Series Review: Under the Banner of Heaven (2022)

Faith is fascinating. A belief in something bigger than ourselves, in something bigger than our very world. Whether it’s christianity, judaism, islam, or any other, I’ve always found that stuff interesting. So explorations of that in film, tv, and other forms of media has often lead to good stories.

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

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Under the Banner of Heaven”.

Utah, 1984. Devout mormon and detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) finds himself tested when the violent murder of a young woman seems to connect to a local, powerful LDS family. So we follow detective Pyre as he tries to solve this horrible crime, as well as how the deeper in he gets, the more his faith starts to waver. And through his investigation we also get a deep look into the Laffertys, the family at the center of this case, and what kinds of fundamentalist actions they get involved in. The show also explores mormonism as a whole, including its origins. “Under the Banner of Heaven” is filled to the brim with story, themes, and backstories, and while I do find most if not all of it fairly riveting, it can also feel like an absolute slog to get through at times. Like, all the pieces here have an emotionally rich texture to them and individually make for really engaging and at times thrilling experiences, but something about the overall structure does make it feel like a drag at times. Like I said, the story and drama is generally insanely riveting, it presents a nuanced and intense look into a massively fucked up and complex situation, but I do think something about its structure does hurt it too.

The characters in this are all insanely interesting and I found them endlessly compelling. Andrew Garfield plays Jeb Pyre (pronounced Pie-ree, as I learned through this), good cop, loving family man, devout mormon. He’s a deeply interesting protagonist with such a fascinating arc and personal conflict, and Andrew Garfield is absolutely fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is well rounded as well, featuring people like Gil Birmingham, Sam Worthington (giving a career best performance), Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, Rory Culkin, Billy Howle, Denise Gough, Adelaide Clemens, Chloe Pirrie, and many more, all delivering top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jeff Ament and it was really good. It mixes a lot of familiar thriller droning with elements of ambient rock and even minor touches of a few subtle western cues, making for a really interesting and atmospheric score that I think adds a lot to the show and its emotional impact.

Based on a book by Jon Krakauer, “Under the Banner of Heaven” was developed for FX by Dustin Lance Black, with writing and directing by him and a bunch of cool people. And I think this is a really well helmed show, a lot of well thought out shots, a lot of suspensefully directed sequences, some very well handled (and disturbing) bursts of violence. It’s somehow both cinematic and somewhat real-feeling, balancing what makes for solid entertainment while still making it feel grounded and gritty and believable. It’s a tricky balance, but they nailed it.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its pacing is bogged down by its hefty structure, “Under the Banner of Heaven” is still a compelling crime-drama that I can easily recommend. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem, Amen*. My final score for “Under the Banner of Heaven” is an 8.32/10. So while it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Under the Banner of Heaven” is now completed.

And then god said “Yo, that Andrew Garfield guy’s pretty good at the whole acting thing” – The Book of Markus, 18:46.2

Movie Review: The Pale Blue Eye (2023)

*inhale*. Can you smell that? First new release of the year. I’m excited.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Pale Blue Eye”.

New York, 1830. When a young student at the West Point military academy is found dead, weary detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to investigate and hopefully figure out what happened. And to aid him in his quest, he secretly acquires the assistance of an enigmatic young man (Harry Melling) who goes to the academy. I find myself a tad conflicted when it comes to the story here. On one hand, I genuinely enjoy the murder mystery going on here, it has this dark and very pulpy feel to it that I love, and it does take some pretty interesting turns that build in engaging ways. But there are also aspects to the story where it can feel slightly unfocused, as it tries to not only be a pulpy detective thriller, but also explore various other dramatic avenues. And while that could be fine, the script never makes them feel truly cohesive or like they weave in and out of each other as well as they could. This unfocused nature can especially be felt towards the middle, where it almost felt like it dragged. The movie on the whole is a slow burn, but the middle section does feel kinda bogged down. But in the moments where it zeroes in on the desolate, isolated, almost claustrophobic mystery, that is when it shines. Those bits are genuinely compelling.

The characters in this I find to actually be pretty interesting. most of them are generally presented with somewhat interesting personalities and it’s interesting to see how everyone interacts with each other or react to the vents unfolding. Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, an aging and world-weary detective who’s gone through some rough times. He’s a compelling character that’s hard to describe since I don’t want to say too much. But he’s a solid protagonist and Bale is great as always. Next is Harry Melling as a young Edgar Allan Poe, a cadet at the academy and Bale’s secret assistant/confidant. He’s an enigmatic and talkative fella and I loved seeing both his personal arc and how his relationship to Bale’s Landor evolves. And Melling gives a fantastic performance in the role, this is so far a career best from him. Supporting cast is great too, containing people like Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson (a bit underused, IMO), Charlotte Gainsbourg (very underutilized), Lucy Boynton, and more, all giving damn solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and he killed it. Chilling strings, harsh brass, the man just brings an emotionally resonant score to proceedings that I could feel deep in my bones throughout the entire thing. It’s haunting and beautiful and I loved it.

Based on a novel by Louis Bayard, “The Pale Blue Eye” was recently released on Netflix, and was written and directed by Scott Cooper, and while his script could’ve had another look, I can’t deny what a good director he is. The pacing of scenes, the way he shows and/or hides things from the audience, the man brings his A-game in that regard. He also has a great way of making this movie feel cold, and I don’t strictly mean emotionally. Rarely do I see a movie set in a cold or snowy environment that genuinely makes me feel like I’m freezing, despite wearing knitwear in a relatively well heated room. And Cooper, together with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi masterfully makes that come across through the way they shoot the movie. Just thinking about some of these scenes makes me feel like I need a blanket.

This movie’s so far gotten a pretty mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.7/10.

While it doesn’t quite reach its potential, I still found “The Pale Blue Eye” to be a fairly enjoyable little mystery-thriller. It has a mixed story, pretty good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Pale Blue Eye” is a 7.44/10. So while it is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth a watch.

My review of “The Pale Blue Eye” is now completed.

Linger ooooooon… your pale blue eyes…

Disney Plus/Marvel Series Roundup: Part 1

Hello there, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays. So earlier this autumn I finally got on board with the Disney+ streaming service. On a quick note, I’m a big fan, as it has plenty of interesting film and tv, and I find it to be easy to navigate. Anyhow, as was expected/announced, D+ would be home to a bunch of new original content based on the company’s various IPs. Among these would of course be a bunch of shows connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, since there were so many released, with many more to come, I didn’t feel like making individual posts for each one. So instead, I’ll be doing a bundle post similar to what I did for “The Fable” and “Along with the Gods“, making one of these when I’ve gotten through say four of these. Oh, and I guess spoilers. Not for the shows themselves, but rather for what’s come before in the MCU, as their connectivity drives a lot of the setups for these shows. So yeah, Marvel movie spoilers abound. But if you’re caught up or simply don’t give a hoot, then let’s get into these shows!

WandaVision

Following the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”, superpowered beings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have settled into a nice, quiet existence in suburban America, living happily married in a… sitcom styled life? But this happy life starts getting disrupted when strange things start happening around them. “WandaVision” was the first show to be released in this new slate of Marvel TV content, and I would say it kicks things off with an absolute bang. While the first episode being more “I Love Lucy” rather than “Avengers” might be a bit of an odd situation at first, I found it to be quite refreshing, both parodying and embracing sitcom tropes of various eras while mixing in superpowers in cute and funny ways. But as mentioned, they start weaving in mystery sci-fi elements, which adds a little bit of an “X-Files” vibe to it. And the show balances the goofs with the intrigue wonderfully, creating an atmosphere all its own within the MCU, making for some highly engaging TV. Add on some pitch perfect performances from Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, and various other supporting actors, and it kept me engrossed from start to end… for the most part.
While I do love the initial episodes and what they do, the back end, while not terrible, does lose some steam for me when they start going more for the typical VFX heavy superhero finale type stuff. It’s still pretty fun, but it just doesn’t feel a strong or creative as what came before. On a more positive note, it does add some fun mythology to the overarching Marvel story, and the action itself is pretty fun, and there is even a bit of drama in those parts that hit me pretty hard.
So yeah, excellent first half, really good second. It’s a damn good way to kick off this new slate of Marvel content. 9/10.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Following on from the events of “Endgame”, the world is without a Captain America, and both Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are trying to find ways of moving on with their lives. But as they try to deal with their own personal issues and past demons, the odd couple are forced to team up when a group of seemingly enhanced beings start wreaking havoc in the world. This show builds on a lot from what the Russo bros did with both their “Captain America” sequels, trying to imbue the usual superhero adventuring with somewhat of a political thriller edge. Like Tom Clancy stories but with more quips and people getting flung around. And while I don’t think the show is quite on par with the “Cap” movies, I still enjoyed where the story went. A globetrotting adventure trying to deal with the morality of vigilantism and if it’s possible to move on from what you’ve done, a story of legacy, of potential redemption and evolution. And while I don’t think it’s perfect, and I do have to question if this shouldn’t have been a movie instead, I had a lot of fun with it. I liked that they tried to discuss some heavier themes while also giving us our superhero action, I like the way it gave these returning characters something to chew on in order to perhaps move on with their lives, I like how it attempts to confront us and the whole superhero thing as a whole. It makes for a fun action-thriller story and it makes for some really compelling character work.
The acting’s also quite good, with the chemistry between Mackie and Stan being quite an engaging thing to watch at all times as we see how they bounce off of each other as their characters’ relationship evolves. Newcomers to this universe like Wyatt Russell and Erin Kellyman make for fun additions, and the familiar guest stars round out the cast nicely as well.
I very much also like the action scenes in this. While the pew pew laser stuff of other Marvel flicks can be fun, I highly enjoy the relatively stripped back approach. Yes, it’s still big, superpowered showdowns, chases, and whatnot, but there are no shiny beams or plasma or magic for once. It’s a little refreshing.
So it stumbles a little bit in storytelling, and maybe it’s a little longer than it needed to be (coulda been a movie), but otherwise it’s a fun show. 8/10.

Loki season 1

After a little mishap involving the Avengers time traveling, a dropped magical space cube, and no one looking at him, an alternate timeline version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself escaping capture… only to get captured by someone else, this time by the TVA, a mysterious organization maintaining order in the the various timelines of the multiverse. So we follow Loki as he is brought by the TVA to help them stop a mysterious ne’er-do-well, or face eradication. A bit like “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” before it, I am not 100% certain this fit in this TV format, it almost feels a little dragged out at times. Otherwise, I had a blast with it. I loved seeing Loki hopping through time, I loved seeing how the TVA operates, I loved seeing Multiversal shenanigans, and I loved Tom Hiddleston getting to have a bit of fun. Not that he hadn’t had the chance before, the man has always been great as Loki, but since he’s THE main player in this series, he gets to stretch out a bit more and do way more silly antics than before, and it’s so clear that he revels in every second. But we also get to see more sides to him, he’s explored in really enjoyable ways. And as a fan of wacky sci-fi concepts, I was pleased to see so many different ones here, all used in ways that were either intriguing, exciting, or outright funny. Action’s also pretty good, solid mix of martial arts, VFX, and general creativity.
This also sports one of, if not the best supporting cast of all these shows so far, from people like Owen Wilson, Gugu M’batha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, Sophia Di Martino, Tara Strong, and various other very talented people. Everyone gets room to play, and everyone contributes something fun and compelling to proceedings.
And now for the best part of the show: The music. It was composed by Natalie Holt, and it is absolutely incredible. A strange, operatic mix of influences, from the usual superhero stuff, to classic fantasy, to really old sci-fi/horror, there’s a lot of ground covered. Brass, strings, piano, theremins(!), fucking MOOG synths, Holt plays around a lot with her music, and it makes for probably my favorite Marvel score. it’s so god damn good. Even if you don’t watch the show, do me/yourself a favor and check out the music at least.
A little long maybe, but otherwise season 1 of “Loki” is a really fun sci-fi series that truly opens the MCU up to the multiverse in really intriguing ways. Also, you did indeed read it right, season 1. So far it’s the only mainline/live action D+/Marvel series to get more than one season. So it’ll be interesting to see where they take it. 8/10.

Hawkeye

Jingle bells, New York smells, Hawkeye got a shoooooow. But yeah, this show follows Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) as he might have to put his christmas celebration on hold when a young. bold woman named Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) gets involved/chased by some bad dudes, all while his past mistakes come back to haunt him. I am slowly but surely running out of ways to say “I like this show”. It’s even harder now since “Hawkeye” almost never does anything too unique. The “I’ll be late for christmas” trope, the “I did some bad shit, and now it’s coming back to bite me in the ass” stuff, the “youngling idolizing a supposed hero” trope, it does a lot of very familiar stuff. Arguably it does them all quite well, and it’s fun to see those events unfold, but there’s not much to mention about the story. Where it’s strong as hell however is in the characters. This is the most depth we’ve gotten from Clint in all of the MCU, and I finally find him really compelling now that he’s gotten space to play. And his relationship to the young Kate is fun too, with the two sharing some really fun bits of character development. I’m also happy to say that I loved Renner and Steinfeld together, they are a lot of fun and share some wonderful chemistry. Supporting cast is great too, with everyone from Vera Farmiga, Tony Dalton (MVP), Fra Fee, Alaqua Cox, Linda Cardellini, and more delivering stellar work.
Action’s well handled, the score is enjoyable, and I love the warm christmas vibes it brings. Not much else to be said. “Hawkeye” is a fun action show. 8/10.

So on the whole, I very much enjoyed all of these. If I had to rank them, it’d probably be
“Wandavision”
“Loki”
“Falcon”
“Hawkeye”
But overall, I like all of these. They’re fun.
Have a good one and happy holidays.

Movie Review: The Big Four (2022)

GUNS! EXPLOSIONS! INDONESIA! BUZZ WORDS! Let’s talk about a movie, shall we?

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

When her father is murdered, a police officer (Putri Marino) goes on a quest to track down a group of elite assassins to help her in finding her father’s killer, as these assassins seemingly had history with the old man. Right from the word go, “The Big Four” intrigues, setting up a dark, violent world, filled with assassins, evil organizations, and… slapstick? Yeah, the story here is a bit of a mishmash of tones, ideas, and inspirations. The main revenge mystery at the film’s is pretty intriguing on its own, giving us some really intriguing world building and escalating the drama pretty well. But then it further builds on itself and its characters with bombastic set pieces and a little bit of Stephen Chow-esque slapstick. Not quite “Kung Fu Hustle” levels of cartoony, but it did give me his kind of vibes at times. And while this hodgepodge mix of “The Night Comes For Us”, “John Wick”, and goofy farce could (and honestly should) end up a fucking mess, it all comes together incredibly well to make for a really fun and enjoyable narrative. And despite being nearly two and a half hours long, it’s really well paced, never was I bored. It’s an enjoyable, well told story.

The characters in this are wonderful, all being colorful, charming, and a ton of fun to watch. They’re also really well defined, their personalities standing out and balancing each other out really well. The one that arguably sticks out the least is Dina (the policewoman), but that’s also since she’s sort of the straight man in this scenario. And Putri Marino plays it really well, so I can’t complain. As for the rest of the cast, I won’t go too in depth, as I think their quirks are best left experienced. But they’re all fun, and I think the cast is brilliant too. Abimana Aryasatya, Arie Kriting, Lutesha, Kristo Immanuel, Marthino Lio, and everyone else just deliver some really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Bembi Gusti, Tony Merle, and Aghi Narottama, and it was alright. Can’t remember much of it as I sit and write (its lack of availability online doesn’t help) beyond the feeling, which was generally “Yeah, this is alright”. There’s also a little bit of licensed music used throughout, and those tracks work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Big Four” was (at the time of writing) recently released on Netflix, and was directed and co-written by Timo Tjahjanto, and the dude absolutely brought his A-game with this. As a fan of some of his previous action movies, I knew the dude knew how to shoot action scenes. But once again, he managed to blow me away just with the sheer intensity, creativity, and brutality on display. It’s been slightly recontextualized from his previous, more serious work, to fit the goofier tone, but it still carries everything we can expect Indo action at this point… AKA intense camera movements, gorgeous wides that clearly show what’s going on, and some of the goriest violence in film. And it’s all a blast to watch, delivering all the well choreographed, blood-soaked carnage you can ask for.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

While its strange blend of tones, lengthy runtime, and gory violence might not be for everyone, I had an absolute blast with “The Big Four”. It has a fun story, great characters, really good performances, pretty good music, and fantastic directiong/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Big Four” is a 8.44/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Big Four” is now completed.

“Big Four”, my ass. Couldn’t see Metallica anywhere…

Series Review: The Patient (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

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

My review of “The Patient” is now completed.

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

Series Review: Andor – Season 1 (2022)

Ever since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, and in turn today’s topic of “Star Wars”, it’s been interesting to see how the franchise has developed. From new movies of varying quality, to reviving a beloved cartoon, to creating new shows in the universe, it has been fascinating to chart its evolution under the House of Mouse. And while I won’t cover it all on here, because of the sheer quantity of things, there’s been one thing airing this Autumn that I was interested in covering. And now that it’s over, I can. So let’s go.

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

Set a few years before “Rogue One”, we follow Cassian Andor (Diego Lina) as he maneuvers the tense climate surrounding the iron grip of the galactic empire and the slow rise of the rebellion, finding himself slowly and reluctantly involved in the fight. The plot of “Andor” is one of the more fresh-feeling ones we’ve gotten from this franchise in recent years (not throwing shade at the others, BTW). Instead of a more typical adventure narrative like in… most of the other “Star Wars” adaptations, this takes more influence from spy thrillers and political dramas, giving us a lingering and brooding tension over the state of the galaxy rather than mainly relying on quick bits of excitement. While Cassian is our main guy, we also do get to see people on both sides of the empire/rebel conflict and what parts they play in the grand scheme of the galaxy. From navigation of high society and politics, to the inner machinations of the empire’s boardrooms, to the blue collar people caught in the middle, the show covers the “Star Wars” universe and its conflicts in really nuanced, clever, and dramatically satisfying ways that feel wholly unique to this show. The slow burn might put some people off, but I personally love that aspect of the show, and a great part of an overall great story.

The characters in this are great. They are all really flawed, nuanced, and have a very grounded feel to them, which gives them a real believability. Let’s talk about our leading man and title character, Cassian Andor. A somewhat cynical man with a tense past who wants nothing to do with the bigger conflict. He’s hard to discuss without going into spoiler, so I’ll just say that he’s a really compelling lead with an excellent arc, with Diego Luna just giving a fantastic performance. As for the rest of the cast, everyone’s just terrific. Stellan Skarsgård, Kyle Soller, Denise Gough, Genevieve O’Reilly, Adria Arjona, Alastair Mackenzie, Dave Chapman, Anton Lesser, and so many more, there’s not a weak link amongst them. It’s just a banger cast, all playing really interesting characters.

The score for the show was composed by Nicholas Britell, and it’s just spectacular. Traditional orchestration mixed with some interesting synth and modulation usage makes for a score that very much fits within the franchise, while still having its own distinct flavor. What I also like is that so much of it is relatively quiet, not in a way that just blends into the background the background and disappears, but rather it creates this somber tone that lingers within each scene, making it so any scene where it gets a bit more loud stick out all the more and have a greater emotional impact. It’s really good sonic storytelling that also is generally pleasing to my ears.

“Andor” was created for the streaming service Disney Plus by Tony Gilroy, with writing by him and a few more cool people (names will be in tags so as to not clutter this bit with too many names), and directing duties divided between Toby Haynes, Benjamin Caron, and Susanna White. And I just love how this show is crafted. Each scene beautifully shot, without looking too polished or overly crafted. It rides a line between looking high budget while still maintaining an almost guerrilla like feel, which I think perfectly fits with the show constantly giving us a lot of contrast between the grit and grime of blue collar settlements, and the sheen of high Coruscant society or the overly sterile look of the empire’s facilities. So there’s a lot of excellent visual storytelling going on between the camera work and the production design. Mix this with an abundance of practical effects, with some really good CG thrown in at times, and you get one of the most visually interesting big budget shows around. It’s just an insanely well crafted show.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.4/10.

So as you could probably tell, I loved season 1 of “Andor”. Even as I sit here, thinking and writing, it just gets better and better within my noggin. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Andor” is a 9.84/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

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

Hey dude, did you watch Andor?
And or what?

Movie Review: Don’t Worry Darling (2022)

Alright, after a short break (that ended up longer than intended, oops) following the Month of Spooks, I am back, ready to write about non-spooky stuff again. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Don’t Worry Darling”.

Living in a seemingly utopian 1950s suburbia, Alice (Florence Pugh) seems to lead a wonderful life with her husband (Harry Styles). But this bliss is soon tested when Alice discovers that this seemingly perfect suburbia may hold some dark secrets. On paper, I love pretty much everything about the narrative, there are so many cool ideas for an effective psychological thriller here. In terms of execution though, I find it a bit lacking. Not outright bad, and never boring, but I never got that “Oh yeah, I’m really into this movie” click. Something about the way the story unfurls, the way that the narrative expands just doesn’t entirely come together for me. It’s undercooked and a bit messy that way, but I also can’t say that I disliked it. It’s… eh.

The characters in this are a mixed bag. One or two I find pretty compelling, like there’s something interesting about them. The rest of them on the other hand show shades of being intriguing, but their arcs don’t really go far enough to be truly compelling. I’ll say, our lead character Alice is pretty compelling, it’s interesting to see how she reacts to the various events and revelations of the story, she’s a fairly dynamic and interesting character. And Florence Pugh is absolutely fantastic in the role, as she always is. Harry Styles plays her husband, and he’s… fine. He’s not terrible, but he’s not great either… just fine. Then we also have people like Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, KiKi Layne, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant, and more rounding out the cast, and they all deliver really solid performances. It’s generally speaking a really good cast.

The score for the movie was composed by John Powell, and I thought it was great. It’s this strange mix of more typical thriller droning and some basic orchestrations with colorful and really eerie vocalizations, with some interesting piano and percussion. It’s one of the more unique scores I’ve heard in a while, and I kinda loved it. There’s also a lot of licensed songs from the 50s that are used throughout, and they work pretty well in setting a mood in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has some great music.

“Don’t Worry Darling” was directed by Olivia Wilde, and I think she did a pretty solid job with it. She has a good grip of how to try to build tension in a scene, she shows how to have a good flow to her scenes. Her talent behind the camera does help elevate some of the less than stellar writing a bit. And when you combine her directing with Matthew Libatique’s frankly stunning cinematography, you get a movie that, on a technical level, is quite stunning.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 38% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 48/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While it isn’t as emotionally engaging as it could’ve been, I’d still say that “Don’t Worry Darling” is fine. It has a meh story, okay characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Don’t Worry Darling” is a 6.57/10. So I’d say it’s still worth renting.

My review of “Don’t Worry Darling” is now completed.

I didn’t worry… so now what do I do or do not do?

Movie Review: X (2022)

X gon’ give it to ya… wait, that doesn’t work. Umm… X marks the spot? Nonono… Xpertly I crafted a dumb intro before moving onto the review. Nailed it!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “X”.

1979. A group of young, aspiring filmmakers travel to a farm in rural Texas with the intention of using the rustic setting as a backdrop for a porno they plan on making. But as soon as they arrive and begin working (bow chicka bow wow), sinister things start brewing around them. “X” has a distinctly old school feel, hearkening back to a lot of 70s horror, opting for that sort of grungy slow burn tension, with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” being one of the clearest influences on this. And I think that works pretty well for “X”, it gives its story a vibe that’s been all but lost in today’s movie environment. As for the story in general, I thought it was alright. Nothing bad about it, and I do really appreciate the dark, slightly off-kilter sense of humor that shows up throughout, but in terms of general enjoyment it didn’t do much more than passable enjoyment for me. Like I said, the tone is fun, the slower pace is pretty engaging, and some of the events and reveals I did enjoy. But on the whole I just didn’t love it as much as some others have. It’s a passably enjoyable story for me.

The characters in this are pretty good. Again, not really amongst my favorites ever, but the movie still does a decent enough job of establishing who they all are and finding way to make them fairly likable and decently interesting. The cast is also pretty stacked, containing people like Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Kid Cudi, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, and a few more, all delivering damn good performances. Mia Goth especially is an absolute standout here, she’s terrific.

The score for the movie was composed by Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe, and I think they did a damn good job with it. Low key spooky strings, some synths, piano, occasional choir voices, some droning noises. It has a weirdly old school feel that works really well for the movie and helps build a bit of an unsettling atmosphere. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work well in their respective scenes. There’s one track in particular, which I won’t spoil, but it’s a song I adore, and the way a particular section of it comes crashing in during a certain event is just fucking spectacular, and an absolute standout moment. But yeah, this movie has good music.

“X” was written and directed by Ti West, which sees him making his return to movies since 2016. And I think he did a damn good job with his directing. West has an excellent way of utilizing space to build a bit of tension or add impact to an action, and it’s just done marvelously here. And when combined with Eliot Rockett’s old school, grimy, beautifully blocked/framed cinematography, you get a movie that just oozes charm, grit, and a confidence that is quite fun.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.6/10.

While I don’t really love it like many others seem to, I still enjoyed “X”. It has an okay story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO*. My final score for “X” is a 7.43/10. So while flawed, I’d certainly say that it’s worth renting.

My review of “X” is now completed.

What letter’s the best for cutting down trees? The X.

Movie Review: The Night House (2021)

Spooky goings-on are happening on this here blog. I mean, it has through this entire month, but it’s happening once again. So let’s see what kind of spooks we’re dealing with this time.

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

Following the recent death of her husband, a grieving Beth (Rebecca Hall) slowly starts finding out that he may have been keeping some dark secrets from her, all while strange things start happening in her house. “The Night House” is a slow burn of a movie, a psychological horror that over the course of its runtime mess with the viewer. Sure, there are more in-your-face scare-scares too, and those are used to great effect, but the biggest strength is how it uses themes of trauma and grief to create an otherworldly atmosphere that made me question everything I was watching. And this uneasiness kept me on edge right from the word go, deeply unsettling me while also handling its themes in heartbreaking and deeply resonant ways. It’s a scary and beautifully told story that I absolutely adored following.

What I like about the characters in this is how real they feel, while still allowing for a fair bit of the theatricality that can be found in movies. Even as weird shit happens, there’s something that makes these people feel grounded in some sort of reality, which makes them really compelling to watch. And that’s as far as I’ll go in terms of characterization, as revealing any more could/may take any impact away. Anyhow, holy fuck, Rebecca Hall is amazing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite a while now, but I will never cease to be astonished by how well she plays these sorts of characters. There’s so much going through her character’s mind at any given moment, and Hall just nails it masterfully. The supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, and more, all giving stellar performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ben Lovett, and I thought it was pretty great. Sure, some of it does devolve into the typical crescendo-ing horror droning, but then there are also some really interesting tracks utilizing strings amongst other things to create a brooding and quite spooky atmosphere, that also has this underlying sadness to it. It creates a sonically interesting and emotionally rich soundscape that I found quite compelling to listen to. There’s also some licensed music used throughout, and it works pretty well too. This movie has good music.

“The Night House” was directed by David Bruckner, and I think did a stellar job here. His directing style is fairly slick, without being overly flashy, creatively using space, blocking, and light/darkness to create visually striking shots that also work well to tell the story or just scare me. Combine this with Elisha Christian’s stunning cinematography, and you get one of the most visually intriguing horror movies I’ve seen in recent years. There’s also some clever and interesting visual effects here that work really well for this movie, they’re not super in-your-face, but when they’re there, they are just so cool.

This movie has been mixed to positively received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

“The Night House” unsettled me in a way no movie has before. Sure, others have deeply scared and unsettled me, but this movie does it in a unique way I can’t fully explain. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Deep inhale*. My final score for “The Night House” is a 9.89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Night House” is now completed.

Can we get Rebecca Hall a nice movie? Between this and “Christine” and probably something else, she plays a lot of characters who get put through the wringer, and it’d be nice to see her just have a nice day for once.

Movie Review: Underwater (2020)

Amongst other things, we’ve dealt with the horrors of vampires, possession, and small town Oregon, so now it’s time to switch it up a bit, going for the ultimate horror… liquid.

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

In a research base located in the Mariana Trench, a group of scientists must fight for their survival when a mysterious earthquake suddenly erupts, destroying part of the facility. So now the team have to find a way to get out and maybe also find out what the hell is going on. In some ways, this story is “Alien”, in some ways it is “The Abyss”, and in a lot of ways it is just okay. I like some of the reveals that happen, and I wouldn’t say I was ever bored with what was going on, but I wasn’t super invested either. It was just sort of a passable sci-fi/horror story that quickly went by. And I guess that might be a bit of an issue. Not just that there’s little of a dramatic hook, but also the borderline breakneck pace. On occasion that can work, and I get that they want to have some perpetual intensity going thanks to that, but I think they could’ve benefitted from slowing down, building some dread, let us get to know the place and people a bit more. It’s still mildly entertaining, but it sadly never fully hooked me.

The characters in this are… eh? Again, they feel vastly underdeveloped. They try to throw in quick things every now and then to add some characterization, but it’s never enough to truly make me care… but I also didn’t outright dislike them, they sort of exist in this weird bubble of being watchable and occasionally likable, but never compelling, it’s weird. What I can say however is that I generally like the cast in this, most of the performances in this are really good. Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Mamoudou Athie, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr (always nice to see him), Gunner Wright, they’re all good. There is also the heavy presence of a certain horrible person that shall not be named. But taking his horrible shit aside for two seconds, he just doesn’t work in this movie. They try to make him the comic relief, and none of his jokes land, along with the performance being not great. So that’s a big, annoying stain on the otherwise really good cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts, and finally there’s something I can just outright praise. This score is great, mixing traditional orchestration with electronics and synths to create a mesmerizing and fun soundscape that fully captures the strange, almost alien sensation of being stuck so deep beneath the ocean’s surface. It’s just great stuff that actually manages to elevate certain moments of the movie. So that’s nice.

“Underwater” was directed by William Eubank, and I think he did a really good job here. His direction is slick, stylish, and scool… okay, that didn’t work, but you get the point. His direction just helps the otherwise underdeveloped script come to life more, as he really does bring the deep sea station and ocean floor sections to life. Combine his direction with Bojan Bazelli’s frankly gorgeous cinematography, and you get a really cool looking movie. Furthermore, the effects in this are stellar and there’s some great sets as well. On the whole it’s just really well crafted.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 48/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.8/10.

While it is very underdeveloped in the script department, I can’t say that I disliked “Underwater”. It’s an okay survival thriller. It has an okay-ish story, meh characters, really good performances, great music, and really good directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Blub blub*. My final score for “Underwater” is a 6.21/10. So while very flawed, I’d say that it can still be worth renting.

My review of “Underwater” is now completed.

I love water, but there’s no fucking way you’ll see me in an underwater base. I value my sanity and not-being-at-constant-risk-of-drowning status too much.