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: Daredevil – Season 1 (2015)

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When you think Marvel you don’t think dark and gritty, am I right? You think fun and adventurous, like “Avengers” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Sure, Marvel got a few R-rated movies such as “Blade” and “Punisher”, but they are never really referred to as the main players when it comes to Marvel properties. So we really never get the grit from Marvel that we might want. But now it seems like we have finally gotten it… in TV form. It looks like there are many curve-balls being thrown here. So let’s have a look at it and see if it is any good.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… “Daredevil”!

“Daredevil” is about Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) who as a kid suffered a terrible accident involving a truck and some chemicals that made him blind. But this also enhanced his other senses like hearing and such. Skip ahead to about 20 years later and he has become a lawyer and have just started a law firm with his best friend Foggy (Elden Henson). What Foggy doesn’t know however is that Matt goes around at night as a costumed vigilante, beating up bad guys. And so the show is about Matt taking on the role of this vigilante to try to stop all the bad guys and to finally get to the ultimate boss of it all, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). We also get to know a lot from his childhood and how he comes to terms with his blindness and enhanced senses. And from that we get one of the most intriguing and interesting stories of any TV-show in recent years. Especially among the superhero TV-shows. This is a gritty show with all episodes containing some really great material. And I absolutely loved the story aspects of the show.

The characters are all interesting, compelling, well-written and greatly acted. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock is perfect, really bringing the whole “damaged, yet strong” aspect to life. Elden Henson plays Foggy with determination and brings the humor that the show needs. I am not saying that this show should be “Guardians of the Galaxy” in tone, I am just saying that the humor coming from the guy really helps the show. Deborah Ann Woll who plays their secretary and friend Karen Page is also really good. But by far, the best in this show has to be Vincent D’Onofrio. I mean, holy shit, his performance in the show is drop dead amazing. He plays the role of Wilson Fisk (Sidenote: Also known as “The Kingpin” in other things) so perfectly with all the ruthlessness the character is known for but also adding some humanity to really sell it perfectly. And I can thankfully say that there are no weak performances in this show. They are all great.

The score for the show was done by John Paesano (Must… resist… making… Italian… Joke). And the score for the show to me is fucking fantastic. There is intense music, there is thoughtful music, there is sad music, there is all kind of music in this show and it is all great. Going by regular orchestra (as most composers do), Paesano (Hnnnngggg…) makes a perfect score for the show that fits in every instance.

This show got a fair amount of action in it and it is all spectacular. You notice that Matt got some training in martial arts but that he is no Bruce Lee or even Bruce Wayne. He can handle his own in a fight but he still gets his ass kicked a fair amount. I can also mention that the fights in this show are brutal. There is blood, bruises and broken bones and you see it all… and I love it. The grittyness of it all really helps make the show hold it’s own. And the show overall is really well-directed/shot. It is all visually great. I also love all the constant nods and easter eggs to other Marvel things. If you keep close attention, you will notice them. And for those of you who are a little confused, yes this show ties in to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It is set some time after “The Avengers”. It’s interesting to see if it ties into the movies one day.

This show has gotten some pretty great reviews so far. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the show has a score of 75/100. and on imdb.com it has a score of 9,3/10.

“Daredevil” is a dark, serious and gritty Marvel show with an intriguing plot, terrific performances, a great score, great writing, excellent direction/camera work, great action and a great feel. Time for the final score. Where is that damn guy, Jeff? *bang on door*. Jeff, where the hell have you been? What? Since when are you blind? Whatever, envelope! Thank you! My final score for “Daredevil” is a 9,97/10. This of course means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”
Seal of Approval

My review of season 1 of “Daredevil” is done.

Dear Netflix, give us a second season.