REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing

2 08 2013

Much Ado About NothingI’m not the biggest Shakespeare fan, especially not on screen.  (Perhaps my upcoming semester in the United Kingdom will help reverse that.)  I have learned to admire his intricate plots in various English classes by studying his plays “Julius Caesar” and “Othello.”  Moreover, I can appreciate how they remain thematically relevant centuries later.

But when you stick that Elizabethan dialogue in a modern day context, it’s just too much of a stretch for me.  Unless, of course, we’re talking about Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” which sledgehammers Shakespeare’s meaning into your skull.  Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” on the other hand, is seeking to bring all the nuance that was missing from his last feature (a low-budget indie called “The Avengers“).  The effort is commendable, yet it never results in anything really gripping on the big screen.

Perhaps Whedon’s take on Shakespearean comedy would have played better on a stage.  I have no doubt that Whedon and his pals, such as fixtures Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion, enjoyed delving into the Bard of Avon.  They delight in their Santa Monica setting, and the exquisite lensing at least allows us a sort of Nancy Meyers/”It’s Complicated” vicarious enjoyment of beautiful homes.

But beyond the cinematography, I took little pleasure in “Much Ado About Nothing.”  Aside from a few of the film’s clever screwball gags, the humor didn’t really connect with me.  The romance was flat and uninteresting, save Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof’s well-played Beatrice and Benedick.  Most of all, I just didn’t feel Whedon effectively updated Shakespeare to our time, making for a rather uneven viewing experience.  C+2stars

REVIEW: The Avengers

15 10 2012

There are two kinds of people in this world: those that prefer “The Dark Knight” and Christopher Nolan, and those that “The Avengers” and Joss Whedon. I count myself absolutely and unapologetically in the first camp.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to like both; indeed, I did enjoy “The Avengers.” That point might be lost in this review since I will be attacking the ideology of filmmaking that produces movies like it, but Whedon recaptures the fun spirit that has been lost in Marvel films since Jon Favreau’s original “Iron Man” in 2008.

He doesn’t provide nearly enough justification for the wasting of four hours of my life on “Thor” and “Captain America,” but then again, I’m not the target audience. Just the sight of those figures will undoubtedly bring joy to many fans; I need a little bit more of a reason to care. I need to know why a purely expository story for “The Avengers” with little drama of its own is worth my time and money.

Whedon definitely embraces the inherent childishness of the comic books and places that as the center of the film; Nolan merely uses the familiar characters of renowned series as a facade to explore important social and cultural issues. There’s no discussion of serious issues in “The Avengers,” unless you count how New York would recover from the $160 billion of damage done to the city in the movie’s bloated climax.

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