William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Happy 450th Birthday, William Shakespeare! Well, sort of. We don’t know exactly when he was born, though the traditional date is April 23rd, 1564. It makes for good symmetry with his death 52 years later on April 23rd, 1616. We just aren’t quite sure. What we do know is that he was baptized on April 26th, 1564. Today is the 450th anniversary of that! And, given that we’re talking about the most influential writer in the history of the English language it does seem reasonable to celebrate his birthday for more than a single, potentially inaccurate Wednesday. Countless films have been inspired by the Bard’s work, including a handful of animated shorts. There’s Shakespearean Spinach, a ridiculous Popeye cartoon from 1940. A personal favorite is A Witch’s Tangled Hare, a Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1959 that builds its comedy from groan-inducing puns and vintage Looney Tunes absurdism. Yet instead of turning to the old studio shorts for material today, let’s look at Shakespeare through the work of a much more contemporary British artist.

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cymbeline

Michael Almereyda’s (Hamlet) latest film adaptation of a work of William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, has a lot going for it on the surface. Not only does it feature all of the flowery language and intricate, twisting plot elements that one would associate with a work that was penned by the Bard, but it also features an extensive ensemble cast that’s full of familiar faces, and more action than you can shake a stick at. Almereyda has taken a pretty soap opera-heavy story about love and deceit, set in a world of ancient nobility, and plopped it right down in a modern drug war between a crew of corrupt cops and a gang of unruly bikers, he’s got big stars like Ethan Hawke, Penn Badgley, Dakota Johnson, Milla Jovovich, Anton Yelchin, John Leguizamo, Ed Harris, and a handful of others helping to bring it all to life, and he’s brought more car crashes, machine guns, and explosions to the table than anybody likely ever imagined they would see in an adaptation of a Shakespeare work. What’s not to like? Well, seeing as Cymbeline seems to be trying to be all things to all people, that lack of focus on a clear tone could result in there being quite a few things not to like. At least for the people who have to sell it to audiences.

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Loki - Thor the Dark World

Tom Hiddleston joins us this week to discuss his third Marvel outing in Thor: The Dark World, and to find a match for Loki in the Shakespearean universe. Our interview is much ado about spandex, but before it, Geoff and I will share some non-superhero comic books we think should be turned into movies and hyper-sexualized HBO series. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #40 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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IMG_3431.CR2

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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Yelchin:Johnson

The cast of Michael Almereyda’s latest modern update of a Shakespeare work, Cymbeline, keeps swelling with notable names. The casting story on this one started with the news that Ethan Hawke, who also starred in Almereyda’s 2000 version of Hamlet, would be lending his hand in an undisclosed role to this film as well, it kept going with the news that Ed Harris had been brought on to play the title character of the piece, King Cymbeline, and somewhere along the lines Penn Badgley and Milla Jovovich were brought on board as well. That’s a pretty solid lineup already, and Almereyda wasn’t event done yet. The latest casting news, from Screen Daily, is that two more notable names have just been brought on board to round out the cast. Said names are Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin and 21 Jump Street’s Dakota Johnson. Given the amount of actors already signed for this one and the fact that Shakespeare’s original story is kind of complex, figuring out who everybody is playing is something of a confusing endeavor. Let’s do our best to untangle the knot.

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Much Ado About Nothing

Are you one of those people who could just never get into Shakespeare? Did you pound your head against your desk when you had to read him in school? Doze off when you had to watch that acting major you were dating sophomore year of college perform in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Well maybe Avengers director Joss Whedon making a screen version of a Shakespeare play, complete with a cast of familiar faces from all of his cult TV shows, is the thing that can finally be your gateway into The Bard. Still skeptical? No problem, because now there’s a trailer out for Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, so you can give it a try without having any fear of committal. As you can see from the ad, not only does this film look like a vibrant, fun, and modern adaptation done in the Baz Luhrman tradition, but it’s also a great opportunity for genre geeks to live out dreams like watching Agent Coulson rub elbows with Captain Mal, or finally getting the chance to see Wesley Wyndam-Pryce properly romance Fred. There’s something here for everyone.

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Paolo and Vittorio Taviani went to Rebibbia Prison to cry. Years ago, the pair took a trip to an all-inmate performance of selections from Dante’s Inferno that made them weep more than any professional theater. A trip through Hell, after all, is an appropriate choice for a theatrical production conducted in a maximum security prison. One of the inmates read the tale of Paolo and Francesca, perhaps Italian literature’s greatest narrative of doomed romance. Yet in the context of the prison it was even more potent. The man paused to tell the audience his own story, asserting that no one knows the tragedy of impossible love like an inhabitant of Rebibbia, locked away from his beloved for the rest of his life. Between their tears, Paolo and Vittorio decided to shoot their next film behind those walls. The result is Caesar Must Die, Italy’s official submission this year for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The Tavianis worked with the prison and its arts program on a production of William Shakespeare‘s “Julius Caesar,” filming the rehearsal process and final performance. More than that, however, the brothers scripted around the play itself and created a semi-documentary film that follows the internal life of the prisoners alongside their theatrical performances. The inmates not only perform as Shakespeare’s Romans but also as fictionalized versions of themselves. The result is a 76-minute tour de force that packs more punch than many a three-hour adaptation of “Hamlet” or “Henry V.”

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What can one truly say about Shakespeare? He’s a writer whose work has survived centuries of history, and his stories are still being adapted, both directly and indirectly. While his dramatic work is what’s most delved into by filmmakers, his comedies are what’s most fascinating. The plot of Much Ado About Nothing centers on Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) serving as matchmaker to a few lovers in waiting. Pedro’s job involves matching not only the compliant, Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz), but also the not so compliant, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof). He sees what many do not and with the use of a few simple tricks to help push each couple in the right direction, he’s able to create a scenario in which love finds its way. Not focused on depth, Joss Whedon‘s take offers comedy gag after gag, and there’s barely any time when a joke doesn’t land perfectly. It helps to have the likes of Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Denisof and Kranz in your cast. The actor spotlight begins early in the film, where a character calls for music, they turn to the iPod and Gregg starts swaying – creating an inextricably funny moment solely from his expression intertwined with his movement. So many comedies are unable to have more than a handful of memorable moments like this, but Much Ado About Nothing has dozens.

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #120): “The Bard” (airdate 5/23/63) The Plot: A talentless writer begs his way into an TV writing opportunity, but it requires knowledge of black magic. He finds a book on the dark arts, or at least it finds him, and soon he’s conjured up the most famous writer in history. The Goods: Julius K. Moomer is a very determined television writer. Unfortunately he’s not a very good one. His persistence pays off though when he convinces some folks to give him a shot at writing the pilot to a pre-approved TV show. The subject is black magic, so armed with a complete lack of knowledge on the subject he heads to a local bookstore for inspiration. A magical tome literally jumps towards him, and soon he’s playing around with powers beyond his comprehension. And by that I mean he conjures up William Shakespeare to write a TV script.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr walks around his apartment naked, rents out hookers of various shapes and sizes then tries to pick up married women on a subway. He figures if it’s good enough for Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s Shame, then it’s good enough for anyone. Of course, this leads Kevin to spending most of the rest of the day weeping in his birthday suit. Shaking off the humiliation, he decides to take in some culture and give Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus a gander, being one of them Shakespeare pictures and all. Unfortunately, he never stops giggling about the name of the movie long enough to decipher all of the fancy Elizabethan language, and Kevin ends up weeping again, curled up naked in his shower.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr puts on some 3D glasses to look at some puss… in boots, that is. He proceeds to rewrite fairy tale fiction to include more bodily function humor, an egg-shaped Zach Galifianakis and a hairy but still sexy Salma Hayek. Then, he heads to the reference department of his local library to discover who really wrote the complete works of William Shakespeare. When all signs point to Neil Miller as the real author, Kevin gives up, realizing he’s out of time. So he brings sexy back and heads out to kidnap Amanda Seyfried so he can occupy Hollywood and start a revolution together… or get arrested.

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Somehow, in the age of the Internet and information overload, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has managed to complete production on a film that nobody ever knew was even in development. Apparently writing and directing Marvel’s upcoming, massive superhero team-up movie The Avengers hasn’t been keeping the creative visionary busy enough, because in his downtime he has penned an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, cast it, and put it in front of cameras. Wow, that shouldn’t help to make the Cult of Whedon any less fervent. Much Ado About Nothing is one of those Shakespeare comedies that takes several romantic couples and mixes up the pairings in order to produce momentary drama. I’m not sure if that’s really a legitimate way to categorize a work, but there are at least a few of them, I remember that much from college. The cast includes Whedon veterans Amy Acker and Alexis Denisoff playing the male and female leads Beatrice and Benedick, Franz Kranz and Jillian Morgese playing the secondary couple Claudio and Hero, and supporting roles by people like The Avengers’ Clark Gregg and additional Whedon vets like Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher. Maher himself confirmed on his Twitter account that this project isn’t a hoax by saying, “I promise you it’s the real deal and we’re VERY excited about it!” With those sorts of names put together in one cast, I’m sort of excited about it, too.

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Does the world need another Romeo and Juliet? It’s unclear. The work is so heralded that it’s almost become a cliche, but there’s no denying the power of star cross’d lovers fighting against they’re own nature to make their secret marriage work. According to Variety, Hailee Steinfeld and Gossip Girl‘s Ed Westwick have already been cast – Steinfeld playing the iconic, title female role and Westwick playing Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin who ends up challenging Romeo to a crucial sword fight. Oscar winner Julian Fellowes is adapting the script from the play by Old Bill Shakespeare for director Carlo Carlei (who hasn’t done any directing since the mid-90s). Holly Hunter is also on board as The Nurse, so try and figure out what to make of all of this based on that list of names. It’s baffling, but sometimes that’s how great art gets made, right? Right?

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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 Sunday, Film School Rejects presents a film that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies presents the story of James Cagney turning into a donkey, a jealous king who wants to steal an Indian child, an amateur acting troupe trying to present the story of a wall, and a group of young lovers who need a little help from the woodland narcotics to realize their undying emotions for each other. Plus, as a bonus, little Mickey Rooney cackles like a drunken hyena to no one in particular. It’s Shakespeare, so you know it’s smart.

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Roland Emmerich loves destruction. If you can’t glean that little tidbit from his filmography — Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 — then you’re doing it wrong. The man loves to take something great, like Earth or humanity, and force us to watch it die in the most theatrical (not to mention implausible) ways. So it makes perfect sense that he will next tackle the work of William Shakespeare with Anonymous.

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