Watch the Bard Week – Much Ado About Nothing

We love our local Montford Park Players. They put on Shakespeare in the park every weekend from May through September. Jason Williams’ marvelous production of The Merchant of Venice just ended its four week run and this weekend starts Ken Knight’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, which he is presenting as an 80s John Hughes movie. If you are ever in Asheville, you would be remiss if you did not attend.

Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing (2013) – Rated PG-13

“A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.”

One Line Review: Enjoyable but for fans of the Whedonverse or Shakespeare only.

We also caught Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing in its short run. We found it quite enjoyable but a little on the slight side. He did a wonderful job with a twelve-day shoot in his backyard. The black and white cinematography is excellent.

It was really nice to see Whedon’s supporting players Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker get starring roles and I found them delightful. Clark Gregg was wonderful as Leonato. Strangely the biggest name in the cast, Nathan Fillion, severely underplayed the role of Dogberry. Our local actor Matt Tavener did a better job on Montford’s last go around of Much Ado.

I am making this week – Watch the Bard, with several tempting offerings on instant Netflix.


Aliens Attack! Thor Edition

After several terrible Thor ripoff movies, the real Thor arrives on instant Netflix.

Thor (2011) – Rated PG-13

“In this Marvel Comics-inspired action flick, thunder god Thor finds himself banished by his father, Odin, and forced to live among humans on Earth to learn humility. Can Thor regain his powers and return home?”

In the Marvel comics, they obviously couldn’t have Thor speaking a Norse language. Instead, in order to set him apart, they have Thor and the other Asgardians speaking a form of high English, basically someone’s idea of a cross between courtly manners and dumbed-down Shakespeare.

What could be more fitting for Shakespearean dialogue than to hire as director the man most known for Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh?

Presumably to appease fans, they have shoehorned as many characters as possible into the movie. Besides the obvious Thor, Loki and Jane Foster, we also have Odin, Frigga, Heimdall, Lady Sif, Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun the Grim and The Destroyer.

Although this movie flips back and forth, it can clearly be separated into two parts: those that take place in Asgard and those that take place on Earth.

The Asgard portions are very serious and special effects heavy. They have all the ingredients of Shakespearean tragedy: a noble ruler, an arrogant ungrateful heir to the throne, and a treacherous brother who is second in line to the throne.

In contrast, the Earth portions are light-hearted and poke a lot of fun at Thor. I really liked Kat Dennings as Darcy. She plays the comic relief quite well but some of my friends found her to be abrasive. There is a very nice cameo setting up Hawkeye for The Avengers movie.

Both portions involve a lot of battle action for Thor but this is not a nonstop action fest. The action is good but not especially memorable so it is well that the focus is on Thor himself. Thor is played by the bulked-up and very good looking Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth is not required to show much range here but he is charming, athletic, heroic, and funny.

Tom Hiddleston really nailed the role of the villainous Loki. With this role, he moved from British television to Hollywood. He has since played F. Scott Fitzgerald in the magnificent Midnight in Paris and Captain Nicholls in War Horse. His Loki was so well-received that he played him again in The Avengers and is slated to return in Thor 2 next year.

He is backed up on Earth by Natalie Portman as love interest Jane Foster, Clark Gregg as the ever-present Agent Coulson and Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig. Asgard is overrun by noted thespians: Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Rene Russo (Frigga), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Colm Feore (King Laufey), and Ray Stevenson as Volstagg.

All in all Thor is what it should be – a fun comic book movie.

Don’t Forget: All the Avengers movies have a teaser scene after the credits. Thor’s scene sets up this year’s The Avengers just as the scene after Iron Man 2 teased Thor. As usual look for Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Comic book fans can keep an eye out during Thor for the Cask of Ancient Winters, a reference to Donald Blake, the Cosmic Cube (aka the Tesseract), and more.