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.

Movie Review: Bad Education (2020)

I am so thankful for HBO existing over here in Sweden. This means I got to watch this movie the day after it aired in the United States. Yes, I am bragging. Not as an insult to those who can’t watch it, but just because I’m happy over this luck I have. Anyhow, review time.

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 gents… “Bad Education”.

Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is the superintendent of the Roslyn school district in the state of New York. He’s beloved by all, always taking time to assist colleagues and students, being a real beacon of hope and success. But as we follow him through the movie, we start to find out that he and his colleagues may have some shady, monetary dealings going on. I really enjoyed the story here, as it takes a very fly-on-the-wall approach to its storytelling. While it makes clear that some of the shady shit going on isn’t okay, it doesn’t necessarily take a side and say that anyone here is an outright bad person, instead just presenting the facts, pimples and shiny smiles alike, allowing the viewer to take their own stance on things. It also has an interesting tone, more often than not going for a more darkly comedic approach rather than straight drama, which I think really adds some extra flavor to proceedings. It’s an interesting story told in a nuanced and engaging way.

The characters are flawed, colorful, layered, and just overall quite interesting. Hugh Jackman plays Frank Tassone, the charismatic superintendent at the center of the story. He’s friendly, charming, coming off as the perfect man to lead the charge in getting a school district to the top. But as we soon find out, he may or may not have a few secrets of his own. Hugh Jackman is excellent in the role, giving a relatively subdued performance where you can read every little emotion and thought in his eyes. Next we have Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin, Frank’s colleague, and also the person who keeps tabs on the economy in the school(s). And as you might expect from that description and the fact that she’s played by Allison Janney, she’s quite an intriguing presence in the story. And Janney is great in the role. I love her chemistry with Jackman as well, they are a lot of fun together. Next we have Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel, a student at one of the schools in Frank’s district. She’s a bright young lady, working as a journalist for the school paper. She’s one of the more interesting supporting players here as she gets plenty to do, and Viswanathan does a really good job in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Ray Romano, Rafael Casal, Annaleigh Ashford, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Michael Abels, and it was good. It has a bit of a classic vibe, leaning mainly on string-based arrangements, with the occasional woodwind to back it up. And I think it works well for what happens in the movie. There’s also one or two licensed songs used throughout, and they decently well too.

Based on the article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker, “Bad Education” was written by Mike Makowsky and directed by Cory Finley. And I must say that I am impressed by that side of the movie. There’s a slickness to it all. Finley really gives scenes a nice flow, you can tell that he is in full control of the situations, giving us directing that really made the movie have an interesting and engaging vibe.

This movie has so far been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10.

“Bad Education” is a really well made biopic that tells a really interesting tale. The story’s really good, the characters are interesting, the performances are great, the music’s good, and the writing/directing is great. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bad Education” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bad Education” is now completed.

Stay in school, kids. Even if shady shit could be going on.

Movie Review: Blindspotting (2018)

Life is fucking messy. You might think you have it figured out, but then something comes out of god damn nowhere and screws with you. You couldn’t see that coming. There are a lot of blindspots like that.

Ladies and gents… “Blindspotting”.

Collin (Daveed Diggs) has recently been released from prison on probation, and has to try to keep himself out of trouble so he doesn’t get thrown back in. This causes him to reevaluate his life and in turn his relationship with his best friend (Rafael Casal). What I find interesting about “Blindspotting” is its various subject matters and the way(s) it tackles them. There is some dark stuff throughout the movie, but the filmmakers also show us some of the more lighthearted aspects of the lives of these guys. And the way these tones are balanced throughout is incredible. Yes, I’ve seen movies mix drama and comedy before, but the way “Blindspotting” does it, I’ve never really seen. It’s quite a fresh and compelling story that I loved following.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, and just really interesting. Daveed Diggs plays Collin, the guy who the movie mostly focuses on. He’s a good dude who’s done some bad stuff, and seeing him try to keep his life from going down that path again is utterly compelling. And Daveed Diggs is fantastic in the role, really bringing a lot of depth to the role. Rafael Casal plays Miles, Collin’s best friend since they were boys. He’s a bit of a wild card, and I’ll just leave it at that, and that he’s a really interesting foil for Collin. And Casal is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music in “Blindspotting” largely consists of hip-hop, and while I don’t think I’d listen to most of the tracks in my spare time, I do think they all contributed to the movie in some interesting way that worked for each scene. There is apparently also a score by Michael Yezerski here, but I don’t remember hearing something like that, so I can’t really comment on it. The rest of the music though… Good.

The movie was written by its two stars, Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs, with directing duties being handed to Carlos López Estrada. And the passion behind the craft here is infectious, which adds a lot to the technical talent on display. The way Estrada brings us into each scene with the characters often makes it feel like I was a bit of a fly on the wall of each conversation, I felt truly transported into it. Estrada also shows on multiple occasions how good he is at building suspense, making for some truly great sequences. And as I alluded to early on in the review, this movie is part comedy. And I found those bits to be really funny, which I did not expect, as I kinda thought this’d be more of a straight up drama. But yeah, the comedy in this is hilarious.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,4/10.

“Blindspotting” is a clever, unique, and refreshing dramedy that shouldn’t be missed. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, good music, great directing, and hilarious comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Blindspotting” is a 9,88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Blindspotting” is now completed.

Choose a life, choose a job, choose a car- Wait, that’s “Trainspotting”…