STREAMING REVIEWS: From High-brow to low-fun

Published January 16, 2022, 7:16 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Denzel Washington & Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth (AppleTV+)

Today we have two new drops that display the spectrum of shows we can find on our favorite streaming services. On AppleTV+, it’s Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth; and on HBO Go!, we get James Gunn’s irreverent spin-off from his Suicide Squad, the limited series, Peacemaker.

‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’

The Tragedy of Macbeth (AppleTV+) – Publicized as one of Joel Coen’s passion projects, this adaptation of Macbeth reaches the streaming services at a time when it’s still in the running for nominations this film awards season. Joel’s wife, Frances McDormand plays Lady Macbeth, and Denzel Washington is Thane of Cawdor and Glamis. From the outset, Coen has said this would not be an outright retelling of Shakespeare’s play, and he purposely chose older actors to play the couple steeped in blood, so that there would be a more potent air of desperation, of last opportunities for glory and ambition. Much of the spoken word would still come from the Bard’s play, but Coen planned to use the language for his own interpretation and purposes.

From the very first scenes, what’s riveting about Coen’s treatment is the black and white cinematography, and stark set design. And then we’re introduced into this world of the unnatural and feral by Kathryn Hunter, who, in a bit of inspired casting, plays the three witches all by her lonesome. She contorts, changes voice, and creeps us out, while offering an unforgettable first impression. Denzel & Frances are impressive as the main characters, and my other standouts are Bertie Carvel as Banquo, Corey Hawkins as Macduff, and Brendon Gleeson as the short-lived King Duncan. The issue with any Macbeth production is that the story has been told and presented so many times already, and it’s the visual aspect of Coen’s version that makes the strongest impact on us.


Peacemaker (HBO Go) – If you felt that James Gunn’s free-rein foray into the DC Universe last year, via Suicide Squad, wasn’t over the top; then this brand new, 8-episode Limited Series will feel heaven-sent. Chris/Peacemaker (John Cena) survives the events of Suicide Squad, and he now gets his own story, and we follow him on his missions with sidekick, Eagly. The tone carries on from what we were entertained with on Suicide Squad, and several of the minor characters from the film make their presence felt to offer solid continuity. As such, it immediately pays strong fan service, as those who enjoyed the irreverent, foul-mouthed superhero iteration that Gunn gave us, will be miles ahead of the novice viewers.

In a bit of inspired casting, Robert Patrick (best remembered for his role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day) is recruited to play the father of Chris – and it’s inspired because he’s even more morally challenged and reprehensible than his son, if you can believe that. There’s also a human sidekick in the form of Vigilante, a waiter/staff boy in a local restaurant whose most fervent dream is to ‘hang out’ with the Peacemaker. It’s still vintage Gunn, with crazy retorts, a succession of sarcastic rejoinders – like when the team controlling Peacemaker are informed that his eagle is named Eagly, they go on and on, about how dumb that is, and asking if he had a daughter, would Chris name her Daughtery. Yes, it can be puerile and immature, but that’s exactly what you know you’ll get with Gunn, and I’m not complaining.