Movie Review: The Conversation (1974)

Surveillance, something that’s part of our society, and we often don’t think about it. Sometimes it’s done for our safety and sometimes it’s perhaps used for less savory purposes. Anyhow, let’s talk about a movie.

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

The story follows Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a surveillance expert who recently got tasked with following and recording a young couple. However, as he proceeds with this job, he starts growing paranoid about the entire situation. What we have here is a slowly burning conspiracy thriller with a lot of character drama interwoven throughout, and I found it to be utterly fucking engrossing. Right from the first shot the movie gives off this really uncomfortable vibe, creating a really fascinating and frankly eerie mood that doesn’t let go until it’s over. And the way it tackles theme of paranoia, morality, and various other themes through its storytelling is just superb, making for a really nuanced and engaging conspiracy thriller.

The characters in this are all really interesting, because you never know who can be trusted or if anyone really is on Harry’s side. It helps in adding to the film’s overall sense of paranoia, which just made me even more tense. Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, a long time surveillance expert and our protagonist. He’s a fascinating man that I found really engaging to follow. Part of this is due to the writing, but most of it is of course down to Hackman who is absolutely superb in the role. And in the supporting cast we see people like John Cazale, Frederic Forrest, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, and more, all of which are great in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by David Shire, and I think he did a really good job with it. Some of it has a little bit of basis in lounge jazz, bouncing around a lot on higher notes, having a bit of fun with itself. But soon enough you start hearing it shift in tone a bit, going down on the lower keys a lot more, creating this eerie and intense vibe that borders on horror-esque at times. Really helps sell the increasing paranoia of the narrative beautifully.

“The Conversation” was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. And quick little sidenote: This came out the same year as “The Godfather Part II”, so Coppola really had one busy year. Anyhow, I don’t think I’m claiming anything unexpected when I say that he did an excellent job with his direction. He manages to keep us close and intimate with Harry, while still somehow making us feel somewhat distant, almost like we’re surveilling him. Really helps in building a sense of unease around the whole situation, just making me insanely uncomfortable. And Bill Butler’s cinematography really helps sell this too. It’s just excellently crafted.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10. The movie was also nominated for 3 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound.

While its sloooooow pace might put some off, I found “The Conversation” to be an electrifying thriller that I won’t soon forget. It has a fantastic story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Conversation” is a 9.91/10. So I’d say it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Conversation” is now completed

If anyone wonders why I’m choosing to stop talking to people, know that I blame Francis Ford Coppola.

Movie Review: The Mustang (2019)

Horses, wonderful creatures. Absolutely astonishing beasts. Also, huge and terrifying and able to crush a dude like a bug. So you know… try to not annoy a horse. Also, don’t annoy people. Just a bit of advice from Uncle Markus.

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

While doing time in prison, Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts) soon gets involved in a rehabilitation program where convicts learn to train wild mustangs. And we follow him as he struggles with this new task, as well as the struggles he faces when confronting himself and his violent past. If you are an impatient individual, you might not enjoy the storytelling of “The Mustang”. It’s a slow burn, taking its time to really let moments simmer, let us get into the heads of the characters and their situation. Of course there are moments where shit gets real and things become less calm, but on the whole this is a movie that is in no hurry to tell its story. And I appreciate that. It helped immerse me in the story presented to me. And in the end I found it to be an insanely heart-wrenching and engaging story.

The characters in this are all pretty engaging, and all work very well in making the story and world therein to feel more lived in. They all feel very real in that sense. Matthias Schoenaerts plays Roman, our main character. He’s a man who clearly has a bit of a troubled past (to say the least), and the way we see him developing and confronting himself throughout the film is insanely engaging, with Schoenaerts delivering a masterful performance. And then in supporting roles you have people like Bruce Dern, Gideon Adlon, Connie Britton, Josh Stewart, Thomas Smittle, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Jed Kurzel, and I think he did a terrific job with it. It very much fits with the contemplative vibe that the story goes for, brought to life beautifully by a mix of guitar, piano, and various other stringed instruments. It really finds a nice middle ground between the dusty Nevada setting and the eerie, soul-sucking confinement of prison. It’s a mesmerizing score that really elevated the movie beyond the already high quality.

“The Mustang” was the first film directed and co-written by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, and I think she did a fantastic job with it. Just seeing the skill and level of control she clearly has over each scene is mesmerizing. When I was watching I thought she’d made  whole bunch of movies, but no, this was her first. And if she shows this level of skill with her debut, I am excited to see what she could bring in the future. Anyhow, back to the movie itself. The direction like I said, it’s great, beautiful, just superb. The direction really brings you into the world in a way that feels very raw and real. And the cinematography by Ruben Impens is just gorgeous. So yeah, the craft in this movie is terrific.

“The Mustang” has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

The slow burn of “The Mustang” may put some people off, but I personally found it to be a highly engrossing and heart-wrenching drama. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, terrific music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Neigh*. My final score for “The Mustang” is a 9.90/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Mustang” is now completed.

Schoenaerts not getting a best actor nomination for this is just criminal.

Series Review: Castlevania – Season 4 (2021)

This review is a bit of a bittersweet one. On one hand, I get to talk about this show once again (yay!)… but this has also been confirmed to be the final season (boo). I’ve loved every season that’s come before, so I was of course excited. But then we get to the question: Did they stick the landing? Let’s find out.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… the final season of “Castlevania”!

We once again find ourselves within the region of Wallachia as Trevor (Richard Armitage), Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), and Alucard (James Callis) once again must go on quests to save the people, and possibly also the world as we know it, from powerful forces. All the while Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her vampire sisters scheme to try and take over the world, with Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) working to find a way to kill her. As you can read, a lot of shit is going on here, and even then I left out A LOT of stuff as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But what’s my verdict on the story here? It’s great. They manage to make everything feel like it truly matters, like there are actual stakes, and they manage to keep it consistently engaging. Whether it’s through a big, over the top action scene or a slower, more conversational part, the writers manage to keep it really engaging throughout the entire 10 episode run. And when it’s all said and done, it wraps up in an emotionally satisfying way that works really well for the story and world that they’ve developed.

The characters of this show, be they new or old, remain some of the most colorful, layered, fun, and overall interesting ones in recent memory. Most of them get a good arc here, and I think it makes for some great dynamics between them, as well as just making them highly engaging on their own. And the cast is just as stellar as ever, with both returning cast members and newcomers giving it their fucking all. And within said cast we find people like Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Jessica Brown Findlay, Theo James, Jaime Murray, Yasmine Al Massri, Ivana Milisevic, Malcolm McDowell, Toks Olagundoye, Titus Welliver, and many other very talented actors.

As with the previous seasons, Trevor Morris stood for the music, and once again he’s killed it. Big, epic orchestral pieces, smaller and more somber pieces, even a little bit of synth, the man mixes a few different styles that fit beautifully into creating a highly engaging soundscape for the show.

As with its previous seasons, “Castlevania” season 4 was written by Warren Ellis, with the Deats brothers handling the directing. And once again, the craft on display here is out of this world good. And where that shines the most is of course the animation, which is utterly breathtaking, especially during action scenes. Sure, it looks really good during slower, talky scenes too, but it’s during action that it really comes alive, giving us some breathtakingly dynamic, gruesome, and utterly badass fights that I will not forget any time soon. Powerhouse Animation, man, they never slip up.

This show/season just came out, so it currently doesn’t have much data on my usual sites. But here is still the link for the Metacritic page. On Rotten Tomatoes it currently has a 100% audience rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

So yeah, the final season of “Castlevania” completely sticks the landing, making for an emotionally satisfying and highly entertaining end to this series that I love. The story is great, the characters are great, the performances are fantastic, the music is great, and the directing/animation is fantastic. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for the final season of “Castlevania” is a 9.97/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Castlevania” season 4 is now completed.

It’s… it’s over… *sad sniff*.

Movie Review: Throne of Blood (1957)

Hello there, friends, and welcome back to Akira Kurosunday! So, are we all ready to talk about an old movie? Yeah? Cool! So let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Throne of Blood”.

The story follows Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), a hardened general as he works, with the constant egging on by his wife (Isuzu Yamada), to fulfill a prophecy that says he will become lord of a mighty castle. If you’re thinking to yourself “Gee golly willikers, Uncle Markus, this sounds a mighty bit like Macbeth”. How observant of you, reader. That’s right “Throne of Blood” takes the setup and themes of the famed play and merges them with elements from traditional Japanese storytelling, which makes for an insanely compelling narrative. What also helps the storytelling out quite a bit is the immaculate atmosphere of the movie, which makes everything feel a bit off. But not off as in bad, but off as in “Something is weird”, which gives the movie an interesting and unique vibe that adds quite a bit of nuance to everything going on. It’s just a great story that adapts the classic play to great effect.

The characters in this are all pretty flawed and nuanced, and I think they all work well here, all helping build onto the drama quite well. I would say more, but I don’t wanna go into too many details (spoilers and all that jazz). I’ll simply say that Toshiro Mifune is fantastic as usual in the lead, playing the mad, power hungry shtick ridiculously well. And in the supporting roles we find people like Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura, Akira Kubo, Minoru Chiaki, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Masaru Sato, and I think that he did a great job with it. His score for it is very atmospheric and kind of eerie for a lot of it, complementing the slightly surreal mood I mentioned earlier. But there are also a few more bombastic (for lack of a better word) tracks as well, and those work quite well in their respective scenes too. It’s just a damn solid score that elevates the movie even further.

As mentioned early in the review, “Throne of Blood” is based on William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, and was directed by Akira Kurosawa. Aaaaand Kurosawa of course brought his A-game with the direction. What I’ve noticed with each of his movies I’ve seen is that his craft gets better and better. And while I love his direction in the last two movies, I really think that this is the best I’ve seen from him so far. The way he composes movement, the way he puts you on edge with simple angles, the way he brings you into the action, Kurosawa handles any and all situation beautifully and showed just how ahead of his time he was. And the cinematography by Asakazu Nakai is fucking gorgeous.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

So yeah, Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” is another winner. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Throne of Blood” is a 9.88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Throne of Blood” is now completed.

So many arrows…

Movie Review: Parasite (2019)

Well hello there, friends of the interwebs! How are you? Welcome to 2021, where dreams are made and/or shattered, and where Markus catches up on movies that everybody already have seen. So let’s go, yo!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Parasite”!

Shortly after young man Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) gains employment as a tutor for the daughter of a wealthy family, he starts scheming with his family to get them employed for these wealthy folks too. What’s fascinating about “Parasite” is that it spans more genres than the entire filmography of more directors. Is is a crime story? Yes. But it’s also a family drama. And a black comedy. And a thriller? But despite all of this, there never is any clashing as we flow through the movie. They blend together beautifully, held together by some of the tightest writing I’ve experienced in a film in recent memory. All of this making for a brilliant satire on class differences within modern day South Korea (and possibly other parts of the world), while in general also being a highly enjoyable narrative to follow on a surface level. The storytelling of “Parasite” can be enjoyed both as this deep, nuanced satire, and as a general piece of entertainment. It’s just great stuff.

The characters in this are incredibly interesting, because it’s clear that a lot of time and love has gone into making them feel as real and nuanced as possible. I believe every second of their characterization, and that makes them extremely compelling. And when you pair that with an excellent cast, featuring people like Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Park So-dam, Choi Woo-sik, Jang Hye-jin, Jung Ji-so, Cho Yeo-jeong, and more, you get some extremely engaging character work going on.

The score for the movie was composed Jung Jae-il, and it was terrific. It’s a fairly minimalist score, all things considered. It’s based mainly around piano, some strings, and light percussion, which helps give the movie a uniquely fascinating vibe that is equal parts fun and uncomfortable. And I love it.

“Parasite” was directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho, and I think he did a superb job with it. Few directors have as much control over every scene as he has here. Every moment is perfectly crafted and calibrated in a way that I seldom see in movies. I also have to take a second to praise the cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo, because it is not only ridiculously pretty, but it also adds so much to the overall storytelling, with each shot being able to convey so much about a moment. And when you take the superb editing into account, you get one of the most perfectly crafted movies I’ve seen. It’s insane how perfectly constructed this is.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 96/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #30 on their “Top 250” list. The movie won 4 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best original screenplay, and Best international feature. It was also nominated for an additional 2 Oscars in the categories of Best production design and Best film editing.

Yeah, guess I’m joining the choir in saying that “Parasite” is fucking fantastic. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Parasite” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Parasite” is now completed.

Not a bad start to my movie watching this year.

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 8)

Hey there, friendos. Time for another christmas movie post. So yeah, let’s talk about it.

I can already imagine at least two of you furrowing your brow. “But MAAAAAAARKUUUUUS, Lethal Weapon is not a christmas movie, it’s a detective thriller”. Watch and learn, kids.
It’s December in Los Angeles, and aging police detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) gets forced to team up with volatile detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) to solve a complex case. Okay, the immediate plot may not strictly be about saving christmas, but there’s holiday iconography littered all over the god damn place. Christmas trees, colorful lights, other stuff… yeah. Oh, and the movie opens with “Jingle Bell Rock” playing. That aside, I do love the story here. It’s exciting and suspenseful and surprisingly heartwarming. And in the end, isn’t warmth in our hearts something we want to feel during the holidays?
I think it goes without saying how great the characters in this are. They’re nuanced and endearing and I love them to death. And so must other people too, considering this god damn movie got three sequels. Part of this comes down to Shane Black’s pitch perfect script, a dark and emotionally charged affair with hints of black humor. But largely we also love the main characters because of the excellent chemistry between Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. What they have in “Lethal Weapon” is unparalleled to this day. And the supporting cast is brilliant too, with people like Darlene Love and Gary Busey being standouts among them.
So maybe “Lethal Weapon” isn’t the traditional definition of a christmas movie, but I feel that it has enough iconography and relevant themes to warrant its status as one. It’s one of my favorite movies and I never tire of watching it.

On the eighth day of christmas, Markus watched a classic hit
 Meanwhile Danny Glover’s too old for this shit

12 Films of Christmas 2020 (Part 4)

Hey, I know you were planning to head out for a walk. But baby it’s cold outside, so you should instead stay indoors, get yourself a cup of your favorite warm beverage, and read this post of mine. Sound good? You got your warm beverage? Good, then let’s do this.

So today we’re talking about “Klaus”, a 2019 Netflix animated movie about Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), a spoiled, lazy brat whose entire world gets flip turned upside down when his dad forces a job on him in hopes that he’ll learn something about responsibility. What job? Being a mailman on a remote island, of course. And while trying to come to terms with his new position, Jesper meets a hermitic bearded man (J.K. Simmons), and the two soon form a partnership to bring joy to the children of the island. All while the elders of the island try to keep this joy from happening, because it goes against tradition. So yeah, a lot of familiar tropes going on here. But familiarity doesn’t mean poor quality. Because the execution here is terrific. It’s filled with heart and warmth and hilarious humor. Mix the already enjoyable story with colorful and charming characters played by a stacked and perfectly chosen cast, and you get a movie that managed to dig itself into my heart.
But this delicious sundae isn’t complete with a little cherry on top, and for “Klaus”, that cherry comes in the form of some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. What’s even cooler is that it’s generally traditional hand drawn 2D animation, but then it implements some CG in the lighting and shading department, creating this uniquely dynamic style for the movie that is utterly breathtaking to look at.
So to try to wrap this up, “Klaus” is a nicely told little holiday tale filled with heart, great performances, and amazing animation. I can definitely see myself watching this next year too… and the year after that. It’s amazing.

On the fourth day of christmas, to my heart Klaus said hi
And later yours truly proceeded to cry

Movie Review: Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Yes, another alleged classic I hadn’t gotten around to yet. But now we finally fixed that. So let’s talk about it.

Boyz and girlz… “Boyz n the Hood”.

“Boyz n the Hood” follows the lives of three young men (Cuba Gooding Jr, Ice Cube, and Morris Chestnut) living in South Central Los Angeles, and how they try to deal with all aspects of their lives. From race, to love, to family, to their futures, there’s a lot of ground covered within this narrative. And all of it blends together seamlessly to create one of the most nuanced and engrossing narratives I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing recently. There’s so much genuine heart and emotion within the narrative. Even though it isn’t based on an actual true story, it feels so raw and genuine, like they’ve at least pulled inspiration from real life situations. Combine this feeling of genuineness with a healthy helping of humor and a looming sense of dread, you get a narrative that feels like no other. It’s its own beast, and it’s a mighty one at that.

The characters in this are all flawed, nuanced, entertaining, and highly interesting. Our main trio of Cuba Gooding Jr, Ice Cube, and Morris Chestnut are all pretty different in personality, but they’re all equally compelling, and make for a great central group of protagonists. And all three of them are great in their respective roles. We also get Laurence Fishburne as Gooding Jr’s father, a solid, morally good centerpoint for our sometimes conflicted young man. And he’s a great character in his own right, with Fishburne delivering a great performance. We also get supporting performances from people like Nia Long, Regina King, Angela Bassett, Kirk Kinder, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, and more, all great in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Stanley Clarke, and I thought it was really good. Mixing traditional dramatic instrumentation with some hip hop/RnB percussion, to create a sound that blends well with the drama of the story, and with the urban setting. There’s also a handful of licensed songs throughout, and they work quite well in their respective scenes too. So yeah, this movie has good music.

“Boyz n the Hood” was written and directed by John Singleton (r.i.p), and I think he did a fantastic job with it. What’s even more amazing is that this was his debut feature, which he made at age 22. And yet, despite his low age and relative inexperience, he showed skill way beyond his years. His direction is very intimate and really brings you into the drama of the various scenes. There are also several scenes where Singleton builds a lot of tension, which put me on the edge of my seat. He really showed with this that he could be a master behind the camera.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10. The movie was also nominated for 2 Oscars in the categories of Best director and Best original screenplay.

I understand now why “Boyz n the Hood” is considered such a classic, it’s a fantastic first feature from John Singleton. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Boyz n the Hood” is a 9.91/10. Which of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Boyz n the Hood” is now completed.

John Singleton at 22: Makes a fantastic movie that gets multiple Oscar nominations.
Me at 23: How do I word good?

Series Review: Castlevania – Season 3 (2020)

Took me a bit longer to get around to this than I originally wanted. But now we’re finally here. So let’s talk about this show for a bit. Oh, and there will be some spoilers for season 2… so you have been warned.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Castlevania” season 3!

A few months have passed since Dracula’s demise, and everyone’s kind of gone their separate ways. The peace isn’t kept for long however, as the various characters all run into their own share of problems. Trying to break down the narrative of this season in a well-written and concise way without getting into too many spoilers is difficult, as there are about as many threads as a season of “Game of Thrones”. But I’ll do my best. First off we have Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) who find themselves visiting a mysterious village that seemingly holds more secrets than they at first let on. Then you have Alucard (James Callis) adjusting to the solitude of living in Dracula’s castle. Then there’s Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her fellow vampires scheming to take over the world. And then there’s Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack), building his army of night creatures and traveling across the world. But then there’s also the mysterious newcomer Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) and his schemes. Like I said, there’s a lot, and I didn’t even touch on all of them, either due to spoilers or fear of overextending this section. But believe me when I say that the ten episodes of this season cover A LOT of shit. But despite covering so much, it never gets confusing. This doesn’t mean that all aspects get treated with an equal amount of care and devotion, which at times can make this feel like a little bit of a middle chapter, but I do still find the narrative very engrossing. You get this epic fantasy tale, which also mixes in clever mystery, some gruesomely dark horror, a lot of heart and humor, and even a bit of enjoyable human drama. It’s great stuff, yo.

The characters in this, both old and new are colorful, flawed, layered, fascinating, and highly entertaining. The older ones get a little development, and newer ones do too. All of them are highly interesting and I loved seeing them. And the voice cast is fucking phenomenal, featuring such talented folks as Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis, Jaime Murray, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Theo James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jason Isaacs, Navid Negahban, Ivana Milisevic, Rila Fukushima, Toro Uchikado, Bill god damn Nighy, and more.

As with the previous two seasons, the score here was composed by Trevor Morris. And he absolutely knocked it out of the god damn park. He manages to cover so much ground with the various tracks in the show. From big bombastic brass, to more subtle strings, to even a bit of really intense synth, the dude did a fantastic job.

All episodes of “Castlevania” season 3 were written by Warren Ellis, with direction being handled by brother Sam and Adam Deats. And not that previous seasons were slouches in the animation department, but fuckin’ hell, the animation this season is the best it’s ever been. In quieter moments it looks really good, but it’s really in action scenes where it shines. Really captures the intensity and insanity that would happen from these battles. The final two episodes especially show this, as they have some of the best battles I’ve seen in animation. It’s one of the most well animated shows I’ve ever watched.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 7.2/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

Season 3 is another winning batch of episodes for “Castlevania”, giving us more of what I’ve come to love from the show. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Castlevania” season 3 is a 9.92/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Castlevania” season 3 is now completed

This remains the best video game adaptation.

Series Review: The Good Lord Bird (2020)

We all agree that slavery was one of the worst things in human history, right? Alright, good. At least we’re on the same page on that.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Good Lord Bird”.

The story follows Henry “Onion” Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a young slave who gets freed by abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) and then joins his merry band of freedom fighters. And we follow Onion as he follows along on Brown’s crusade to free the slaves. What I found fascinating about “The Good Lord Bird” is the interesting use of of tonal shifts to tell its story. While at its core it’s a serious drama about the liberation of shackled people, the writers use a surprising amount of comedy throughout, which adds quite a bit of nuance to proceedings. But it’s not just a tonally unique slavery drama, but it’s also largely a coming of age story, since we get to see how this young boy gets to evolve while following along with Brown’s crusade. And while this sounds like it could be quite messy, it really isn’t. I found the story here to be utterly engrossing and entertaining, having me utterly engaged throughout the seven episodes.

The characters in this are colorful, flawed, surprisingly layered (like an onion, HA!), and really entertaining. Joshua Caleb Johnson plays Onion, the young slave who becomes part of Brown’s gang. He has quite an interesting and highly enjoyable personal arc in this, while also serving as the audience in this story, being our look at Brown and his antics. And I think Onion is a really fun protagonist, with Johnson giving a great performance. Next we have Ethan Hawke as John Brown, preacher and abolitionist. He is a fascinating individual, being really passionate about the emancipation of the slaves. And when I say passionate, I mean PASSIONATE, borderline fanatic. His heart is of course in the right place, it’s just that he’s maybe also a bit gung ho about it all, making his methods seem a little insane at times. But that’s what makes him such a fascinating character. And Ethan Hawke is terrific in the role, selling every bit of Brown’s eccentric personality wonderfully. We also get supporting work from people like Beau Knapp, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Ellar Coltrane, Mo Brings Plenty, Nick Eversman Daveed Diggs, and many more, all giving top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jamison Hollister, and I thought it was really good. If you’ve heard a western score in the lat 30 years, you probably know what you’re getting. A fair bit of strings, high energy, and just a vibe that says “this is a fun western”. There’s also a fair amount of licensed songs used throughout, and they work surprisingly well in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on the novel of the same name by James McBride, “The Good Lord Bird” was developed for Showtime by Mark Richard and Ethan Hawke, with writing and directing by a whole load of cool people. And the craft on display here is superb. Usually when I watched a tv show, even ones on high budgets with super talented crews, I can still usually tell by how it’s shot that it’s a tv project. But I don’t really get that feel here. They’ve taken careful steps to make sure it blurs the line between cinema and television with their shots and camera movements here. This comes partly from Peter Deming’s beautiful cinematography, and partly from the directing which crackles with energy and feels so lively. This doesn’t mean that anything feels rushed, because the crew really know when to slow down and let moments simmer, creating a perfect balance between the fun, the emotionally charged, and the exciting.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 84/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

“The Good Lord Bird” is a highly entertaining, fascinating, and unique take on slavery-themed drama, and is one of the best shows of 2020. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Good Lord Bird” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Good Lord Bird” is now completed.

Ethan Hawke has two modes in this show: Low grumbly growling and PASSIONATE, THROAT-RUINING SCREAMING.