Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Winning Science March 27, 2015

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is one of the more terrifying events of the past year. At this point over 10,000 people have been killed by the virus and it has devastated several countries to the point where it will takes years, if not decades to recover. There is thankfully, a bright spot for those working with the disease. Based on new research, it appears that the virus involved in the current outbreak is not mutating at an accelerated rate as was previously thought. In fact, the virus is mutating at about the same rate as viruses from previous outbreaks. While this is a relief for vaccine researchers, it doesn’t leave them worry-free as even small mutations may have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of a vaccine.

This doesn't go well.

This doesn’t go well.

I’m glad to hear this news. I’ve seen Outbreak, I know this doesn’t end well if it mutates. Continue reading

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Confessions of a Geek: Literary Influences, Part 1

An artists vision of what Starship Trooper's power armor looks like.

An artists vision of what Starship Trooper’s power armor looks like.

A few weeks ago I was looking over a friend’s Facebook page and noticed they had posted a list of movies and/or books that had influenced them. It was a nicely mixed list and I soon found myself considering the books that had influenced me. I have decided to share with you three separate lists of books, movies and comics that have influenced me and a little of the reasoning behind why. Today we’re going to start with books, in no particular order (well, they’re in the order in which I thought of them).

  • Starship Troopers – This is one of my all-time favorite books. Robert Heinlein masterfully combines a science fiction, war story with Libertarian political views, without ever making it seem preachy.  While I don’t agree with all of the political things that Heinlein has to say, they do make for interesting thoughts and debates.
  • The Hobbit – Honestly, this almost goes without saying. Like many of my generation (and my parent’s generation) this was my first introduction to the fantasy genre.  The Hobbit really is just that, an introduction.  Tolkien gives just enough of all the various pieces to make readers want more without feeling as though they’ve been cheated.  It’s also a pretty light read, which cannot be said of The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – Keeping with fantasy for a moment, this is the C.S Lewis classic. I first came across this book sometime around third or fourth grade (maybe earlier) and was so immediately enthralled that I read the entire thing in a single night. This was the first time that I have been so in love with a book that I physically could not put it down.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Anyone who has read Hunter S. Thompson knows exactly how bizarre his work can be. Underneath the layers of drug use and general weirdness in his books There is a surprisingly accurate and thoughtful look at America. I certainly don’t share Mr. Thompson’s political views, but from time to time there are things in his work that I find myself agreeing with.
  • Marvel Comics: The Untold Story – There are two things that have fueled my interest in comics history:  a panel about the history of censorship in comics at the 2012 NYCC and Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, which I also got at NYCC. This book was so good that despite being in the middle of two other books, I dropped everything else I was reading and read this as much as possible. It reads more like a novel than a history and makes the reader feel like they know all the people personally. It has also had the effect of driving me to get more books on the history of comics.
  • Horus Heresy: Horus Rising – I picked this book up on a whim in college and then spent every moment of the next three days that I was not in class (and probably somewhere I should have been in class) reading.  This series isn’t always very good, but it has reminded me that I can enjoy purely indulgent fiction. And I’ve read TWENTY-TWO of the books, so they’ve had to have some influence.
  • Complete Works of Shakespeare – This is cheating a little, I know. Shakespeare is not only one of the greatest works of literature in the world, but it has also had a considerable impact on my life.  I started reading Shakespeare in fourth grade and it opened up a whole new world of ideas to me. Back in high school I was vice-president of school’s Shakespeare Society.  Some of my favorite books and movies even now are adaptations of Shakespearean works.

To Be Continued…

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Books, Geek Life

Editorial | Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Angel fans, rejoice!!  Fred and Wesley have finally gotten their happily ever after!!!  Ok, not really—but I still felt a little twinge of rightness in the casting of Benedick and Beatrice in Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of this film according to me.

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Together at last!

The first scene made me instantly cringe and prepare for a long hour and a half—awkward speech and several actors deliberately not looking at the camera gave me that “indie” feeling—but the instant that Alexis Denisoff (Benedick) opened his mouth—the second scene he was in, for those counting—all anxiety fled.  This man was made for the boards!  His delivery was spot on, and his facial expressions and body language completely clarified any contextual issues in a form of English that is five centuries old.

Amy Acker sparkled as the witty, aggressive Beatrice.  It is a character that can easily appear abrasive, but that is not a word that can ever be applied to Acker.  The dynamic between these two characters completely overtakes the primary plotline, which is the rocky road to marriage for Claudio and Hero.

Whedon, unable to leave his mark on the script, instead brands his work with brilliant direction and non-speaking asides.  Notably, Beatrice mocks Benedick during an interlude by a fire pit, and repeatedly brushes away the amorous advances of the man sitting next to her with barely a thought; Leonato, worn out by a two day bender, falls asleep in the middle of Claudio’s formal request for his daughter’s hand, and is sharply woken by Beatrice; the watchmen, recast as Don Pedro’s private security, lock their keys in their car and become frantic.  Another brilliant move was in casting Conrade, henchman of Don John, as a woman.  This allowed for an interesting twist in their relationship (pun entirely intended), and made Don John appear even more depraved.

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Because Nathan Fillion.

I occasionally felt that the dialogue could have been enunciated more clearly—several lines were lost in conversation—but considering how meticulous the Bard was about infusing his plays with tongue-twisters and puns, this is understandable.

The fact that the entire film is clearly a summer party and that it was filmed in the director’s own house, gives it a feeling of intimacy that is unusual for Shakespeare.  Ultimately, I left the theater feeling not as though I had just watched a Shakespearean play, but that I had just watched a group of funny, witty people carry out a party weekend in Elizabethan English.  Very funny, very witty people—and I want so badly to be friends with all of them.  Much Ado About Nothing is sweet, sexy, subtle, and smart. I highly recommend it.

“The play’s the thing…”  Yes it is, my dear Joss, yes it is.

Four out of five death stars.

4 Death Stars

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Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Much_Ado_About_Nothing_one_sheet

We all know I’m a comic geek.  In addition to this however, I’m also a fan of Shakespeare.  I started reading the Bard’s works in fifth grade starting with Hamlet and Macbeth.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to really love modern interpretations of the plays.  Among my favorites are Scotland, PA and 10 Things I Hate About You, and now I’m quite happy to add Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing to that list.

Probably the most distinctive thing about a Joss Whedon movie is the script.  Anyone who is at all familiar with his work knows that his writing has a very specific feel that is immediately identifiable.  Joss’s choice to use the traditional Shakespearean script instantly removes his most notable trademark and raises a self-imposed challenge —one that Joss hurdles almost effortlessly.  Instead of adding his quirky sense of humor to the back and forth banter of the characters, Whedon leaves dialogue to the master and inserts himself into the direction of characters and the addition of small, non-speaking scenes.

It is obvious in several scenes that Whedon is providing very specific physical directions to actors to make best use of the existing dialogue and to enhance the scene through their performance.  Although I find Shakespearean comedies funny on their own, these new directions that Joss provides take this to a whole new level.

During one particular scene Benedick is listening in on a conversation between several other characters.  While it would be simple enough to have him hide behind a bush or something similar, Joss instead has Benedick doing all kinds of ridiculous things to hide including lying flat on his stomach in the grass while trying to use a rather inadequate tree branch as cover for his face. The other characters are obviously aware of what is going on, but ignore him and continue with their conversation. I have no idea how any of these actors were able to keep a straight face while these crazy antics were going on just behind them.

One of the non-speaking scenes that added to the film takes place between two of the security guards. Thanks to the many conversations we’ve witnessed between them, we are already well aware that they are not overly gifted in matters of the mind, however to further reinforce this impression, this little scene shows the two of them searching for their keys, only to realize they locked them in the car.  This scene is completely unnecessary but it adds so much to the characters. It allows for the quick glance deeper that Whedon is known for, without saying a word.

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Nathan Fillion would like it known that he is an ass.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the casting of this film.  Made up of many Whedon alumni, the cast works just as it should.  Unlike Shakespearean tragedies, the comedies feel more like an ensemble.  Despite having plenty of recognizable faces in the cast, there are no divas, and no true standouts.  This is not to say that none of the cast stood out, but more to say that the cast as a whole was amazing.  While I have no doubts there were several outtakes due to dialogue, I can’t remember any points in the film where the sometimes difficult Shakespearean English tripped up the actors.  It was all delivered cleanly and in a manner which helped make the often muddy much clearer.

I think the most telling thing for me is that I have almost nothing negative to say about this film.  Although I did have a moment of trepidation at the very beginning due to the seemingly stereotypical “indie film” opening scene, this was cleared up within another minute.  There were one or two times that I didn’t care much for the way a particular camera angle was used or that the music may have been a bit too menacing, but this was all so minor that it didn’t take away from the film as a whole.  Let’s be honest, if all I can find to complain about is a couple of camera shots and a minute or so of music, this is definitely a home run and damn near a grand slam.  Whether you are a fan of the Bard, of Mr. Whedon, or both, this film is definitely worth checking out. I already have plans to add it to my Blu-Ray collection.

5/5 Death Stars

5/5 Death Stars

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Movie Reviews, Movies