The Latest on Much Ado About Nothing

I’m keeping tabs on Joss Whedon’s most recent film endeavor because he is creating a modern adaptation of my favorite Shakespearian play. Which of course makes me feel entitled to bitch slap him if he screws it up.

If you don’t know, the play of Much Ado About Nothing is about Beatrice and Benedict, two people who hate each other with a fiery passion. Their friends and family decide to make it known to each that the other loves them, and thus triggering Cupid’s trap. And then there is a side story about pretty boy  Claudio wanting to marry Hero. But when he hears a rumor that she cheated on him, Claudio calls her a whore at the alter. Such a gentleman.

But anyway, I’m writing this post because finally some more information about this small scale indie movie has come to light. I know the complete cast! Hazaah!

If we all know one thing about Joss Whedon, it’s that more than any other director, he loves reusing his actors. So as would be expected, this list if full of people from his previous work.

For the immortal heroine Beatrice, Whedon chose Amy Acker. I know almost nothing about her other than what I just read on IMBD. What I found out is that Acker is from my neck of the woods: Dallas, Texas. Holla! the only acting I have seen her do was he role in Whedon’s show Dollhouse as the manipulative Dr. Claire. That one role doesn’t tell me much about her capabilities, so hopefully she feels up to the challenge of my high expectations for playing my favorite heroine of all time.

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As for Benedick, Whedon went with Alexis Denisof who is best known for his role as Marshall in How I Met Your Mother. Now that I think of it, I see some similarities between the show and Shakespearian comedy. They both are farcical and full of situational irony. So maybe Denisof will be able to draw on that and pull of an awesome Benedick.

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Nathan Fillion, probably the most famous name on this list wil be playing Dogberry, the hilarious comic relief. Whedon has used Fillion at every opportunity. We all know him from Firefly, but Weedon also featured him in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog as Captain Hammer, and he was a particularly disturbing villain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer who gouged out Xander’s eye. How dust he?. Based on the range I’ve seen Fillion provide, I think he will make an awesome Dogberry, and I can’t wait to see his performance.

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The role of the villain, Don John who slanders about Hero’s virtue goes to Sean Maher. Also an actor from Firefly, Maher played River’s neurotic brother, Simon. Since I haven’t seen him do any other performance (except for a short-lived appearance on Drop Dead Diva, but that doesn’t count) I don’t really know what to expect from him. Then again, considering that the last actor who played this character in a movie was Keanu Reeves, he won’t have to do much to outshine his predecessor.

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Don Pedro, Don John’s brother will be played by Reed Diamond. Surprise surprise, Diamond was also on Dollhouse as Laurence Dominic, but it’s been a while since I watched the show and I don’t remember him at all. Diamond has been in many other TV shows from Bones to the Mentalist and even 24. Hopefully this time he can do a memorable performance.

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The role of Claudio, the accusatory bastard, will be played by Fran Kranz, another Dollhouse veteran. In my opinion, Kranz played the best role in that show, the scientist Topher Brink. That and the fact that he’s been in both Frasier and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia wins my respect. Although I have to admit I’m not sure how he will portray Claudio, but I’m eager to find out. Kranz is a very fun actor to watch.

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And for the quiet, fair Hero, Whedon selected newbie Jillian Morgese. her first acting gig to date. I don’t think Weedon would give someone a role unless they could really deliver, so I will trust his decision. Don’t abuse my trust.

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I just listed the main characters, but here is the complete cast list:

Amy Acker – Beatrice

Alexis Denisof – Benedick

Nathan Fillion – Dogberry

Clark Gregg – Leonato

Reed Diamond – Don Pedro

Fran Kranz – Claudio

Sean Maher – Don John

Spencer Treat Clark – Borachio

Riki Lindhome – Conrade

Ashley Johnson – Margaret

Emma Bates – Ursula

Tom Lenk – Verges

Nick Kocher – First Watchman

Brian McElhaney – Second Watchman

Joshua Zar – Leonato’s aide

Paul M. Meston – Friar Francis

Romy Rosemont – The Sexton

And introducing Jillian Morgese as Hero

The Tempest

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As an English major, I love Shakespeare. Just to explain what a nerd I am, in high school I use to memorize his soliloquies for fun. Yeah, I didn’t have many friends then. But I digress. Because of my love of Shakespeare, I really wanted to see this movie, based on the Bard’s famous play of the same name.

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In this 2010 rendition of the Tempest, directed by Julie Taymor, the Sorceress Prospera (Helen Mirren) attempts to exact her revenge on her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) and the King of Naples (David Sthrathairn) for stealing her duchy of Milan from her. The King’s ship sails by the island Prospera inhabits with her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) and she uses her magic to create a tempest to sink the ship, washing the men to shore. Prospera doesn’t count on the King’s son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) falling in love with her daughter.

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This movie received many mixed reviews, and I myself have pretty mixed feelings. There are some really awesome things about it, and other things that are less awesome.

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On the good side, if you are also a Shakespeare fan, or have ever read The Tempest, you know that in the original play, the main character is a man named Prospero. Changing the character into a woman, especially one played by the indomitable Helen Mirren, is an inspired choice that brings a whole new dynamic to the story. Who says old writing can’t be made new? And even if that isn’t recognized, I just love watching Helen Mirren act anyway. I am one of the only people I know who actually enjoyed the film The Queen, and I correctly predicted that she would win the Oscar for Best Actress. She also does an Elizabeth I that rivals Judie Dench and Cate Blanchett. And she does a mean Prospera. There are moments you can tell she is full of hatred and you know not to mess with her, and others that she is vulnerable and you want to reach out and hug her. Or maybe that’s just me having a weird Helen Mirren crush.

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As far as bad, I mainly did not like the score. This movie attempted using rock and roll, although at least it did a better job than Marie Antoinette. God awful movie. Anyway, the score was basically made up of steel guitars, and it sounded so out of place. I didn’t mind that the music was anachronistic, it just sounded wrong. I think the main problem was in quite a few scenes the guitars got really loud, and was more distracting than anything. It probably would have been a lot better if they were just quieter.

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Most critics had problems with the special effects. I honestly thought some of the special effects were beautiful and interesting and added to the story, but some of them were in the case of fiery dogs that chased after Caliban,  done so poorly that all you could do was laugh at them, or just so overdone that they were  distracting and detracted from the story by competing with it. However, I especially loved the special effects used for the spirit Ariel, one of Prospera’s slaves. The effects make Ariel seem weightless and constantly underwater. The images help you understand his character. As a spirit, he’s ethereal and not of the earth. But, I do agree with most of the critics that Taymor really needed to dial it back on most of the other CG elements. Less is more. Yes, I’m talking to you, Michael Bay.

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Since my feelings are very mixed, I give The Tempest a 5 out of 10. I would recommend any Helen Mirren fans and especially any Shakespeare fans to give it a try. It is a lot of fun.

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