Adapt and Make New – Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Much Ado – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay) and William Shakespeare (play)
Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Clark Gregg, Jillian Morgese.

There is something about Shakespeare’s comedies that make for good adaptations. 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, O, The Lion King, etc, have all taken on new looks of Shakespeare’s plays. And then there is the cinematic versions of the plays such as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), Othello (1995) etc. A good adaptation can be one that is true to the original text, or one that develops the ideas and narrative into a new setting. Joss Whedon has done both with his version of Much Ado About Nothing.

The film opens with a single piano note. A note that tells the audience that love is a thing that will cause both joy and sadness. It is with this simple note that the entire mood is set for the film. The film is shown in black and white, preparing the audience to see the blurred lines of grey in all the lies the characters tell one another, whether for good or for evil. And with the opening scene of Beatrice and Benedict as lovers you know you are in for an interesting take on Shakespeare’s tale of love, deception, rumours, and purity.

The best thing about this adaptation is Joss Whedon and the cast’s comedic timing. Much Ado is meant to be funny. It is a battle of wits between Benedict and Beatrice but here you see so much more of the comedy as played by all the characters. From little moments like Leonato (Clark Gregg) falling asleep/hung over in the kitchen and then being knocked awake and into speech, or Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark) standing creepily at the end of Don John’s bed. The comedy in this film is exceptional.

The way the film is shot is really interesting because of the different camera angles. The shots looking down from heights to where the characters are creates a voyeuristic feel. The audience is another member of the party and is privy to closed door conversations and monologues of characters. It feels very much like an amphitheatre at points, providing the film with visual cues back to the original play.

There are just some films that grab you from the first moment and don’t let you go until the credits roll. Much Ado held me through the laughter and the tears and made me want to revisit Shakespeare with a new passion. This film will make you laugh; it will make you question how you talk of others; it will make you question why you listen to rumours; and above all it will make you want to fall in love with innocence and joy.

5/5

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Why the director makes all the difference – Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Zero Dark Thirty – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt

It took over ten years for Osama Bin Laden to be found, captured, and killed. Zero Dark Thirty is a film about how long the journey to finding him was, and how the things the military did to get him were “necessary”.

Some may say that this film is pro-torture and anti-Islam and in some ways it is but it is so much more than a propaganda film. Kathryn Bigelow has a flare for creating intensely gripping and realistic films and Zero Dark Thirty is one of her best. The intensity of this film doesn’t come from the subject matter, although it is a gripping story. It comes from the way Bigelow has directed the film. It is the moments of stillness that make this film so fantastic. You view the characters from the outside, disconnected and watchful but when it comes to the highly intense scenes you are thrown into the action with deliberate closeness. It creates for an interesting experience as a viewer as you feel both disconnected and deeply involved at the same time. It is a fascinating and wonderful sensation as a viewer.

The other point of greatness in this film is Jessica Chastain’s performance. It is perfect. Chastain portrays a real woman. It isn’t a feminine or masculine spy type but a perfect balance of intelligence and humanity. It is a mellow and grounded performance that reveals so much about the reality of the resilience of intelligence workers in war. The harshness of their work and the reality of war is portrayed so realistically through this film that it gives this story a believability unlike other war films that have come before it.

This film is a narrative of how the world leader of terrorism was killed and how a woman’s determination to find him was so strong that she devoted her life and career to the cause. It tells the tale of how loss and moral ambiguity can cloud a person’s judgment and about how having a single focus and single mission in life can leave you with a sense of empty relief when it is all said and done.

4/5

Perfect Portrayal – Hitchcock

Hitchcock - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Hitchcock – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Hitchcock (2012)

Director: Sacha Gervasi
Writers: John J. McLaughlin (screenplay), Stephen Rebello (book)
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson

I’ve never been able to sit and watch a thriller without getting scared out of my brains or laughing at how ridiculous it is. Alfred Hitchcock films are different though. I still remember watching North by Northwest as a young teen and not really understanding who made it or what it was meant to be, but it was in black and white so I was interested. It turned out I have a love/hate relationship with thrillers. I also studied Rope at university as part of a film studies class and from that moment onwards I was both enthralled and petrified of Hitchcock. So when my friend suggested we go see a movie about Hitchcock and the making of Psycho I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but friends will make you do amazing things, and it was a very hot day…

I was blown away. Utterly and completely. Hitchcock is an incredible film about an incredible man. Strange and sometimes scary, Alfred Hitchcock – portrayed perfectly by Anthony Hopkins – is a man who needs to be in charge and who needs to be engaged with a project. The thing that is terrifyingly brilliant about this film is how Hopkins brings Hitch so much to life that you feel like you are watching the man himself. It’s not just the mannerisms or speech, it’s his air and the delivery of every second of every scene. And with Helen Mirren by his side as Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife and script editor/writer, the world of Psycho is lived out on screen for the audience. The perversity of Hitch’s obsession of his lead ladies and his want of control over their lives is very evident but done in such a way that you are both repulsed by him and pity him at the same time, but above all you come out with an admiration for a broken but brilliant man who was and still is the master of suspense.

Special mention needs to go to Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Lew Wasserman) who held the supporting actor roles with such integrity that the film would not have been as convincing without them.

4/5

Just don’t think about it too much – Looper

Looper - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Looper – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Looper (2012)

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt

Time travel is always a tricky idea to play with. It can do your head in a bit if you think about it too much. There is always the “what if you change something that changes the course of history which means you can’t have been sent back in time to change it?” thing. To be honest I like not thinking about that, it’s nice to just go along with the flow. But when a film demands you think about it and you are thrown into the mystery of chasing the future and changing the past at the same time it’s hard not to like getting swept up into the thrill of it. And it really is thrilling.

Looper is a film that makes your head hurt a little bit after and leaves you Googling for answers. Luckily the writer Rian Johnson is happy to give answers (yes I went to Google as soon as I left the credits started rolling). However, in saying this, I did think too much during the film. A friend had said that she was confused by it, and so I spent most of the second half of the film trying to work out the twist. If I hadn’t done that I would’ve found it less troublesome at the end. Looper is a real adventure and you do get swept away with Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his life as a looper, an assassin from the future.

Looper makes a massive comment on the value of life and the problems that hurt, pain, and killing cause for future generations. This is what stuck with me when all the time travel stuff had subsided. The fight to live and the acceptance of death are powerful mental and emotional drivers that can determine the way we make decisions and the way we think about the consequences of our actions.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven once again why is one of the most in-demand actors. His performance throughout the film is captivating, even with prosthetics. Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt are incredible drivers of the emotion and complexity of life. But the actor that steals the show is little Pierce Gagnon. He is simply terrifying and adorable at the same time. He performs in such a dark and violent film with such maturity and truth that it is a little scary to see. I was blown away by him.

This film isn’t as confusing as some other films that have come out in recent years (yes, Christopher Nolan, I’m looking at you sir) but it takes a great idea and conveys it with conviction and continuity which can be the most troublesome thing for a futuristic time travel film. I really enjoyed getting swept up in the world that Johnson brings alive on screen and he grounds it in the present enough for it to be realistic which is something I always love about futuristic dramas, if it looks like today then I will buy in to your idea.

I really recommend this film. It’s a great escape and an adventure, although be warned there is a lot of splattery blood…