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October 13 2013

Chat about Much Ado About Nothing. The movie was on limited release in the cinema so not many Whedon fans got to see it. But now it's released on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes etc. So come tell us what you thought of Joss' black and white adaptation.

I guess I'll start then: I loved how a lot of the acting felt quite theater-like. At least that's how I'd describe the very emphasized physicality in the scenes with Alexis and Amy eavesdropping on the conversations in which the others are fully aware they're listening. The goofiness was really well done. And the juxtaposition of the "old" language with the modern setting (a.k.a. Joss' house) including iPhones as music players and desktop computers in the police station paired with a black and white picture really worked beautifully.
It took me about 15 to 20 minutes to get used to the rhythm of the language but once I was in, geez I was hooked.
Watching it again makes it so much more enjoyable because first, I catch more things the second time through and most importantly, because there are no subtitles in a movie theater. E.g., without subtitles, I didn't realize the extent to which Dogberry was misusing words because they sound similar enough that my mind was auto-correcting them. People in the audience were laughing, and I was left wondering what was so funny about what he said. I'm not used to Shakespeare, so subtitles are SO nice.
I was the same way, Simon. Took me a little bit to get used to, and then I was in the whole rest of the way.

It was beautiful, but the acting was just, wow. Amy and Alexis, of course, but Fran really blew me away, too. So different from Marty or Topher in his approach.

Clark, Nathan, Sean, Ashley (Ellie for life!), Jillian (what a find she is)...everybody was just so very good at what they do. It was such a treat to watch. They really invested you in the characters and sold the meaning of the language even when I didn't understand every word.

Well done all around.

ETA: Also, I loved the conversational, underplaying of the words. Grounded it in a reality, I thought.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2013-10-13 18:02 ]
I felt like if I could just be out in that garden listening to "Sigh No More" and watcing the trapeze artists, life would be perfect. Also thought the way Reed Diamond made *everything* sound like contemporary conversation was perfect.
Finally pulled myself away from baseball to see the Blu-ray. I saw it with the cast commentary, which is basically a lot of goofy comments that are fun to enjoy. I'll get to Joss' commentary later today. The shorts about how the movie was produced and the bus trip, are must-sees. You get a lot for your dollar with this DVD.
Cast commentary? Shorts about how the movie was produced? This European owner of the UK DVD weeps tears of jealousy.

That said, finally watching the film was worth it. It sucked me right in and for some reason all the plot points somehow seemed natural. Wonderful acting and the house is just perfect.
I just watched both commentaries and the other extras, which are excellent. Joss' solo commentary was informative and the cast commentary was just plain fun - I do wish Amy had said more. I saw the movie three times in the theater and appreciated it more each time as I understood more and more of the language. Dogberry's malaprops must have been LOL hilarious to an Elizabethan audience. Everyone gave a great performance, but this is Alexis and Amy's movie. Amy especially confirmed my opinion that she is one of the very best actresses on the planet. Why she's never gotten the great parts, or the resulting acclaim like Meryl Streep, I'll never figure out.
I saw the movie yesterday for the first time. I really enjoyed it, especially the cinematography by Jay Hunter, I thought it looked beautiful.

As far as the acting I really thought Amy was above the rest, although I was pleasantly surprised by Fran. Nathan of course, is always wonderful.
Am I dumb for having to turn on the subtitles to really get into it?

Really enjoyed it though. Was that really his own home? Beautiful.
Can anyone comment on whether they've tried the US blu-ray in a non-US region blu-ray player? That is, is it region locked? I'd really like the extra extras on the US version.

(If the answer to this was posted elsewhere, sorry, I've missed it.)
Argh! Haven't gotten my DVD yet - preordered but with a supersaver bundle so won't get till Wednesday. But, I saw it twice in the theaters and once On Demand at a friend's house sooooo

Absolutely loved it. I've seen at least four different versions of MAAN, including Branagh's and the Tennant/Tate version, and this was just heads above the rest. The 'would I were a man' scene in particular just sent shivers down my spine. When we watched it on demand we rewould three times to watch that scene over and over again. Acker is incredible.

Also really liked Sean Maher's Don John and the Borrachio/Conrade duo, I felt more in touch with those characters than in any previous version, when they were forgettable.

Funny story - the first time I saw it in theater, during the party scene at the end, a girl a row behind me whispered to a friend "I thought everyone died in the end?!?"
@Bluey My US Blu-ray shows it is locked to region A. Sorry.
Aye, Lionsgate tend to region lock their Blu-Ray releases.
I saw it in the theater three times, and just bought the blu-ray. It seemed like a group of people who genuinely care about each other, doing a project just for the love of doing it.
I love this film, it was easily my favorite film of the summer (to be fair, I didn't see many movies this summer). I love the B&W treatment, the setting, the acting, the energy and the little touches Joss added to make it his own interpretation.

My favorite thing about the film is Amy Acker, she is simply marvelous. It is my sincere hope that she get nominated for multiple awards for her performance.

This film is now on my list of favorite Shakespeare movies, which also inlcudes "Titus" by Julie Taymor, "Richard III" by Richard Loncraine and "Hamlet" by Kenneth Branagh.

[ edited by dharmakirti on 2013-10-14 15:09 ]
Reed Diamond was another standout. His being "foppish" on the commentary was hillarious. I would love to see a future collaboration between Joss and Reed.

[ edited by dharmakirti on 2013-10-14 15:32 ]
Watched the U.S. blu-ray over the weekend. I've seen and read a lot of Shakespeare over the years but this was the first Shakespearience for my 12 y-o son. We both loved it. Joss's music was perfect and the acting was terrific. I agree with dharmakirti–Amy is superb and for me Clark Gregg is downright luminous. The whole cast is in fine form (no one mewled for noting or was wrong mistook a coxcomb). Captain "write me a [tight] ass", Reed Diamond, Alexis Denisof are other standouts.

My son took about 20 minutes to adjust to the language. After that we mostly just stopped infrequently so I could show off my knowledge–x really means y, etc.

It will sound odd but my only small quibble is the setting. It felt a bit confined and "house-bound". (It does sound odd for a play I've seen on the stage dozens of times.) M. le Purple has a gorgeous house and this is only a nit.
Besides Amy Acker, obviously, I especially found Clark Gregg to be a treat. After finding his character in the MCU ho-hum, I was surprised and pleased to fall instantly in love with him as Agent Leonato.

Comparing with Kenneth Branagh's 1993 version, I was immediately reminded why I prefer Branagh's acting to his direction. Joss' film is light and entertaining compared to the overly emphatic 1993 version, where every line might as well have been "THIS... IS... SHAKESPEARE!" (and this despite BRIAN BLESSED having only a minor part). This can be an excellent choice for the tragedies, but really has no place in a comedy.

The black and white cinematography was also beautiful, even if I never quite got that "noir" vibe they supposedly were going for. (Or maybe I'm just spoiled, having watched Orson Welles' Othello, which remains the definitive Shakespeare noir.)
I haven't exercised my "Shakespeare watching" muscle in a while, so I had the same experience as Simon and others: initial adjustment, then total immersion. And when Amy launches into the amazing "Oh, if I were a man!" speech, the screen practically melts. For that matter, every scene with Amy and Alexis sparkles - they were born to play these parts. The rest of the cast is right there, too.

And can we please get a "Dogberry and Verges" cop series, stat? Sweet fluffy Buddha, I could watch Fillion and Lenk bumble about forever.
I'm pretty familiar with the play -- to the point that I know stuff that not only Joss cut, but Branagh cut as well. So I'd say that Joss did a pretty darn good job. However, I want to watch it again and start to unravel what he's saying about gender roles a little more.

All the little touches were excellent, though. And Nathan is a vastly better Dogberry than Michael Keaton was.
Also thought the way Reed Diamond made *everything* sound like contemporary conversation was perfect.

Yes. Although Amy was, for me, the "star" of this production (I wish she was in this year's Oscar conversation, but I don't think that's going to happen) I also completely expected her to blow me away. But Reed Diamond just gave a little master-class on modern-dress Shakespeare acting. Completely respectful of the language, but also thoroughly inhabiting it with a 21st century sensibility. Amazing.

Nathan is a vastly better Dogberry than Michael Keaton was.

That is true, although Keaton's is just so completely unhinged and bizarre that it has its own entertainment value. I can't tell if Keaton just didn't understand the character at all or just opted for a really perverse take on it, but you can't say he's not memorable. But Fillion is hilarious--I do wish a little more of Dogberry's dialogue had been left in, though; I particularly missed "comparisons are odorous."
For fellow Amy Acker admirers, I can only recommend checking out Person of Interest where she is now a regular, it seems. It's her best TV performance since Angel. I love it when she does playfully dark characters.

It's amazing how she can totally turn on a dime from one thing to the other. Something I rarely see with other actors since they always seem to be playing themselves "in the role of X." But not with her. Her mannerisms, her voice, her body movements and gestures. All completely different every time. I think I finally have a worthwhile answer for the random small talk question "who is your favorite actor" that I would previously only shrug off.
Joss' film is light and entertaining compared to the overly emphatic 1993 version, where every line might as well have been "THIS... IS... SHAKESPEARE!"

If any of you have never seen the Branagh version, don't be put off by claims like this. I think it is completely winning (and one of the few actresses who could rival Amy Acker's Beatrice is the sublime Emma Thompson). It has its weaknesses, to be sure (Keanu fricking Reeves!) but Branagh and Thompson are fantastic. The more great versions of any and all of Shakespeare's plays the better. We don't need to drag one down in order to raise another up.
I agree, Yoink. Nobody gives you easier access to the text than Branagh without destroying the poetry. I'd really recommend his Iago opposite Mr Torres.

Having said that, I don't know why Amy Acker isn't a megastar. I mean (1) she's an astonishing actor (Fred - Illyria), (2) she can really do funny, and (3)... look at her, and the scenes between her and Alexis seem more real than Ken and Em. Particularly the scene where they finally confess their love. That scene in Branagh's version just seems like they were running out of time.
>sigh< I wonder if I'll ever get to see the US extras.

Seems unfair when we've paid probably slightly more for the disk.
Lionsgate wouldn't license the US extras to the UK distributor.
Lionsgate, those people are so petty... and tiny.

I listened to both commentary tracks, the one with the cast is a lot of fun. Was it just me, or did Joss seem more serious than usual in his director's commentary?
I couldn't follow it in the theatre (then again I couldn't follow King Kong -for which I later bought the disc- or War of the Worlds -which I didn't bother-) so, even though I sledom buyt anything first day of release, I saw it at Wal-Mart on Sunday and grabbed it -haven't had time to watch it yet, looking forward, though.

code65536 TaraLivesOn -Okay, the reasons you couldn't follow it in the theatre aren't the same as mine, but still, I got a 1400 on my SATS back in 1972 so don't feel bad about it, I feel in good company with you noth.
If any of you have never seen the Branagh version, don't be put off by claims like this.
If you've only seen Joss' version, compare e.g. this scene from Branagh's. I know which I prefer, and I know it's not a lack of ability of the actors; thus it must be the direction. YMMV, of course.

I'd really recommend his Iago opposite Mr Torres.
No argument here, Branagh is pitch perfect in Oliver Parker's Othello.
I love Branagh's version and Joss's version. They are both great. I have both on DVD.
Kwi, they're deliberately overacting in that scene because they're performing for Benedick's benefit.

Personally I think that scene is much funnier in Branagh.
Kwi, they're deliberately overacting in that scene because they're performing for Benedick's benefit.

Obviously. (Groan.) Anyway, as I said before, YMMV; let's leave it at that. :-)
But your original comment was complaining about every line being overly emphatic, and then as an example you show a scene where they're being deliberately over emphatic for good reason. You can excuse someone for assuming you've missed the point.

Anyway, as you said before, YMMV (?); let's leave it at that :-)

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