Movies based on actual events are big business for the cinematic world. Hollywood’s major studios have made increasing use of said stories throughout their collective history while independent studios have, thankfully, been far less reliant on the genre, though there have been some independent studios that have turned out their own fare, much to the same result of the major studios’ offerings. The result in question is movies that are otherwise forgettable because of their blend of history and overpowering fictional embellishments. Now independent studio Lightyear Entertainment has become just the latest studio to join that mass of studios big and small alike that have fallen back on what is really an overblown genre with the recent release of its new movie, Voodoo MacBeth. Set for release Tuesday, the movie centers on the history of famed media figure Orson Welles’ work with the famed Harlem Negro Theater Unit on its 1936 stage presentation of Shakespeare’s timeless drama, Macbeth. The independent period drama that is based on actual events is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that. One reason it proves itself worth that one chance is its writing. This will be discussed shortly. While the writing is largely a positive and will keep audiences mostly engaged and entertained, the writing also includes a significant amount of foul language and some material that some might find questionable, yet the movie has no rating. This is a negative that needs to be addressed. The bonus commentary that accompanies the movie is one more positive worth noting, considering that the one negative is not enough to doom the movie. This will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to this movie’s presentation. All things considered they make Voodoo Macbeth far from being as timeless as Shakespeare’s original, but still worth watching at least once.
Voodoo Macbeth is an intriguing presentation from independent movie studio Lightyear Entertainment. It is another movie that is worth watching at least once but really does little to help make the case for the historical drama genre. One thing that it does have going for it is its writing. The writing encompasses not only Welles’ own story but the bigger story of how the now famed 1936 performance of Macbeth by the Harlem Negro Theater Unit came to happen. The story of Welles’ personal relationship with his wife, Virginia plays into the bigger picture, but thankfully never overpowers the central story. There is also the story of the theater troupe’s members and their own personal stories added to the mix. As with Welles’ personal story, their stories don’t take overpower the central story, either. Along the way, the movie’s writing staff made sure to include the role of racism even there in Harlem at the time to help progress the bigger story of the collective’s drive to put on the play. Considering how much went into the overall story, it would have been so easy for the writers to let the story get bogged down in itself, but thankfully it didn’t. That allowed the pacing and story in general to remain fluid. As a result, audiences are ensured their engagement and entertainment throughout the story.
While the writing that went into Voodoo Macbeth ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment throughout its nearly two hour run time, the writing also includes a lot of foul language and content that some might find questionable, even considering its use in the bigger context of the story. This is important to note because according to the movie’s case, it has no rating (IE PG, PG-13, R). What’s more, there is not even any indication anywhere on the case of said content. Some of that content includes references to homosexuality, which some audiences might find troubling. At one point, two of the male cast members kiss each other, and at another one of the men in question attends a gay club, so that is content that again is understandable for its use in the context of the story but may cause some audiences to be uncomfortable. All of this in mind, it is somewhat disconcerting that the movie got away with getting through without a rating. Whether that is just because it is an independent movie or because it simply slipped through the cracks is anyone’s guess, but audiences need to be aware of all of this. It is not enough to doom the movie but is definitely still of concern.
Keeping in mind that the movie’s lack of a rating and any mention of its content is absent anywhere herein is not enough to doom the movie, there is at least one more positive to note. That positive is the movie’s bonus feature-length audio commentary. The commentary is provided by the collective of cast members Jewell Wilson Bridges and Inger Tudor, producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, writer Erica Sutherlin, and director Zoe Salnawe. If that seems like a lot of people, that is because it is. As is revealed in the commentary early on, there were 10 directors alone for this movie. There were a whole lot of people involved in the writing, too. Salnave even notes in her comments that there were so many creative heads behind the scenes that a lot of attention had to be paid to the writing to ensure the story did not get bogged down in itself. Thankfully that didn’t happen, even with so many hands in the proverbial pot. Audiences also learn through the commentary the nearly two hour run time was the goal for all involved. While no one said anything outright, it would seem that the statement in question was a reference to how so many movies out there today have become so long; upwards of three and even four hours. On a funnier note, one of the group mentions what is known as the “Macbeth Curse” or the “Scottish Curse.” The mention comes as the group discusses a power outage happening during the movie’s 25-day filming span and wonders if the curse played into it. For those who might not be aware of what the curse is, there is a belief in theater that speaking the name Macbeth inside a theater other than in the script, leads to disaster. Allegedly the so-called curse stems from Shakespeare using an actual incantation in the play Macbeth during the scene involving the witches, and it just so happened that some witches were watching one production of the play. They got so angry at the presentation that they put a curse on every presentation of the play from that point on. Whether that is true is anyone’s guess. Though, considering the one major issue from which this movie suffers shows that maybe there is something to the curse after all. Along with the lighthearted discussion on the curse, there was also a lot of in-depth discussion on the cast’s work on camera and trying to make the movie look believable in terms of its sets and costumes. Those who are interested in this aspect of period flicks will appreciate these talks. All of this in mind along with everything else discussed in the bonus content, it makes the audio commentary a strong companion to the movie. When the positive of the commentary is considered along with the positive of the writing, the two elements make Voodoo Macbeth worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.
Voodoo Macbeth, Lightyear Entertainment’s new historical drama, is an intriguing presentation from the independent movie studio. It does little to break any new ground in the bigger picture of the genre, but is still worth watching at least once. That is due in part to the movie’s writing. The writing does an admirable job of interweaving so many story lines into the bigger picture that is the movie’s central plot. While the writing deserves at least some applause, there is content in the writing that makes the movie deserving of a PG-13 rating at the very least and an R at the most. The thing is that there is no rating here and no indication of any of the content anywhere on the movie’s case. This is problematic, as audiences need to know this kind of information and aren’t informed. Knowing this is not enough to doom the movie, its bonus audio commentary adds to the overall appeal. That is because of the background that it adds to the presentation. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered they make Voodoo Macbeth an intriguing addition to this year’s field of new independent movies that is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.
Voodoo Macbeth is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. Its run time is 108 minutes (one hour 48 minutes). The movie will retail for msrp of $24.95 on Blu-ray, $19.95 on DVD, and $12.95 on digital platforms. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.
More information on this and other titles from Lightyear Entertainment is available at:
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