Movie Review: Rashomon (1950)

Not too long ago I bought a box set featuring six movies from acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. And today I decided to finally start getting through it. And I thought that it could be fun to talk about each movie as I get through them. Sound good? Cool. Let’s do it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Rashomon”.

Kyoto, Japan. We follow a group of people as they recount the various perspectives on the tragic events that transpired between a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), a samurai (Masayuki Mori), and the samurai’s wife (Machiko Kyo) that happened in the woods on one fateful day. Perspective is the name of the game within “Rashomon”, as each retelling of the events changes some minor details to make the momentary narrator seem like the better person, which does present some interesting ideas about truth, lies, and how we perceive people telling us about things they’ve seen and done. And the way it’s used within “Rashomon” is actually pretty clever and interesting, often making for really compelling drama. Admittedly it doesn’t always hit bullseye with its various sections, as there are times where the storytelling feels like slightly weaker than in others. But overall I can’t say that there’s anything outright bad in the story of “Rashomon”, as it’s still an ambitious and interesting piece of psychological drama.

The characters in this I found to be pretty interesting. Seeing how they either react to the different retellings or even how they are the one being the teller makes for some interesting character studies that aid the storytelling in really compelling ways. And with actors like Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, and Minoru Chiaki all delivering top notch performances, you get one hell of a compelling cast of characters.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and it’s great. It often plays into the whole unreliable narrator aspect of the story, having this unsettling vibe that helped in putting me on edge whenever it was heard within a scene. But I also appreciate that it isn’t overused. There was a lot of restraint shown in how it was used as sparingly as it did, giving it a much great effect whenever it popped up. It’s just really solid and works very well for the movie.

Based somewhat on a pair of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” was co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. And I don’t think I’m bringing anything new to the table when I say that his direction here is top notch. His framing, his movements, everything about his directing is just superb, adding so much to the storytelling. His direction manages to be big and bold, while also having a lot of subtle nuances to it. It’s just great stuff, yo.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic is has a score of 98/100. And on it has a score of 8.2/10 and is ranked #130 on their “Top 250” list. The movie was also nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best art direction. 

So yeah, “Rashomon” is a really good psychological drama that, while not perfect, still manages to engage for its runtime. It has a really good story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Rashomon” is an 8.80/10. So I’d say that it’s most definitely worth buying.

My review of “Rashomon” is now completed.

Feels good finally getting ’round to Kurosawa.

Series Review: Twin Peaks – Season 1 (1990)

Time to finally start clearing this thing from the watchlist.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Twin Peaks” season 1!

When a young woman is found murdered in the quiet mountain town of Twin Peaks, an FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan) is called in to try to find out what happened. And as we follow Agent Cooper’s investigation, we find out about the cheating, double-crossing, and other idiosyncrasies going on in the town.  So now we have our little crime series. Now, at first it seems like a relatively average crime story, if a bit quirky. But it doesn’t take long for “Twin Peaks” to show that it doesn’t play by the book too much, blending a whole bunch of genres at once. Now, in a lot of cases (pun intended), switching between different genres like this show does can end up quite poorly. But thanks to the unique atmosphere and writing style of the show, the blend of crime, melodrama, comedy, and mild psychedelia works quite well to give us one of the most uniquely enjoyable plots in a season of television.

The characters in this are quirky, fun, colorful, nuanced, and overall quite interesting. Kyle MacLachlan plays Dale Cooper, the FBI agent brought in to help investigate the murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). He’s a highly skilled agent, being able to figure things out about people by simple body language. He’s also quite a charming dude, being one of the most instantly likable characters I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. And MacLachlan is great in the role. I would describe more characters, but with their unique nature, I’d rather not, as they’re all best left experienced. But the supporting cast does include people like Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ray Wise, Sherilyn Fenn, Peggy Lipton, Joan Chen, Michael Horse, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the series was composed by Angelo Badalamenti, and I think he did a really good job with it. It’s moody, suspenseful, emotional, a little meldoramatic, and even at times kinda fucking groovy. Most tracks get reused quite often, which could get old after a while, but the way these tracks are implemented throughout the show makes the recycling work quite well.

“Twin Peaks” was created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, with writing and directing by them and a bunch of other cool people. And they manage to create such a unique vibe for the show through these elements. Eerie, warm, fascinating, and even mildly surreal, there’s something about the style that makes it stand out, turning it into quite the intoxicating experience.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 96/100.  And on it has a score of 8.8/10 and is ranked #54 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Twin Peaks” is pretty fucking good. It has a really good plot, great characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Twin Peaks” season is a 9,82/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Twin Peaks” season 1 is now completed.

Agent Cooper, a man after my own heart.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 4)

What? Did you think all these would be made-for-tv schlock? Wrong. Sometimes I do old stuff too.

As you could probably guess from the header image, today we are talking about Rankin/Bass’ beloved 1964 classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. And you guys already know the story. Even if you haven’t seen this thing, then you’ve absolutely heard that song. And if not, then I wonder what cave you’ve been living in for the past millennium. But to recap, there’s this reindeer, his name’s Rudolph, he has a red nose with the watt count of a fucking spotlight (and it apparently also has a dimming option). This little thing makes the other reindeer mock him, despite it doing no actual harm to anyone. So we follow him as he tries to fit in. That’s basically it. All I wonder is how in the shit they stretch this out to a 50-minute runtime. I mean, the inclusion of snow monsters, an elf that wants to become a dentist, and a prospector packing heat certainly might help in extending it a bit. But this is also the aspect that drags this special down a bit… that runtime feels dragged out. 25 – 30 minutes would have sufficed, but somehow it’s 51 minutes long. Yes, this special has a ton of charm and some really catchy tunes… but it all feels a bit dragged out. I mean, it’s good… I’m just not in love like those who grew up watching this.

On the fourth day of christmas, Markus decided to pick, a thing telling you not to be a dick.

Movie Review: Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally time. That time of year that I announced a month ago. One of my favorite parts of the year. LET THE MONTH OF SPOOKS COMMENCE!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Hour of the Wolf”.

When spending some quality time with his wife (Liv Ullmann) on a remote island, painter John Borg (Max von Sydow) begins to have a breakdown as his inner start tormenting him. So now we have our drama that features specks of horror throughout. And is the plot any good? It has a good setup, but ultimately just kind of bores in its first half. I don’t mind slow burners, but very little of substance actually happens in that first half, and I found myself checking my watch quite a bit. Then during the second half it picks up quite a bit and get some really good stuff, both in terms of plot development and overall disturbance factor. So how would I sum up my thoughts on the plot in its entirety? Fine.

The characters in this are all flawed, layered, and overall interesting. Max von Sydow plays Johan Borg, the man at the center of this story, a painter with some inner demons he must battle. And I’m not saying much more other than I find his character journey quite intriguing. And von Sydow is great in the role. Then we have Liv Ullmann as his wife, Alma. A caring woman who just wants to live a good life with her husband, it’s interesting to see her experiencing this breakdown that her husband is having, giving her quite a bit of depth. And Ullmann is fantastic in the role. We also get some supporting performances from people like Gertrud Fridh (R.I.P), Georg Rydeberg (R.I.P), Erland Josephson (R.I.P), and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The music for the movie was composed by Lars Johan Werle (R.I.P), and it’s pretty good. It’s used fairly sparingly, but when they actually use it, it is quite horrific, using a lot of horrific stings to give off a sort of disturbing and horrific vibe akin to most horror movies at the time. And I find it to be quite effective.

The movie was written and directed by Ingmar Bergman (R.I.P), and I think he did a really godo job with it here. he has crafted such a unique and intriguing mood for the film. Even in the first half, that I said I wasn’t a fan of,  the mood set by Bergman’s direction keeps it from becoming 100% uninteresting. And when we get to the second half, the mood really kicks into gear along with the plot, and we get a truly haunting and surreal ambiance that had me absolutely captivated. This is also where we get the horror stuff, which is more disturbing than outright scary, but it still kinda got to me, so I guess it did something right.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating. On Metacritic it doesn’t exist. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on it has a score of 7,7/10.

“Hour of the Wolf” pitches some good ideas, and has some effective scenes, but is far from flawless. It has a fine plot, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. As previously mentioned, it is brought down by the first half being quite boring and uninteresting. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Hour of the Wolf” is a 7,76/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth a rental.

My review of “Hour of the Wolf” is now completed.

“There wolf”. But there are no wolves anywhere, you lied to me, Igor.

Movie Review: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

*Insert repetitive comment about Markus loving westerns here*.

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… “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”!

The story of this movie follows the outlaws known as Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman, R.I.P) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) as they travel around, rob trains and banks, and generally outwit the law. And while that is a very basic plot that we’ve seen in many other movies, “Butch Cassidy” does it much better by focusing on the bond between our two heroes as they go through all kinds of shit. It’s actually quite an interesting plot that manages to be fun and exciting without sacrificing any drama. By drama I don’t mean that it’s super serious and overly dramatic, but when it needs to have some good drama, it nails it.

The characters in this movie and interesting, entertaining, and pretty fleshed out. Paul Newman is great as Butch Cassidy, playing him as this charming and confident bandit. He’s endlessly likable and fun to watch. Robert Redford is great as the Sundance Kid, playing the slightly more serious one of the two. Katharine Ross plays Etta, a woman that our two heroes knows/socializes with, and she’s great in the role. Really, there are no weak performances in this movie. Not saying that all are great, but none stood out as bad.

The score for the movie was composed by Burt Bacharach and it was good. It was fun, delightful, and overall worked very well in the scenes that tracks were featured. And I guess I should talk about the one “song” in the movie. It’s called “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and it was sung by B.J. Thomas, and it’s quite good. Like the score it is fairly lighthearted and it’s pretty delightful. I like it.

This movie was directed by George Roy Hill and I think he did a really good job. The shots look great and everything flows very well. And when bullets start flying, it’s fun, badass, and exciting. What I was also kind of surprised about was that there was comedy in this movie. Not saying that it’s the typical “This is a comedy, now laugh!”, but this movie has a sense of humor. And it’s funny, I laughed at the jokes in the movie. Some might think that blending this humor with some of the more serious moments in the movie could end up poorly, but this movie did this very well.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. Roger Ebert gave it 2,5/4 stars. And on it has a score of 8,1/10 and is ranked #201 on the “Top 250” list. The movie won 4 Oscars in the categories of Best original screenplay, Best cinematography, Best original song, and Best original score. It was also nominated for an additional 3 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, and Best sound.

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is an incredibly fun movie and most definitely a classic. It has a really good plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a 9,87/10. This of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is now completed.

This is one of those movies where I was just smiling for most of it. It’s such a delightful movie.

Movie Review: The Blues Brothers (1980)


Have you ever experienced a situation where there is a movie that a friend, parent, spouse, etc. have seen and they ask you if you have seen it, then you say no and they go all crazy like “Oh my god, you haven’t seen that movie!? Have you been hiding uner a rock or something?”. I know I have…more than a few times. And this movie is one example of that. Today we are taking a look at one of the most popular, and expensive movies of the 80’s.

Brothers and sisters…The Blues Brothers.

Set in 1980 (same year as it came out), it follows Jake Blues (John Belushi, R.I.P) as he is released from prison after a 3 year sentence. He is picked up by his taller brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd). They then go visit the orphanage they were raised on. And that orphanage is in a little bit of a pickle…a financial pickle. They need to pay 5000 dollars to keep it going, of course they don’t have that money. So Jake & Elwood decide to help out by getting the money for the orphanage. And how do they plan to do that exactly? By bringing together their old band again to play at concerts and get the money for that. But first, time to go to Elwood’s apartment. As they are on their way to Elwood’s apartment they not only run the car against red light, they also wreak havoc through an entire fucking mall and get shot at with a god damn bazooka by a mysterious woman (Carrie Fisher) and the next morning she blows the place up with what I assume would be C4. Then it is time to go and bring the band together. But they have to be convinced to leave their new jobs (and by new I mean since the band got split up). And from there on there is a shit-ton of music playing, total chaos and fun that happens getting to that final concert. And during that journey they meet characters that are played by some of the greatest musicians ever played by people like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. And the journey through the movie is just one of the most entertaining I have ever seen. They keep it simple, but that actually works. The only thing that doesn’t make too much sense though is why Carrie Fisher attacks the Brothers and where she gets all her very destructive weaponry from. Otherwise, fun story.

The characters are…flawed to say the least. But that is what makes them so fun to watch, since they are all so god damn unique. They are some of the most entertaining to ever be put on both the big and small screen. They all just..MMM! My favorites probably go to the ones of Jake & Elwood Blues. The brotherly chemistry between them is just prefect and fun to watch. They are pretty much each other’s opposites. One is tall and the other one is John Belushi. Okay there isn’t too much to say on that honestly. If you watch it you will understand.

The music is some of the best in movies. Not only the soundtrack you here in the background sometimes, but also the musical numbers they pull every now and then. This isn’t bleh “High School Musical” bullshit, this my friends…is real music. Ranging from Blues to rock to country to a bunch of styles.

One thing to note before you watch this movie…it is one of the most chaotic ones out there. The brothers create more destruction than humanly possible. There is so much destruction in this movie, but I love that shit in movies…if it’s done right. Another thing worth mentioning is that this movie is based on a couple of characters that Belushi and Aykroyd played/ was known for on “Saturday Night Live”. Always fun to know the origins.

Reception on “The Blues Brothers” was mixed. There has been a lot of criticizm surrounding the fact that the plot is very simple and it relies a little too much on car chases. It got an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is certified fresh on that site. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars and while I couldn’t find a direct quote from him describing the movie I have found a few comments that mention that is was “fun”, “energetic” and that the carchases were “incredible”. It got an 8,0/10 on but is strangely enough not ranked among the Top 250 list.

So based on my opinions on the different aspects of “The Blues Brothers”, I think I am willing to give it a score. My score will be a 9,23/10. It is one of the most entertaining movies of all time and is perfect if you ever have a movie night with friends. I love this movie and I hope you will too.

“The Blues Brothers” is at last reviewed.

I’ll see you another time.