Falstaff (Chimes At Midnight)

BBB.5 (out of 5) Orson Welles takes one of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters and combines his appearances in five different plays into one smooth experience, finishing it off with narrative elements read by Ralph Richardson from the writings of Raphael Holinshed. Welles initially wrote it as a play that performed with little success, inspiring the great auteur…

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014)

BBBB (out of 5) Not a film adaptation but a filmed performance of Julie Taymor’s production for Theatre For A New Audience, arranged especially for cinematic adaptation.  Taymor recorded a number of performances, including one with an invited audience that situated the camera on stage and, as a result, keeps the performance situation intact but allows it…

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Prospero’s Books

BB.5 (out of 5) Peter Greenaway responds to the critical acclaim (and near mainstream status) of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover with his most ambitious project yet, his own jazzy re-telling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. John Gielgud appears as the title character, in this version poring his fantasies out from his pen…

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Macbeth

BBB.5 (out of 5) Shakespeare’s tale of regal hubris is brought to the screen brimming with powerful images.  Michael Fassbender is excellent as the titular Scottish warrior who is told by three sage women that he will become the invincible ruler of the land.  Emboldened by this prophecy, he and his ambitious wife (Marion Cotillard)…

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All Night Long

BBB.5 (out of 5) Shakespeare’s Othello is loosely updated to an anniversary party among jazz musicians and their friends in this atmospheric drama by Basil Dearden. Richard Attenborough sets up the soiree for his popular musician friend Paul Harris and wife Marti Stevens on their one-year anniversary, she a former singer who has put aside her career thanks…

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The Tempest (2010)

BB.5 (out of 5) There is such promise in the pairing of Julie Taymor’s ripe visual style with one of Shakespeare’s most wondrous fantasies, and yet this one does not measure up to the power of her adaptation of Titus.  Helen Mirren is excellent as the gender-switched Prospera, who rules the rocky outpost she has lived…

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Hamlet Goes Business

BBB (out of 5) Aki Kaurismaki applies his humorously brittle style to Shakespeare in this adaptation of the well-known Danish play, in this case taking place in a family of corporate tycoons.  After Hamlet’s father dies under mysterious circumstances, his uncle Klaus marries his mother Gertrud and takes over their shipping business, leaving Hamlet to…

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Romeo And Juliet (1968)

BBBB (out of 5) Shakespeare’s most popular play is adapted once again to the big screen, and unlike George Cukor’s version with Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, this one features protagonists who are much closer to the correct age. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting play the “star-crossed lovers” from two different families embroiled in a vendetta. Unable…

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The Taming Of The Shrew

BBBB (out of 5) The dream team of Burton and Taylor had one of their biggest hits together in this spirited adaptation of the Bard’s comedy. Kate is the viciously tempered elder sister of two whose younger sibling Bianca cannot marry the goodhearted Lucentio (Michael York) unless her sister is married first, as per their father’s…

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Hamlet (1990)

BBBB.5 (out of 5) Mel Gibson is excellent in the title role of the much-depressed Danish prince whose recent loss of his father has put him into a quandary: is it possible to forgive his mother (Glenn Close) for immediately following the death of her husband with the marriage of her husband’s brother? When his father’s…

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Forbidden Planet

BBBB.5 (out of 5) Here’s the Gone With The Wind of 1950s science-fiction. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this fantastic, adventurous space opera starts off with a captain (Leslie Nielsen) landing his craft on a planet that was once a colonization test site. Since it has sent no messages for quite some time, the…

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Titus

BBBB (out of 5) Julie Taymor takes her groundbreaking stage production of Shakespeare’s first play and brings it to the screen, with all its bite intact for her cinematic directorial debut. Titus (Anthony Hopkins) is the leader of the Roman guard who captures the Queen of the Goths (Jessica Lange) and her sons and mercilessly…

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