and I think that is awesome. It’s a cleverly satirical plot that kept me entertained and interested from start to finish.

What is interesting about the characters here is that they’re really just a bunch of bumbling idiots. They’re not your typical “scary muslim” type characters that you see in so many movies featuring terrorism. They are just average people/idiots who feel like they should commit some horrible acts, somehow endearing us to them and their quest. I’m not gonna go in-depth with all of them as I don’t want to spoil some fun stuff, but I will talk about one of them. The one I want to talk about is Riz Ahmed who plays Omar, who is more or less the main-main character of this movie. While he is up for this quest and has some great comedic chemistry with the other “Lions”, we do get to see some other, somewhat emotional sides to him when he’s with other people. He’s a well-rounded, and interesting character that I cared about. And Ahmed is great in the role. As for the other characters, they don’t get the same depth as Omar, but I don’t think they need it as they have more focus on their outrageous personalities. Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar… I salute you. Everyone in this movie is great.

The interesting thing about the music in “Four Lions” is that there is no real original score here, just a whole bunch of licensed tracks used throughout the movie. And I think that works really well, since they have found some really solid tracks to use throughout the various scenes here.

This movie was written and directed by Chris Morris (with several other people helping out with writing), and I have to say that I’m impressed with all that stuff. Sure, they don’t go for some grand, sweeping epic here. As a matter of fact it feels very low budget (which it probably is), but I like that. As previously mentioned, it very much has the feel/style of “The Thick of It” and “In the Loop”, even having a similar documentary-esque directing style that I think often elevates a lot of the scenes. As for the comedy here (since it is a satirical comedy), I think it is fucking hilarious, I laughed quite hard at it. Admittedly the humor here is very dark and will most likely put some people off… but I loved it.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 82% positive rating and a “Fresh” ceritifcation. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

“Four Lions” takes a serious and disturbing subject and turns it into one of the funniest movie this decade. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/humor. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Four Lions” is a 9,88/19. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Four Lions” is now completed.

Don’t blow people up, kids.

“Sicario 2: Soldado” trailer.

Hello there, ladies and gents. Time for some trailer talk. So here we go.

So we have our first trailer for “Soldado”, the sequel to 2015 thriller “Sicario”. So in this one we see Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) once again bringing in his contact Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to take care of business. But it seems like it’s less about cartel people this time, and more focusing on terrorism. And it looks like it’s much bigger than the first movie, going for a more explosive route. I loved “Sicario”, it’s my favorite movie of 2015, mainly due to the direction from Denis Villeneuve. I guess the actors were great too, and the cinematography and music were great, but it was Villeneuve who clearly brought the most to it. But instead of Villeneuve, this movie was directed by Stefano Sollima, an Italian director whose work I am not familiar with. But do I think this movie looks good? Kind of. It seems to lack the subtlety and dread of “Sicario”, but it still looks like it could be interesting. I’m hoping that Taylor Sheridan’s writing is good enough to shine through and make it a good movie. “Sicario 2: Soldado” is set to be released in June of 2018.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited for “Soldado”? And what did you think of “Sicario”? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy the trailer.