Tag: william shakespeare

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Titus (1999)

titus

“If one good deed in all my life I did, I do repent it from my very soul.”

Going into Shakespeare Week, I didn’t expect too many surprises in terms of plot.  Even if I had never seen or read a version of the specific plays before, most of them are just general knowledge at this point.  Or, they’re loosely based on historical fact, so I have that to start with.  But with Titus I had never heard of Shakespeare’s play or knew a single thing about this adaptation.  It’s good to still be surprised by something that’s hundreds of years old and written by the most famous writer the world has ever known.


Caesar has died, and while his two sons (Alan Cumming as Saturninus and James Frain as Bassianus) rush to claim his throne, the people of Rome choose the recently returned Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins), the victorious army commander, as their leader.  But, Titus refuses and endorses Saturninus.  When Saturninus decides to take Titus’ daughter and Bassianus missus, Lavinia (Laura Fraser) as his wife, Bassianus and Lavinia run off to be together.  While Saturninus settles for Tamroa (Jessica Lang), Queen of Titus’ recently defeated enemies and current trophy of that defeat. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

Much Ado

“Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.”

What do you do after making one of the most expensive, most anticipated, most successful blockbusters of all time?  If you’re Joss Whedon, you get your friends together, grab a public domain classic play and shoot for a couple of weeks in your own house.  The massive success of Avengers: Assemble seems so obvious now.  But four years ago, it was a massive, risky swing that could have lead to an even bigger miss.  What could have made the concept of super hero movies collapse under its own weight, turned into one of the genre’s biggest hits.  Whedon’s next turn behind the camera, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, couldn’t have been a bigger departure from what had just made Whedon one of Hollywood’s most successful directors.


Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) has just lead a successful military campaign, quashing an uprising lead by his own brother, Don John (Sean Maher).  With his brother as prisoner in tow, Pedro arrives at the home of Leonato (Clark Gregg), where they’re all invited to stay.  Including one of Pedro’s lieutenants, Claudio (Fran Kranz), who immediately falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Julius Caesar (1955)

Julisu Ceasar

“The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar.”

Olivier…  Branagh…  Leguizamo…  Of all the greats to have performed Shakespeare on screen, the name Marlon Brando would never spring to mind.  When it comes to acting, he is undisputedly one of the best.  But his method acting roots and natural, mumble mouthed performances in so many of his iconic roles would never make me think he was up to the precision required to deliver Shakespearean dialogue.  So when I was deciding on which 10 Shakespeare movie adaptations would make the cut for Shakespeare Week, seeing Brando’s name in the credits was a guarantee that Julius Caesar would make the cut.  If for no other reason than pure curiosity.


It’s the year 44 BC, and Julius Caesar (Loui Calhern) returns to Rome after winning a war against Pompey.  By his side are two great friends and allies, Brutus (James Mason) and Marc Antony (Brando).  But the loyalty of Brutus is soon put the test, and ultimately compromised, by scheming senator Cassius (John Gielgud).  It’s not long before Brutus is leading the charge, helping plan and execute the murder of Julius Caesar, for what he genuinely believes is the good of Rome. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Merchant_of_Venice

“He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”

I don’t have a huge problem with old movies, books or stories in general being less than sensitive when it comes matters of race, gender and religion etc.  As wrong or as misguided as those attitudes can be, I still think it’s OK that they exist, as long as we acknowledge how wrong and misguided they were.  And hopefully even use them to keep moving in the right direction.  So while they’re existence doesn’t bother me, I am a little confused by the perpetuation of them.  Was Shakespeare an anti-Semite?  One look at The Merchant of Venice I’d have to assume yes.  And while I have no problem with the play still existing today, I have no idea why someone would want to make a lush, big budget movie version in the new millennium, that only seems to perpetuate Shakespeare’s terrible, terrible attitude.


Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) has a problem.  He’s got his heart set on Portia (Lynn Collins), but wooing her requires a crap load of money that he doesn’t have.  So he goes to his friend Antonio (Jeremy Irons) for help.  Antonio has a problem, he’s technically rich, but cash poor at the moment while his fleet of trade ships is all at sea, making his next fortune.  So Antonio gives his bond to local money lender, Shylock (Al Pacino).  Shylock has a problem, he’s Jewish, and in 16th century Venice, that basically means being a second class citizen.  It also means being abused and spat on regularly by the Christian Antonio. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Hamlet (1996)

“Murder most foul, as in the best it is, But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.”

1997, my grade 12 English teacher assigns us Hamlet to read.  That is the second and last time I have ever read a Shakespeare play.  But even now, almost two decades later, I still remember the story surprisingly well.  It’s one of Shakespeare’s most famous works, it’s loaded with a huge number of iconic Shakespeare lines and quotes that people know even if they don’t know where those lines and quotes come from.  Maybe my vivid memory is a result of being forced to discuss, analyse and dissect the play from every angle for weeks in class.  Or maybe I remember it so well all these years later, because it’s just that good a story.


Outside of the Danish royal castle, two guards (Ian McElhinney and Jack Lemmon as Bernardo and Marcellus) and Horatio (Nicholas Farrell) see a ghost of their recently deceased King.  Horatio immediately tells his friend, and son of the dead king, Prince Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh).  Hamlet is already a bit pissed off with his mother (Julie Cristie as Gertrude) for marrying his uncle (Derek Jacobi as Claudius).  But when he too receives a visit from his father’s ghost, who tells Hamlet that he was poisoned by Claudius, Hamlet becomes obsessed with exposing his uncle’s treachery. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Henry V (1989)

Henry V

“We would not seek a battle as we are, yet as we are, we say we will not shun it.”

I don’t know much about William Shakespeare and his plays. I know I had to study A Mid Summer Nights Dream in grade 11English, and Hamlet in grade 12 English.  I know I read every single one of his sonnets while at uni and somehow passed the unit without understanding a single word of any of them.  But when it comes to Shakespeare and movies, I know that three names stand out the most.  There’s Laurence Olivier for your very British, prestige adaptations.  There’s Orson Welles for the very cinematic, mid century interpretations.  And in (slightly) more recent years, there was Kenneth Branagh, bringing Shakespeare to the late 20th century.  With movies like Henry V.


It’s early 15th century England, and King Henry V (Kenneth Branagh) is on the verge of making some sort of pronouncement that will lead to seizing land from the church.  To distract him from that decree and that land seizure, some bishops convince him that through some convoluted laws of lineage, he is entitled to the crown of France.  So, instead of taking church land, Henry decides he’s entitled to some frog land instead. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Othello (1952)

Othello

When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.

Even though he busted out of the cinematic gate with a debut that is widely regarded as the greatest movie of all time, poor old Orson Welles didn’t have the smoothest of Hollywood careers.  Some movies flopped, some were taken away from him, and bankruptcy loomed more than once.  But even amongst his checkered resume, this one stands out as one of the rockiest.  Shot over three years, shutting down whenever he’d run out of money…  Using stolen sets and costumes from other movies shooting at the same time…  Forcing Welles to take pay cheque roles in other movies so he could finance this himself…  Orson Welles’ take on William Shakespeare’s Othello seemed doomed to fail, or worse, never even see the light of day.


A black Moor amongst white Italians, the 14th century isn’t the most racially tolerant time for a character like the titular Othello (Welles).  But he’s been so good in war for the Venetians, that they have taken him in and given him a not insubstantial amount of social standing.  Not enough for him to get away with wooing the daughter (Suzanne Cloutier as Desdemona) of the local Senator (Hilton Edwards as Brabantio), but he does it anyway.  Brabantio is pissed, but even more so is one of Othello’s underlings, Iago (Michael MacLiammoir). (more…)