Thursday Movie Picks #7: Shakespeare Adaptations

Welcometh to Thursday Movie Picks by Wandering through the Shelves. This weekly s’ries hast a simple ruleth: bas’d on the theme of the week, picketh three to five movies and shareth the reasoneth. Shouldst anyone beest int’rest’d in joining in, feeleth free to visiteth the main page h’re.

Nev’r und’restimate this week’s theme because t very much gets me excited, t’s: Shakespeare adaptations. Wouldst t beest hard to findeth three of thy most fav’rite ‘mongst his mast’rpieces? forsooth not. F’r this theme, i only picketh mod’rn day adaptations yond retain the dialogues. Same title, (mostly) same st’ry, same dialogues, diff’rent ‘ra. Prepareth f’r mine own picks and prepareth thy sharpest response!01. Romeo+Juliet (1996, Baz Luhrmann)

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Romeo+Juliet (1996) – Claire Danes & Leonardo DiCaprio

Baz Luhrmann endues the most tragic loveth st’ry in mankind’s hist’ry to Verona Beach, wh’re two warring mafia families – the Capulets and the Montagues – square each oth’r; while their son and daught’r, Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes), falleth into each oth’r. However offbeat and glamorous this adaptation has been, it only works because Luhrmann is a talented director; and both Leo and Claire Danes are stellar as two coming-of-age lovers in vain. Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet only proves that Shakespeare’s tragedy is undeniably timeless.

02. Coriolanus (2011, Ralph Fiennes)

Coriolanus (2011) - Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler
Coriolanus (2011) – Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler

Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in political thriller, Coriolanus, set in a modern day Rome – which feels more like Roman Empire than the actual Rome. Fiennes’ reimagining of this tragedy is a visceral and wild one. Swords and sandals are substituted with auto-machine guns and modern armaments; but the political context adjusts perfectly with the era. It’s a political thriller in and out with shades of action here and there; and it’s relevant even to the modern era, despite it sets in an alternate universe, making another proof that Shakespeare’s works are timeless.

03. Much Ado About Nothing (2013, Joss Whedon)

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Joss Whedon cleaned his palettes in aftermath of his blockbuster colossus, Avengers, with a lo-fi adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About NothingProduced in his own house and starred by his closest fellas, his black-and-white adaptation is loyal to the source with some simplification, although the dialogues are in tact. It’s classic and accessible to everyone, even when you’re new to this classic misunderstanding love story.


So, those w’re mine own picks. Shareth thy thoughts on the comment section below

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16 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks #7: Shakespeare Adaptations”

  1. Yea verily yea tis a fine theme this week! Your introduction shows you in fine fettle for the occasion before us.

    Like the sort of mini theme of all adapts that keep the dialogue but move them into present day.

    I’ve yet to see this version of Much Ado but will get around to it since the source is one of my favorites of Shakespeare’s work.

    I found Coriolanus a tough go outside of Vanessa Redgrave’s awesomeness but admired Fiennes ambition to bring on of the Bard’s more obscure pieces to the forefront.

    It’s hardly my favorite take on the material but Luhrmann’s R&J is again an adventurous take on a well-trodden subject. It’s not something I return to often but he did make it a kinetic telling.

    Since there is an almost obscene amount of choices this week I tried to venture a bit afield and look for one’s that don’t get mentioned often but should.

    Hamlet (1996)-Kenneth Branagh adapted, directed and stars as the tortured Dane supported by a cast that is drawn from the cream of the British acting world with a few choice American stars pulled in for good measure. What makes this version stand out from the myriad others is Branagh’s decision to pull the play out of the dingy and poorly lit 14th century to the lush baroque 19th, resulting in deserved nominations for Art & Costume design, making it a far more vivid experience. That’s a great help since he has also chosen to present the entirety of the play’s nearly four hour run time. In a cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Robin Williams, Gerard Depardieu and Judi Dench among so many others it’s difficult to choose any MVP’s aside from Branagh but Kate Winslet as Ophelia and Rufus Sewell as Fortinbras, the crown prince of Norway are memorable. It’s a challenging view but worthwhile.

    Joe MacBeth (1955)-Updating the Scottish play to the criminal underworld of 1930’s America this violent take on the tale (it begins with the title character blowing away a crime boss then going directly to his own wedding) is an inventive twist on the material. Excellent work by Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman as the murderous mobster and his rapacious Lady M hold you rapt as the homicidal pair climb the ladder of success over an ever increasing pile of bodies.

    Kiss Me Kate (1953)-The Taming of the Shrew moved into the world of the modern theatre and musicalized by Cole Porter. Famous stage star Fred Graham (Howard Keel) tries to dissuade his equally famous ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson) to postpone her upcoming marriage so she can co-star with him in a musical updating of The Taming of the Shrew. She agrees reluctantly since their relationship post-divorce is as combative as their married life so it’s not smooth going. Add in several flies in the ointment including second lead Lois Lane(!) (Ann Miller) and some mobsters who are mistakenly putting the squeeze on Frank for a debt Lois’s boyfriend owes and it’s a wacky time backstage. Onstage though there are some amazing dance numbers performed by four of the best dancers of the 50’s (Miller, Carol Haney, Bob Fosse and Bobby Van) and great music sung by all including “It’s Too Darn Hot!” and “From This Moment On”. One of the great musicals, originally shown in 3-D.

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    1. Yesssss! The dialogue really is what makes Shakespeare’s work a fantastic one, but it’s the narrative that keeps it timeless hence adaptations into any genre or setting are possible. Glad you either liked or were enticed with my picks! I never watched any of your suggestions, but Kenneth Branagh’s work is definitely one to look forward. Love his classic approach as a stage performer too!

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  2. Your lead in made me think I was in Ye ole merry England. Very creative! I’m jealous not! 😉 What fun! As I stated on my site, I’m not a Shakespeare fan. Maybe it’s because I did not learn the classics in school or then maybe I wouldn’t like his plays anyhow but I’m a willing participant to learn now. I think I’m more prone to modern Romeo & Juliet flicks not that adaptations aren’t good but they generally are a bit too serious to suit me. All of your picks are unavailable for streaming (at no cost) to me at the moment but I will keep these on my list to check in the future. Thanks for enlightening my way to new movie experience and the visit! Have a good weekend!

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    1. Hi Cathy! Thanks for visiting! The lead in is actually foreshadowing my pick – adaptations that retain the dialogues. Rest assured it’s a great time to start catching up with some Shakespeare adaptations. I’m not an avid fan either but some of his works are too timeless to miss.

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  3. Love your use of “Shakespearean” English. Great job!

    I’ve seen two your picks. Romeo + Juliet is amazing. I really like that one. I enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing, though not as much. It’s quite possibly the smoothest version of that play, to date.

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