‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ Review: Shakespeare in the Dark

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The Tragedy of Macbeth (CREDIT: Alison Cohen Rosa/A24)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Corey Hawkins, Brendon Gleeson, Harry Melling, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Kathryn Hunter, Moses Ingram, Ralph Ineson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Stephen Root, Brian Thompson, Richard Short

Director: Joel Coen

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Bloody Swordplay

Release Date: December 25, 2021 (Theaters)/January 14, 2022 (Apple TV+)

When reviewing a new Shakespeare adaptation, especially one of the Bard’s most popular productions, it makes sense to ask: what makes this version different? So as Joel Coen goes solo to take on The Scottish Play, what uniqueness has he brought to the table? Well, he did cast his wife Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, so that could potentially be some fertile ground for psychoanalysis. Or maybe not! She’s already been in plenty of his films, and I’m willing to guess that this isn’t the first time that a director’s wife has been cast in something Shakespearean. Denzel Washington certainly brings some more melanin than usual to the title role, but ultimately that’s neither here nor there. He’s Denzel Washington after all, so why not cast him in one of the most dramatically hefty parts in all of English-language drama?

Overall, one word comes to mind when trying to identify The Tragedy of Macbeth‘s uniqueness, and that word is: surreal. I don’t know if that’s what Coen was specifically aiming for, and I in fact wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t a consideration at all. But no matter how it happened, it showed up. One huge reason for that is the dialogue itself; it’s strange to speak in iambic pentameter all the time, after all. On top of that, the geography within the castle walls never quite makes visual sense. Instead, it’s like a maze that the characters are perpetually stuck within. Combine that with Bruno Delbonnel’s stark black-and-white cinematography, and the whole film comes across as a dream that curdles into a nightmare. And as so often happens when I see a movie that lacks bright colors, I nodded off throughout, which only added to the sense that I slipped through some parallel dimension or underworld.

One more element that really stands out is Kathryn Hunter’s performance as the witchy weird sisters. She contorts herself into seemingly inhuman positions, which is a wise acting decision, considering that her characters are meant to be somewhere in between human and supernatural. I didn’t ask to see a huge disembodied toe stuck between someone else’s toes, but now I won’t be able to forget it. Nor will I be able to forget the shot of the one sister standing over a pool that reflects back the other two sisters. This is a striking Shakespearean adaptation, is what I’m saying.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is Recommended If You Like: Claustrophobia, Cruel fate, Maximum weirdness

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Usurpers

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 1/29/21

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The Little Things (CREDIT: Warner Bros./YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

The Little Things (Theaters and HBO Max) – Denzel Washington and Rami Malek finally on screen together.

-Weezer, OK Human

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 6/14/19

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CREDIT: Cara Howe/Comedy Central

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

The Dead Don’t Die (Moderate Theatrically)

-2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards (June 17 on MTV)
Whose Line is it Anyway? Season 15 Premiere (June 17 on The CW) – The improv games will never end!
Alternatino with Arturo Castro Series Premiere (June 18 on Comedy Central)
The Detour Season 4 Premiere (June 18 on TBS)
Drunk History Season 6 Midseason Premiere (June 18 on Comedy Central)
-AFI Life Achievement Award: Denzel Washington (June 20 on TNT)
Holey Moley Series Premiere (June 20 on ABC) – So many Fun & Games.
Family Food Fight Series Premiere (June 20 on ABC)

This Is a Movie Review: Fences

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Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Every baseball stadium’s fence is unique. Some of them are harder to breach than others. I suppose we all put up different sorts of fences of varying difficulties in our own lives. Some of them are covered in ivy, sometimes we crash into them, sometimes we stand on top of them. If we break through them, no matter how we do it, and regardless of whether or not it is a good idea, it is usually at least somewhat painful.

Does it feel a little obtuse that this whole review is an extended baseball metaphor? Well that is pretty much the only way that garbageman/former Negro Leagues player Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) talks, and it is indeed maddening.

I give Fences 78 out of 100 … well, Fences.

This Is a Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven

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If you’re looking for some sustenance from the new Magnificent Seven beyond good ol’ horse-riding, pistol-wielding fun, then you’ll probably find it in the motivation of the villains and the diversity of the title crew. Ruthless industrialist Bartholomew Bogue is high on the drug of capitalism; indeed Peter Sarsgaard plays him like he’s perpetually intoxicated. Taking a last stand against him is a team that includes a black warrant officer (Denzel Washington), an Asian cowboy assassin (Byung-hun Lee), a Comanche warrior (Martin Sensmeier), a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and some other nuts (Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio).

The Magnificent Seven does not explicitly underscore the angle of a melting pot of heroes defending decent hardworking Americans from a rapacious white man. But if you are sensitive to that theme, it’s hard to miss. This film hardly attempts to be the definitive voice on the subject, though it is nice enough that it is there to chew on. Instead, it focuses on what it does best, which is “a fun time at the movies.” As it rouses itself to the climax of the final siege and defense, it demonstrates crisply edited classic Western-style action, the consistent movie-star appeal of Denzel, and some kooky performances from Sarsgaard and an unstoppable D’Onofrio.

I give The Magnificent Seven 7 Horses Out of 10 Explosions.