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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Just a good ol’ uplifting film – The Internship

The Internship - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Internship – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Internship (2013)

Director: Shawn Levy
Writers: Vince Vaughn (screenplay and story), Jared Stern (screenplay)
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne

I’ve seen a lot of bad films in my time. I’ve seen a lot of good ones too. It’s always seemed to be a subjective matter of what is good and what is not. What one person finds funny may not be funny to someone else. And this is what I find interesting about a film like The Internship. I was in a great mood when I sat down in the cinema. I had been laughing with a friend beforehand and I didn’t have high expectations for the film. I was just there to have a bit of a laugh and to see Dylan O’Brien (Stiles from Teen Wolf) in a film. But The Internship surprised me. I mean, yes it is a big walking and talking advertisement for Google, and Google really doesn’t need advertising, it’s a verb. I’m not a huge fan of either Vince Vaughan or Owen Wilson, and together they have no appeal for me. But they do both have that charm of being funny american men. And as much as I would like to say that this film was as bad as I expected, it really was a delight.

The story unfolds as two older gents, Billy (Vince Vaughan) and Nick (Owen Wilson) in a crisis a lot of people are facing – no jobs, no savings, no prospects, and no skills in a technological age. It’s your usual triumph of the little guy over the bully kind of comedy. It is funny, light-hearted, and entertaining. The misfit interns that we get to know and love along the way are thrown together in a group that has to compete for the opportunity of getting a job at the end of the summer intern. They are a weird bunch but they charm their way into the audiences hearts through quirks and humour.

It always fascinates me how the way you view a movie can be determined by the attitude you enter the film with. I’m not sure that The Internship is a good film or whether I was just in the right mood. But I can definitely say that it wasn’t a bad film. It was a good laugh and a great time.

3.5/5

Director: Shawn LevyWriters: Vince Vaughn (screenplay), Jared Stern (screenplay), 1 more credit »Stars: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne | See full cast and crew

The wonder of opulence, the sadness of greed. – The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Great Gatsby – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann (screenplay) and Craig Pearce (screenplay), F. Scott Fitzgerald (based of the novel by)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, and Jason Clarke.

Who is Gatsby? The question that haunts and taunts throughout the novel and throughout Luhrmann’s film. Firstly, I have to admit that I love Fitzgerald’s writing but hate the story of Gatsby. It took me a long time to pick it back up after reading the first chapter and I struggled to get through it because I despised the characters, even Nick Carraway. Their selfishness, opulence, disregard for life and love, and use and abuse of the people around them made me sick. But that is what Fitzgerald intended to some degree. He slowly reveals our darkest secrets and shows us our reflection in each of the characters features and flaws. I was anxious going into the film. With Baz Luhrmann’s reputation for over the top theatrics and in your face metaphors it was hard not to be really, especially after watching the trailer for the film. And yet, from the moment the lights dimmed in the cinema and that title sequence began I knew it would all be okay.

The Great Gatsby is a film that transports you back to the mid-20s whilst keeping your feet firmly planted in 2013. The atmosphere, the light, the music, the sounds, everything screams at you with a haunting whisper of our reality. Gatsby (DiCaprio) is the ever hopeful and Carraway (Maguire) is the witness to the demise of hope and innocence. DiCaprio is brilliant. He shines so brightly and broods so grotesquely that there is rarely a moment that you can not believe that he is Gatsby. He is the lost soul who is trying to grasp something he never had a chance of possessing. Carey Mulligan is teamed with DiCaprio like the second side of his coin as the foolish Daisy Buchanan. Her flittering eyes, constantly on the verge of tears, and vacant looks convey the truth of Daisy.

But the man who really steals the film is Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s racist, bigoted, cheating husband. The slow brewing act of Tom is built throughout the film until the moment he takes Gatsby down in a small room of a hotel in New York. Edgerton’s performance is stunning. You are both repulsed by and drawn towards him like Daisy. You want to hate him but you know that in some small way that he is right about Gatsby, and you can’t fault him for that. Everything else, sure, he is a douchebag 100%, but he is right about Gatsby, and Joel Edgerton plays the balance remarkably.

The trailer to this film shows the opulence, the extravaganza, the pomp and ceremony of Gatsby, but what it fails to show is the great moments in between which make this film fantastic. It is the moments of slowness, the moments of Carraway’s reflections, the glimpses of Gatsby’s past, the brokenness of life in the world, and the calm before the storm that make this film great. Baz Luhrmann has managed to give life to Gatsby and Carraway’s friendship and to provide a film that shows both the wonder of opulence and the sadness of greed.

4/5

Immersive and all consuming – Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas (2013)

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski »
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen by), Tom Tykwer (written for the screen by), and Andy Wachowski (written for the screen by)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant

The thing that makes this 3 hour extravaganza captivating and able to hold one’s imagination and attention for such a lengthy period of time is the perfect balancing of story peaks and troughs. Through each scene there is a sense of intrigue, mystery, and interconnectedness that helps you piece each story together. Not knowing how each will end but wanting to know how each life affects the others is part of the journey of this film.

I haven’t read the novel but I intend to. Mainly because I’m fascinated to see how the tension is built in written form because it works so perfectly in the film. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer have taken Mitchell’s story and transported it onto screen so that it stands alone as a fascinating visual journey. Through editing, careful scripting and the soundtrack scoring, the peaks are powerful and come at the perfect moments in each sequence. The audience isn’t treated as unintelligent and being pushed and prodded through the complexities of the story. This film seeks to challenge our thinking. It is the reason why I think people won’t like Cloud Atlas, but I hope my pessimism is proved wrong because the challenge is worth the work.

There have been few moments in my life when I have been so captivated by a story in film that my entire body reacts to what is happening on screen. I can watch a film and do twenty other things at the same time and be able to tell you what it was about. But this film, oh my, this film transported me. It immersed me so fully and completely in its world that my mind, body, and spirit was involved in this film to the extent that I was left at the end of the film with an emptiness I can hardly describe. I wanted to watch it again immediately. I wanted to explore the world more fully, I wanted to know the characters more completely, and I wanted to escape again into the world of Cloud Atlas.

I could talk about the actors, the great prosthetics, the fantastic special effects, the comedy of the old people, the language of the tribal people, but I would be here all day. Instead I would like to leave you with the desire to see this film because of the experience I had in it. I know that everyone’s experience with this film will be different. It’s like the first time you hear that song that transfixes you and you replay it over and over because you’ve fallen in love with it, but you’ll never reclaim that first imagining, that first experience. Cloud Atlas is an immersive and all consuming cinematic experience that you should experience for yourself. Be captivated.

4/5

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

Let’s Dance – Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Lingings Playbook - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Silver Lingings Playbook – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Director: David O. Russell
Writers: David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick (novel)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Always look for a silver lining is the philosophy of Pat (Bradley Cooper) who has just spent time in a mental institution after being arrested for assault on his wife’s lover after he caught them in the shower together. Not a great way to find out that you have a bipolar or that your wife is cheating on you, especially when you are obsessive about your marriage. Pat is determined to get Nikki back. But there is a restraining order and her general not wanting to see him that is getting in the way of Pat restoring his marriage. In walks Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) the sister of his Ex’s best friend. Recently widowed and recovering from depression and a slight sex addiction, Tiffany and Pat form an unlikely friendship. Throw in a mix of Pat’s crazy parents and a large bet that goes wrong and you have Silver Linings Playbook.

Though the story line is your basic comical love story, it is the characters that make this film the fantastic film it is. From Bradley Cooper’s quirky and socially blunt mannerisms to Jennifer Lawrence’s swift mood swings and determination to Robert De Niro’s perfectly rational superstitious gambling habits, this film is filled with actors doing exactly what you want them to do, embody the characters. It’s no wonder that the actors in this film have received so many nominations for this film, they are extraordinary.

Silver Linings Playbook is fun and quirky and will charm the socks off you. It’ll stick with you and make you smile for weeks after seeing it from remembering Lawrence and Cooper’s performances.

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

Which story do you believe? – Life of Pi

Life of Pi - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Life of Pi – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Life of Pi (2012)

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: David Magee (screenplay), Yann Martel (novel)
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain

It is a difficult task to turn a novel into a film, especially one that is burdened by a heavy philosophical investigations. As most critics would attest to Ang Lee’s genius in creating absolutely stunning films I will simply say in that regard that he has once again gone above and beyond the high expectations I set for brilliant directors. What is even more brilliant about this film is how it allows philosophical ideas about faith and religion to be discussed in strategic and carefully plotted ways so as to both bring the subject to light as well as telling an incredible narrative. Ang Lee and David Magee have, together, hit the perfect balance of narrative and philosophy in Life of Pi. The gorgeous cinematic scenes along with a heartwarming story of survival and the discovery of faith is all combined together to make a film that is enjoyable and surprising. The story of a boy and a tiger on a small boat in the middle of the ocean is always bound to be exciting. What could go wrong with a hungry tiger on a raft with a boy to help keep him alive? And who is going to believe your story if you really do survive?

The passion of this film stems from Suraj Sharma’s performance. He has a heartwarming and grounded nature that makes the adventure feel all the more real. It is a fun ride and there are surprising moments in amongst the narrative and the power of the story comes from knowing where it ends before it even starts. It is a beautiful cinematic experience that can be enjoyed by all the family and will rock you back on forth on the waves of emotion as Pi discovers the unique characteristic of humanity.

4/5

Hitting the right notes – Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Pitch Perfect – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Director: Jason Moore
Writers: Kay Cannon (screenplay), Mickey Rapkin (book)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson

There is something genuinely magnificent about a carefully crafted one-liner in my humble opinion. It should surprise you, make you burst out laughing, and be delivered with as much dryness as possible. Pitch Perfect has just the right amount of one-liners to make this film a great comedy. Yes the stereotypes are strong and the humour can be blatantly obvious at points, but this makes it all the better in my mind. The comedy in Pitch Perfect is both funny and makes fun of itself in clever ways. It doesn’t ruin the narrative flow but in fact enhances it.

Pitch Perfect is the tale of Beca (Anna Kendrick), an alternative chick, DJ-wannabe, who is misunderstood by her father and is mostly friendless. That is until she is forced to join the all-girl acapella group. Forced to try out by the very forward Chloe (Brittany Snow), she comes into the group which is already going through a period of transition. The group is being controlled by the high-strung Aubrey (Anna Camp) who is on a mission to win nationals but she is a traditionalist and a perfectionist which does not suit Beca’s alternative and creative ways. Beca tries to both change the groups style, as well as trying to stay of Aubrey’s good side. It plays out as you would expect, the whole film does as well, with bits of surprises along the way, but it works. The thing about films like this is that if they stick, more or less, to the formula, then they will be entertaining. It is the way the more or less is challenged that either makes or breaks a film like this. It is the difference between a A-grade film and an B-grade film. Pitch Perfect hits the harmonies of formula and classy comedy in the right key. It is definitely the minor characters of Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), and Benji (Ben Platt) that make this film fantastic. Never underestimate the power of a great supporting cast, they will and do steal the scenes and make the film better.

4/5

Who Am I? – Les Miserables

Les Misérables - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Les Misérables – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Les Misérables (2012)

Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: Claude-Michel Schönberg (book) & Alain Boublil (book) & Victor Hugo (novel) & Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics) & Alain Boublil (original: French text) & Jean-Marc Natel (original: French text) & James Fenton (additional text) & William Nicholson (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway

I have always loved musicals. I grew up watching Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, etc, and loved everyone of them, good and bad. My favourite film is Singin’ In The Rain and will continue to be until my life’s end. I say that in order to justify my instant love of Les Misérables. I have never seen it on stage but I have had friends in the past who have raved about it.  I now understand why.

Although there are parts of the film which could be improved, *cough Russell Crowe cough*, the musical is adapted onto film brilliantly. It has a raw and gritty quality to it which makes the story feel real and grounded in history. The music is beautiful and the integration of story-telling with the music is seamless. Hugh Jackman does a great job of Jean Valjean and really carries the film and us with him on the journey of his hard life. However, the kids in the film are what really make it for me. Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) and Isabelle Allen (young Cosette) are incredible little talents. They come alive on screen and steal every scene they are in, especially Daniel.

The best thing about this film is that it has real heart. I cried, nay, I sobbed as Eddie Redmayne sang about how his friends would never sing again. Oh my gosh did I sob! Every moment was breathtaking and heartbreaking and heartwarming and oh just everything! It wasn’t that this was a brilliant film, or a brilliant musical, but it is a great story, well told, and in a lot of ways that is what films should be, even musicals.

4/5