Category Archives: William Shakespeare

Throwback Thursday: Thor (2011)

It has been said that pride goes before a fall.

In the 2011 film, Thor, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), is the first born son of Odin and Frigga (Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo). The heir to the throne of Asgard, he thinks that he can do no wrong. When his arrogance gets him into trouble, Odin sends Thor to Earth (Midgard). Falling for scientist Jane Porter (Natalie Portman), he has to learn humility while saving both realms from his vengeful younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

This movie is so good. It’s funny, it’s charming and entertaining, and Hemsworth is the perfect actor to play the role. Hiddleston, as usual, is spot on and proves once more why he is one of the best actors around today. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the Shakespearean influence is subtle, yet powerful.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

P.S. Who else is excited for Thor: Love and Thunder. I know I am.

Chris Hemsworth Thor GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday, William Shakespeare

Macbeth Broadway Play Review

Macbeth is a story of power, bloodlust, and the moral boundaries that will be crossed to remain in power.

The new revival of the infamous Shakespeare play opened on April 28th at the Longacre Theatre in New York City. Starring Daniel Craig as the titular character and Ruth Negga as Lady Macbeth, these two have one goal: the crown. They are not above shedding a little blood to both get to the throne and stay on the throne. As the bodies hit the floor, guilt begins to seep in, forcing the main character to question their actions.

This adaptation is not for the faint of heart, or for the Shakespeare purist. That being said, it is very well done. Set against a spare backdrop with color and gender-neutral actors wearing modern clothing, the story is as influential and potent as it ever has been. It speaks to the dark side of human nature and its consequences.

Among the lead actors, Negga’s performance stands out. Her Lady Macbeth is a woman who has the same ambitions as her husband. But because she is a woman, those ambitions must be hidden behind what is “appropriate” for a female.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Macbeth is playing at the Longacre Theater in New York City until July 10th, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

Jamie Chung Crying GIF by Lovecraft Country - Find & Share on GIPHY

1 Comment

Filed under Broadway Play Review, Feminism, New York City, William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice Review

There is a reason we keep coming back to the works of William Shakespeare. Underneath the seemingly confusing language and 16th-century clothing are stories about human beings.

A new adaptation of The Merchant of Venice premiered at the Theater for a New Audience on February 5th in Brooklyn. John Douglas Thompson stars at the eponymous Shylock, a Jewish merchant, whose world is torn apart by two interwoven narratives. His daughter, Jessica (Danaya Esperanza) falls in love with and elopes with a Christian boy, Lorenzo (David Lee Hyunh). As a condition of her vows, she had to convert to Christianity.

Meanwhile, Bassanio (Sanjit De Silva) is in love with Portia (Isabella Arraiza). But he cannot marry her without money. Portia is an heiress whose potential marriage is tied to a challenge tied to her fortune by her late father. Bassanio turns to Antonio (Alfredo Narciso) for advice (and financial assistance) who turns to Shylock for a loan because of his own money problems.

I loved this play. For obvious reasons (ahem, antisemitism) this story is still too relevant. What made it unique was the multi-cultural colorblind cast and the modern clothing worn by the actors. The thing that strikes me about The Merchant of Venice is that if the word “Jew” is replaced by any other ethnicity, the impact would be the same. The hatred, the prejudice, and the accusations would be just as potent.

After watching Thompson play the role, I have a deeper understanding of his character. This is a man who has been verbally assaulted by his neighbors for years. The final nail in the coffin is the loss of his daughter, sending him over the edge and unable to hold in the anger that has been bubbling beneath the surface.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Merchant of Venice is playing at the Theater for a New Audience until March 6th, 2022. Check the website for ticket availability and showtimes.

2 Comments

Filed under Judaism, New York City, William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Macbeth Review

Politics and the want for power go hand in hand. Some people achieve this via hard work and making connections with those who can help you climb the ladder. Others cross moral and legal boundaries, and may even be willing to spill some blood along the way.

The Tragedy of Macbeth was released at the end of last December. An adaptation of the William Shakespeare play Macbeth, the film stars Denzel Washington in the starring role and Frances McDormand as his wife, Lady Macbeth. Returning from battle as a respected warrior, Macbeth wants one thing: to wear the crown. The first person in his way is his cousin and King, Duncan (Brendan Gleeson). Conspiring with his wife, they conceive a plan to remove all obstacles that stand in their way.

This movie is so good. Filmed in stark black and white with geometric shapes, the narrative is stripped down to its most basic premise. The chemistry is fantastic between the lead actors. I truly believed that Washington and McDormand were a married couple who are completely in sync with one another. The feeling that something otherwordly had a hand in the fate of these people was potent from the opening shot until the credits rolled.

We keep going back to Shakespeare’s work because it is timeless, universal, and thoroughly human. The Tragedy of Macbeth is just another reminder of why we return to his narratives again and again.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is presently in theaters and is available for streaming on AppleTV+

1 Comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Politics, William Shakespeare

Joss Whedon Needs to Grow Up and Apologize

I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon for more than twenty years. He is one of those writer/director types that is only bound by his imagination and his ability to create a compelling narrative.

Between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, the 2012 Much Ado About Nothing, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, etc, his career is nothing to sneeze at.

That being said, that does not mean that he has the right to be an asshole.

After multiple accusations of being an all-around jackass on various sets, he threw the blame back on the performers. Speaking of Ray Fisher (Justice League) he claimed that Fisher is a bad actor. If he was so bad, why did he not just fire him and recast the role? It wouldn’t have been the first time and I am sure that it won’t be the last time. The fact that he is making these claims now does not exactly hold water. At least Fisher was the bigger person, which I cannot say about Whedon.

Whedon also claimed that his working relationship with Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot went sour because her native tongue is Hebrew.

“I don’t threaten people. Who does that?” Whedon told New York. “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.”

Season 3 Bullshit GIF by BBC America - Find & Share on GIPHY
There are plenty of actors whose second (or third) language is English. That is no excuse for treating anyone on set as if they are an annoying fly needing to be squashed.

The key to any workplace success (regardless of where one works), is the capacity to be professional, even if we don’t get along with everyone we work with. Whedon either lacks this capacity or thinks that he is above it. Either way, he needs to grow up and apologize.

Cbs All Access Reaction GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

2 Comments

Filed under Movies, Television, William Shakespeare, Writing

West Side Story Movie Review

Regardless of whether or not one is a fan of Broadway musicals, they are likely to at least know of West Side Story. To make a long story short, it is Romeo and Juliet taken from Italy in the 16th century and put down in New York City in the late 1950s.

The reimagining opens as San Juan Hill, a neighborhood in Manhattan, is being torn down to become what we know today as Lincoln Center. Not surprisingly, the residents of this neighborhood are people of color, immigrants, and low-income Caucasians.

The Montagues and Capulets have been replaced by two warring gangs of young men, fighting to retain unofficial control of what is left of their neck of the woods. Riff (Mike Faist) is the leader of the Jets, who are all White. Bernardo (David Alvarez) is the leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Though he has a career as a boxer, he is equally concerned with protecting his family and his fellow Puerto Ricans.

Their fates are changed when Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) meet at a dance. Maria is Bernardo’s younger sister. Newly arrived in NYC, she is both idealistic and stubborn. Without their parents, the only maternal influence she has is Anita (Ariana DeBose), Bernardo’s girlfriend. Anita is spicy, whip-smart, and is eager to take advantage of the opportunities that lay before her. Tony is Riff’s best friend and his former second in command. After spending a year in prison, he wants more from life than being a hoodlum.

As the two fall in love and envision a life together, their relationship is tested by the violence around them. If they could get those closest to them to find a way to get along, Maria and Tony could have a chance at a future. But as lovely as that idea is, it will take a miracle to make it happen.

Kudos go to director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner. They took a chance on remaking a classic and succeeded. What makes it stand out from its 1961 predecessor is both the casting of Latinx actors and the understanding that socio-economic issues, politics, and racial strife is the backbone of this narrative.

The deliberate decision of seeking out and hiring performers who are from Latin America or of Latin American descent adds a feeling of authenticity that is missing from the original film. Even Rita Moreno, who is also Puerto Rican (Anita in the 1961 movie and Valentina, the co-owner of the pharmacy and widow of the late pharmacist in this adaptation) had her skin darkened.

If there is one performer who stands out, it is Rachel Zegler. In her first on-screen role ever, she shines as Maria. Her voice is absolutely stunning. Most young actors start out as background players or in small roles, slowly building up their resume. To come out of the gate in the lead role in a major movie and blow everyone away shows that she has nothing but a bright future ahead of her.

This narrative is as timely and powerful as it was sixty years ago. The problems have not changed, they just have different names and different faces. If nothing else, it reminds the audience that we have two choices. We can continue to figuratively shoot ourselves in the literal foot, or find a way to work tother.

Though it clocks in at a little over two hours, it is worth sitting through.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

West Side Story is presently in theaters.

8 Comments

Filed under History, Movie Review, Movies, New York City, Politics, William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Dogberry

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting last week. Life got in the way and I also saw Billy Joel.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. Every serious drama needs a comedic break. Without it, the narrative could easily become emotionally heavy.

In Much Ado About Nothing, our comic relief is Dogberry. The local constable, he is responsible for the security of all who live in the area. But that does not mean that he is the most competent person for the job. Instead of leading his men and actively ensuring that all citizens and property are secure, he would rather provide the minimum amount of instructions possible and sleep on the job. Dogberry is also somewhat of a crime germophobe, preferring that his deputies catch the criminals, lest he is defiled by association.

When his men overhear that Don John is planning to use accuse Hero of cheating on her fiance, Claudio, they report what have heard. Knowing that this is his opportunity to impress his employer, Dogberry tries to explain to Leonato what has conspired. But he has both lousy timing and the inability to clearly make his case. Leonato dismisses him and prepares for the wedding that will not happen.

When Don John’s co-conspirators reveal the truth, Hero’s reputation is cleared and the criminals are brought to justice. Dogberry is honored for his work and move on with his life.

To sum it up: Dogberry is the release valve that the audience needs. Though his ability to do his job is reminiscent of the Keystone Cops, he is able to prove his worth by the end of the play. Even if we are laughing at him, knowing that the miscommunication between himself and Leonato turns this romantic comedy into a drama.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

1 Comment

Filed under Character Review, William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Don John

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. No one sees themselves as a villain. In their minds, they are the hero. But that does not mean that others have the same opinion.

In Much Ado About Nothing, the audience is introduced to Don John, the younger and supposedly illegitimate brother of Don Pedro. When the play opens, we are told that John was the perpetrator of some act that did not go over well. Though we are not given the details, the impression is that John has been pardoned and is once more welcomed into his brother’s circle. Taciturn and sullen, he prefers the company of his friends over the rest of the group.

The appearance of reformation is just that. John still holds a grudge against Don Pedro and resents that Claudio has become a surrogate younger brother. He knows that they cannot directly go after his brother, he must use subterfuge to reach his goals. Knowing that Claudio is both in love with Hero and open to persuasion, John and his people try to convince Claudio that his brother wants Hero for himself.

When that plan goes awry, John and his friends change tactics. Knowing that Hero’s ladies maid Margaret has a thing for Borachio, one of John’s lieutenant’s. They use her to convince both Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero is unfaithful to her fiance the night before the nuptials. The wedding, as he hopes, turns into a shit show and he nearly gets away. But when the truth is revealed, Don John is caught and brought to justice.

To sum it up: A good antagonist knows his or her place in the narrative. Their job is to make trouble for the protagonist(s) and add tension to the story. Don John is as close to this description as one can get. He knows how to play the game, and undermine the other characters without them knowing it, at least at first. And, like all villains, his true character is revealed and he gets what is coming to him.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

2 Comments

Filed under Character Review, Feminism, William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Don Pedro

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. We look to our leaders for support, comfort, and advice, believing that they are almost divine like due to their position. But as much as we may put them on a pedestal, we forget that they are human and as fallible as the rest of us.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro is a nobleman who has just led his men on a victorious military campaign. He has also forgiven his brother, Don John, for an offense whose details are not shared with the audience. Upon entering home of his good friend, Leonato, Don Pedro has a hand in two different romantic couplings. The first is between his second in commend, Benedick, and Leonato’s quick witted niece, Beatrice. The second is match is between his young protégé, Claudio and Leonato’s daughter, Hero.

At the party that Leonato is throwing in honor of his guests, Don Pedro pretends to be Claudio. His aim to confirm the his young friend’s affections are being returned and to ask for Hero’s hand in marriage. What he does not know is that Don John’s perceived turnaround is an act. His brother is going to use Hero and Claudio to take his brother down. The engagement between the young lovers goes down without a hitch, not knowing that there is a plot afoot to tear them apart.

Also at the party, Don Pedro does something is completely modern and almost unheard of during Shakespeare’s time. Instead of trying to force Beatrice into the mold of what a woman in that era should be, he acknowledges that she is more than a sharp tongued harpy. When she turns down his own proposal, he accepts her response with an understanding comes up with the idea of bring her and Benedick together.

His fatal claw comes in not questioning Don John’s motives as to why he and Claudio are being shown that Hero in unfaithful the night before her wedding. Knowing that his brother has not been the most truthful in the past, he still believes what he is being shown. The day of their nuptials, he, along with Claudio, hurl the lies that they believe have killed an innocent young woman. Even when being told of her “passing” Don Pedro still believes the slander. At the end of the play, Don John has been revealed as the villain, Hero comes back to life, and the two couples walk into the sunset. When we last see him, he is being advised by Benedick to “find a wife”.

To sum it up: No one is perfect, as much as we would love to be. There is always something that can knock us down a peg or two. In Don Pedro’s case, that would be the belief that his brother is no longer the man he was. Though he, like Claudio and Leonato, do not apologize for believing the accusations against Hero and publicly shaming her, his image as a benevolent leader is still intact when the curtain falls for the last time.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

2 Comments

Filed under Character Review, Feminism, William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Leonato

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The only thing any good parent wants for their child is to be happy and satisfied. The curve in the road comes when said parent has archaic ideas about their offspring does not followed the preferred path.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato, a wealthy landowner has one child, Hero. She is his heir and his whole world. He loves her and cares for her as any father should. Leonato has also in his care, his niece Beatrice. Unlike her cousin, Beatrice is not as pliant and more than willing to share her opinions.

When Hero gets engaged to Claudio, it seems that nothing will stand in the way of their happiness. But the wedding day does not go as planned. Accused of cheating on her fiancé at the altar, Hero faints and is assumed to be dead. When she wakes up, Leonato believes what has heard and gives her a verbal tongue lashing that is laced with disappointment and anger. He calms down when he is convinced that the accusations are nothing but lies.

Pretending that his child is dead, Leonato goes to Claudio and tells him that forgiveness will only come if he marries Beatrice. Claudio agrees, not knowing that his beloved is alive. The play ends with Hero “returning” to life and marrying Claudio, to the delight of Leonato and the rest of the characters.

To sum it up: In 2021, some would say that Leonato is has old fashioned ideas about men and women. Though it is obvious that he is a good father, he is part of a patriarchal society in which virginity is an unmarried woman’s most valuable asset. Even the hint of his daughter having sexual intercourse before saying “I do” is going to create all sorts of trouble. Though by the end of the play, all seems to be forgotten, this writer has to question why the men who condemned based Hero did not ask for forgiveness to the person they hurt the most.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

2 Comments

Filed under Character Review, Feminism, William Shakespeare