Much Ado About Nothing

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Yesterday, I finally got to see Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in twelve days in black and white in and around Whedon’s California home, most of the cast have worked with Whedon on previous projects, and that’s clearly helped achieve the sort of directorial clarity that other films can’t always manage. 

Much Ado About Nothing [DVD] [2012] (DVD)


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Including some silent flashbacks of Beatrice and Benedick’s previous liaison is a luxury stage productions can’t have, but here it helps establish the cause of their antagonistic relationship in a nutshell. She fell for his charms once, and her antipathy towards him is as much regret for her own part in that one-night stand.

Amy Acker’s Beatrice is wonderful: strong, compassionate, fragile, quick, strong, headstrong. I said in my preview blog post that I’ve never been particularly enamoured with Alexis Denisof, and for the most part that opinion hasn’t changed: however, his farcical acrobatics as he overhears Leonato, Claudio and Don Pedro talk about how Beatrice is in love with him are hilariously accomplished. His weakest scenes are those where he must monologue his way through his internal thought processes. On stage, Benedick can use the audience as confidantes: no such luck on film – although at one point he addresses an imagined audience within Whedon’s garden amphitheatre, and that just about works.

Clark Gregg’s Leonato is a warm, genial figure – and not a little camp, which is no bad thing – while Reed Diamond’s Don Pedro and Sean Maher as his bastard brother, Don John, provide solid, ever watchable interpretations of those stock characters.

As the secondary couple, Jillian Morgese is little more than a cipher in the thankless role of Hero, far eclipsed by Fran Kranz’s Claudio. As the smitten young man who allows Don John’s lies to lead him to believe his fiancée has been unfaithful to him, Kranz is astonishing. He’s been a supporting actor in several Whedon projects up to now, but I really hope that this role is enough to get casting directors considering him for the romantic lead in future projects. 

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There is an undoubted highlight in the casting, though – Nathan Fillion as the buffoonish constable Dogberry. Fans of Doctor Horrible’s Singalong Blog know that, as Captain Hammer, Fillion can play heroically stupid like nobody else. That’s a path he not only treads again here, but trips down with abandon. He steals every scene he’s in, although Tom Lenk as his assistant Verges is a hilarious accomplice in that regard.

The music is also wonderful, composed by Whedon, produced by his brother Jed and featuring the vocal talents of Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen. In terms of adapting the song Sigh No More, they do a great song that fits in with the mood of the party scenes. (I still prefer Michael Bruce’s Eighties-themed interpretation, though.)

Much Ado About nothing is still on release – for details, see the official websiteThe film is available to pre-order on DVD and Blu-Ray for release in October. The original score is available now.

Much Ado About Nothing5Scott Matthewman2013-06-23 14:17:44Yesterday, I finally got to see Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in twelve days in black and white in and around Whedon’s…

Coming soon: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

If there’s one film I’m looking forward to this June – and that ignores both Behind the Candelabra and Man of Steel – it’s Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing.

Filmed over a couple of weeks as the director took a break between production and post-production of Avengers Assemble, it was shot in and around Whedon’s home, and stars actors who have featured in several of his previous projects (for a selection of interviews with them, see this Buzzfeed article).

I’ve never been quite as enamoured with Alexis Denisof (Benedick) as Whedon seems to be, but Amy Acker’s Beatrice should be good fun. And the thought of Nathan Fillion as Dogberry…

For more details about the film, including the cinemas it’s booked to play in, visit the official site at muchadofilm.co.uk. It opens on June 14.

What’s your problem with musicals?

Great video from Mark Kermode’s weekly video blog, asking why some people have problem with musicals. If you find it odd that the characters in Les Misérables sing, how about Cabaret (where the songs are performed on stage)? How about All That Jazz, where they’re part of dream sequences?

Then how about sci-fi? If you can cope with light sabres, why can’t you cope with a few songs?

Mickey Mouse is back – and looking better than ever

Disney may be turning away from hand-drawn animation for feature-length films in favour of 3D CGI, but it has just announced a series of nineteen 2D shorts with a distincitvely retro look. Not only that, but the new shorts will feature the studio’s classic characters –Mickey Mouse, girlfriend Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, etc. – in a distinctively retro look. Based on the first one, Croissant de Triomphe, which has been released online, the style should really work well.

Mickey in particular just doesn’t work in 3D, despite preschool channel Playhouse Disney trying its best, as well as videogame Disney Epic Mickey. The insistence on Mickey’s ears always appearing round and a particular distance apart often results in them gliding over the 3D model’s head whenever he turns. This 2D style, in comparison, looks gorgeous – although it does take some other liberties with the character designs.

I can’t wait for the other eighteen, which will start to premiere over the summer.

Review: Avengers Assemble

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Over the past few years, several of Marvel’s movie adaptations of its greatest comic book heroes have featured short scenes after the credits. Once the seemingly in terminable list of CGI artists has finally concluded, an eyepatch-bedecked Samuel L. Jackson would appear, offering each film’s titular hero an opportunity to join “The Avengers Initiative”.

In The Avengers — known here in the UK as Avengers Assemble to avoid confusion with the cult TV series (and woeful movie remake) of the same name — filmgoers get to see what all those scenes were about.

Continue reading Review: Avengers Assemble

Review: Avengers Assemble4Scott Matthewman2013-06-07 16:59:56Over the past few years, several of Marvel’s movie adaptations of its greatest comic book heroes have featured short scenes after the credits. Once th…

Top 10 Disney films that should be stage musicals

Over the weekend came news that Disney’s theatrical division is working on some new adaptations of films from its back catalogue. Freaky Friday, Father of the Bride, The Jungle Book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Dumbo are all in development, as is an adaptation of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and a reworked version of The Little Mermaid. Newsies and Aladdin had previously been announced.

Ironically, before that article was published I had been having a conversation on Twitter about Disney films that could be adapted for the stage, as a direct result from having reviewed The Lion King.

While the announcement above includes lots of new projects, I was left thinking: what other films from the House of Mouse could make the transition to the theatre? So here are ten of my suggestions, in a more-or-less-arbitrary Letterman-style countdown from 10 to 1. And note I’ve ignored many of the Perrault-inspired fairytale features (Cinderella, et al), which sail a little too close to the British panto oeuvre.

Which has the potential to be the next Lion King, and which the next Tarzan, I wonder?

Continue reading Top 10 Disney films that should be stage musicals

Carry On up the West Wing

A couple of days ago, I began rewatching Aaron Sorkin’s political TV drama series, The West Wing, from the very first episode. I love the series a lot, for all its faults, and look forward to being back in the company of some fine characters for some time to come. it’s also enlightening to see the early episodes with the full benefit of seven years worth of hindsight.

As I was watching the first couple of episodes, a throwaway discussion on Twitter with my friends Jim and Paul somehow got us talking about how we would cast a theoretical Carry On version of life in and around the Oval Office…

* President Bartlet: Kenneth Williams

Who else could portray the intellectual, Latin-quoting Nobel Laureate who is also prone to overblown comedy moments?

* Mrs Landingham: Hattie Jacques

As the Oval Office secretary, Jacques would hold all the real power in the West Wing. The other secretaries would be ruled with a kindly rod of iron, which would come in handy for keeping the pesky men at bay, too.

* Sam Seaborn: Jim Dale

An idealistic youngster whose eye for the ladies can’t help but get him in to trouble? This is one character that barely needs rewriting to fit within the Carry On mould.

* Josh Lyman: Kenneth Connor

The well-meaning Deputy Chief of Staff who has a knack for saying the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time would be perfect for one of the original Carry On stars.

* CJ Cregg: Joan Sim

Serious, efficient and professional, but also incredibly funny, flirtatious and sexy, Sim would be able to hold her own in an office dominated by men.

* The Vice President: Sid James

In the show, VP Hoynes was a reformed alcoholic and womaniser who was always on the lookout for his own career above all else. James would be perfect, except for the “reformed” part. He’d put the vice back into vice president.

* Leo McGarry: William Hartnell

Casting the role of Chief of Staff is a tricky one, as none of the usual Carry On men really has the gravitas it needs. Here, I’ve gone instead for the eponymous star of the first film in the series, Carry On Sergeant, playing the serious authority figure forever exasperated by his team’s relentless incompetence.

* Toby Ziegler: Bernard Bresslaw

On TV he’s a brutally sharp mind, prone to fits of anger. I imagine Bresslaw would play him slightly differently.

* Margaret: Patsy Rowland

Never given many lines, Margaret just needs to dress oddly, come out with non-sequiturs and steal a scene with just a look. Rowland fits the bill well.

* Donna Moss: Liz Fraser

The hardworking aide to Kenneth Connor’s bumbling Josh Lyman. Be prepared for the lens to go all blurry once he realises that he’s in love with his secretary…

* Ainsley Hayes: Barbara Windsor

The Republican blonde bombshell who loves a song and a dance as much as she does sparring with Sam Seaborn would be perfect for Babs’ cheeky charms.

* And finally, Charlie Young: Charles Hawtrey

He has the correct first name already. And, this being the politically incorrect Carry On films, where would we be without some racially insensitive make-up job? Once you get the vision of Hawtrey in blackface in your head it’s a mental image that’s hard to shift…

Tron: Legacy

In the beginning was the Creator. And when he had created the world, he created a man in his image that he might look after the world. But through the created man’s actions the world descended into disorder. So the creator sent his son, to fight against the fallen angel and restore the world to its original ideals.

Well, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s clear that Tron: Legacy is drawing on some Biblical influences even though its main character seems more interested in other religions (notably the Californian Surfer Dude dialect of Buddhism).

And while the visuals of the film – which take the original film’s darkness-and-neon stylings and use the latest CGI to make the virtual world seem far more solid than it ever did in the 1982 original – are superb, the plot is far more crudely sketched. The basic structure is pretty much the same as the original film – human gets pulled into a virtual world, is made to play video games until he escapes, brings down the bad guy and makes his way to the portal so that he can return to the real world. 

In the original film, the bad guy was the Master Control Program and his right-hand program Sark, both played by David Warner (who also played the ‘real world’ bad guy, Dillinger). Here, the conceit is that the bad guy is Clu, a program created by Jeff Bridges’ Flynn to oversee the computer world of the Grid. Brought into being just after the events of the 1982 film, Clu looks as Bridges did back then. The computer-generated face (achieved by scanning Bridges as he is now using motion capture, then rendering CGI onto the face of a body double) doesn’t quite work, though. Much like the original film, the idea is far better than current computers can execute. Clu is effective in moments of extreme emotion, from laughter to rage. Where it fails is where Bridges, and all good film actors, excel: the expression of emotion through doing nothing, only a vague flicker crossing the face in ways that a computer algorithm can’t compute.

To be fair, that artificiality can be explained away by the fact that Clu is a computer program. Unfortunately, though, it’s also used to ‘de-age’ Bridges in a number of flashback sequences that just draw further attention to its drawbacks. The opening scene – set several years after the first film, with Flynn relating the story to his young son – is completely derailed by an obvious CG effect planted slap bang within a very human moment.

Let’s be fair – the original film wasn’t exactly known for its great insight, but for effects that pushed the boundaries of what was possible. Tron: Legacy does that too, but to a much lesser extent – and is less enjoyable as a result.

The top 10 musicals based on movies… that aren’t

Earlier today, I received an email from an online PR company promoting ticket exchange website Viagogo. Tying in with the arrival into the West End of Flashdance – the Musical, the website polled its users to find the most popular movie based on a musical. (Polling users to generate PR? Who would go in for such a thing, really?)

Winning the poll was Legally Blonde. That pleases me, if only because I’m seeing it for the first time in a couple of weeks and am really encouraged by all the positive noises from friends who have seen it before, as well as public sentiments such as those expressed in the poll.

However, there were some curious decisions further down the list. Not least because two musicals in the top ten weren’t based on movies at all – quite the reverse: they were stage musicals later adapted for the silver screen. And one entry in the list has never been a movie in the first place, although a related film has used the same source material…

Continue reading The top 10 musicals based on movies… that aren’t