Show Review: Castlevania (2017)

‘Killing you was the point. Living through it was just a luxury.’

This show was never on my radar until the other night when someone used it to describe a book. I looked it up and found out that Richard Armitage, one of my favourite actors, is the lead voice actor. SOLD. For those who don’t know, Armitage is known for his voice work and narrates loads of books. So far I’ve listened to his audiobooks of The Velveteen Rabbit, Their Lost Daughters (need to finish this one), and Sylvester; and I’ve got The Chimes waiting for me. He’s also done David Copperfield, plus more besides. So you know he’s a great narrator!

But I totally ended up falling for the show. It’s a great addition to vampire television. (And I have seen a lot of vampire television shows!) The storyline is imaginative and original, and the artwork is mind-bogglingly good. The look is like a blend of anime and vintage 90s styles. It really reminds me of the 90s animated movies that I grew up with, actually. Kind of makes me nostalgic, yanno? But the storyline is also really great. The show follows Trevor Belmont, the last of his family, fighting against Dracula in ancient Wallachia. Trevor is such a great character. He’s weary and sarcastic and not in the mood for anybody’s shit. His dry humour is such a fantastic addition to the show. He kind of reminds me of Raylan Givens in Justified! (An amazing show, too.)

If you like vampire shows, witty characters and animation, this one is for you! It’s a great historical fantasy action series that reminds me of the 90s in a great way!

Show Review: Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

I’m so bummed that this show didn’t get a fourth season. It really deserves one. Few pairings have made me laugh as much as Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore. Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo are such a good complement duo, too. For a show about a zombie, this show is so darn cheerful and sunny.

For anyone who hasn’t encountered this glorious horror-comedy, it’s a half-hour show that follows a California family after the mother becomes a zombie. \o/

Zombies in this universe are different than in The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead. Zombies in this still have their awareness and personality, they’re just alive and rotting away if they don’t eat. (It gets really, really gross, fair warning.) I’d say the zombies in this are most like the zombies in iZombie. But the comedy is probably more Shaun of the Dead, if we’re comparing zombie works.

Joel, the dad, is probably my favourite character. He’s desperate to be a good husband to his undead wife and his comedy is so perfectly timed by Timothy Olyphant. He had me laughing at pretty much every scene. Sheila, the wife, is wonderful. Drew Barrymore is an absolute gem and I love her so much. She’s been one of my favourite actresses since Ever After (BEST CINDERLLA, DON’T @ ME.) Abby and Eric, the younger characters, who are trying to figure out zombies and high school at the same time, are fantastic characters.

Honestly, for a show about zombies, this one is wholesome and lovely. The family aspect is so wonderful and they’re all easy to root for. The humour and jokes are top notch, and I especially love it for not being mean comedy. I like comedy that underscores being kind and supporting each other. Like Bob’s Burgers! Another excellent show, I might add.

Anyways, watch this one. Despite the fact that it was cancelled, it’s well worth a go and the three seasons we got are great!

Show Review: ¿Quién mató a Sara? (2021)

¿Quién mató a Sara? takes chaotic family mysteries to a whole new level. The show follows Álex after he’s wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his sister, Sara. Eighteen years later, Álex is let out and determined to get revenge for Sara’s death, his imprisonment and what his mother endured all the while.

The story flashes back and forth between before Sara’s death, when the characters are all teenagers, and the present, where Álex is going after Rodolfo and Chema, his former friends. Rodolfo was dating Sara when she died and Álex is convinced that he and his father are responsible. Elisa, Rodolfo and Chema’s little sister who was too young to remember Sara, befriends Álex out of curiosity and suspicion – she’s not fooled by all the half-answers her brothers and father are giving her.

SPOILER WARNING

Álex and Elisa were definitely what made me fall in love with this show. I wasn’t sure at first, but as soon as this pair met up, it tied everything together perfectly. And you know what’s so refreshing?? Everyone gets to the point in this storyline! Everyone’s straight forward about where they stand by episode two (except the dad, who’s the WORST, and the mother, for that matter). So, really, the core four are pretty honest, which I appreciated. Álex keeps Elisa apprised of his plans, or at least tells her when he can’t tell her things. They’re a solid couple and they work together so well and it was just refreshing that their storyline didn’t have the drama it otherwise could have.

Chema and his boyfriend Lorenzo had a good overall storyline, although I’m a bit worried about them for season two. I want everything to work out! Lorenzo is such a supportive partner, I love him.

The dad was the absolute worst, I’m sure we can all agree on that. Argh! THE WORST.

This is definitely a binge-worthy show filled with drama, mystery, romance, angst and more. I totally suggest checking it out!

Show Review: Barbaren (2020)

For all the fans of Centurion (2010), King Arthur (2004), The Last Kingdom (2015) and Vikings (2013), Barbaren (‘Barbarians’) is the show for you. Set in 9th century Roman-occupied Germania, the tribes and villages are struggling to stay alive under the repressive, brutal rule of the Romans. To keep the peace, one chief trades his sons to the Romans – years later, ‘Ari’, now Arminius, is a respected Roman soldier who has little in common with his childhood best friends, Folkwin and Thusnelda.

The show is based on the real life figures of Arminius and Thusnelda. Arminius was a German-born, Roman-raised, eventual Germanic Cherusci chief after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. It’s not an area of military history I’m very familiar with, but apparently it’s one of the most decisive military victories in history and considered a huge failure for the Roman Empire.

The show begins with a Roman delegation arriving in a Cherusci village and demanding more tribute than the village could possibly produce or survive without. In retaliation, one of the Roman soldiers beats Thusnelda’s brother, permanently injuring him and leaving him brain damaged. Folkwin and Thusnelda swear revenge immediately and decide they’re going to steal the Romans’ eagle standard. You know, the gold-tipped eagle spear that Roman troops brought everywhere. Thusnelda and Folkwin are successful, but their victory is short lived when the Romans return to their village to enact their revenge. Very quickly, lines are drawn between the sides and Folkwin and Thusnelda’s friendship with Ari is put to the ultimate test.

This show is every bit as bloody, violent, painful, sad and tense as Vikings and The Last Kingdom. That said, this show really does bring something new to the table. It’s entirely in German and Latin. Thusnelda is front and centre, and I’m really loving her characterisation so far. She’s a wonderful lady/fighter/sister/advocate and so far my favourite of the main three. Her love for her brother and Folkwin and Ari is just amazing to watch. Ari is very sympathetic, and it’s clear he struggles with his allegiances, just like Uhtred in The Last Kingdom. He gets a bit frustrating at points, but you can see where he’s coming from. Folkwin is fantastic and full of fire, and sometimes I’m just like no, Folkwin, don’t do the thing! And then he does the thing. Oh, Folkwin.

I haven’t finished season one yet, but the show’s already been renewed for season two and I can’t wait to see how it will end.

Show Review: Outer Banks (2020) & Somewhere Between (2017)

For anyone missing Friday Night Lights (2006) or The OC (2003), allow me to direct you to Outer Banks (2020). It has that older style of camera work, too. That very quiet style. I don’t even know how to describe it. The colours are muted, there’s no CGI, everything looks normal. I really like it. The style is super relaxed. Fitting, as the show starts out in a chill seaside town. IT’S. SO. PRETTY.

The storyline follows ‘the Pogues’, a group of boys and one girl after they learn about a sunken treasure ship and try to find both the gold and the missing father of the main guy, John B. The Pogues are at odds with the rich kids of the island and spend their time on the water or working. The hunt for gold and John B’s father brings everyone together – or pushes them even further apart.

The friendships really make the show for me. JJ was my favourite of the characters. He’s incredibly loyal to John B, Pope and Kie. Sarah, the rich girl who ends up befriending John B and getting closer to all of them, grew on me throughout the series as well. And Pope and Kie were both great. Overall, the friendships are what solidified my love for this show and the ending to season one was awesome! It’s been renewed for a second season and I’m excited to see where it goes.

The other show I want to recommend is Somewhere Between. OH. MY. GOSH. It’s based on a Korean drama I haven’t seen (but now I must!), 신의 선물 – 14일 (2014). And apparently it’s the first American show to adapt a Kdrama?! What?! The first?! This is one where it’s sooooo hard not to look up the ending and spoil yourself. I am so happy I gave this one a chance, though! Devon Sawa has been one of my favourite actors since I was a kid and watched Wild America (1997) twenty-five times a year. (Maybe an exaggeration. Maybe.) He was also in Nikita (2010), which was such an underrated gem!

[You can’t really talk about this show without spoiling some things, so SPOILER ALERT for the first episode, mostly. Minor spoilers for second episode. Trigger warning for mention of character death and character suicide attempt.]

This one is very intricate and intense. The plot centres around Laura, Nico and Tom. Tom is the District Attorney, Nico is a former cop with a brother on death row, and Laura is Tom’s loving wife and mother of their daughter Serena. In the first episode, Serena befriends Ruby, Nico’s niece, while Nico’s mum begs Laura to get her husband to re-examine Danny’s case (the brother on death row). The mum is convinced of his innocence, but it was Nico who testified against him as the victim he’s been accused of killing was Nico’s girlfriend). The talk doesn’t prove successful, but Serena and Ruby become good friends.

Nights later, as Nico’s family falls apart, Serena is kidnapped. Tom and Laura do everything they can to find her, but fail. Nico learns about Serena’s death on the news – the same moment he learns that her death is being used to re-open the death penalty in their area and that his brother is going to be executed shortly. [The first episode is really grim, but if you hang in there, there’s a twist coming.]

The day Danny’s to be executed, Laura attempts suicide at the exact same time, and Nico is jumped by a gang and thrown off a dock – also at the same time. He sees Laura in the water and manages to cut himself free and drag her to shore, but he’s heartbroken to realise that he missed his brother’s execution. Both go home distraught.

Yet when Laura returns home, she finds Serena and Tom waiting for her. WAIT, WHAT?! Yep. It’s three months in the past, Serena is alive, Danny is alive, and everything is playing out exactly the same way as before. The only two people who know what’s going to happen – or rather, who remember what happened the first time – are Laura and Nico. The pair decide to team up to save both Serena and Danny. AND THAT’S ONLY THE START OF EPISODE TWO.

I won’t say any more, but trust me, this one is definitely worth your time! It starts out really grim, but it becomes more action/mystery after episode one.

Film Review: His House (2020)

Heart-punching horror is a hard one to watch. Especially when so much of it is grounded in real events. And so begins His House, a horror film set in modern England that follows a couple from South Sudan, Bol (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), who have just gained a house and some small amount of freedom outside of the detention centre for refugees. They’re to get less than £80 a week (total), are not allowed to work to supplement this income, are not allowed to have parties or even have candles in their home. And the home they are given, even before you realise that it’s haunted, is filled with bugs, rubbish and the door is not even hanging in there.

The treatment of refugees is front and centre in this film and is utterly depressing and haunting. One of the rare nice moments happens when a local member of a church gives Bol a box of food and supplies, but few of their neighbours are kind and welcoming. And, very quickly, the problems with the house multiply and the unexplained horrors add to the couple’s already tough predicament.

This is a very important commentary about the hurdles and discrimination refugees face wrapped up in a horror story that focuses as much on the reality of immigration as on the paranormal.

Show Review: Daredevil (2015)

‘This … Elektra, this is a part of me that I need. And you’re the only one who gets it. Without this, I’m not alive. I’m not. Not really. And I know that now, thanks to you. I don’t know what we are together, and if we have any chance in the future … But I … I do know that I’m free with you. Like with no one else.’

I’ve come in and out of Daredevil. I don’t know why, cos it’s amazing, but I just never made it past season one the first few times. And I love season one. I’ve seen it multiple times. But I’ve been wanting to finish it properly, so this time I came in with the arrival of Elektra and my word, I don’t think I’ve adored a star-crossed couple as much as Matt Murdock and Elektra.

This pair, ahh. They are what OTPs are made of.

The storylines of Daredevil are so enthralling and require your full and total attention, and season two is a great mix of a case that’s impossible not to care about – Karen learning about Frank Castle’s past and seeing the human side of him – alongside an epic, heart-shattering romance – Matt’s relationship with Elektra. Their history/flashbacks are so perfect and make them impossible not to root for. Matt and Karen are cute this season, but I really liked watching Karen with Frank and Foggy, and Matt with Elektra and Stick. Those were great trios and made the season nonstop action and anxiety.

I haven’t read the comics, or seen season three yet, so I don’t know where the final season is going, or what’s going to happen in The Defenders, but I’m excited. The fact that Daredevil got cancelled before it got a fourth season is truly gutting, because now I want many, many seasons of Matt and Elektra fighting side by side and being ridiculously perfect for each other. (ˆ⌣ˆ)

Documentaries! Documentaries Everywhere!

I’ve got to say, I’m really loving the documentaries that have been popping up on Netflix. I’ve already watched The Great Hack and Knock Down the House, which were both brilliantly done.

If you haven’t seen them, The Great Hack follows the exposé on how data is being used to influence elections, and whistleblowers surrounding Cambridge Analytica. I have a longer review of it, here. Knock Down the House follows four young progressive politicians in the United States who ran for Congress in 2018. If you like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or followed her campaign at all, this film focuses on her as well as Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin. Even knowing how the campaigns end, it’s still very much worth a watch. I have such respect for these women and how they’ve handled themselves. Very inspiring documentary.

In the same vein is The Social Dilemma. It’s half documentary, half re-enactment, and both sides are enthralling to watch. The interviews with former leaders at Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more besides, shine a light on just how greatly social media and advertising have come to influence the world around us, even when we don’t realise it.

These interviews are complemented by a fictional modern family obsessed with technology, whose youngest daughter is being bullied online while the son is being drawn into extremism via advertising and propaganda. Skyler Gisondo plays the son and I loved his performance. (Still sad about Santa Clarita Diet ending, boo urns.) Vincent Kartheiser as the three AIs was also brilliant.

In a totally different genre of documentaries, I also recommend Explained and Dark Tourist. Explained is really cool, because it’s basically a bunch of mini documentaries. I think each one’s about 20 minutes, but they pack a lot of information in. You get episodes on topics ranging from monogamy to the gender pay gap to meat consumption. I definitely recommend checking them out! There’s also a three-part one on Covid-19.

Dark Tourist, on the other hand, is an eight episode documentary series hosted by New Zealand journalist David Farrier. I’d never actually heard of dark tourism until I watched this. I like my vacations to be fun and relaxing, but there’s a side of tourism that apparently leans towards scaring the absolute life out of yourself. Fun? Apparently. Decidedly not for me, though.

Farrier goes first to Latin America. He visits Medellín and meets people who once ran with Pablo Escobar and now make YouTube videos and run tours and role playing adventures based around their own experiences. In another episode, Farrier goes to Japan and visits Fukushima, which is still intensely radioactive and is basically a ghost town now. After Fukushima, he goes to a robot hotel, where robots basically run the whole place. (Seriously, the talking robots freaked me out so much! I don’t think I could have turned off the lights in a room full of robots.)

In a later episode, he also goes to the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan which was the scene of nuclear tests throughout the Cold War. At one point he swims in the lake of a crater that formed from nuclear blasts. (The group he’s with also eat the fish from the pond.) I did find the part where he goes to see the space shuttle take off really cool.

Two of the episodes focus on dark tourism in the United States. The haunted house one was particularly unsettling to watch. Signing up to be berated and terrified is not something I understand. Nor did I understand the serial killer tours he goes on. Um, no, thank you.

Despite some of the seriously unsettling/downright alarming things he finds, what I really liked about the whole series was Farrier’s method of letting the locations and visitors guide the documentary. He’s a very laid-back, likeable journalist and doesn’t overwhelm the focus of the documentary, which I prefer.

Has anyone seen any of these? Got any documentaries to recommend?

Show Review: The Innocent Man | Nice Guy | 세상 어디에도 없는 착한 남자 (2012)

Oh my gosh, The Innocent Man has me hooooooooked. If you like intense dramatic romances, this one is fantastic. I’m only about six episodes in, but I can’t stop! (It’s on Netflix as Nice Guy, if you’re looking!)

[I keep writing reviews for these shows before I’ve finished them but I just have a lot of EMOTIONS and OPINIONS so bear with me (and also there are some spoilers for the first six episodes herein, so if you don’t like spoilers, avoid until you’ve seen the show!).]

The main characters are Kang Ma-ru, Seo Eun-gi, Han Jae-hee, Kang Choco and Park Jae-gil. At the start, Kang Ma-ru’s madly in love with Han Jae-hee. They grew up together without money and have been together for years. There’s nothing Kang Ma-ru wouldn’t do for her. One night, after proving himself in medical school, he comes home to find his sister unconscious on the floor. Choco suffers from a long term illness and is constantly fainting and needing medical care. He’s in the process of bringing her to hospital when Jae-hee calls him, frantic. Torn between his sister and his girlfriend, he promises his sister that he’ll be right back, she only has to count to 500, and he runs to Jae-hee.

At a hotel, he finds Jae-hee sitting beside a dead body. They panic about what’s going to happen and in a spur of the moment decision, Ma-ru takes the fall. He’s kicked out of medical school and goes to prison, Choco’s health worsens, and Jae-hee ends up marrying a rich older man.

Five years later, Ma-ru’s jaded and furious. He’s on a flight when he encounters Seo Eun-gi, an heiress and step-daughter to Jae-hee. When Eun-gi faints onboard the plane, he uses his medical knowledge to save her life. In the process, he encounters Jae-hee once more.

Later, Jae-hee comes to his house and offers him compensation for taking the fall. Disgusted, Ma-ru returns the money but he gets caught in the crossfire between Jae-hee and Eun-gi, and is accused of blackmailing the family for money. So, that’s twice now that Jae-hee’s got him into trouble with the law.

I don’t know what to think about Jae-hee, honestly. She’s a really interesting and well developed character. Like, I cannot stand her in most of her scenes, but I do feel deep empathy for what her character experiences before the start of the show. She’s truly broken and terrified of going back to where she came from, so even though she’s manipulative and awful at times, she’s an interesting character and I hope she finds peace by the end. Also, her chemistry with Ma-ru is unreal and their scenes can be really heartbreaking.

Both of the women have great side relationships outside of Ma-ru and the love triangle, too. Eun-gi is close with Park Joon-ha, who’s been her friend all her life and fights for her within the company she runs, and always has her back. Jae-hee is close to Ahn Min-young, her husband’s secretary who’s secretly in love with her and helps her fight back against Eun-gi, who’s hated Jae-hee since her father kicked out her mother to make room for Jae-hee. There’s also Choco’s relationship with Park Jae-gil, Ma-ru’s best friend, who lives with them and supports Ma-ru through thick and thin. It’s a really splendid cast overall!

I really adore Ma-ru the most, though. He’s an amazing character. He’s such a good brother to Choco and he loves fiercely even though he’s been deeply hurt by Jae-hee’s actions. I love how his relationship with Eun-gi develops even as he’s battling Jae-hee and their tangled history. There’s so much intrigue and tension and looks. Seriously, this is a show that thrives on glares and side-long glances and I am here for it.

I can’t wait to see how it ends! Has anyone else seen it? If not, you totally should!

Film Review: #Alive / #살아있다 (2020)

Because who doesn’t turn on a zombie movie first thing in the morning before you’ve properly finished your coffee?

Oh my gosh, this film was actually great! I’m very picky when it comes to zombie films/shows, as so many are so cliché, but I quite liked this one. It’s fast paced, straight forward and felt almost like an indie movie with the focus being on only two characters and their day to day lives, only there’s zombies outside. Actually, it’s quite a lot like 28 Days Later.

The plot follows Oh Joon-woo, a gamer and streamer, who wakes up one day to find that the zombie apocalypse has started and he’s trapped inside his apartment. Over the next few days, Joon-woo tries to contact his family, the outside, anyone, but there’s no responses and the signal dies fairly quickly, although the news continues on the television for a while. The uses/drawbacks of modern tech are touched on. The drone is helpful, having nothing with an antenna is not, etc. I liked that aspect.

Across the apartment complex is Kim Yoo-bin. The pair start to communicate by holding up messages to each other and eventually string a rope between their apartments to send food and walkie-talkies. But you can only stay inside for so long in a zombie apocalypse and soon the pair are faced with what to do next …

If you like zombie movies, or character driven action films, definitely check this one out! I loved the two main characters and the ending was very satisfactory.