Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Much Ado About Nothing (6/7)Released: June 7, 2013. Director: Joss Whedon. Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz. Runtime: 109 min.

I love English class. Grammar, poetry, improving my writing skills, reading, getting perfect scores on vocabulary quizzes. That’s my shit. It’s important to study literature. And Shakespeare’s a huge part of that. I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare – I think he’s a figure that’s much easier to respect or admire than he is to understand. The works of Shakespeare are something people study; rather than be entertained by. That is why Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is such a pleasant surprise.

Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying him are his two officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). Claudio falls for the governor’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while the personalities of Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick clash. Later, the main characters mean to trick Beatrice into falling in love. But what’s a good Shakespeare story without a villain? Pedro’s brother, Don John, plots to destroy the brewing marriage of Claudio and Hero before it even begins.

When one watches this film – they’ll have to re-adjust their expectations. When I think a modern retelling, I presume it will be in modern language, much like “10 Things I Hate About You.” That is not the case. Shakespeare’s words are kept, and placed into a modern setting; cars instead of horses, and now Claudio and Benedick are Pedro’s security detail. One might hope the language is merely a homage to Shakespeare – but no, after ten minutes – they’ll realize the language is going to stick.

It’s not a complaint exactly. I like a different cinematic experience. In retrospect, I should have anticipated a different experience considering, in an era of big-budget features and CGI-visuals, I was aware that the movie would be in black and white. (Is the cinematography for black and white movies always this great? Kudos, Jay Hunter.) It’s refreshing to see director Joss Whedon take on this indie passion project immediately after “The Avengers.” Only so many directors have that knack from going from superheroes to Shakespeare, and handling each just as well. I learn this was filmed in twelve days, on a budget so small, they couldn’t afford colour.

Anyway, even with the Shakespearian English, viewers will able to understand the basics, 90% of the time. Even if one doesn’t understand what the actors are saying exactly, they’ll be able to say “Ooooh, he’s angry!” or “Dang, she’s sad.” Thankfully, emotion and comedy are universal. This is a funny movie about the game that is love. I’m still laughing about some of the occurrences and I saw this a week ago. It’s amusing when the characters talk to themselves (because apparently in everyone in Shakespeare’s plays does it, whether or not they’re schizo!) and the conversations are witty and never particularly boring. Just about everything in this flick is charming, from the artistic choices in music to many of Whedon’s regulars fitting their respective characters superbly.

Kranz is ideal as Claudio, a man who could show pain and still be laugh-out-loud hilarious while he’s in the water with his snorkel and a wine glass. Morgese (as Hero) shows some potential, and she does pretty well for her feature film debut, even if she isn’t much of a stand-out, here. I should come to Morgese’s defence – since it’s difficult to be memorable when one is on-screen with two of the wittiest and most memorable on-screen sweethearts (Beatrice and Benedick) Shakespeare ever penned.

Much AdouuuwDenisof and Acker have the ideal chemistry, as they shared screen time on Whedon’s TV series “Angel” prior to this. I love this hoax put at play. Clark Gregg is great as the father, and Nathan Fillion is hysterical as Dogberry, the officer in charge of security at Leonato’s house (which is actually Joss Whedon’s home). He has a funny swagger about him, because of his distaste for being called names, and especially when he mispronounces words with the utmost confidence. Whedon’s vision and Shakespeare’s words marry each other with a fine balance of light-heartedness and charm.

Don John is the one character who is difficult to understand completely. His motivations to destroy the impending marriage between Claudio and Hero are ill-defined. Is it only because he’s a conniving schmuck? Is it just because there has to be an antagonist? Perhaps his motivations are explained well, but they might be difficult to grasp with the Shakespearian English. DJ seems to only be smiling when others are unhappy, so maybe that’s his motivation.

I usually understand the basics of what’s going on; but even after 109 minutes with the language, it’s hard to get used to. Shakespeare makes me feel so uncultured sometimes. A visit to the play’s SparkNotes page may be in order. The Shakespearian English prevents this film from becoming wholly engaging. I could enjoy this much more one day when I am older and wiser, and have a stronger understanding of Shakespeare. I applaud Whedon for taking an intelligent work, maintaining its intelligence, and simultaneously producing a movie that goes well with popcorn.


Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)
This is the End (6/12) [My review]
“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)
Monsters University (6/21) [My review]
“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)
World War Z (6/21) [My review]
“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)
The Heat (6/28) [My review]
“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)
The Purge (6/7) [My review]
“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)
Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]
“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned!