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.

 

Slither

Slither is currently available on instant Netflix.

Slither (2006) – Rated R

“In the small burg of Wheelsy, housecats are turning into hellcats and townsfolk are morphing into zombies, prompting Sheriff Bill Pardy and the concerned wife of one of the town’s richest citizens to uncover the dark forces at work.”

“Now, I don’t care what kind of leprosy you got. We need to find that girl. Now, you can make this peaceful, or you can make it hard. “

Writer James Gunn is a very clever, if profane, screenwriter. His rewrite of Dawn of the Dead was better written than the original with great characterizations. The problem is that James Gunn has a wicked streak of humor. That humor is in full force in Slither, his directorial debut.

The reason I called the humor a problem was that if Gunn had filmed Slither as a straight up horror movie, I think it would have been successful. Unfortunately audiences did not care for the humorous aspect of horror and stayed away in droves, both domestically and foreign.

It is a shame because not only is Slither horrific but it is also quite funny. Nathan Fillion (Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly/Serenity) is a fantastic leading man, able to do action while also having a deft touch with comedy. He seems to have found his niche with Castle but I would certainly like to see him do more genre work. Fillion is our male lead here, playing Sheriff Bill Pardy.

Michael Rooker has a hilarious time as the ever-evolving Grant Grant. Elizabeth Banks is very likeable as our female lead, Starla Grant. Gregg Henry excels as usual at playing the person you want to see die. He has made a career out of playing buttheads (Body Double, Payback)

James Gunn packs Slither full to the brim with horror movie references. The opening sequence is lifted from The Blob. There are tons of other references, including The Thing, Rosemary’s Baby, The Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, They Came from Within, Videodrome, Night of the Creeps, From Beyond and others. The special effects are mostly CGI but are pulled off quite well.

James Gunn went on to poke fun at the porn industry by writing and directing the web/Spike TV series PG Porn – “for those who love everything about pornography except the sex.” Please be aware that it is not PG rated. He also poked fun at superheroes by writing and directing the hysterical Super. Next up for Gunn is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Slither is a wonderful send up and homage to the horror genre. Stay tuned to the end for a post-credits sequence.

People Watch: Writer and director James Gunn has a cameo as Hank. Jenna Fischer (Pam on The Office, also Gunn’s wife at the time) has a small role as Shelby. Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films is the sad drunk and Rob Zombie is the voice of Dr. Carl.

Dr. Horribles Sing-Along Blog – The Doctor is Out week

In honor of my sudden illness this past weekend, this week is The Doctor is Out week. In this case The Doctor is Out..of his mind! Dr. Horribles Sing-Along Blog is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Dr. Horribles Sing-Along Blog (2008) – NR – Not Rated.

“When he’s not busy breaking the law or trying to get close to his secret crush, Penny (Felicia Day), supervillain wannabe Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) boasts about his exploits via his Internet video blog and dreams of defeating his nemesis, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Conceived during the 2008 Hollywood writers strike, Joss Whedons quirky musical comedy originally debuted as an online miniseries.”

“Its curtains for you Dr. Horrible. Lacy, gently wafting curtains.”

Okay I have to admit to having drunk the Whedon-flavored kool-aid. In my opinion he created two of the best TV series ever made (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly) and two flawed ones that I enjoyed (Angel & Dollhouse). He also wrote one of the best animated movies ever (Toy Story) and made one of my very favorite science fiction films (Serenity).

Joss Whedon made this with many of his friends and family during the writers strike. It was originally viewable as three webisodes. Despite never having a traditional broadcast, Time magazine named it the 4th best TV show of 2008.

Dr. Horrible is played to absolute perfection by Neil Patrick Harris. He auditioned for the role of Simon Tam in Firefly but did not get it. I have never seen Doogie Howser but I enjoyed him in Starship Troopers and Undercover Brother. His performance is quite nuanced.

Our hero, the pompous Captain Hammer, is played by Nathan Fillion. He is charming as always, has good comic timing, and works well with Neil.

Nathan Fillion starred in Firefly for Joss Whedon and when that was cancelled, Whedon put him in the seventh season of Buffy. Whedon did much the same thing for Firefly star Gina Torres, casting her in Angel.

Our love interest is the delightful Felicia Day, star and creator of The Guild. She was originally one of the Slayerettes in the seventh season of Buffy. I think she is my new favorite actress and I hope she gets bigger parts.

The only other star of note is Simon Helberg, who appears briefly as Moist. He is currently playing Howard Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory.

The writing is superb and the framing device of this being the video blog of Dr. Horrible plays out great.

This short show (43 minutes total for all three acts) is absolutely hysterical and has great musical numbers (though not quite as good as those in Buffy the Musical). I highly recommend this show. I would actually go so far as to call this a classic and I will have to buy the DVD at some point.

People Watch: Jed Whedon appears as part of the Bad Horse chorus and frequent Joss Whedon collaborator Marti Noxon appears as a newswoman. Joss Whedon himself appears as the fist of Captain Hammer (when he punches the device on top of the van).