Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” {Review}

Some may say that Joss Whedon and Shakespeare, two giants within their own rights, are an unalloyed union of geekery for fans of both. Whether you’re a fan of one or the other, or both, Much Ado About Nothing offers something for everybody. Even a person who isn’t a fan of Shakespeare might find himself surprised, for Joss Whedon makes the original language accessible and, best of all, one can understand what they’re saying. (You don’t just have my word, you have Stephen Colbert’s!) There is no stumbling, no effort or struggle to understand the words. Any of the humour originally derived from the text (wordplay or slang, or cultural reference) that might otherwise be lost on a modern audience is punctuated by each actor’s performance and sometimes even the set itself, such as when Benedick is offering his thoughts on marriage and women while sitting next to a dollhouse with Barbies. (My favourite line, “That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks. […] And the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.”)

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Much Ado since I caught wind of it (and the marketing lead-up to the movie’s release; the ever-changing Twitter bio instilled much laughter). From the get-go, my impression of Much Ado About Nothing is what an indie movie should be, ideally. (The definition of independent movies is not quite determined, and a discussion for another time.) It also embodies the kind of moviemaking I treasure: friends having a good time, whether it’s an indie movie on a micro budget or a major blockbuster, I always enjoying watching behind the scenes features with the cast and crew having a good time and enjoying themselves, and sharing stories in interviews.

I finally saw the movie on Wednesday, with my sister and aunt and all of us loved it! Brilliant and engaging, we laughed at the lines – most of them by Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof), and Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) – the moments of physical comedy (Alexis Denisof wins again), and cursed the “inevitable betrayal” of Don John (played by Sean Maher, who played Simon Tam in Firefly), who tries to sabotage a marriage before it has even happened. (Side note: I had no idea that he was in this movie! I had a minor crush on him, as his character, in Firefly. I did not like his character at all in Much Ado; he brilliantly and convincingly played the villain, a snake in the grass.)

Prior to seeing it, I borrowed a copy of the play from the library to be familiar with the text but so much of the comedy and humour, as well as the tension arising from Don John’s deceit, came alive from the actors’ performances. While I read the scene in which Don John frames Hero for infidelity with some unease, I was tense (my sister, sitting next to me, stressed out) when watching it happen in the movie and even more so as it led up to the point in which she is framed and publicly humiliated. Likewise, while I might have read humorous, witty lines with amusement with amusement, I laughed out loud while hearing those same lines (particularly Dogberry’s). It has long been argued that Shakespeare is meant to be performed, not read, and I can now attest to that – when done well. Such is the case with Joss Whedon’s adaptation.

Continue reading

Music from Jeeves and Wooster

One of my favourite TV shows is Jeeves and Wooster. Starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, the show was based on the Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse, who is also probably my all-time favourite comic author and whose works I enjoy immensely.

Back when I first began watching the show and was getting into P.G. Wodehouse, many years ago – it actually started with Carry On, Jeeves; the first Wodehouse book I ever read – I discovered The World of Jeeves and Wooster: an album of the music from the show. Seemingly sold as a limited release, it was out of print at the time of my discovery, although the years since have made the songs from the album available online and easier to acquire, including on iTunes. On iTunes the songs are individually priced at $1.29 or $11.99 (Canadian) for the whole album.

If you enjoyed listening to Bertie Wooster singing silly songs such as “Minnie the Moocher” or “Nagasaki” in the show, both of which get a backing band (an additional track, titled “Minnie the Moocher is Alive and Well and Living in Berkley Court” includes Bertie and Jeeves’ amusing call and response, see in the video below) then you might enjoy the songs on this album. You’re in for a treat!

I, Regress (Again)

It was announced at The Velvet Onion that there is a new series of Matt Berry’s radio comedy I, Regress beginning tonight at 11PM (GMT). If Matt Berry’s name rings a bell, you might recognize him from The IT Crowd as Douglas Reynholm, the son of the owner of Reynholm Industries or as Dixon Bainbridge from the first series of The Mighty Boosh TV show. In I, Regress he plays Dr. Berry – a hypnotherapist who uses regressive means to solve his patients’ phobias, with often dark and twisted results.

I caught the first series of I, Regress last year and it was a treat! The third episode was my favourite, with Dr. Berry treating a patient who has a fear of heights. Spoiler alert – pigeons are from the moon!

I, Regress airs tonight at 11PM (GMT) on BBC Radio 4. If you’re not in the UK, you can easily listen to it – from wherever you are, with an Internet connection – using TuneIn Radio, either online or the app.

The first series of I, Regress is also available to buy on iTunes. Each episode is sold individually as an EP for $1.99 (Canadian) each.

Wogan on Wodehouse

Last year I chanced upon a BBC documentary called Wogan on Wodehouse. Broadcast in 2011, Terry Wogan pieces together P.G. Wodehouse’s life and its parallels in his writings, often brilliantly inspired. Unlike some documentaries that try to uncover supposed hidden truths or darker aspects in an author’s works through their life, the parallels only further illuminate Wodehouse’s brilliance as a wordsmith and his ability in seeing the humour in life.

I believe I was between the ages of thirteen and fourteen when I read my first Wodehouse book, Carry On, Jeeves. Since then, I’ve read more of his books and enjoy them as much as I did upon first reading them, if not more so. After reading any of his stories, I always come away with a feeling that I can only describe as rich and uplifted. How he uses language is invigorating.

Most of the enjoyment that one gets out of reading his writing is his use of simile, alliteration, and witty, sometimes irreverent, allusions and references to Shakespeare and classical studies, usually the Romantic poets, and the Bible. All of which are handled deftly. His writing is such that he is one of those very few writers in which one derives more enjoyment by reading it himself than hearing it read out loud or narrated, as when listening to an audiobook.

Continue reading

Don’t Panic

Today would be Douglas Adams’ sixty-first birthday: a fact celebrated by today’s Google doodle. I first read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when I was twelve or thirteen. I don’t remember knowing much prior to reading it, but I do remember after how it left me confused more than anything. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t laugh once, or was ever amused while reading it. The only memorable thing I was left with, back then, was that humans have a habit of stating the obvious, as exemplified by stating the weather. (Saying it’s a sunny day, for instance, when everyone can tell that the sun is shining.)

I really only began to get the comedy fairly recently, as much as a year ago, when I started to listen to the radio series. The radio series actually came first, then it later was published as books and turned into a TV show as well as a movie, among other formats. (I haven’t watched the TV show or movie, though I’m thinking perhaps it’s time to take a crack at the book again.)

Now I appreciate it and actually can make reference jokes to it or understand references to it (such as Roy’s 42 tee shirt in The IT Crowd, which is also sold on ThinkGeek). Perhaps I was too young to get it, but I’m glad I do now. If I like the Boosh and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, its brand of humour should be something I like.

One other Douglas Adams book I read and enjoyed was The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. I loved Dirk Gently with his I Ching pocket calculator, as well as his habit of following a car in traffic, whilst forgetting his original destination, but always arriving where he was needed.