Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Jillian Morgese, Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher
This review will include spoilers. Because, it's Shakespeare.
Yes, you read those credits correctly This film was directed by Joss Whedon. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, The Avengers - that Joss Whedon. What is Joss Whedon doing filming an adaptation of Shakespeare starring a bunch of people from his previous tv shows? What does he think he's doing writing the screenplay?
According to IMDb, it was a labor of love for him, filmed in only twelve days during a break from filming The Avengers, using his own home as the sets and locations. How awesome is that?
But how does it stand up as an adaptation of The Bard? My verdict: It won't supplant Kenneth Branagh's 1993 adaptation in my favorite film list, but it's not bad. The actors all managed to say their dialogue comfortably, which I think is the biggest challenge in making a film of Shakespeare, and an even bigger challenge if you're going to set the story in the present day as Whedon chose to do. None of the modern elements seem too awkward paired with the archaic theatrical dialogue. Horses and carriages are replaced by cars, the noblemen returning from the war carry firearms instead of swords, the constables watch the grounds of Leonato's estate on closed-circuit tv. But none of that detracts from the story.
In fact, the modern setting probably works better for this play because it's a comedy. We all laughed when, just after arriving at Leonato's estate, Benedick and Claudio are put up in what is clearly a little girl's bedroom complete with Barbie Dream House in the corner. The scene in which Don John tries to convince a disguised Claudio that Don Pedro is wooing Hero himself takes place in a swimming pool, with Claudio wearing a snorkel. After Don Pedro and Claudio convince Benedick that Beatrice is in love with him, Benedick's next scene with Beatrice is performed with Benedick doing exercises. At one point Benedick gives a soliloquy while jogging up and down a flight of stairs (Whedon really gives Alexis Denisof a workout in this movie). All of this emphasizes the comedy.
Another aspect that I think was a good creative choice: the film is in black-and-white. I suspect the modern sets in color would have been too distracting. This way the audience is able to concentrate on the glorious dialogue and the entertaining action, instead of being overawed by Joss Whedon's gorgeous house.
While it isn't the best ever adaptation of the play, it's a fun adaptation, cleverly done. And who wouldn't love Nathan Fillion reciting Constable Dogberry's immortal "I, sir, am an ass" speech?
Despicable Me 2
Starring the voice of Steve Carrell
Despicable Me was a surprisingly charming movie. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The sequel manages to do something that's always hard: It's just as good as the first film. In fact, it's so much fun I might have to pay to see it a second time.
The premise of the film is that since adding his three adopted daughters to his life, former supervillain Gru has retired from villainy and started working on just being a good dad. Of course, that would make for a dull film, so some trouble must come to Gru's life to create conflict, trouble that provides him with an opportunity to exercise some of his villainous muscles. It also provides ample opportunity for the adorable minions to do cute and humorous things. I have to admit, 80% of the reason I like these movies is the minions.
But aside from the cute factor, this move is gorgeously animated. The colors and textures are fabulous. I was dazzled by how good it was to look at. It's also very funny. I spent a lot of my time during the movie laughing heartily or smiling. I left the theater feeling satisfied and happy. I can't ask for much more out of a movie than that. I don't usually go to see films to be edified or enlightened; I go to be entertained. This film entertained me very well.