Much Ado About Nothing shows the multiple sides to Joss Whedon able to tell a good story no matter what the budgets or genres are. The merging of Shakespeare and modern film is nearly seamless and the cast is superb. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate has a fair amount of features while the video/audio transfers are good enough.
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy, Romance
Lionsgate | PG13 – 109 min. – $24.99 | October 8, 2013
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Writer(s): William Shakespeare (play); Joss Whedon (written by)
Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson
Theatrical Release Date: June 7, 2013 (limited release)
Features: 2 Audio Commentaries, Featurettes, Music Video, UV Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Disc Size: 40.8 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Joss Whedon has shown himself to be a man of many talents and has a loyal fan base dating back to “Firefly” and has reached record levels with The Avengers. Now he’s going back to the basics and directs what must be a passion project.
Much Ado About Nothing is the latest contemporary take on Shakespeare’s classic play utilizing modern settings yet using the old dialogue which can be off-putting, though unlike the others, this one was probably the easiest to get into, though this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s zany musical crime-drama Romeo + Juliet or Tim Blake Nelson’s modern take on “Othello” with the chilling thriller O or even the Ethan Hawke drama Hamlet in which Hawke gives the “To Be or Not To Be” speech walking the aisles of Blockbuster Video.
This latest takes place over the course of several days as Leonato (CLARK GREGG), along with daughter Hero (JILLIAN MORGESE) and niece Beatrice (AMY ACKER), host a lavish party. Don Pedro (REED DIAMOND), governor of Messina, returns from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (SEAN MAHER), tagging along are his two officers Benedick (ALEXIS DENISOF) and Claudio (FRAN KRANZ), the latter who has fallen for Hero and the former sparring at any given chance with Beatrice… and vice versa. Being Claudio is in love, Don Pedro strikes up an arrangement for marriage with Leonato for Hero.
All while this budding love occurs, Leonato, Don Pedro and Claudio, with Hero, an attempt to strike love at the bickering Beatrice and Benedick by planting the idea that the one loves the other. Their plan begins to work as the formerly proud bachelor with no interest in marriage and the man-loathing Beatrice allow the idea of being with the other sink in and even accept. Although the dramatic elements are good, I did quite enjoy the comedic side story and especially as Benedick and Beatrice first “overhear” the feelings of the other. Really shows the timing by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, both alums from Whedon’s “Angel” television series.
Meanwhile, Don John conspires with his two accomplices, Borachio (SPENCER TREAT CLARK) and Conrade (RIKI LINDHOME), to spoil Claudio and Hero’s pending nuptials by placing a nugget in Claudio’s mind that Hero is not faithful by having him witness what he believes is Hero having an affair in her stateroom but in fact is Borachio having sex with one of the servants (ASHLEY JOHNSON) who fancies him.
Will love conquer all or will Don John succeed at ruining lives for his own pursuits… which, to tell you the truth kind of elude me and never quite explained.
Much Ado About Nothing is nothing short of a triumph for Joss Whedon who once again finds success in an entirely different genre from The Avengers and on a far smaller scale described only as a “micro-budget”, so one can imagine, given it was filmed in Whedon’s own home, probably less than $100k.
The cast, comprised by a fair amount of Whedon veterans, is wonderful headlined by Amy Acker who shows a different side to the characters she’s played over the years and most recently, as a sociopath on “Person of Interest”. The character is at first hostile and demeaning toward men before softening. Playing perfectly opposite Acker is Alexis Denisof, her co-star on the TV series “Angel”. The pair shares some wonderful chemistry and Denisof really shines.
Although not quite as impressive as Acker and Denisof, mainly because they were more or less the B-story, Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese are good and the show stealer is, of course, Nathan Fillion playing up the comedy relief as only Fillion can and as shown on “Firefly” and “Castle”. Not sure how big or small the part is in the play, but I wish he was in this film more.
A small and intimate film, Much Ado About Nothing is an amazing achievement by Joss Whedon. He manages to use the Shakespearian language and, after a few minutes to adjust, integrate it into the modern era. Whether or not you’re a fan of Whedon, this is one good flick that I had so much fun watching.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a download code for the UltraViolet Digital Copy.
Audio Commentaries – 1) Director Joss Whedon and 2) Whedon and Cast Members Amy Acker (Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Clark Gregg (Leonato), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Fran Kranz (Claudio), Jillian Morgese (Hero), 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) and Romy Rosemont (The Sexton).
The first track is very much technical with Whedon providing insights into the story, origins of the concept and casting. It’s not the most scintillating track but Whedon is personal enough to make even a solo track semi-interesting. The second commentary is what I would call organized chaos as this is a packed house with no less than 16 participants and unless directly referenced, it can be difficult to tell who is who. If you want an idea of what it’s like, it’s basically a friendly get-together to watch a movie. Although it’s a fine track, the adage less is more should’ve been adhered or perhaps split the group up and record a second cast commentary.
Much Ado About Making Nothing (22:12; HD) is an insightful look, with interviews by the cast and crew, at how the concept of making the movie on a low budget.
Bus Ado About Nothing (6:09; HD) chronicles a road trip, by some of the cast and crew, from L.A. to Austin, Texas for the SXSW film festival.
“Sigh No More” Music Video (2:42; HD)
Previews – Mud, Stories We Tell, The Bling Ring, Shakespeare in Love
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Lionsgate distributes Much Ado on Blu-ray presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio and a respectable 1080p high-definition transfer. Being black and white, the video quality relies on the darker elements and there it looks really good showing starkness in some areas and gray in others. The detail levels do look nice and although there is some noise, it’s kept to a minimum.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track meanwhile is adequate though nothing special. The dialogue is mostly clear but other parts seem particularly limited in range with some minor instances of ambient noises coming through the front and rear channels. The track does come somewhat to life with the music/score but it’s minimal.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, Much Ado About Nothing shows the multiple sides to Joss Whedon able to tell a good story no matter what the budgets or genres are. The merging of Shakespeare and modern film is nearly seamless and the cast is superb. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate has a fair amount of features while the video/audio transfers are good enough.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.