Romeo and Juliet

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If you’re a product of the public school system in the United States, then you were probably subjected to “Romeo and Juliet” at some point. For me, it was in junior high school, with the highlight being that our teacher let us watch the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version in class. And there was a double bonus when our teacher, who was instructed to fast-forward through the nude scene, accidentally stopped the tape right on actress Olivia Hussey’s breasts. These things happen. Of course Zeffirelli’s film was meant to be an earnest and straightforward adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, using the same language from Shakespeare’s original. But writer Julian Fellows, of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, wanted to change the language for this adaptation. “We were determined not to exclude that same young audience, those same young men and and women whose discovery of love, a discovery which is new for every generation, is being examined here.” Which is pretty much just flowery words that mean, “Yeah, we pretty much rewrote this thing in the hopes of getting younger audiences into the theaters and keeping them awake.” Unfortunately, it also means that many of Shakespeare’s most famous dramatic moments have been undercut or dampened, and the end result is that the film feels more like the Cliff Notes than the play. The gist of Shakespeare’s words are there, but the life has been sucked right out of them.

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Great Expectations

Do we need new Romeo and Juliet and Great Expectations film adaptations? In a word – sort of. This fall brings two new film adaptations of classic works of drama and romance and seriously funny character names (Havisham? Come on), just in time for high school students the world over to have a shiny new version of their assigned reading to watch on the big screen (sorry, books). Mike Newell tackles Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” with his new take on the enduring novel, a “faithful” adaptation of the 1860 book about terrible, terrible, just terrible people and the havoc that class warfare can wreck on young love, which is set to hit theaters in November. Before that, however, we’ll be getting yet another new Romeo and Juliet film this October, this one by Carlo Carlei, who has reportedly maintained the Renaissance era Verona setting of William Shakespeare’s most famous play, while also jettisoning the traditional dialogue and casting a former Gossip Girl star. But which of these films – if either – is actually necessary?

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It’s tough to feel anything about this trailer for Romeo & Juliet. Sure, it’s adapted by Downton Abbey mastermind Julian Fellowes. Yes, it’s great to see Hailee Steinfeld taking on another leading role. Without a doubt, the visuals look lush and the lines are spat with intensity. But it’s also simply one more adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous work to add to the pile. Other than swapping out the players, what more can really be done that hasn’t been done already? Good thing it’s gorgeous. Check it out for yourself:

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Romeo and Juliet

Yes, Carlo Carlei‘s take on Romeo and Juliet does have a few things going for it – most notably, a stellar cast that includes Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet and Douglas Booth as Romeo, along with Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Stellan Skarsgard, and apparently Ed Westwick just for scenery-chewing funsies – but even the best cast in the world can’t avoid one major, glaring problem with this new version of Shakespeare’s classic. Namely, that this one just seems utterly pointless. Carlei’s vision is a classic one – it doesn’t have the flash of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, or the revisionist fun of something like West Side Story – but it also doesn’t even attempt to improve upon the gold standard traditionalist take of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version. Why, exactly, is this being made now? Are kids today really in need of a just-barely-updated version of the film to watch during English class post-Shakespeare reading? Well, probably. Enjoy some, well, totally mediocre delights with the first trailer for the new Romeo and Juliet after the break.

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Wuv! Twue wuv! While there are a million twists on Shakespeare, Franco Zefferelli‘s version of the star cross’d lovers remains an enduring classic of tragic romance cinema. But what would it look like if it were marketed today as a heel-clicking romantic comedy? In continuing our exploration of Modernized Classics, we’ve turned again to master mashup artist ChugsTheMonkey to take a shot at Romeo and Juliet. The result is an adorable, upbeat look at two youngsters who are destined to be together forever. Wacky sidekicks not optional.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the only nightly movie news column to be cast in both The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. It will play the same character in both: a movie news column that, after delivering the news unto the people, rides off into the sunset on a badass motorcycle. It will make sense in context in both films, we promise. We begin tonight with an image of Jack Black in Richard Linklater’s black comedy Bernie, about a small-town mortician who makes friends with an elderly woman (played by Shirley MacLaine). The mustache looks creepy, but the last time Black and Linklater teamed up (School of Rock), Black was at his best. Here’s hoping that happens again when the film opens next month’s LA Film Festival.

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This time a week ago I never would have imagined I’d stay up all night Thursday, having my own little tea and scones party, to watch a wedding of two people I didn’t know. Even if the festivities were thrown by the English Royal Family in honor of the most recognizable union of royal and commoner. It wasn’t until Wednesday that I caught the bug and started feeling a connection to these two genetically gifted kids who had the balls to get up in front of 15 billion people and pledge themselves to each other and their country. I had Royal Wedding fever, and I was going to do everything I could to make that moment last. The decision to keep many details of the wedding a secret and the media inflated love story spanning almost a decade was too much for even my cold heart to keep from melting. It was the real life movie version of all those BBC costume dramas and Jane Austen adaptations I spent years watching. The chaste, passionate love of two people who shouldn’t be together defying the odds, marrying, and starting a life so many of us will never experience. But at the same time it was relatable and sweet—just like Jane Austen always promised.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Ah, the greatest love story ever told, and the trailer for the version that’s most played in high school freshman English classes (despite some naked man ass and a nanosecond of teenage breast). Jokes aside, Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 take on two star cross’d lovers really is an absolute masterpiece, even if that song gets stuck farther into your head than the latest from Lady Gaga. It’s catchy, and the lute is a hell of an instrument. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray, my usual role as expert tour guide through the wild and wonderful world of Blu-ray takes a back seat. Emerging in its place is my new role: guy who points out the obvious. For instance, if I told you that Criterion successfully put out an impressive version of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, I wouldn’t exactly blow chunks of your brain out of your skull and all over your office walls. If I said that Universal took great care in presenting Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in glorious high definition on its 50th anniversary, it wouldn’t slice through the fabric of your reality, revealing for you a fresh, unique worldview. And if I told you Robert Rodriguez’ Predators was just ok… well, you get the idea. The time is now for me to tell you that which you probably already know. But I will certainly try to do so with style.

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fightclub-soapheader

If you thought Fight Club was about violence and chaos, you were wrong. If you thought it was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, you might be on to something.

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Christmas Time is Here!

From Twelve Drummers Drumming to Nine Ladies Dancing to a Partridge in a Pear Tree, we take a look at Twelve Films that should have been sung about.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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