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

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

The works of William Shakespeare have been the touchstone for dramatic productions for centuries (pun intended), influencing authors, actors, and filmmakers ever since the reign of Elizabeth I. While the genius of Shakespeare is on display in his talent for witty dialogue, comedic turns, and tragic irony, perhaps the most adapted and influential of his plays is Macbeth, often superstitiously referred to as “The Scottish Play.”

Macbeth is a play containing some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines and soliloquies, from alliterative lines like, “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” to the singsongy, “Double, double, toil and trouble,” to the stark monologues, “Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘sleep no more!” It is a particularly eerie and unsettling play and has a famous curse associated with it, with accidents dogging productions of the play involving everything from car crashes to attempted murders on-stage.

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Curse or no curse, though, the play has remained tremendously popular throughout the centuries and has produced a number of different film adaptations over the years, involving everyone from Orson Welles to Akira Kurosawa. Shakespearian adaptations themselves are famously often restaged to be set in different time periods or genres, from modern adaptations to futuristic sci-fi settings. While these creative choices seem to be made to demonstrate the “timeless” quality of Shakespeare’s plays and nearly universal applicability of his stories and characters, the new The Tragedy of Macbeth movie makes an excellent adaptation by taking a surprisingly different route than other films have: keeping it simple.

RELATED: ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’: Watch Denzel Washington and the Crew Discuss Making the Film in New Featurette

The first and perhaps most notable outlet of this simplicity is in the script and dialogue. While Shakespeare’s language is probably the last thing that could be called simple, Joel Coen’s script has hardly changed a word of Shakespeare’s magnificent wordplay. Nearly every single word said in the movie is directly from the original play, down to the archaic use of “thee”s and “thou”s. Rather than adapting the language to sound more natural to a modern audience, Coen seems to have chosen to collect the actors who can deliver naturally on the richness of the material instead.

In the mouths of Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington, the language of Shakespeare is given its proper due, and nothing could be less necessary at that point than adding in extra lines or changing what was already there. Even the more incidental “cut scenes” of less important characters meeting and exchanging news on the road, which are so often cut from other productions, are left in.

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Another clear example of this stark simplicity is in the choice of color palette (or lack thereof). Filmed in a crisp black and white, the setting is deliberately chosen to accentuate the difference between light and shadow. Shadows, thick fog, and light through pointed archways play across the lens for much of the film. The black and white color scheme reinforces the themes of the story, while also working as a nod to classic cinema, as well. The light/shadow dynamic is evocative of German Expressionist films, while also feeling like a nod to Kurosawa’s Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood.

One of the more curious adaptation decisions is in the staging and costuming. While it follows the overall theme of simplicity, it is fascinatingly creative with that self-imposed restriction. For example, while the film is clearly not adapted to a modern setting, it is difficult to say exactly when it is supposed to be taking place. Scotland is the setting, with castle architecture and Gothic pointed arches, but where you would expect stained-glass and elegant tapestries there are bare walls and square modern plain glass window settings. Horses, swords, kings, and crowns coexist in the same space as matronly garb that is more at home in the twentieth century. It is a strange melding of medieval and modern, but the net result somehow is not jarring or incongruous. Rather, the mixture of anachronistic elements around a visual simplicity reinforces the grim austerity in the setting of a grim story.


Another strange but effective use of this simplicity is in the movie’s deliberate “staginess” in presentation. The film clearly makes no attempt to come off as “realistic” or historical. The movie was almost entirely filmed on a soundstage, and, rather than try to hide that fact, the filmmakers play into it. The story doesn’t come off as “grounded,” but rather as staged. There is a remarkably narrow aspect ratio to the film (1.37 : 1), and no wide sweeping shots of landscapes, or even the famous Birnham Wood coming to Dunsinane. The shots and staging are both deliberately narrow and agoraphobic, restricted almost entirely to the inner halls of Macbeth’s castle.

This cultivated “staginess” actually allows for some of the most artistic and novel flourishes in the story. On the one hand, the “unnatural” sets ironically make for the most natural environment for the film. Macbeth is, after all, a story steeped in the eerie, that was made for the stage and is most familiar to audiences on a stage. But the staging also makes a very natural setting for the types of artistic flourishes the movie excels at: a gust of wind blowing a wave of leaves through a tall window, the cramped quarters of a fight on the narrow battlements, and the symbolic gesture of Macbeth’s obsession with the crown being his downfall.

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One of the greatest strengths of this adaptation is that it finds the most appropriate outlets for its creative license. While “simplicity” may be the theme of this version of the play, The Tragedy of Macbeth does not take that as an excuse to simply make a carbon copy of the play or to cut corners. Rather, the movie treats the play as a stage production would. The words are untouched, but the artistic creativity is in the delivery: the nuance of the lines, the unspoken glances full of meaning, and the way that the negative space of the play is filled in with a unique vision that at the same time reinforces the themes of the story already there in the original.


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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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