Recent Shakespeare movies, AKA Branagh is the swooniest!

In order to avoid a total hijack of this thread I figured I ought to start a whole new thread dedicated to the more current crop of Shakespeare movie adaptations.

Personally, I think Branagh leads the pack currently, from his robust “Henry V” through the lush and fabulous “Much Ado About Nothing,” lending his sneering expertise to “Othello,” then blowing the doors off with his elegant, full length “Hamlet.” (I think we’re tiptoeing quietly around “Love’s Labour’s Lost” by popular agreement… :wink: )

But Kenneth is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been quite a few movie productions of the Bard in the past couple of decades–what are your favorites? Victorian era Hamlet or scruffy Mel Gibson style Hamlet? How about Ian McKellan as Richard III? Al Pacino’s Shylock? Fancy Trevor Nunn’s “Twelfth Night?” Which Romeo and Juliet–traditional(ish) Zeffirelli or Leo in danger of being engulfed by Claire’s giant face? Am I crazy in thinking John Cleese was the best Petruchio EVER? How about John Gielgud’s Prospero? And who can’t help but love the thalidomide zombie baby that is “Titus?”

So have at you! Cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war–it’s a cage match Shakespeare barroom bransle…

I sorta dig the cheesy stagebound 1974 version of Antony and Cleopatra. Patrick Stewart is at his bombastic best (the echoes of his voice are still receding into deepest space) as Enobarbus.

Like all the Branaghs, though (God, I hate to admit this) I thought Jack Lemmon was just woefully off as (whatshisname–one of the guards). On the other hand, Heston was at his bombastic best, though not as loud as Stewart.

Did anybody see that Ethan Hawke Hamlet? If so, what did you think of Bill Murray as Polonius?

Sir Rhosis

The Mel Gibson version of Hamlet was well done.

I rather like the 2004 Merchant of Venice with Joseph Fiennes and Al Pacino.

I thought so too - some of the googly-eyed madness was a bit Lethal Weapon, but it still worked.

Much Ado About Nothing with Branagh, Thompson et al is good, although Brian Blessed is a bit hammy(as usual), and Keanu Reeves is jarringly miscast here.

I really, really liked it. It was so cinematic yet the poetry was there.
I am no Shakespearean scholar, but it seemed to me that this filmed version of Merchant of Venice had everything going for it: atmosphere, movingly spoken words, and the playwright’s message, loud and clear.
But my big weakness is for Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing; I even bought it.
I especially enjoy Washington and Thompson’s performances.

I’m a big fan of both Olivier’s and Branagh’s Hamlets and Henry V’s, but my vote goes for Julie Taymor’s incredible production of Titus Andronicus. Now that was one hell of a film.

I liked Ethan Hawke as modern Hamlet, with the original language intact, but I also liked Mel Gibson in the more traditional setting.

I’m glad that I am not the only one to think this. I always hated saying that it, because I like Jack Lemmon, but he was, at best, not that great in Hamlet. I don’t know if he and Shakespeare just don’t mix or what, but his line deliveries strike me as forced.

Other than that I loved the movie, and though I also loved the Olivier version I think that Branagh has him beat.

I love Branagh’s Henry V, Taymor’s Titus, and even Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet, but Ian McKellan as Richard III is the best Shakespeare movie evah.

Very much agreed about Ian McKellen as Richard III being the best Shakespeare movie of all. We watched this during my class on Shakespeare’s histories and pretty much everyone was blown away. Parts of the character that seemed outrageous and unbelievable in the play suddenly became awesomely organic. I do love me some Branagh, though. His Saint Crispin’s Day speech will always be Just How It’s Done as far as I’m concerned.

Scotland, PA. (Macbeth)

I’m hoping Come Like Shadows, due in 2008, will be good. It’s Macbeth starring Sean Bean and Tilda Swinton.

I hated the Gibson version of Hamlet, the De Caprio version of Romeo and Juliet and wasn’t crazy about the Pacino version of Merchant of Venice.

The melancoly Dane became the wacko dane with gas with Gibson, the lovers seemed more cross-eyed than starcrossed in Leo’s R and J. and Pacino reminded me of the old saw; Pacino took on Shakespeare last night - Shakespeare lost (that last was a little strong - sorry. Let me just say I felt he tried too hard. The beauty of the …If you prick us, do we not bleed" speech became more of a rant.)

I loved Much Ado and Braugh’s Hamlet, Welles’ McBeth and McKellen’s Richard III. I also loved the Beastmaster guy doing Taming of the Shrew in the Shakespeare in the Park series PBS put on in the 70s and 80s. The Taylor and Burton version was just plain painful. Would like to see Cleese in it. Missed that though.

The Brando-Gielgood, Julius Caesar was the best on film of that one, I felt. Great cast. Brando’s style didn’t match up with many other peoples in it. Still it was good.

I might put in a vote for the Moonlighting crew’s Taming of the Shrew. Good Fun. I so wanted to like Fishburne in Othello, but it never quite made it. I heard there are film clips of James Earl Jones doing Otello, but I have never seen it. I would like to though.

Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet is still the bench mark although I still love John Berrymore’s Mercutio. It was wonderful, well so was Leslie Howard’s Romeo in a whole different way. Or Rathbone’s Tybalt (wonderfully evil)? Or Andy Devine just in a pair of tights just doing Shakespeare? (“additional dialogue by Ben Hecht”)

Don’t even get me off on Mickey Rooney doing Puk and James Cagney as Bottom wasn’t it?

Well Branagh is the swooniest. :wink:

Despite not being enormously fond of Al Pacino I enjoyed Looking for Richard the documentary intermixed with rehearsals. I thought I’d mention it as no one else has yet.

I despised Prospero’s Books notwithstanding John Gielgud’s appearance as Prospero. This had very little to do with his acting, and more to do with my lack of appreciation for Peter Greenaway as a director. I should have known better having previously seen The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. I stuck it out all the way through Prospero’s Books, while almost everyone around me got up and left the theatre. Though it’s been nearly fifteen years now, I have the impression of so **not ** enjoying it that I even got bored during the banquet scene which seemed to feature a veritable parade of penises.

vetbridge was Scotland PA good? My dad keeps telling me to watch it, as I’m the English Major in the family so everything Shakespeare is recommended to me by everyone. He said it was a pretty good dark comedy, you agree?

I should probably watch it.

My personal favorite it Much Ado. Even with Keanu’s piles of ham it’s so much fun to watch.

Storytime! When I was in London with a class my advisor took us to see Don Carlos at the Gielgud starring Sir Derek Jacobi. My prof is a huge fan of him so about 5 of us waited by the stage door. After seeing several cast members and crew members leave a man walked out that looked vaguely familiar. At that point our minds were in “Sir Derek or not Sir Derek” mode so it took a minute to realize Kenneth Branaugh had just stepped out of the theatre! We of course yelled “Mr. Branaugh!” and he stopped to chat for a second. My professor thanked him for making so many wonderful adaptations that helped her teach Shakespeare. He gave her a hug! It was cute.

And yes, we did meet Derek Jacobi a few minutes later. Here’s the pic!

I loved it. If you watch it see if you can spot each Macbeth character. The witches in particular. :stuck_out_tongue:

I was lukewarm on Scotland PA, and I found the modern setting with original language in the Ethan Hawke Hamlet to be dissonant. I really liked Branaghs Henry V and Much Ado. I’m fond of some of the inspired by’s as well. Looking for Richard, Rosencranz and Guildensten are Dead, and A Midwinters Tale/In the Bleak Midwinter I would highly recommend. The last is a lesser know Branagh work, written and directed by, but he’s not on camera. If you want to get waaay out in left field try Tromeo and Juliet

I forgot to mention, if you can ever track down the BBC doco on the first performance of Henry V in the New Globe Theatre, get it. Mark Rylance, who pays Henry, absolutely blows away Branagaghs and Olivier’s perfromances.

Sorry to be so remiss about getting back to my own darned thread, but my poor laptop had a catastrophic meltdown and I put off using the SO’s CrazyBox as long as humanly possible–I had to disable Kaspersky’s in order to be able to stand using the thing as the lag is unconscionable and then I had to install and customize Firefox because Himself is an IE user (see, sometimes mixed marriages DO work!) and I really hate this gigantic sticky keyboard and the damned mouse (how QUAINT!) and I don’t have ANY of my bookmarks and well, WAAAHH! Okay, I’m better now–not really, but it’s a blow to have RStudio recognizing the data on the HDD but no filenames, just thousands of numbered items and no way to tell what the hell they are until you extract them–a nightmare, I’m just sayin’…

ANYWAY! Glad to see I’m not alone in my unabashed worship of Much Ado–yeah, Keanu was a little jarring, but then again the character is kind of like that anyway, he’s just a villain because Wm. says so, no backstory or explanation of his motivations in the entire play–he’s just the bad guy, end of discussion. From that standpoint I’d say using Keanu worked in the movie’s favor, pointing up the basic disconnect inherent in the character. Or I could just be addled by the nakednesses and the suntanned boobies in lovely crisp white linens… I have to say Michael Keaton’s Dogberry was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in any Shakespearean production–SO disgusting, but hilarious. Kate Beckinsale pre surgery was a lot hotter than she is now, I’m just sayin’… I like that Branagh will cast mixed race actors without regard for making the colors match–some people were disconcerted with Denzel as Keanu’s brother, but I like it for the same reason I like setting the plays in different historical periods, in that it focusses the attention on the words and the story and makes it clear that it’s all about the play, not the set dressing.

Let me just say that I love movies based on Shakespeare but not actual productions of the plays–Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, * 10 Things I Hate About You, * and the like, again because of the emphasis on the universality of the story and the characters. I’ve got Scotland PA scheduled to come in next batch on my Netflix queue, and thanks for the memory jog on In The Bleak Midwinter, outlierrn, I had seen it but it slipped my mind–definitely a very worthy effort and fun besides! Totally concur on the Moonlighting version of Taming of the Shrew, I laughed myself sick and it holds up over time, too!

PastAllReason–I can definitely understand where you’re coming from on Prospero’s Books as I’ve noticed that Greenaway is a tout ou rien kinda guy–it’s either you dig it or you hate it and there’s very little crossover. I have a strong stomach and a taste for the over-the-top, so I can get into it–I totally understand why others disagree, though.

Mel’s Hamlet has a valid spot in spite of his overly muscular performance, because the costuming was SO fabulous, and Glenn Close is a marvel. I don’t usually care for the Oedipal interpretations of the play much, but in this case it almost had a creepy appeal–kinda like that bukkake video hidden in the private folder than nobody’s supposed to know about… not that I’d know anything about that, of course, purely a hypothetical case don’tcha know, move along, nothing to see here… :wink:

I have not seen the Ethan Hawke version, but it’s going in the queue–Kyle McLachlan, Bill Murray and Julia Stiles–yup, gotta check it… Thanks for the tip, vivalostwages!

Also a shout out to Leechboy for the head’s up on the Rylance Henry V, although I’m having a tough time picturing the essentially retiring and inward actor as the larger-than-life character, should be an interesting juxtaposition. Netflix will be busy this week…

Sir Ian as Richard–just plain wow. I loved the quasi-Nazi/WWII setting and the casting of Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. in with such a stellar British cast, emphasizing their “outsider” status in a subtle but pointed way. This would make a great double feature with Pacino’s Looking For Richard, just for the disconnect between the two styles…

Ahh, Titus. I first saw this play as one of the BBC produced Complete Works (which included the Cleese version of Shrew) and I was just jawdropped at the incredible levels of horror and violence in the story–just amazing it was, especially since I was maybe twenty or so at the time and not nearly as jaded as I am these days… Wasn’t there a capsule description of the plot that goes simply “Everybody dies?” :stuck_out_tongue: The movie is incredible, cinematography, costuming, casting, imagery–the girl with sticks for hands, brrrrrr! The bizarre juxtapositions of historical periods, costumes and sets makes it impossible ever to get in any way comfortable with the movie, which means that at every turn the horrifying plot twists and murders are a complete shock, even when you KNOW they’re coming! Not an easy film, not a film you can “like,” but easy to love and equally easy to hate. Say what you will, though, it’s a tour de force.