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    Much Ado About Nothing (2013) Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Lionsgate

    Oct 05 2013 04:26 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Kenneth Branagh's 1993 version of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is probably the most approachable Shakespeare film ever produced. With its wonderfully witty battle of the sexes plot and intriguing, multi-faceted characters, it allows modern audiences to get past the archaic language and iambic pentameter and understand without confusion the story the Bard is trying to tell. Joss Whedon's modernized update to the tale isn’t blessed with leading players who can always effortlessly enter into Shakespeare’s uncanny mixture of words and deeds, but this shoestring production shot in less than two weeks nevertheless manages to impart the story and milk both its comedic and dramatic elements for an effective if not quite first-rate presentation.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Lionsgate
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 49 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 10/08/2013
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    Prince Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) plays an initially successful matchmaker to two highly different couples: the youthful and inexperienced Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese), daughter of Messina’s governor Leonato (Clark Gregg), and the eternally bickering (despite their obvious attraction to one another) Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker). But Pedro’s villainous bastard brother Don John (Sean Maher) wanting to throw a wrench in all of the sunny wedding plans designs to trick Claudio into thinking his bride-to-be is unchaste. The wedding is disrupted, and it falls to the befuddled Constable Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) to somehow arrive at the truth of the situation.

    Shooting in black and white at his own estate, Joss Whedon has mounted the play with actor/friends with whom he’s previously worked, and despite their occasional dryness and clumsiness with the language, Whedon's regular, sanguine pacing has fashioned a more than acceptable modern interpretation of the text. Since he knows his own house intimately, he’s able to stage sequences effortlessly and film them from a variety of interesting angles which keeps at bay the tendency of the limited location to seem claustrophobic. The play is largely about masquerades (there’s a masquerade ball early on in case anyone misses that there will be much pretense going on afterward), and Whedon’s camera stays close to the performers to capture the contrast between their facades and their true selves. More emotional colors, of course, could have been captured with actors who are more securely versed in acting the Bard, but the cast plays the roles for real and without any winking at the audience to suggest they know this motif of archaic language spoken in modern dress amid the luxuries of the present day might seem odd to Whedon fans not used to their favorites in such a context.

    Neither Amy Acker nor Alexis Denisof capture quite the right amount of joie de vivre with their acidic barbs fired at one another through half of the play, but the two actors (particularly Denisof) do triumph in the physicality required to make certain scenes work, especially in the set-up scenes where the two would-be lovers eavesdrop on faked conversations which are being carried on to convince each of them that the other is madly smitten. Later, Acker’s “If I were a man” speech is delivered with more than reasonable fire and conviction. Reed Diamond handles his lines with ease and with more than a bit of screen charisma, and Clark Gregg is similarly at ease as the father who’s so quickly fooled and yet not agonized enough at his lack of trust in his child. Jillian Morgese is somewhat tentative as Hero, but Fran Kranz seems a bit more certain with what he’s doing as her intended. Despite never having done any Shakespeare acting before, Sean Maher does a fine job as the duplicitous Don John (much better than Keanu Reeves in the Branagh version). Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk as the bumbling Dogberry and his assistant Verges handle the malaprops and physical blundering with spirit and dexterity.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Photographed digitally with the RED camera, the transfer is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent throughout, and the grayscale, while not boasting the deepest possible black levels, is completely pleasing and very effective. There are momentary shots where contrast seems a bit milky, but most of the film looks marvelous. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix gives short shrift to the rear channels with the light musical score by Joss Whedon and songs by Jed Whedon spreading nicely across the fronts with only vague echoes elsewhere. Dialogue, the hallmark of the production, of course, has been nicely recorded and appears in the center channel though occasional uses of ADR are fairly noticeable when voices take on a more arid and less expansive tone.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Audio Commentaries: director Joss Whedon holds down the fort alone on the first track. The second features Whedon and fifteen members of the cast recorded in New York. Much of what Whedon has to say is also found in the behind-the-scenes featurette on the disc. The large number of participants in the second track makes identification impossible and sometimes turns into a raucous free-for-all that they’re enjoying more than the listener.

    Much Ado About Making Nothing (22:12, HD): the cast and select members of the crew comment on the three phases of production: the preparation prior to filming, the twelve-day shooting schedule, and the film festival premiere of the movie.

    Bus Ado About Nothing (6:07, HD): cast members relate and show fun home video of the thirty-hour bus trip they made from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, for the film’s premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

    “Sigh No More” Music Video (2:42, HD): features the Steben Twins in an extended passage from the film.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Mud, Stories We Tell, The Bling Ring, and Shakespeare in Love.

    Ultraviolet: enclosed instructions in the case

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Joss Whedon’s 2013 version of Much Ado About Nothing offers a fine modern era interpretation of one of William Shakespeare’s most popular dramatic comedies. Video and audio presentations are strong, and fans of Whedon and his universe will undoubtedly dive right into the two commentaries and other bonus material with a vengeance.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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