MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2013)

June 23, 2013

much ado1 Greetings again from the darkness. The previous movie version of William Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing” was directed in 1993 by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed Thor (2011). This modernized, much simpler version is directed by Joss Whedon, who also directed The Avengers last year. It’s difficult to imagine a more oddball movie symmetry than that! Whedon’s production plays almost like a home movie, and in a way it is. Filmed at the director’s Santa Monica house with a cast featuring mostly a close group of his friends … those that frequently gather for Shakespeare dinner parties … this one exudes a certain joy and love of the material from all involved, with a live theatre feel.

I have always been more attracted to Shakespeare’s comedies than his more famous tragedies. His startling wordsmithing is much ado3always filled with an edge and is borne of real personalities we all recognize. Combine that with director Whedon’s love of rapid-fire, wise-cracking dialogue and we get something from the ilk of Preston Sturges or Howard Hawks screwball comedies.

The banter and battle of wits between Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) are at the heart of the story. Their flirtations are recognizable as two who doth protest too much … as if it could hide their mutual attraction. In one of the most pure comedic roles from the pen of Shakespeare comes Dogberry, the detective on the case of the dark conspiracy occurring right under the noses of most characters. Nathan Fillion (“Castle”) plays Dogberry in such a manner that he steals every scene in which he appears … both verbally and physically. He provides some laugh out loud moments.

much ado3 You will recognize some of the others in Whedon’s acting troupe: Reed Diamond plays Don Pedro, Clark Gregg as Leonato, and Fran Kranz as Claudio. Newcomer Jillian Morgese plays Hero, the falsely-accused bride-to-be, whose misfortunes lead to the great Dogberry scenes.

The temptation here is to say that a very entertaining movie can be made simply, cheaply and quickly (12 days filming). Of course, as wonderful as Amy Acker is, the real star is the story and words from William Shakespeare … even in this modernized setting. As we all know, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Whedon and his cronies prove this.  I’m not sure this is the best indoctrination to Shakespeare, but I believe only the most traditional of Shakespeare devotees will not find some joy in this version.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are a fan of The Bard and enjoy seeing varying visual interpretations of his fantastic work

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are the firm traditionalist who believes Shakespeare only belongs on stage or on paper

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAMsDP_DMHE

 

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THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)

April 22, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. Well I was not ready for the horror/zombie/slasher genre to be turned on its ear, but that’s exactly what co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (also director) have done here. Rest assured that your favorite aspects of horror films will be lampooned, or at least parodied. There are times you will jump and laugh simultaneously, but mostly I found myself checking off the influences/targets of the filmmakers.

There is no way to comment on this film without offering up spoilers, and I will not do that. What I can tell you is that you’ll be reminded of films such as Scream, Friday the 13th, Bubba Ho-Tep, Night of the Living Dead, The Evil Dead, Saw, and dare I say, elements of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone … you know the parts where you know there is more going on than you are seeing, but you can’t quite put it all together.

 The movie starts out with a tongue-in-cheek assembly of generic characters from most horror films: the fun-loving jock (Chris Hemsworth, pre-Thor), the “bad” girl (Anna Hutchison), the “good” girl (Kristen Connolly), the brainiac (Jesse Williams), and of course the comic relief stoner waxing philosophical (a very effective Fran Kranz). This group piles into a borrowed RV and heads to the cabin. And yes, we get the obligatory stop at the run down gas station manned by the straight-from-Deliverance attendant played by tobacco-spitting Tim De Zarn.

 We learn quickly that something odd is going on and our heroes are really playthings in some kind of cosmic game being conducted at an underground lab run by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. That much is shown in the trailer and that’s the end of what I will say. After that, the choice is yours … just like in the basement.

I have no idea whether to recommend this movie, and if so, to whom.  The last 15 minutes are pure mayhem, and you will either be fully onboard with this Disneyland ride gone bad, or you will have wanted to leave for the past hour. Filmed three years ago, but caught up in studio legalities, the movie was selected for opening night at SXSW and it truly is a twisted, even demented jab at all things horror. Only you can decide what comes next.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: your twisted, demented movie-watching personality has made you a horror/zombie/slasher expert and you don’t mind Whedon and Goddard poking a little fun at your genre … just don’t blame me.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: I didn’t just describe you in the “See” section

watch this trailer … or don’t, if you are planning to see the movie: