Tag Archives: Much Ado About Nothing

It’s Never Too Early: Pondering 2013’s Best Films … So Far

upstreamcolor_krisjeffbirds_3000x1277

I think 2013 has been a surprisingly strong year for movies. Okay, maybe not BIG movies, but there have been many smaller films that, to me, will rank high when the year comes to a close. I decided to make June 30 the cut-off here, so any film that has not officially opened before then (that I’ve already seen) is not here—hence, no “Blue Jasmine.” And of course, there are plenty of movies I still need to see that could make a dent: “Leviathan,” “Beyond the Hills,” “Simon Killer,” “The Act of Killing.” You’ll note that there is plenty of 2012 product here, but I am considering any film actually released in 2013 in North America is fair game. This list may change dramatically tomorrow, but today, in random order, here it is:

  • “Stories We Tell”
  • “Frances Ha”
  • “The Place Beyond the Pines”
  • “Upstream Color”
  • “Before Midnight”
  • “The Bling Ring”
  • “Lore”
  • “Mud”
  • “No”
  • “This is the End”

Some others that at the very least are in the conversation, for me: “The Gatekeepers,” “Side Effects,” “Room 237,” “Like Someone in Love,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Fill the Void,” “Spring Breakers,” “To the Wonder,” “Something in the Air” (yes, I think I’ve completely changed my mind on this one), “Ginger and Rosa.”

What do others think? Here are several lists of 2013’s halfway-point bests:

“Upstream Color” still from the film’s official site.

 

Weekend Preview: “Much Ado” About Brad, “Bling,” Brit, and “Monsters”

much ado still

Last weekend was pretty special, with “Before Midnight,” “This is the End,” and “Man of Steel” all opening, but guess what? This Friday is just as solid.

The biggies, of course, are “Monsters University” and “World War Z,” and we can expect these to land 1-and-2 (unless “Man of Steel” trumps Brad Pitt — more on that below) at the box office. How high will each go? That’s the question. It has been a shockingly quiet summer so far for straight family fare, so Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” sequel is dropping at the right time. It does seem that there has been less and less buzz with each new Pixar release since “Toy Story 3” in 2010 — “Cars 2” and “Brave” both did well enough, to be sure, but neither captured the zeitgeist as strongly as some other Pixar releases. I expect “Monsters” to make more dough than either “Cars 2” or “Brave,” and to play well into July.

Ahh yes, “World War Z,” that embattled, bloated, ending-challenged franchise-to-be. I’m not sure all that talk has hurt the film much, but then again, I never felt it necessarily had franchise written all over it. Reviews have been mixed so far, but the trailer look good, Brad Pitt is promoting the hell out of it, and it is rather unique in the summer lineup. I have not read Max Brooks’s book, but the changes Marc Forster and company made seem to make it a less interesting product. But there is nothing else quite like it this season, and you have to respect its ambition. I could see “Monsters” doing anywhere from $70 to $90 million, with “Z” ringing up $40 to $50 mill.

Where will “Man of Steel” fit into this equation? Zack Snyder’s reimagining of Superman opened so large — wayyy more than I predicted — that it could certainly beat “World War Z” to the number two spot. This second weekend will really determine if the film has “Dark Knight” legs, or “Amazing Spider-Man” legs. I expect the former.

Indie alert: This weekend sees the Buffalo release of three fascinating, unique films. I’ve seen two of them, and loved one.

First is the long-awaited release of a film I’ve prattled on about too often (for obvious reasons), Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” I am anxious to see if the film will play as well to me now as it did on a Sunday morning at TIFF; I believe it will. It is exciting to see the smart, funny film make it to Buffalo. It’s showing at the Dipson Eastern Hills.

Brit Marling is near the top on my list of favorite young actresses, but her latest, “The East,” was a stunning disappointment, surprisingly. Its plot, about a former FBI agent going undercover with an eco-anarchist group, held great promise, but the execution is all wrong. It feels childish, horribly unsubtle, and worst of all, just plain phony. It will play, to some, and there are certainly successful elements, not the least of which is Marling’s performance. She, and director Zal Batmanglij, who last collaborated on one of my favorite films of 2012, “The Sound of My Voice” — will be back.

Lastly comes Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” a glossy, stylized take on the real-life robbers who shocked Beverly Hills. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a Coppola fan, and her aesthetic seems an ideal fit with this material. Even if the film as a whole seems iffy, it stars the increasingly wonderful Emma Watson and a WTF-supporting cast: Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton as herself.

A couple other quick screening notes: The Screening Room is showing Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; it is followed at 9:20 on Saturday with the noir classic “D.O.A.”

And in the outdoor series world, Bacchus screens the iconic “Big Lebowski” on Wednesday (June 26); the UB North Campus shows “Oz the Great and Powerful” on Friday and “Monsters, Inc.” on Tuesday (June 25), both at 9:15; and the UB South Campus offers “Despicable Me” at 9:15 on Wednesday (June 26.)

All in all, a unique weekend. But sadly, there are some grim weeks of blockbuster releases ahead …

 

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Wednesday Round-Up: Defending “Marie Antoinette,” Debating “Man of Steel,” and Keeping Up With Patrick Bateman

Marie Antoinette

The middle of the week means it is time for my usual round-up of some of the articles I’ve been digging this week, including a handy list of “movies to see” at the mid-point of 2013. I’ve seen my share, but I have plenty of catching up to do …

First: I’m not sure what it is about Sofia Coppola’s films that seems to garner such strong reactions. I’ve met few folks who are in the middle about her work — it’s a love/hate thing, it seems. Her latest, “The Bling Ring,” starring Emma Watson, appears to open Friday in Buffalo (there is some confusion, but it is listed on Fandango), and it seems to be as glossy and surface-oriented as the rest of her films. But I have actually liked that about them. “Marie Antoinette” seems to be the most love-it-or-hate-it of the Coppola filmography, and on the occasion of “Bling”‘s release, New York Magazine’s Vulture website is mounting a spirited defense.

As author Amanda Dobbins puts it:

To be fair, not everyone hated Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” New York’s David Edelstein called it “one of the most immediate, personal costume dramas ever made”; 55 percent of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes sided with him, to varying degrees. But seven years later, “Marie Antoinette,” loosely based on the best-selling Antonia Fraser biography, is probably Coppola’s least-loved film. It’s the one that got booed at Cannes (though of course it did, Cannes is in France); it is the one that didn’t live up to “Lost in Translation.” And if you are anti-Sofia, then it is probably the most obvious example of her worst tendencies: style over substance, minimal plot, overprivileged young women who refuse to speak in full sentences or really at all.

But I think I’m with Ms. Dobbins here: “I happen to love ‘Marie Antoinette’; it’s probably my second favorite of Coppola’s films, right behind ‘Lost in Translation.’ And while I understand some of the criticisms (specifically the part about no one using words, ever), most of its so-called weaknesses — even that famous pair of Chuck Taylors — are the reasons I enjoy it. For all its historical trappings, ‘Marie Antoinette’ is just a painfully hip period film about how annoying and fun and terrifying it is to be a teenage girl. It is a high-school movie transplanted to Versailles.”

And the rest:

  • Speaking of Sofia Coppola, Movie City News has posted her debut short from 1998, “Lick the Star.”
  • Bret Easton Ellis himself said “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” “star” Scott Disick would be an ideal Patrick Bateman in an “American Psycho” remake, but it took Kanye West to make it so.
  • I finally saw “Man of Steel” last night, and I’ll share some thoughts soon. (Let’s say I enjoyed it, with reservations.) The Playlist offers a solid breakdown of the best and worst of Zack Snyder’s Superman epic, and there are lots of good points here.
  • Roger Ebert’s birthday was yesterday, and his website offered up a nice list of films for which his review “made the difference,” including “Hoop Dreams” and “Dark Skies.”
  • Pitchfork’s new movie website, The Dissolve, has not launched yet, but its Tumblr site has, and the great Scott Tobias has posted the aforementioned “movies to see” so far in 2013 list, along with DVD and Blu-ray release dates for some.
  • Now the Rob Ford scandal is impacting the Toronto International Film Festival.
  • Will Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” flop? This writer seems to think so, and offers some convincing reasons why.
  • Yet another trailer for Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives,” starring Ryan Gosling.
  • Interestingly, after a mixed — well, mostly negative — response at Cannes, the filmmanaged to beat “Stories We Tell” and “The Act of Killing” for top honors at the Sydney Film Festival.
  • Lastly, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is finally set to open in Buffalo this weekend. Here is a nice Guardian interview about that film, “The Avengers,” his career, and more.

 

Photo Credit: Sofia Coppola
**ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

Schobert on Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing”: “UTTER JOY.”

much_ado_about_nothing_ver2_xlg

 

On this rainy, perfect for black-and-white Thursday, I’m revisiting Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” the first movie I ever had the pleasure of beign quoted on, with a poster (see above) and a trailer. Seeing the trailer on the big screen before “The Great Gatsby” was pretty incredible.

It’s been a special experience for me. I saw the film on my last Sunday morning at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, wrote the review on my iPhone while standing in line for something else, and it was posted within minutes. I loved it, and look forward to seeing whether or not I feel the same after a second viewing.

Indiewire’s The Playlist reposted my review yesterday (it has already garnered some prickish reader comments. Here is the link, and here is a copy of the review:

How does one follow the biggest superhero film in box office history? Perhaps a better way to phrase it is, how does the man behind some of the most beloved cult TV series and characters in recent pop history follow the biggest superhero film in box office history? If we’re talking about the much-loved Joss Whedon – who else? – you decamp to your home, grab a camera, invite over your friends, and create a delightful, DIY, modern-day black-and-white adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Duh.

The result is an utter joy, Whedon’s most emotionally resonant and fully realized feature film to date. And I say that as one who is not a devoted member of the Whedon army. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed much of his work – I have, often. But I’ve not seen every episode of “Buffy” and “Firefly,” I never meandered into “Dollhouse,” and I thought “Dr. Horrible” was worth one viewing, but no more. Happily, outside of actor recognition, Whedon fanaticism is not a requirement to enjoy “Much Ado.”

Sure, “Firefly” fans will get an especially sharp kick out of seeing Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry react with horrified shock to being called an ass. But so will everyone else, and that’s Whedon’s genius here. He has created a Shakespeare adaptation that will please just about everyone. No easy task, that, especially since the first scene of the actors speaking Shakespeare’s dialogue feels jarring. Sure, modern-day versions retaining the original language have worked before… but will it here, in sunny, privileged Santa Monica? And will it be more than just another Bard adaptation? The whole project, after all, seemed to come out of nowhere, leaving one unsure what to expect. But we were wrong to worry. Whedon pulls it off, and makes us blush for having doubted that he could.

This incarnation of ‘Much Ado’ was shot over twelve days entirely at the director’s home, making this a sort of geek Architectural Digest spread come to life. For the uninitiated, or those who perhaps haven’t come upon the text since high school (like me), the film opens with the arrival of Don Pedro and company to the home of the wealthy and charming Leonato (a never-better Clark Gregg). His right-hand man, young Claudio (Fran Kranz) is in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), a match eased along by the cheerfully meddlesome Don Pedro.

Meanwhile, one member of the Don Pedro party, the caddish Benedick (Alexis Denisof) has a checkered past with Leo’s tart-tongued niece, Beatrice (Amy Acker). The duo form the film’s most irresistible couple, sharing a seemingly unbreakable bond of disgust. This is due to the crisp, wonderfully meaningful Bill Shakespeare dialogue (“When I said I would die a bachelor,” opines Benedick, “I did not think I should live till I was married”), but also its two stars.

I was unfamiliar with Denisof and Acker, both Whedon regulars from “Buffy” and “Dollhouse,” respectively, but I can say without question that ‘Much Ado’ should make them stars – or bigger stars, depending on your knowledge of the Joss-ary. Via knowing glances, sharp putdowns, and truly funny pratfalls, they bring Benedick and Beatrice to life in vivid fashion. Part of the fun of watching (and reading) “Much Ado About Nothing” is witnessing the clever series of pranks at its heart, and none is more enjoyable than the attempted union of B and B, with Denisof and Acker creating one of 2012’s most winning onscreen couples.
There are darker tricks afoot, as Claudio’s scheming brother Don John (Sean Maher) attempts to break the forthcoming marriage of Caudio and Hero. It is to Whedon’s and the actors’ credit that even knowing the story’s twists and turns, one finds the slander of Hero and, especially, the anger of her cousin Beatrice, so moving. Even during the film’s most love-sick stretch, there is humor, arriving in the form of Fillion’s Dogberry. As the buffoonish cop whose team discovers Don John’s plan, Fillion brings a burst of Whedon-y spirit to the proceedings, and, despite little screen time, gives one of the film’s most memorable and subtle performances.

“Much Ado About Nothing” appropriately ends with lovers united, evildoers punished, and, in this incarnation, a helluva party. Perhaps the film’s greatest accomplishment is the feeling this conclusion brings, one of smiles and joy. Watching Whedon’s take is a bit like sitting in on a dinner party of friends who feel not obnoxious, but friendly and lovable. Is it all a bit slight, and sometimes even amateurish? Sure, but that’s what happens when a group of friends make a film over twelve days. Its off-the-cuff nature makes for a film that is not flawless – the music is a bit daft, and some of the acting a little too “large” for the intimate setting – but is, from beginning to end, delightful. One gets the sense that this is less of an “Avengers” stop-gap for its director, and more a bold little battery-charger. Whatever Whedon’s intent, for audiences, it is one of 2012’s most unexpected treats. [A-]