HTF REVIEW: "Much Ado About Nothing" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 2, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    Much Ado About Nothing




    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1993
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 111 minutres
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English, French and Spanish



    Wow!
    If anyone would have suggested to this "simple-
    minded" reviewer that I even consider watching a
    film based on a William Shakespeare play, I would
    have laughed loudly. So why then would I even
    consider reviewing Much Ado About Nothing?
    You can blame it on my extended vacation weekend
    and a lack of other titles to watch.
    [​IMG]
    Somehow fate brought me to this moment, for I have
    just watched a surprisingly wonderful film that with
    all logic, I should have hated miserably. After all,
    this is a film based on the play by William Shakespeare
    and adapted for the screen by Oscar nominee Kenneth
    Branagh. The language of the film is entirely in old
    English, the type of dialogue that would scare away
    most movie audiences. So what was it about this film
    that completely enthralled me? Most likely the fact
    that director/producer Branagh has taken this old
    material and reinvented it into a funny, merry musical
    romp that features strong performances from its
    stellar cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Emma
    Thompson, Denzel Washington, Micheal Keaton
    and
    Keanu Reeves who stands out as he always has --
    a man with a very limited ability to act.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Since I am unfamiliar with the original Shakespeare
    story this film is based upon, I am going to assume
    that movie closely represents the original subject
    matter. As the film opens, we find a group of people
    sitting on a Tuscan hillside listening to Beatrice
    (Emma Thompson) reading lighthearted poetry about the
    mistrust that lies deep within men. Suddenly, we are
    harkened to the arrival of Don Pedro (Denzel
    Washington), Prince of Arragon, who returns
    victorious from battle with his half-brother Don
    John (Keanu Reeves) and his follower, Claudio (Robert
    Sean Leonard). Claudio immediately falls for a
    beautiful maiden named Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and the
    two soon plan to marry much to the dismay of Don
    John who concocts a plan to tear the two lovers apart.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    One of the great joys in this film is watching the
    repartee between Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice
    (Emma Thompson) who both swear that they are incapable
    of loving one another, and are later fooled into
    what always was meant to be. Not only are Branagh
    and Thompson in top acting form here, but I was
    surprised that Denzel Washington was able to carry
    the part of Don Pedro. To my complete astonishment,
    I was amazed by just how utterly marvelous his
    presence is here. I even greatly enjoyed watching
    Micheal Keaton as Constable Dogberry. Though his
    portrayal is quite hilarious, one can't help but
    think he's regurgitating BeatleJuice all
    over again.
    How is the transfer?
    Up until this point, I had no idea this film
    was previously released to DVD. From what I have
    read, it was like most early MGM releases -- bare-boned
    and with no subtitles. I wish I had the opportunity
    to see what the transfer looked like on that original
    release. MGM has given no indication in their press
    kit whether this is a brand new transfer or not. The
    reason why I am so curious, is because I am just
    blown away by how gorgeous this film looks.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    MGM has given us a transfer that reeks of perfection.
    Here is a picture full of razor-sharp images that
    never hinder the gorgeous backdrop of the Italian
    hills near Chianti. Colors are gorgeously vivid
    throughout, though facial tones often look a bit
    too red. There's also just a hint of occasional film
    blemish. Nevertheless, this is an immaculately detailed
    picture that ranks with the very best catalog transfers
    out there. A highly pleasing visual experience to
    be certain!
    I could have sworn that the film was recorded in
    5.1 stereo while listening to it. Much to my
    surprise, I discovered I was listening to standard
    stereo surround. There is a distinct sense of
    stereo separation across the front channels --
    especially in the musical numbers. I detected
    dialogue bleeding from the center channels into
    the main. The rears do a nice job of not only
    supporting Patrick Doyle's often triumphant and
    often sweet score, but with background noises as
    well. Though I wouldn't label this as a highly
    active mix, it is the music that gets the most
    attention in this surround presentation.
    Special Features
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Nothing overly special here, and surprisingly
    omitted, a commentary track by Kenneth Branagh.
    [​IMG]
    Making Ado about Nothing is an original
    1993 promotional featurette that begins with producer/
    director Kenneth Branagh describing his film as a
    "fairy tale with hot blooded things going on." There
    are interviews with cast members Emma Thompson, Keanu
    Reeves and in particular, Denzel Washington who decided
    to do this film because of Branagh, Shakespeare and
    the fact that this role would test him as an actor.
    Michael Keaton also admits to taking the role of
    Constable Dogberry out of pure fright. Emma Thompson
    brings out the fact that this movie based on British
    works is flawlessly played out mostly with American
    actors, showing that the language of the film works
    for anyone. The cast was greatly inspired by coming
    to Italy and acting amongst the Tuscan countryside
    which inspired much passion in their performances
    (and sweat on their foreheads due to the extreme heat).
    Not a bad featurette, though it only glosses over
    what went on behind-the-camera.
    (length: approx. 6 minutes)
    The film's original theatrical trailer is
    included here in addition to trailers for the DVD
    releases of The Princess Bride and When
    Harry Met Sally
    .
    Final Thoughts
    [​IMG]
    Simply brilliant! Though lovers of Shakespeare will
    frolic to see this film adaptation, it is the naysayers
    that I most recommend this film to. Much Ado About
    Nothing doesn't come across heavy-handed, and even
    if the language becomes an obstacle, you'll find
    yourself quickly enchanted by the superb acting and
    wonderful choreography, set against the film's
    beautiful Tuscany setting.
    Highly Recommended!
    Release Date: January 7, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review, Ron. Great movie! Just sold my old copy on eBay in order to pick this new version up. The old edition had Widescreen on Side A and Full-Screen on Side B. The WS transfer was excellent as well, but I'll be glad to have the additional features (as bare bones as they are).
     
  3. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Man this is really strange: the first DVD version of this film was released on Columbia-Tristar![​IMG]
    http://us.imdb.com/DVD?0107616
    How did MGM pick this up from Columbia?
     
  4. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    wondering the same thing.

    Also wondering if MGM would have been given access to Columbia WS (HD) master or if they remastered it themsevles. And then wondering even if they had the same master...if they applied their own compression.

    I'm sure many others on the forum would share my desire to see a side-by-side comparison of the PQ of the 2 versions!!!

    Even if PQ is the same, the extras seem to make this a worthy upgrade. personally, I'm hoping that the new disc betters the old. As good as that old C.T. Transfer was, razor-sharp wouldn't have been a declarative that would have come to my mind.

    -dave
     
  5. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Hip hip hooray!
    Anamorphic transfer, I am on it.
    Very enjoyable movie, beautiful scenery.
    Fantastic dialog, duh, as well as acting [well, as least half or better of the cast was up too the task].
    Was already enthralled by the Dolby Pro Logic soundtrack, so no biggie there. Loved the sound of the Old World instruments. As well as the voice over [and bee buzzing] at the start of the film.
    Thank's again, Ron.
     
  6. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    DeepDiscountDVD is selling the MGM version for $9.36 shipped...a lot less than the old Columbia version was selling for. I'm glad I put the purchase off in this case. But I'm still curious about how the rights to this film were passed from studio to studio.
     
  7. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    Kate Beckinsale + Damn cheap DVD = No-brainer blind purchase [​IMG]
    Thanks for the review, Ron!
     
  8. PhilipG

    PhilipG Cinematographer

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    I've been waiting for this one for a long time.
    [​IMG] MGM
    "Would that my horse had the speed of your tongue!" [​IMG]
     
  9. Russ Lucas

    Russ Lucas Stunt Coordinator

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    I've got the C/T-S version, and would also be interested in seeing side-by-sides. I believe the trailer is included in the current version.

    As far as I can tell, the lone new special feature is the 6 minute making-of bit.

    It's a pity MGM didn't instead purchase Branaugh's Hamlet and liberate it from its state of non-release.
     
  10. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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  11. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    I've been wondering about this, since I have the original release and was wondering what was on this one. Unless the transfer is improved, I can't see picking this one up.

    Jason
     
  12. Aaron Gould

    Aaron Gould Stunt Coordinator

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    My girlfriend absolutely loves this movie. We looked everywhere for the original DVD release, but could not find it over the past year. Am I glad this new release is here!
    Now I can quiet my loved one down. [​IMG]
    I'm very happy to hear the quality is excellent. It ought to look good on my new 57" high def widescreen that's getting delivered in 10 days! [​IMG]
     
  13. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    One interesting note... this film has some CGI shots...anyone notice them? [​IMG]
     
  14. Craig Sherman

    Craig Sherman Stunt Coordinator

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    CGI in MAAN? I'm thinking the funeral procession. Lots of extras for that one, otherwise.

    Do I get a no-prize?

    BOMM,

    CS

    P.S. Yes, please, somebody do a side-by-side comparison. I, too have the CTS version, and should hope for more than just 6 minutes of fluff to make me upgrade.

    P.P.S BTW, I think MGM was able to pick it up because it is of the Samuel Goldwyn Company library, which MGM may have bought from Sony. Any corroboration to this theory?
     
  15. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    At the time Much Ado was originally released, Samuel Goldwyn was an independant production company, and video rights were sold to different distributors (in different territories) on a film-by-film basis. Since the movie came out in 1992, I wouldn't be surprised if Sony had a ten-year contract on the rights (1993-2002). As soon as the previous contract expired, the rights would revert to the picture's owner, which is now MGM after their purchase of the Samuel Goldwyn Company a few years back.
     
  16. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Ron,

    Although lacking the comedic joy of MAAN, I'd strongly suggest you check out the 1968 Franco Zefferelli version of Romeo and Juliet--nice anamorphic transfer and really eye candy--Paramount bare bones but does have subtitles, Branagh's Othello starring Lawrence Fishburne--WB, also a nice transfer with some good casting.

    Zeferelli's Taming of the Shrew stars Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, is a hoot, (oddly reminiscent of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) but the pq could be better--Columbia.
     
  17. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Also, Branagh's other Shakespeare plays are worth getting, even if his complete Hamlet is still unavailable - Henry V is what made his reputation, and Love's Labour's Lost is a bit of complete insanity with contemporary musical numbers that should not have worked (but did). And Dead Again isn't remotely Shakespeare, but it's my favorite Branagh/Thompson collaboration. [​IMG]
    And, just to clarify a little, Branagh did not direct Othello - Oliver Parker did. I'm not quite so fond, since I think casting Irene Jacob was a mistake - she's comely enough, but modern English isn't her first language and she seems to be saying her lines phonetically.
     
  18. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    I had no idea this was being released later this week.
    I've never seen it, but been meaning to, so I ordered it.

    It's nice to see that its priced decently
     
  19. Stacie

    Stacie Stunt Coordinator

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    I too would love to hear the results of a comparison between the new disc and the previous C/TS release, which I own. I haven't watched this disc in a while, but I remember thinking it looked pretty good. Still, I like this film enough that I would upgrade if the improvement was significant.

    Now if only someone, anyone, would release Branagh's Hamlet!
     
  20. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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