Series Review: We Own This City (2022)

*Ted Hastings voice*. Bent coppers.

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… “We Own This City”.

Baltimore, Maryland, 2017. Within this city exists the Gun Trace Task Force, a special squad created to try to find illegal guns and drugs. We soon find out however that things aren’t quite so black and white, as the members within it are investigated for corruption. And so we jump back and forth between the main investigation of the present, and the past events that led to it. “We Own This City” is a compelling true crime sort of series, weaving a complex and compelling drama about the corruption within Baltimore’s law enforcement, and how that creates mistrust from and fraught relationships with the public. Now, while the drama in itself is compelling, I do have my issues with the overall structure of the storytelling. This show has to cover A LOT of ground in only six episodes, and when combined with the jumping back and forth within the timeline, it can make it feel a bit choppy and overly bullet-pointy (for lack of a better word). It’s not necessarily bad, as I do still find the situations really interesting and engaging, but I do think the overall structure does remove some of the impact. But despite it being a little let down by that, it’s still a really well written story.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, and overall really interesting, all feeling very believable and natural. There’s this lived-in feel to them, and their interactions and relationships work really well in creating engaging drama, and at times even a little bit of humor. What also helps is the cast, all of which are fucking superb, featuring people like Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, Josh Charles, McKinley Belcher III, David Corenswet, Delaney Williams, Dagmara Dominczyk, and many more.

The score for the show was composed by Kris Bowers, and it was fine. Nothing stood out as really good or bad, it was just kinda there. A perfectly passable score. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and those work well in their respective scenes.

Based on a book by Justin Fenton, “We Own This City” was developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, with writing by them and a few other cool people, and directing handled by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I would like to say that Green’s direction is really good. His directing isn’t very flashy, but he has this uncanny ability of giving scenes this subtly crackling energy, even during more quiet moments, which keeps each moment really engaging. It’s just really well crafted.

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

While its structure lets down some of its impact, “We Own This City” is still a compelling and engaging drama about the darker side of Baltimore law enforcement. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, alright music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Own This City” is an 8.56/10. So even if it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “We Own This City” is now completed.

Shoulda sent AC-12

Series Review: The North Water (2021)

I love British TV. I mean, most countries tend to have good TV, but British programming just has something special about them that makes them infinitely watchable and/or interesting. So with that said, let’s talk about one.

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

The year is 1859. Former army surgeon Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell) finds himself taking a job on a whaling ship heading towards the arctic. And we follow him as he deals with working on this ship, struggling not just the elements, but his fellow crewmates as well. What I do find quite interesting about “The North Water” is that it’s not the most plot-driven show. It’s not about a MacGuffin, there’s no real goal to this journey. Instead it’s a dark exploration of how the trauma of a man’s past and present can change you, bring you closer to the darkness. It’s a somber, moody, and often disturbing deep dive into the damaged psyche of Patrick and a few of his fellow crewmates, and I found it absolutely riveting from start to end. The deliberately glacial (HA!) pace may throw some people off, but I personally think it added to the atmosphere, making any suspense and general sense of unease even greater, which helped make for one hell of an engaging narrative.

As I kind of implied, this show is very much more character-driven. And lucky for us, the characters in this are spectacular. All of them clearly damaged in some way, hiding either intentions or their own trauma, which led to me not really knowing who to trust, which adds a lot to the vibe of the show. What also helps is that there’s not a weak link in the cast. Jack O’Connell is fantastic as our lead, Sumner. Colin Farrell is unsettlingly fantastic as the enigmatic Henry Drax. Stephen Graham is terrific as the ship’s captain. And the rest of the cast, contining people like Roland Møller, Sam Spruell, Gary Lamont, Philip Hill-Pearson, Kieran Urquhart, and more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Tim Hecker, and I think he did a terrific job with it. It’s a low-key, moody, almost horror-esque score, relying heavily rumbling strings, some subtle piano, and even occasional bit of synths to create an unsettling sound that fits really well with the setting and characters. It’s great stuff.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ian McGuire, all episodes of “The North Water” were written and directed by Andrew Haigh, and the man has just absolutely outdone himself. His direction really captures the feeling of helplessness and isolation that one might feel while going on this type of journey, making every moment of the journey feel uneasy. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a regular conversation, a flashback, or a scene of hunting being done, Haigh’s direction is tense and terrific. He also doesn’t shy away from showing us some grisly fucking stuff. The blood and violence in this show is quite disturbing, and at times even quite disgusting, and while I do think it works for the show and adds to the storytelling, I do think it could put some people off. So if you got a weak stomach or you generally just don’t like gruesome content… you have been warned. On a less icky note, the cinematography by Nicolas Bolduc is absolutely spectacular. The angles, the lighting, the colors, it all looks spectacular and works really well to elevate the storytelling even further. This show is just immaculately crafted.

This show’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“The North Water” is one of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The North Water” is a 9.88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The North Water” is now completed.

Interesting to think that something so dark and disturbing can come from the same director as the tender and warm “Weekend”.

Movie Review: All the Money in the World (2017)

I’m back! To clarify: I took a little break from writing for a little over two weeks because I just didn’t have much energy, but now I’m here again! And hopefully I’ll be able to keep this shit up semi-regularly again. So yeah, let’s goooooo!

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 and gentlemen… “All the Money in the World”.

Italy, 1973. Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) finds herself in a precarious situation after her son (Charlie Plummer) gets kidnapped one night. And we follow her as she tries anything to save her son, which includes trying to get help from her son’s billionaire grandfather (Christopher Plummer). So what we have here is part kidnapping thriller and part domestic drama, and for the most part I think it holds up well. The movie jumps between Gail’s struggle with her former father-in-law, and her son being stuck with the kidnappers. And both stories are pretty solid, with one half being a really fascinating character drama, and the other being a tense as hell thriller. The only issue I do have is that the pacing does suffer a little bit towards the middle. It doesn’t break the movie in half, but it does bring it down a little bit.

The characters in this are all pretty interesting and all bounce off of each other quite well. First up is Gail, played by Michelle Williams. A tough, yet also vulnerable woman trying her damndest to just get her son home safe and sound. She is a pretty interesting protagonist to follow, and Williams is great in the role. Next we have Christopher Plummer (R.I.P) as J. Paul Getty, the billionaire whose money the kidnappers want. He’s a stubborn old man who can often come off as a real son of a bitch, which makes him a wonderful counterpoint to Williams’ Gail, making for some interesting drama and character dynamics. And Plummer is just terrific in the role. Then we have Fletcher Chace, Getty’s number one guy. While not the most fleshed out character in the movie, he does make for a nice addition to the cast as a way of briding the gap between characters. And Wahlberg is really good in the role. And Charlie Plummer is an absolute standout as J. Paul Getty III, he is so god damn good in his role. We also get supporting work from people like Romain Duris, Andrew Buchan, Marco Leonardi, Giuseppe Bonifati, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Daniel Permberton, and I thought it was pretty good. It’s not exactly groundbreaking in any way, and I don’t I’m gonna remember it in a week, but overall it did work well within the movie itself, and I think it helped out the various scenes where it could be heard. There’s also a few licensed tracks used throughout, and those work pretty well too.

Based on a book by John Pearson, “All the Money in the World” was directed by Ridley Scott, and I think he did a damn good job with it. He clearly still has such a grip on how to really pull the viewer into a scene. From a basic enough wide shot to bits of action, the man has a masterful grasp of the film. And I don’t think I can go on without mentioning the mad lad’s reshoots. For any cave dwellers that might be unaware, this movie originally starred Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty, but after all the sexual assault/harassment allegations against him came out, the studio pulled the movie from a festival. Ridley Scott, being the marvelous jackass that he is just said “Delay the movie a few days and give me some money for reshoots”, after which he pulled in Plummer (and any of the non-predatory actors left) and reshot all the Getty stuff. And the mad son of a bitch pulled it off. So yeah, Scott is a god damn pro.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 7.2/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

While not within the upper echelon of Ridley Scott’s filmography, “All the Money in the World” is still a damn good biographical thriller. It has a really good story, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “All the Money in the World” is an 8.42/10. So while flawed, I’d still say it’s worth buying.

My review of “All the Money in the World” is now completed.

Ridley Scott, you glorious madman.

Series Review: Des (2020)

Been a while since we covered a tv show, so I’m a bit excited right now. Also, don’t murder people.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Des”.

The year is 1983. Police have arrested Dennis “Des” Nilsen (David Tennant) on suspicion of homicide after human remains are found near his home. And throughout the show we follow the cops a they try to identify the various victims, as well as trying to get information out of Nilsen regarding everything he did. This is an interesting little crime drama. Now, it does fall back on a lot of tropes from these type of true crime murder mystery type stories, which is possibly the show’s biggest fault. It’s not outright bad, but the sometimes formulaic nature does take away some from it. But with this said, I did still find the story here decently interesting. It has this sort of eeriness that I feel we don’t necessarily get in similar things. I don’t know how to explain it, but the whole vibe around it just makes it a bit more interesting. And I do still think the investigation around Nilsen and his victims is a pretty interesting one, especially as we learn more about him as a person. There is also some stuff set around the bureaucracy of the investigation, which does add a decent bit of drama. On the whole I do think the story here is solid enough, just a little familiar in its structure.

The characters in this are pretty interesting. Especially our main two, who are both really compelling. First up we have Daniel Mays as Detective chief inspector Peter Jay, the man leading the investigation into Nilsen’s murders. He’s a man of principle, someone determined to see this all through, even when the higher ups try to get in his way. He’s a compelling lead, and Daniel Mays gives a really good performance. And then we have David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen, AKA Des. He’s a really frightening character. But not in a Hannibal Lecter or Annie Wilkes kinda way where they’re made to be frightening. Nilsen is frightening in how blunt and forward he is. Right from the start he’s like “Yeah, I killed them” and has no problem telling how it happened, like how you might tell your friends about your trip to Spain. He’s frightening because he is so… human. And Tennant is fantastic in the role, giving one of the best performances of his career. We also get supporting work from people like Jason Watkins, Barry Ward, Jay Simpson, Bronagh Waugh, and more, all giving good performances.

The score for the show was composed by Sarah Warne, and I think she did a pretty good job. It’s very low key, going for a somewhat eerie, almost droning sound to add to the atmosphere of the show. It really helps create an engaging soundscape within the show.

Based on the book “Killing for Company” by Brian Masters, “Des” was created by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, with Arnold directing, and Neal serving as lead writer. And I think the craft here is really strong. One thing I really appreciate about the directing and such here is how remarkably restrained they are. So many other people would probably give us the gory, graphic details of the entire situation, but the crew here didn’t. They hold back quite a bit, just giving us the explanations of everything that happened. And while too much exposition can be a bit bothersome, I feel that they found the right balance here. I must also commend Mark Wolf on his cinematography, because it’s really frickin’ good and fits the story being told really well.

This show has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

While its formulaic nature does bring it down a little bit, “Des” is still a pretty compelling crime drama. It has a good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Des” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s definitely still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Des” is now completed.

Symphony of Des-truction…

Movie Review: The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Hello there, my friends! I hope you’re day is going well. Anyway, it’s once again time for Akira Kurosunday. So let’s chat about this movie.

Ladies and gents… “The Hidden Fortress”.

The story follows Tahei and Matashichi (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara), two lowly peasants trying to get by. But then one day they get the opportunity of a lifetime when they meet a man and a woman (Toshiro Mifune and Misa Uehara) who promise the pair a bunch of gold in exchange for helping escort them across hostile territory. What the pair o’ peasants don’t know though is that the man and woman may be more than meets the eye. “The Hidden Fortress” is slightly different from the previous Kurosawa flicks we’ve covered so far. It’s not an examination of truth and lies, or a deep dive into the darkness of a man’s soul, or even a four hour epic about different people coming together. This is a more straightforward adventure story, going for less of a deep, nuanced thing, and aiming to be more of a fun affair. And I think it succeeds at that quite well, telling a very entertaining story with enough little turns to make it a little more interesting. I do feel that the pacing isn’t the best in this movie, as it drag a little in parts for me. It doesn’t completely break the experience for me, but it’s noticeable enough to bring it down a little bit. But otherwise I highly enjoyed the story told here.

The characters in this are all colorful and entertaining. First up we have the two peasants, played by Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara. They have a very fun dynamic, and they help add a lot of comedy throughout the entire movie. And Chiaki and Fujiwara both give really solid performances. And I think it goes without saying how good Toshiro Mifune is in his role. And Misa Uehara does a solid job with her role too. It’s just generally a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Masaru Sato, and I think he did a really good job with the music here. It very much fits the fun adventure style that the story is going for. It has enough grandeur to add some weight to proceedings, but it also clearly never goes for anything too serious. It’s just a fun score that works very well for this movie.

As you already figured, “The Hidden Fortress” was directed by Akira Kurosawa, and as per usual he of course knocked it out of the park. This was also his first venture into widescreen filmmaking, and he took full advantage of that fact. He has stuff going on throughout the entire screen, giving us a lot of beautiful wides of both action and stillness. He and cinematographer Kazuo Yamazaki really outdid themselves here in giving us a lot of breathtaking shots and sequences. Must’ve dented the floor with how many times my jaw dropped.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

While the pacing drags a little bit in parts, I still find “The Hidden Fortress” to be a highly entertaining piece of filmmaking. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Hidden Fortress” is an 8.87/10. So I’d say that it ‘s definitely worth buying.

My review of “The Hidden Fortress” is now completed.

Fortress: Hidden
Movie: Very visible.

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: Seven Samurai (1954)

Hello there, and welcome back to Akira Kurosundays! That’s right, every Sunday (unless something comes up in my life) I’ll be talking about a movie from this Kurosawa box set I have. It started last week with “Rashomon”, and it continus today with… this.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Seven Samurai”.

When a poor, defenseless village is threatened by a league of bandits, the villagers decide that they can’t stop them on their own. So they hire seven samurai to help them out with this situation. It’s a simple setup that leads into a surprisingly nuanced narrative that I like a lot. And when I say nuanced I don’t mean that it’s some ultra deep mindbender of a story, but rather that it takes its simple adventure story setup and adds to it with elements of war drama and comedy. It balances a lot of tones on its plate, but I feel like it succeeds wonderfully at all of them. And despite that mastodont of a runtime, it moves at a surprisingly fast pace, never really getting boring at any point. It does admittedly threaten to buckle under the weight of its runtime and content thickness at times, but it doesn’t take long for it to then pick itself back up and continue on the path of greatness. Seriously, this is a great samurai story.

The characters in this movie are for the most part pretty interesting. There are the titular swordy boys, all of which are colorful (ironic, given the color palette). They all feel unique to each other and have some interesting dynamics with each other. A few of the villagers are also alright, rounding out the cast nicely. And among the actors you can find people like Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Kato, Keiko Tsushima, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and I think he did a really good job with it. His score just works very well in conveying the mood of the various scenes, and even elevating certain parts. When the music needs to be eerie and ominous, it gets eerie and ominous. When it needs to be more on the epic and exciting end, it does that. And when it needs to be a bit more lighthearted and comical, it succeeds at that too. Just like the story, it captures and balances all tones wonderfully while feeling like an engaging and cohesive whole.

As made very clear in the intro, “Seven Samurai” was directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. And good god damn, he really knocked it out of the park here. His control of the camera and the actor is simply masterful, giving us direction that creates a wonderful flow from moment to moment, whether it’s in a slower character development scene, or in the action scenes that appear throughout. Speaking of which, those action scenes are excellent. Exciting, tense, fun, and frankly just stunning to look at. It all just comes together spectacularly.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positing rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 98/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #19 on the “Top 250” list.

So yeah, “Seven Samurai” is terrific, not much else I can say on that. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and excellent directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Seven Samurai” is a 9.76/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Seven Samurai” is now completed.

Seven samurai, many butt cheeks.

Series Review: History of Swear Words – Season 1 (2021)

This is a bit exciting. First 2021 release to be covered on the blog. Are you excited? Because I’m excited. So let’s get into it!

Ladies and gentlemen… “History of Swear Words”!

Fuck you. Don’t worry, I don’t actually mean that. But it’s an interesting phrase. Especially the first word, “fuck”. Why is it like that? Why do we use it as an expletive? Well, this show seeks to answer that. Every episode sees Nicolas Cage introducing us to a well known swear word. And then various linguist experts and entertainers come in as well to give us facts and opinions on swear words and their etymology. You’d think this premise might be a bit of a one trick pony, something that’ll get old after the first five minutes. But you (and I) would be wrong. They not only manage to keep the funny side of the premise going throughout all six episodes, but it also manages to be incredibly informative about the expletives and even language as a whole. They balance comedy and history really well to create a fun whole that is both really entertaining and surprisingly informative. And it’s also interesting when we get the entertainers coming in and giving their thoughts on each of the six curse words, as it sparks a lot of thoughts and discussions within my own head. Am I saying that this is the most nuanced and perfect documentary series ever? No. But the fact that they manage to keep it feeling fresh and entertaining throughout all six episodes deserves to be commended. By the end I felt both amused and educated. Plus, living legend Nicolas Cage makes for a really good host/presenter, so that’s a great bonus.

One thing I like about the craft behind “History of Swear Words” is just how snappy and energetic it is, despite using a lot of familiar documentary tricks. The editing is fast paced and manages to keep things from feeling stale. It also helps that they use a lot of cute little animations when explaining some of the backstories of the words. Basically the directing, editing, and all that manages to ground the show without sacrificing any of the silliness around the premise, making for a highly enjoyable whole.

At the time of writing (I am an early bird) the show has no real ratings on any of my usual sites. So I’m just gonna attach the links and you can see for yourself how the ratings may evolve over time, because I’m too fucking lazy to edit this shit later down the line. Here’s Rotten Tomatoes. And here’s imdb.

While not a revolutionary piece of media, Netflix’s “History of Swear Words” is still a highly enjoyable little piece of edutainment, featuring interesting facts, plenty of laughs, and living legend Nicolas Cage. Time for my final score. *God damn ahem*. My final score for “History of Swear Words” is an 8.73/10. So I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

My review of “History of Swear Words” is now completed.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUDGe is delicious.

Movie Review: Mank (2020)

A brand new movie from one of my favorite directors, available from the comfort of my own home? Sweeeeet.

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 and gentlemen… “Mank”.

Hollywood, 1940. We follow Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a drunken, opinionated writer as he goes through the tumultuous process of crafting the screenplay for a little movie called “Citizen Kane”. But it’s not just him sitting at some typewriter, rubbing his temples all movie. Because this movie jumps back and forth in time a little bit, showing us Mankiewicz’ struggles in the “present” (circa 1940), but also his antics and encounters with various Hollywood figures in the early 30s. I have mixed feelings about the narrative here. On one hand, it is a pretty interesting look into 1930s Hollywood and the politics within it. But on the other, I never felt emotionally invested in what was going on. I was interested by what was going on, and was certainly never bored… but never did I feel truly hooked. It just feels a bit hollow at times. Again, I wouldn’t call it bad, I did enjoy the narrative on some level, but never did I actually feel any emotional connection to what was happening in front of my eyes.

The characters in this vary in terms of interest. Luckily our main character is at least one interesting figure. He’s Herman J. Mankiewicz, an alcoholic, highly intelligent writer who both gets along and butts heads with many figures within the Hollywood system. He is most certainly an interesting figure that livens up proceedings a bit. And Gary Oldman does a great job in the role. In supporting roles we also see people like Amanda Seyfried, Tom Pelphrey, Lily Collins, Charles Dance, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Tom Burke, Jamie McShane, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, and I think they did a good job of it. Their score has a way of really capturing the era the film’s set in, cleverly utilizing some jazzy percussion and a decent bit of unique woodwind usage. It’s hard to properly explain, but I do think their music fits the period perfectly, and it works quite well within the movie.

“Mank” was directed by David Fincher, and written by his late father Jack. And I think Fincher did a good job here. You can tell that he and his production crew really did their damndest to make this movie feel old school and, and I would say that they did that quite well… at the expense of one thing. At no point does this feel like a Fincher film. As a fan of the guy, I’ve learned to pick up on a lot of his tricks and stylistic choices… but they are nowhere to be seen here. It’s hard to explain, but what Finchy brings to his films in terms of style isn’t really here. And that’d be fine, if Fincher’s style wasn’t one of his most defining features. There’s no denying that it’s very well directed, even if it lacks what I love about this director. But to end this section on a high note: Erik Messerschmidt’s cinematography is superb, making perfect use of light, shadows, and the monochrome. It’s a visual treat.

This movie just came out, but already it’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it (AT THE TIME OF WRITING) has a score of 7.6/10.

While there’s a lot to admire about it, I didn’t find “Mank” that emotionally investing. It has an okay story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, great (if slightly off) directing, and excellent cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mank” is a 7.77/10. So while flawed, I’d still recommend watching it.

My review of “Mank” is now completed.

I actually haven’t seen “Citizen Kane” yet… maybe I should fix that some day.

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.