Archive for the ‘Suspense’ Category

Luther: The Fallen Sun

March 21, 2023

Have you missed the fantastic BBC police procedural, Luther starring Idris Elba? We last saw John Luther in 2019 for Series 5. Now he’s back in 2023 with a film continuation, Luther: The Fallen Sun. Cast members Cynthia Erivo and Andy Serkis compliment Idris well. There’s a lull which happens for the first 20 minutes or so. Fans will think to themselves, has Luther lost it? And then the tidal wave of suspense happens. I literally screamed outloud at one point, it’s so scary. This is not for the faint of heart. Gruesome and diabolical in parts. The tension builds and builds and builds. The story shoots out into the atmosphere. If feels outlandish in parts, but is it? I don’t want to spoil the buzz. Suffice it to say, you wonder could this happen. Unfortunately the answer is probably yes. Because some humans really are pure evil. The hunt for the killer takes the cops to the furthest place possible. It’s fucking crazy and so good and laced with the stuff of nightmares. Is this the end for Luther? It’s been a 13 year run for the series. Maybe? 4 out of 5 for this outstanding film continuation.

Luther: The Fallen Sun currently streams on Netflix.
Luther the first 5 series currently streams on Hulu, Britbox and PlutoTV.


January 25, 2023

The German producers behind Dark bring us yet another television series, this one titled 1899, full of taking chances, heady intelligent scripts, and a story that’s hard to follow – in a good way. 1899 takes place on a steamship traveling from London to New York City just before – you guessed it – the turn of the 20th Century. Lots of immigrants on board, so the setting is money vs. poverty until a second vessel is discovered abandoned at sea. That’s all I will say. The complexity to the story along with great acting kept me coming back. Once a few major plotlines were revealed later in the season, I wondered if I loved it or was just watching to see how the showrunners would explain their way out of this
Sci-Fi/Suspense soup. Some of it seemed silly. Some of it was awe-inspiring. As with their previous show, the idea was to run 1899 for three seasons. Unfortunately Netflix pulled the plug and so no ending. Frustrating and unfortunately because I can’t rate subsequent series for closure, I give this season a 3.5 out of 5.

1899‘s one and only season currently streams on Netflix.

Better Call Saul: Season 6 (series finale)

December 15, 2022

I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I binged an entire season in one weekend: Friday – Sunday. Better Call Saul‘s final season’s packed with present day, back story, and future story. All the complicated worlds come crashing in on each other in this pivotal final season, including finally, solidly linking the series with Breaking Bad which I started watching ten years ago! Like it’s parent show, Saul’s full of corruption and violence. But unlike Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul comes from an initial place of bad. Saul/Jimmy’s not broken or damaged, or in trouble. He’s just bad. He’s corrupt. He’s amoral and takes amusement in and advantage of other’s misfortune. The scripts have always been intellectual and complicated, the acting top notch. It’s not a story I would necessarily pick up in a book to read, but the creators, cast, and crew bring it to life in a way that makes you, or at least made me want to watch. This final season pulls it all together. And it’s not just Saul’s story. Kim’s intricately standing right there next to Saul. Her own story just as important to understand the entirety of what has made this series work and what makes us come back for more each season. Yes, there’s uber-violence. But like other outstanding shows from this genre, it’s the professionalism and intelligence that keeps me coming back. No different this season. I was lost many times, but it didn’t matter. I knew Vince Gilligan and company would bring me back and they did. Every time. 4 out of 5 for the season. Series rating: 4.25.

Spoiler alert: Bad guys beware: Carol Burnett’s going to take you down. Genius.

Wisting: Season 3

October 23, 2022

Wisting: Season 3 brings back FBI agent Maggie Griffin played impeccably by Carrie-Ann Moss. Sven Nordin returns in the title role along with Thea Green Lundberg, Nads Ousdal, Lars Berge, and Ingeborg Raustøl rounding out the cast. This is pitch perfect police procedural done in the Nordic Noir vein. Based on Jørn Lier Horst’s The Night Man, Wisting: Season 3 packs a lot of secrets and reveals into this four episode season. Nearly every character has some major screwed up personal life arc. Fun to binge and soak in the multiple story lines and the beautiful Larvik, Norway. 4 out of 5.

Wisting: Season 3 currently streams on Sundance Now and is available on disk from your local public library.

The Watcher

October 21, 2022

So much fun and just in time for the Halloween season, Ryan Murphy creates another chilling limited series, although The Watcher is much more suspense than gore which makes me love it all the more. Based on a true story, Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale play a Manhattan couple with two kids who decide to get out of town and move to a quieter neighborhood in the suburbs of Westfield, NJ, about 45 minutes from midtown Manhattan. Soon after the family moves into their dream home, they begin receiving disturbing letters from someone called, The Watcher. It’s creepy good, spine-tingling entertainment trying to figure out who might be the culprit in a race against time with the family’s sanity. Joining Watts and Cannavale are an incredible cast of actors including Isabel Gravitt and Luke David Blumm as the kids, Mia Farrow, Margo Martindale, Richard Kind, Terry Kinney, Joe Mantello, Michael Nouri, Seth Gabel, Noma Dumezweni, Henry Hunter Hall, Christopher McDonald, and Jennifer Coolidge. Coolidge is her usual amazing self, playing a ruthless real estate agent perfectly. Dumezweni, Farrow, and Martindale also shine as a private investigator and two nosy neighbors respectively. Loved this creepy series. Perfect for an October binge fest. 4 out of 5.

The Watcher currently streams on Netflix.

Queer Writers of Crime Book Recommendation #6

August 7, 2022

For August 2022 I am honored to review a classic gay male, historical fiction, spy thriller: Christopher Bram’s Hold Tight (1988). Thanks to my dear friends Mark Owen and Neil Theise, and their amazing NYC dinner parties, I have had the pleasure of dining with Chris and his husband Draper Shreve over the years. I love Chris’s writing so much. Hold Tight is my favorite of his fiction and I am thrilled to bring it to Queer Writers of Crime podcast.

Ep: 140 Philip typically recommends mysteries but this month he makes a switch to a suspense and thriller novel that involves spies, Nazis, a male brothel, and southern prejudice.

Podcast Website:

Jurassic World (2015) (take 2)

July 19, 2022

In anticipation of the new Jurassic 2022 film, I decided to go back and watch the 2015 film, the start of the second franchise. Read my updated review.


Ozark: Season 4, Part 2 (final season)

May 7, 2022

Ozark: the end. Not sure where to begin. Perhaps the fact that this binge-loving television watcher could only inhale one episode a day of this intense series says something. It says a lot actually. I have loved Ozark throughout its run. Yes, it’s uber-violent. Yes, it’s depressing. Yes, with that violence comes the reality of constantly saying goodbye to characters. All that balances out with outstanding writing, directing, and acting. Ozark‘s atmospheric, lush, beautiful, and full of surprises. It’s been a journey with Wendy and Marty. Well journey may not exactly be the right word. Maybe car crash would be a better description. They’ve left a trail of chaos and death in their dust as they sunk deeper and deeper into a life of crime. Ozark continues to be a stark metaphor for the greed and lawlessness of our time. It is the perfect companion to this era. The second half of the final season of Ozark left a bloody pile of bodies as we all wondered who would survive? Is it even possible for Marty and Wendy to survive? Many thanks to creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams. And of course Ozark would not be Ozark without the stellar cast including Jason Bateman, Laura Linney (Mary Ann Singleton transformed forever), Skylar Gaertner, Julia Garner, Sofia Hublitz, Felix Solis, Richard Thomas (yes, that Richard Thomas), and Veronica Falcón. An outstanding end to to an amazing run. Dark Shadows gave me nightmares as a kid. Ozark gave me nightmares as an adult. 5 out of 5. Shiver.

Ozark currently streams on Netflix.

Reel Charlie ratings:
Ozark: Season 1: 4/5
Ozark: Season 2: 4/5
Ozark: Season 3: 4/5
Ozark: Season 4,1: 5/5
Ozark: Season 4.2: 5/5
Overall Ozark score: 4.4

Pieces of Her

March 19, 2022

Toni Collette’s series, Pieces of Her is an American suspense thriller created by Charlotte Stoudt, directed by Minkie Spiro, and based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Karin Slaughter. The limited series opens with Collette’s character and her daughter caught in an extreme public situation. Collette’s Laura reacts and ends up going viral, threatening to expose a past her adult daughter has no prior knowledge of. The show packed a good punch from the start. However once Laura’s past is revealed, the story mired in too many details of why she is who she is and how she got to this point in her life. Also too many unanswered questions about how she was able to hide out all these years. I watched the entire series, but didn’t feel particularly satisfied in the end. Pieces of Her is decent TV, not outstanding. Some of the elements seemed a bit farfetched. I’ll leave it at a 3 out of 5.

Pieces of Her currently streams on Netflix.

Ozark: Season 4, Part 1

January 25, 2022

Ozark‘s final season gets split in two, twice the possibility for our blood pressure to rise. Twice the opportunity to go to bed at night wondering if we remembered to lock all the doors and windows. No one’s safe from violence and death in this penultimate look at Wendy and Marty Bryde, their children, friends, family, and colleagues. Oh and their enemies, many of whom fall in to the aforementioned categories. Regular Reel Charlie readers know I am not a fan of violence. But I have to say I am attracted to projects which tell the story of ordinary, law-abiding citizens who fall into a world of crime and violence, justifying what they do because of their new-found morality, or lack of it. Ozark owes its reality to Breaking Bad and other shows spinning that morality tale in such a sophisticated manner. I just get obsessed with it. I am also a huge Laura Linney fan and discovered early on I am one degree of separation from insanely talented Lisa Emory (Darlene) thanks to my dear friend David. Lots of strong female characters in this show. Ozark’s tough and it keeps you scared shitless through most of the episodes. It’s also psychologically pitch perfect making you wonder if you might fall prey to illegal payoffs if they ever presented themselves to you. Probably not, but it’s still great television to imagine what if. Part 1 ends with the departure of some incredibly strong characters. There’s also an early scene that makes you wonder if this entire season is a flashback. I am trying so hard not to give away any spoilers. So I will end with shiver, scary, hold-your-breath amazing Ozark. Can’t wait for the final few episodes to land – no release date yet, but given other Netflix shows with split seasons, it may only be a matter of months. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile 5 out of 5 for the show that scares me the way Dark Shadows did when I was a wee boy.

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