TV Review: Counterpart (2017–2019)

Original Run: December 10th, 2017 – February 17th, 2019
Created by: Justin Marks
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: J.K. Simmons, Olivia Williams, Harry Lloyd, Nazanin Boniadi, Sara Serraiocco, Ulrich Thomsen, Nicholas Pinnock, Betty Gabriel, James Cromwell, Kenneth Choi, Stephen Rea, Jacqueline Bisset

Gilbert Films, Anonymous Content, Gate 34, MRC, Studio Babelsberg, Starz, Sony Pictures Television, 20 Episodes, 56-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Sadly, I hadn’t heard about this show when it was current just a couple of years ago and I’ve been a Starz subscriber for awhile now. I guess they failed to promote it properly, which sucks, as this was one of the most interesting shows I’ve watched from the previous decade.

This also stars J.K. Simmons in duel roles and he’s an actor that I enjoy in everything that he does. It also features Olivia Coleman and several others who bring their A-game and make this incredibly intriguing world come to life.

The story is about how there are two alternate versions of our world, after they split and went into different directions shortly before the Berlin Wall fell in Germany. The two versions of our world can only be accessed by a connecting tunnel underneath a secret UN facility in Berlin. Since the split, scientists working on the project have observed the two worlds, slightly tinkering with it along the way, making every person on both Earths their lab rats.

With that, this show features two versions of most of the core characters. While this is really damn cool, at first, the show does quickly introduce more characters and it does become a bit hard to follow at times. While the characters have slightly different visual cues and the two world’s also have visual differences, if you’re not paying close attention, the show can often times seem like a mishmash. I think this could’ve been avoided by easing into new characters more slowly but this entire series’ story is also told over just twenty episodes.

I guess Starz chose not to order more episodes after the second season but at least this felt like it had a natural end, which tells me the showrunners were probably told to wrap it up. I think they did wrap it up fairly well, all things considered.

The best part about this show, honestly, were the actors. The key players were all solid and their relationships drove the story. While I watched this for the sci-fi elements I wanted to see explored, it’s the personal relationships that kept me interested. Also, I liked that this showed how one event can completely change a person.

Overall, this was a damn good series and while I don’t specifically wish for more episodes, it left an impact that will stick with me for quite awhile.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: V for Vendetta (2005)

Release Date: December 11th, 2005 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: James McTeigue
Written by: The Wachowskis
Based on: V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, David Lloyd
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Rupert Graves

Anarchos Productions Inc., DC/Vertigo Comics, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Fünfte Babelsberg Film GmbH, Silver Pictures, Virtual Studios, Warner Bros., 132 Minutes

Review:

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” – V

While this is a film that kind of blew me away in early 2006, when it hit regular theaters, it doesn’t have quite the same effect on me now. Maybe it’s because I’m older and my views on the world have evolved, allowing me to see through the simplistic, good versus evil formula that this story employs.

It’s still a damn good movie and it’s hard not to pull for the heroes as they stick it to real fascism in an Orwellian type of world but its solutions to the problem aren’t really solutions and they’re kind of juvenile and reckless.

And honestly, is it really a film about smashing fascism or is it a film about a guy simply out for personal revenge and using his theatrics to inspire regular people to put themselves in danger in an effort to get him what he selfishly wants?

Either way you chop it up, it’s still an entertaining film that leaves the audience with a lot to ponder and for fans to discuss till the end of time. Hopefully, those can be rational discussions as we now live in a world where shitbirds want to burn everything down because, “ermahgerd ferscism ers baaahd!”

The film is perfectly acted and I’m saying that as one who rarely likes Natalie Portman. She is great in this and so is everyone else. Hugo Weaving is the real glue that holds it all together, though, and he was able to give the performance of a lifetime while fully obscured by a mask and a cloak.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve seen this, I forgot how much it deviated from the original story and after having recently read it, I’m not sure why, as the structure and story of the comic seemed more effective to me. Some of these alterations are major, like all the TV station stuff. I guess it makes sense for the film but it wasn’t necessary in the grander scheme of things and it makes me wish that this were more of a beat-for-beat adaptation like Watchmen mostly was.

This is a story that would probably work better as a television series. Granted, nowadays it’d be butchered and reworked into some sort of weird amalgamation of shit like the Watchmen TV series but the comic is paced in a way that would work better in an episodic format over ten or so episodes.

As a film, however, this mostly works. I feel like it succeeded at generating the emotion and weight that it needed but some things were left out and could have made it even more effective.

In the end, it’s still solid, looks great and it showcased incredible acting performances from its stars.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the comic it’s based on, as well as all the Watchmen comics and film.

Film Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Also known as: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (full title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1994 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: Anne Rice
Based on: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea

Geffen Pictures, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“The world changes, we do not, there lies the irony that finally kills us.” – Armand

In the ’90s and early ’00s, I watched this film a lot. But I had seen it so many times that I actually haven’t seen it now for at least a decade. But that time off from it made me appreciate it even more.

This is the best vampire motion picture of the 1990s. It is pretty damn close to being a masterpiece. It is a beautiful adaptation of a book that really has become a literary classic, at this point. And it’s great to see that Anne Rice penned this script, as no one knows these characters better than she does.

There are a few minute changes from the book. The stuff with Louis’ wife was omitted and the character of Armand has a different appearance from the literary version. However, these minor alterations don’t matter within the context of this film. Had it actually gotten sequels (and it should have) the Armand thing might of been a bit problematic but I’m still okay with Antonio Banderas in the role for this one-off outing.

Anyway, Neil Jordan did a superb job directing this. He had just come off of The Crying Game, a film that earned him two Academy Award nominations for direction and script, and also had some experience with supernatural gore after his work on the barely remembered film The Company of Wolves. Both of those experiences would serve him well in this film, which had supernatural gore and also tapped into very light homo-eroticism between a few characters.

One thing that really stands out is the film’s score by Elliot Goldenthal. It has the makings of a great classical composition mixed with some very powerful and energetic flourishes that help accentuate the scenes in ways that a less capable score wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. The music also flows with the picture, it’s not distracting or in the way, it just exists to set the tone appropriately and really, that’s all a film score needs to do. But the craftsmanship of these classical tunes is what sets this film apart and gives it such a grandiose feel. There are just few scores that can make this sort of emotional and narrative impact in modern film.

The acting in this is also possibly the best you will see in any vampire movie. Tom Cruise, at first glance, just doesn’t seem to fit the role of Lestat but he was absolute perfection and this is still my favorite performance of his. This was also where I first noticed Brad Pitt. This is where his career was really born, in my opinion, as this was a turning point for him and his exceptional abilities. I could use those same words for Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, as well. Both of them made such an impact in this that it really helped to set them off towards bigger and better things going forward.

Something else that stands out is the special effects handled by Stan Winston and his team. Most notably, the scene where Lestat is withering away to a corpse on the floor. That moment was masterfully crafted and has held up exceptionally well. It looks better than the vast majority of CGI effects that would have been used to achieve this today. Also, the amazing looking ash remains of Claudia and Madeleine were made by Winston and based off of photographs of victims from Hiroshima.

Interview with a Vampire is a perfect storm. It’s a film where everything, at every level, went right for the production. While there are some other good vampire films from the 1990s, this one takes the cake for me. It’s stellar from start to finish and it’s still an incredibly satisfying experience even after seeing it well over a dozen times.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Bram Stoker’s DraculaNear Dark and The Lost Boys.

Film Review: The Company of Wolves (1984)

Release Date: September 15th, 1984 (Toronto Festival of Festivals)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: Angela Carter, Neil Jordan
Based on: a short story by Angela Carter
Music by: George Fenton
Cast: Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Micha Bergese, Sarah Patterson, Stephen Rea, Terence Stamp (uncredited)

Palace Productions, ITC, Cannon, 95 Minutes

companyofwolvesReview:

Admittedly, I have never gotten around to seeing The Company of Wolves until very recently. It is a movie that I have known about since around the time it came out. I just never got around to seeing it and forgot about it. Recently, some friends of mine were discussing it and it made me seek it out.

I was already familiar with the gore level of the film. I had seen the werewolf transformations in other places. So from a visual standpoint, I knew that this was a very violent and adult version of the Little Red Riding Hood tale.

The movie is directed by Neil Jordan, who would later go on to do The Crying GameInterview With A Vampire and Breakfast On Pluto. He has always been a hit or miss director for me but those hits are usually pretty damn good.

The Company of Wolves has a pretty solid cast. There is Angela Lansbury as the grand mother of Rosaleen a.k.a. Little Red Riding Hood. Of course she lives in a cottage in the woods. You also have Neil Jordan favorite Stephen Rea in a small role and David Warner as the father to Rosaleen. Rosaleen is played by Sarah Patterson and she does a fine job. Terence Stamp is in the film in an uncredited role as “The Devil”. Most importantly, Micha Bergese is perfect as the huntsman character. He is magical and absolutely terrifying when the time comes.

The best thing about this movie is the special effects and the set design. Although, the cinematography is a bit weak for the visuals one will encounter in this picture. The creature effects and the transformation of the people into wolves is absolutely amazing and beautiful in all its gore-ridden glory. The atmosphere of the film, especially the woods, is mesmerizing. The only problem is that the lighting and camera work feels a bit cheap and out of tune.

Unfortunately, the rest of this film falls into the negative spectrum.

To start, the opening credits looked horrendous. The typeface was hard to read and this was only magnified by the moving wave-like gradient effect used on the text. It started this film off on a real amateurish tone.

The script was a mess. It was hard to tell what was going on from scene-to-scene. A lot of the movie was nonsensical and strange for the sake of being strange. It is worth noting that the entire film was a dream sequence but that is no excuse for allowing your picture to become so surreal that the audience never knows quite where they’re at. Maybe that was the intention of the filmmakers but if that’s so, it was really stupid. The way the film ends is even worse than everything preceding it and it makes the entire movie absolutely and utterly pointless from a narrative standpoint.

The movie is also littered with really irritating characters, most notably the awful teenage boy that was pining over Rosaleen. She’ll never go for you, dude. You look like a curly-haired worm and you’re missing one of your front teeth.

The Company of Wolves had a few positives but was greatly outweighed by the negatives. It is worth a watch because it is visually pleasing but it is hard to make much sense out of most of it.

Rating: 5.25/10