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Much Ado About Nothing(2012)
Stunning new vision of Shakespeare's classic comedy. When Leonato, the Governor of Messina is visited by his friend Don Pedro, he is accompanied by two of his officers: Benedick and Claudio. Claudio falls for Leonato's daughter Hero, while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice, the governor's niece. A series of comic and tragic events help keep the two couples from truly finding happiness - but then again, perhaps love may prevail in the end!
For more about Much Ado About Nothing and the Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray release, see Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, William Shakespeare (I)
Starring: Amy Acker, Emma Bates, Sara Blindauer, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg
» See full cast & crew
Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray Review
Joss Whedon gives them something to talk about.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 7, 2013
My wife and I went on one of our first dates together to see the Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing, and if memory serves, we may have even exchanged our first kiss goodnight after that evening out, a testament perhaps to that film's romantic allure. While Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet probably caught the zeitgeist of the nineties more appropriately than Branagh's intentionally purist take on Shakespeare did (or frankly was meant to), there's an ineluctable sweetness and even opulence to the Branagh film that seemed to have perfectly caught both the ebullience of the farcical elements of Shakespeare's play as well as some of the more poignant, yearning subtext. Joss Whedon's 2012 version is an entirely different beast, for better or worse, one that plays almost like Woody Allen doing a screwball comedy version of The Bard (think A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, only with more actual Shakespeare), replete with black and white visuals, quasi-improvisatory sounding dialogue (despite it being more or less unadulterated Shakespeare) and an informal ethos which is distinctly at odds with the more structured world of England's most famous playwright and poet. This approach will seem pretentious and off putting to some, while probably reaching just as many as an interesting and even compelling take on the material. Whedon himself admits in one of the two commentaries included on this Blu-ray that he saw Much Ado About Nothing as something of a (literal) home movie (the film was shot in Whedon's own Los Angeles mansion), and a chance to reunite with longtime friends who had regularly met to read through various Shakespeare works, after Whedon's nearly year long absence while he made The Avengers. That may therefore label this Much Ado About Nothing as the very model of a vanity project, and while that may be true, there's also a refreshing honesty to Whedon's approach here, one that is less reliant on glamorous sets and costumes and more on the actual inner lives of the characters.
Much Ado About Nothing derives most of its comedy from the contrast between two older characters who are experienced in the vagaries of romance and two younger, more starstruck, paramours. The elders are Benedick (Alexis Denisoff) and Beatrice (Amy Acker), while the neophytes are Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese). Whedon's major conceit here, one which can be seen as at least hinted at in Shakespeare's original text (though few if any have exploited it), is that Benedick and Beatrice actually have a history which predates the timeframe of the actual story. This adds a certain layer of back story which informs their relentless banter in the play's first section, and which may in fact give contemporary audiences more of a "hook" into the characters and plot, since younger viewers especially are so used to television outings which feature quasi-bickering couples who are of course secretly madly attracted to each other. The younger couple, meanwhile, has no such history but find their "true love" hampered by the machinations of those around them who are seeking, for their own selfish reasons, to keep them apart.
Much Ado About Nothing follows Shakespeare's preferred comedic method in at least a few of his plays of presenting two couples who are obviously ultimately going to end up with each other, but who first either skirmish for a while or are kept apart by various misunderstandings. Both of those elements are fully in play in Much Ado About Nothing, and Whedon forges his way through the two interconnected plotlines with a casual approach which finds the camera careening past various characters and catching little vignettes that illuminate the various back and forth between Benedick and Beatrice and the faltering series of misapprehensions between Claudio and Hero. True to Shakespeare's other typical approach in his comedies, there's a large and colorful supporting cast, including Hero's father Leonato (Clark Gregg), who is hosting the get together where all the characters have gathered; brothers Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) and Don John (Sean Maher); and dunderheaded cop Dogberry (Nathan Fillion), who manages to restore order—if only barely—despite his tendency to both say and do stupid things. Whedon literally weaves through this kaleidoscope of people, capturing them both in their private téte-à-tétes, both romantic and argumentative, as well as in larger group scenes where things can really get out of hand.
While the informal flavor of Whedon's approach lends itself to the play's ebullient party atmosphere, there's also a disconnect that accrues from the modern setting, something that seems to have been done more for convenience sake than for any overriding artistic vision. Lovers of Shakespeare have long been used to directors coming along and rebooting The Bard's iconic works in unexpected ways (my own personal "favorite" being an All's Well That Ends Well done in a science fiction milieu, and, no, I'm not kidding—unfortunately). Sometimes those efforts can inform— gently or otherwise—the text with unlikely new insights, but here there's little additional import offered by Whedon's approach, and in fact in a way the glamour of Whedon's palatial manse is almost antithetical to the silly meanderings of the characters.
Much Ado About Nothing may be best appreciated as an interesting experiment, and for some (my hunch is, younger viewers especially) this may be a relatively painless way to absorb a little culture. The film is buoyed by a nice set of uniformly breezy performances. Fillion especially is charmingly amusing, showing an extremely deft approach toward physical comedy. And while there's a certain distance from the material here, despite Whedon's up close and personal directorial techniques, the film if nothing else is yet another example of what a stunningly multifaceted talent Whedon is.
Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray, Video Quality
Much Ado About Nothing is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. As mentioned above in the main body of the review, Whedon shot this on the fly with handheld digital cameras in and around his own home, and this therefore does not have the glossy (some might even say artificial) ambience of Whedon's The Avengers. The black and white image here is nicely crisp and well defined, offering solid blacks and good gray scale, and with excellent fine detail which is nonetheless occasionally mitigated by blown out contrast. Whedon seems to want the backgrounds of sunny southern California to glow ever so slightly, and that tends to lead to a slight bleed through (for want of a better term) of blooming whites penetrating things like doors and windows. There are also just a couple of very brief moments of slight noise spiking when the film gets into less brightly lit scenes, but you have to look quickly to catch them.
Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much Ado About Nothing's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 comes fitfully to life in several of the more crowded scenes, where surround activity upticks appreciably, but this is by its very nature a wordy piece which doesn't offer a lot of opportunity for overwhelming sonic activity. When the film moves outdoors, there are occasional nice ambient environmental effects, and Whedon also contributes the score (did he also manage craft services?) that spills into the surrounds quite pleasingly.
Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
For personal (and perhaps obvious) reasons, I frankly much prefer Branagh's take on this material, but Whedon fans especially will find this yet another example of what an unbridled, versatile talent he is. The modern dress and setting provide a perhaps ironically anachronistic element here which (for some at least) may be yet one more obstacle, insurmountable or not, to delving into the "thickness" of Shakespeare's language. Whedon may have hoped that this approach would at least lessen the visual strangeness of the play, but it seems more like shorthand here than the result of any overarching vision. Despite these qualms, Much Ado About Nothing offers some extremely winning performances and a nicely fluid filming. Recommended.
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Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: October 8-15 - October 6, 2013
For the week of October 8th, Warner Home Entertainment is bringing The Hangover: Part III to Blu-ray. Other titles include the full-length version of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing adaptation, the second American Horror Story ...
• Much Ado About Nothing (2012) Blu-ray - August 6, 2013
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of director Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing (2012), starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg and Fran Kranz. Whedon's modern retelling of Shakespeare's timeless ...
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