For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Testing the adaptability of a literary and theater masterpiece, Josh Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing obliterates
all of the pomp and ceremony typically associated with a Shakespeare
production, bringing it down to earth in Southern California.
The West Coast is audible in the characters’ accents, making the Bard’s vernacular sound 21st-century. Well-tailored suits and smartphones replace hosiery and swords, and the noble men returning from war are now WASPs, ostensibly government dignitaries.
Following two couples’ parallel romantic ordeals, Whedon draws out the rom-com elements inherent in the original play, not straying from the fact that this is a love story, or at least a story about how to love.
When Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese) attracts the affections of Claudio (Fran Kranz, The Cabin in the Woods), a jealous Don John (Sean Maher, Serenity) starts to crank the rumor mill, subsequently convincing Claudio of innocent Hero’s alleged sexual escapades. In the midst of the manipulation, Hero’s cousin Beatrice (Amy Acker, anotherCabin in the Woodsalum) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof, TV’s Dollhouse) are set up to fall in love, but are too busy verbally assaulting one another to recognize the scheme.
The antiquated morals expressed throughout the story seem more ludicrous in the contemporary context. Despite this, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the drama.
Opening Friday, this new Much Ado is not an attempt to proselytize in Shakespeare’s name, but an unpretentious effort to present the comedy in a fresh light. Akin to the complexity of the original, Whedon successfully cultivates the comedy without neglecting its darker aspects — a commendable feat considering this is the same man who wrote and directed last summer's blockbuster The Avengers.
To Shakespeare’s credit, it’s hard to go wrong with such an infallible script. —Aimee Williams