For Reel

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
August 16, 2017, 3:34 pm
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Director: Kenneth Branagh
4 Stars
Much Ado About NothingKenneth Branagh’s adaptation of this Shakespeare comedy ranks as one of the most clever adaptations of the bard’s plays, wisely condensing and rearranging much of the material in order to suit it better to the medium. It is also the most inconsistently cast—little good can be said about Keanu Reeves’ performance, which finds no motivation for Don John’s actions throughout the story, and even Michael Keaton’s admittedly amusing turn as Dogberry is so outlandish and distracting that one is shocked that Branagh fails to rein in him. Despite these pitfalls, however, Branagh’s delightful indulgence of the idyllic vistas and eroticism injects the adaptation with a sense of urgency and excitement that the play deserves. Branagh also uses the medium to add insight into certain character motivations—Don Pedro’s (Denzel Washington) flirtation with Beatrice (Emma Thompson), for example, is given an intimacy and sincerity that distinguishes the man as the play’s most quietly tragic figure (in the play, on the other hand, one might interpret Pedro’s flirtation as being a simple jest). Similarly, the scenes in which Beatrice and Benedick (Branagh) are fooled into loving one another intelligently focus on the vulnerabilities of the key figures as much as they do the inherent comedy of the scene.

Groundhog Day (1993)
February 28, 2015, 2:15 pm
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Director: Harold Ramis
5 Stars
Groundhog DayGroundhog Day is remembered for having one of the great premises in contemporary American cinema. Although it is easily mistaken as a droll piece of cynicism, it is a coyly humanist story about what it means to live a full life. The joke of the film is the realization that Phil’s (Bill Murray) repetitive existence is not at all different from our own–defined by routines, patterns, and conversational habits–and Harold Ramis satisfies the audience’s desire to see these very recognizable structures go up in flames. It’s ironic that what is Phil’s hell (repeating the same day over and over) is the audience’s pleasure–we thrive on seeing patterns as a viewer, and noticing how small decisions impact his day makes one consider their own limitless potential within a twenty four hour period. Although Phil’s life initially seems to have no potential for growth, he makes each day a little different by going out of his way to help others and explore various intellectual pursuits. It’s a life-affirming sentiment that argues that our life is only as flavorless as we make it.

Naked (1993)
April 30, 2011, 8:05 pm
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Director: Mike Leigh

Perhaps the most brutal of Mike Leigh’s films, which often involve secluded, hopelessly lost men and women, Naked succeeds with the performances of Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, and the star-making turn by David Thewlis. It takes a lot to make a character as despicable as Johnny – who, in the first scene of the film, is raping a woman in an alley – sympathetic to the audience, however Thewlis is successfully charming even during his long-winded tangents wherein he relays conspiracy theories about the impending apocalypse. Just as many of Leigh’s films deal with people who have simply fallen by the wayside socially, Naked suggests that Thewlis’ character is an undiagnosed manic depressive, discarded and left to fend for himself on the streets.