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How Kathryn Hunter Stole ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ From Its A-list Leads

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How Kathryn Hunter Stole ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ From Its A-list Leads

When you’re watching a movie like The Tragedy of Macbeth that’s headlined by Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, it can be easy to wonder how on Earth any other performer in the project’s cast will leave an impression. That’s no slam on the other actors in Macbeth, but rather a comment on just how commanding and memorable Washington and McDormand are as actors. But within this production’s cast, another actor not only manages to shine but achieves the remarkable accomplishment of standing out as the best actor in the whole movie. This incredible honor goes to Kathryn Hunter, who accomplishes so much in her idiosyncratic portrayal of the story’s crucial character, the Witches.

RELATED: ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is an Excellent Adaptation (Because it Keeps it Simple)

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Kathryn Hunter may register as an unknown name, an understandable response given that her prior film acting credits to The Tragedy of Macbeth are minimal. (She did play Mrs. Squibb in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). However, Hunter is a veteran of stage acting, particularly in West End theater productions that have garnered her acclaim. Though she may not be as immediately familiar to American moviegoers as Washington or McDormand, she’s also got plenty of impressive performances under her belt, making her a natural choice to go toe-to-toe with titans like these two.

It also means Hunter is prepared to offer something new in a role that’s been handled by countless other actors in the deluge of Macbeth film adaptations that have been released over the years. Even with her astonishing resume, it would be easy to believe Hunter couldn’t offer something new in portraying the Witches. The screenplay for this adaptation, penned by Joel Coen, opts to confront this potential issue head-on by making Hunter’s first scene one immediately distinctive compared to other Macbeth movies. Specifically, this sequence establishes that the trio of Witches from William Shakespeare’s original text have largely been condensed to one woman.


Now, the original incarnation of the trio of witches does make brief appearances throughout The Tragedy of Macbeth in the reflections of water or crouching atop perches in Macbeth’s quarters. Primarily, though, Hunter is alone in portraying the Witches, a take that fits right in with the sparse nature of The Tragedy of Macbeth’s visuals (it also evokes a similar choice in Akira Kurosawa’s quasi-Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood). The benefits of this choice regarding Hunter’s performance are made instantly apparent, as the viewer is introduced to Hunter’s solitary witch sitting alone. Here, the dialogue of all three witches has been squashed together into one character’s mouth, with Hunter delivering each word as an unnerving stream of consciousness, a flood of words that cannot be stopped.


The sight of her engaging in a conversation with herself is made eerier by Hunter’s raspy vocals, which sounds less like a voice belonging to a human being than a noise you’d hear from the bottom of a deep dark pit. Right away, the depiction of the Witches in other Macbeth movies leaves your mind and that’s before Hunter utilizes her contortionist abilities to further distinguish her take on this character. This mic-drop of an introductory sequence blows all conceptions of how the Macbeth witches should speak, move, or even how many there needs to be. The bold acting choices of Hunter are immediately apparent.

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As the film goes on, an extra gift of letting Hunter be the sole representative of the Witches also becomes noticeable. Traditionally, this trio of Witches has each member of the group portrayed by a different actor, which can yield its own interesting rewards. However, for this iteration, simplifying things down to just one actor means that Hunter doesn’t have to yield her screentime to two other people. With all this extra space and all the dialogue from this trio belonging to her, she’s given even more time to leave an impression on the audience. Thankfully, Hunter manages to make use of every second she’s on-screen.


There’s also an otherworldly and invulnerable aura to Hunter’s performance that makes her such an interesting contrast to The Tragedy of Macbeth’s interpretations of all these other characters. When we meet Hunter’s witch, she’s able to move her body in tremendous ways without even flinching. Meanwhile, she talks of hideous subjects like murder and speaks to powerful figures like the eventual King Macbeth with similar fearlessness. Hunter’s dialogue deliveries and physicality make her a compelling departure from everyone else in this story. Deceit defines nearly all characters in Macbeth, yet Hunter’s Witch, both in her dialogue and in her actions, is all about being her uninhibited self.

There’s always been a pervasive aura of doom in the pages of Macbeth, but Joel Coen’s interpretation of this material ramps that quality up to 11. The finite nature of everyone’s existence is always on the character’s minds, while filmmaking details like the monochromatic color palette and minimal score elevate the sorrow of development like Lady Macbeth’s eventual insanity. Compared to these brutal depictions of human folly and vulnerability, Hunter’s Witch stands out all the more as a compelling aberration. Her performance establishes this character as eerily evasive of the everyday shortcomings that plague everyone else in the cast.


Best of all, Hunter flourishes within the uniquely stripped-down style of The Tragedy of Macbeth, which evokes black-box theater productions more than a lavish movie set. Working within these confines could be a challenge for many actors, but Hunter, with her long experience in theater and with Shakespeare productions, seems to thrive in this environment. Within this intimate approach to storytelling, she knows just how to delicately thread the needle between leaving an impression and maintaining a critically subdued nature.

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Her Witch will almost certainly crawl into your nightmares, but she also doesn’t disrupt the quietly ominous tone of the whole piece by chewing the scenery. Her deft navigation of The Tragedy of Macbeth’s unique tone means she’s even capable of being the only principal actor in the cast who takes on multiple roles (she also portrays the figure Old Man), a feat she’s able to accomplish without this double-dipped casting coming off as distracting. A lifetime of work in the world of stage productions, which often function within limited means, pays off handsomely with how effortlessly Hunter excels in The Tragedy of Macbeth’s barren world.


With all these qualities and more at her back, it’s no surprise if many people walk away from The Tragedy of Macbeth talking about how impressively Hunter breathed new life into the role of the Witches. Of course, Washington and McDormand also deliver superb work in their respective lead roles, but incredibly, their memorable performances aren’t the standout parts of this Joel Coen motion picture. As the Bard himself wrote, “what’s done cannot be undone,” and what Hunter has done in The Tragedy of Macbeth is deliver a performance that manages to exceed the work of legends like Washington and McDormand.


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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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