Category Archives: William Shakespeare

Ophelia Movie Review

The good thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is the room to find a new narrative angle. The bad thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is how quickly it can go wrong.

The 2018 movie, Ophelia is a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.

Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Ophelia is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Halston Series Review

Every decade has its own unique style. In the 1970’s, there was one name that represented the height of women’s fashion: Halston.

The new five part Netflix miniseries, Halston, stars Ewan McGregor as the the iconic fashion designer. The viewer is initially introduced to Halston in the early 1960’s. His salon in New York City is besieged by customers after he designs the hat that Jackie Kennedy wears at her husband’s inauguration in 1961. We then flash forward to 1968 when the business has dried up. Despite being a talented designer, it appears that his once thriving career is in the past.

Then the 1970’s dawns and his wildest professional dreams come true. But as his star grows, Halston’s past and his demons begin to catch up with him. Addicted to drugs and pushing away even the closest of his friends, it appears that his genius and talent will be eclipsed by the shadows he can never get away from.

*Warning: the trailer above contains strong language and images of drug use.

The narrative is nothing short of a Shakespearean tragedy. This man is brilliant, driven, funny, eccentric, and devoted to his friends. Among them is Liza Minnelli (a fantastic Krysta Rodriguez) and the recently department jewelry designer Elsa Peretti (Rebecca Dayan). He is also selfish, full of it, arrogant, and thinks that he has all of the answers. McGregor is superb as the title character, painting a complete picture of a man who myth and mystique is still with us three decades after his passing. It is one of the best roles I have seen him play in a long time.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Halston is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under History, Netflix, New York City, Television, TV Review, William Shakespeare

The Vandalization of Those Synagogues in NYC Will Not Change My Faith

Hate is akin to an insidious disease. It takes over you, changing everything about your world and how you see it.

Over the weekend, four different synagogues were vandalized in the Bronx in New York City.

Whomever these people are, if they think that this act will scare me into changing my faith, they have another thing coming. I could go on, but I am going to let two wise men speak instead. Their truths are more powerful than anything I could ever write.

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Though I am sure that the justice system will do it’s job, it may not be enough to change the perspective of the perpetrators. I say, drop them in Auschwitz for a night. Let the spirits of those who were murdered teach the ultimate lesson.

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Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet Review

Romeo and Juliet is one of those plays that we all know. The convergence of young love, hate, and violence come together in a potent mix that has been irresistible to audiences for centuries.

Last night, Great Performances aired a new adaptation of the Shakespeare play. Starring Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley as our iconic lovers, the play is set on a sparsely decorated theater stage.

This production is fantastic. Emphasizing the narrative and the emotions of the characters, it is one of the best re-creations I have seen in a long time. It also, in my mind, proves that one does need to clothe the actors in Elizabethan era costumes or film somewhere in Europe that looks like 16th century Italy to be true to the text.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Romeo & Juliet can be watched on the Great Performances website.

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Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

When it comes to famous writers, there are only a few who are universally loved and worshipped. At the top of this list is William Shakespeare. Today is his birthday. I could list why he is one of the greatest writers in human history, but I will let the work speak for itself.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream Movie Review

There is a reason why we keep adapting the works of William Shakespeare again and again. His work is timeless. His stories and characters represent the best and worst of humanity.

The 2017 film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a modern California based, adaptation on the Shakespeare play of the same name. The narrative follows through different groups of characters whose tales ultimately converge.

Hermia (Rachael Leigh Cook) is unhappily betrothed to Demetrius (Finn Witrock). She would rather be with Lysander (Hamish Linklater). Helena (Lily Rabe) is in love with Demetrius, but he has constantly rejected her for Hermia. When Lysander and Hermia formulate a plan to run off and get married, Helena and Demetrius follow them.

Bottom (Fran Kranz) is a wannabe comic and a member of a unknown theater troupe. Literally turned into a walking, talking butt by Puck (Avan Jogia), he is pulled into the romantic brouhaha between Oberon, King of the Fairies (Saul Williams) and Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Mia Doi Todd).

This movie is really good. I was thoroughly charmed and entertained. The thing about adaptations of any classic work (specifically when it is not set in the period that it was written in) is the balance between staying true to the original text while giving a contemporary audience an emotional inroad to hold onto. This film is able to do both, keeping both fans of the Bard and a viewer who is looking for a good laugh engaged.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Much Ado About Nothing is available for streaming on the Roku Channel.

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Flashback Friday: Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style (1992)

Sometimes, getting out of the house and away from our everyday surroundings is the thing that we need at that particular moment.

In 1992, the gang from Saved by the Bell left California for a vacation in Hawaii. The TV movie was entitled Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style. Kelly Kapowski’s (Tiffani Thiessen) grandfather owns a hotel in Honolulu. Harry Bannister (Dean Jones) has invited his granddaughter and her friends (chaperoned by Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins)) to enjoy their time off at the Hawaiian Hideaway. But as usual with SBTB, it is more than a week to chill and enjoy each other’s company. Unless Harry can save the Hideaway, he will be forced to close his hotel. It is, therefore, up to the kids to save the day.

Is it Shakespeare? Obviously not. But it is on brand for the series, taking fans out of Bayside High and into a larger world.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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How Do I Love Joe Biden on President’s Day? Let Me Count The Ways

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Macbeth Play Review

The wanting and/or keeping of political power is a story that is as old as human history. William Shakespeare‘s tragedy Macbeth has been told countless times over the centuries.

The latest adaptation of this play can be seen at the Classic Stage Company in New York City. Stepping into the shoes of the power hungry general Macbeth and his equally power hungry wife Lady Macbeth are IRL married couple Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers. As they claw their way up the ladder of power, they leave a train of bloodshed, madness, murder and destruction in their wake.

This plays brilliant and timeless. As the lead couple, Stoll and Bowers are enthralling. It’s almost like passing by a car accident on the highway. As much as you want to look away, it is impossible not to. In addition to the magnetic lead actors, I very much appreciated the non traditional casting of female performers in roles that are traditionally played by men.

I recommend it.

Macbeth is playing at the Classic Stage Company at 136 East 13th Street in New York City until December 15th. Check the website for showtimes and tickets.

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All Is True Movie Review

When we talk about legendary men such as William Shakespeare, we speak of them as if they are icons, instead of human beings who have become icons over time.

In the new movie, All Is True, William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film) is dealing with the twin troubles of the fire that destroyed the original Globe Theatre and mourning the loss of his son.

But returning home for a little r&r is not going to be so easy. Though Shakespeare receives a visit from his old friend, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen), this is the easiest of the relationships with those around him. His wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) feels put upon by the years of emotional and physical distance between them. His eldest daughter, Susanna (Kathryn Wilder) is going through a rough patch in her marriage. His younger daughter Judith (Lydia Wilson) rages against the injustices that women in her era experience on a day to day basis.

Branagh is an old hand at Shakespeare. His career has been built upon the life and the work of this film’s subject. What I liked about this film is that is presents Shakespeare as a human being, warts and all. His Shakespeare is not a young man at the height of his career, but an older man whose better days are behind him. He carries the weight of his world on his shoulders and the mistakes he has made along the way.

I recommend it.

All Is True is presently in theaters.

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