Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing had its U.S. premiere yesterday at SXSW, and its trailer was also just released. To commemorate, the Much Ado official party bus:

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I had the opportunity to go to the world premiere of Much Ado at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I can tell you, it is incredible. I have written on it extensively for my own work, but don’t feel like sifting through all those pages to find something short enough and pertinent enough to share with you right now. So instead, I’ll just leave you with the beautifully jazzy trailer and extend an invitation to celebrate with me this wonderful film.

Huzzah!

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The End of ‘Weeds’ and the Taming of the Shrew

The hit showtime series Weeds has finally come to a close, with the season eight box set released last month. The final season is quite a bit different, though, than the show we all know and love, and the most striking difference is in the character of Nancy Botwin herself. Formerly a sultry pistol, the Nancy of the final season has significantly mellowed out, much to the detriment of the show.

The main reason most of us watched the show in the first place was to see what ridiculous predicaments Nancy would get herself into and the ballsy, half-cocked schemes she’d concoct to get out of them. Scared straight after a brush with death, the Botwin matriarch renounces her iniquitous ways and sets out to turn her family legit.

This is wrong in all kinds of ways. Nobody wants to see the Botwins actually get their shit together. They’re supposed to always fumbling through life–they’re a mess, but they’re together. Isn’t that the whole point of the show? No matter how fucked up your family is, you continue to fight for (and sometimes with) each other.

The Weeds finale seems to try to wrap things up a little too much, but it does redeem itself in the final scene. Passing around a joint on the front porch, the Botwin crew looks at each other in silence, seemingly begging the question “what next?” And this is exactly how the entire finale should have treated the show’s closing – it’s not an end. The Botwins are going to keep getting into trouble, and they’re going to keep being there for each other through it all.

But everything about season eight besides this final scene points to closure, to a resolution. It ties up the Botwin story in a nice little bow with all of them set on the right track for a quiet, legal lifestyle. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t what I wanted to see. What did you think of the end of Weeds? Did you find it as weird as I did?

‘Weeds: Season Eight’ Is a Tame End to the Wild Ride
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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Weeds has officially wrapped up its eighth and final season looking quite different from the intense, dark comedy it was in 2005. While returning to the suburbs and the satire that so characterized the early years of the show, the series’ conclusion feels haphazard. Much like Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) herself, the desultory final season of Weeds doesn’t quite seem to have a plan, hurriedly throwing one together at the last minute.

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John Cusack, what have you become?

Did anyone hear about John Cusack’s latest film? The thriller supposedly inspired by the real events surrounding a notorious Alaskan serial killer, even though there are really no similarities between the stories, co-starring Jennifer Carpenter of Dexter? No? First you’ve heard of it?

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I’m not surprised, because not only did this mediocre film go straight to DVD, it’s also completely formulaic – a thriller to the T. Although it’s got all the right pieces of the puzzle – big-name actors, a provocative premise, and all the twists you would expect from a thriller – when you put the puzzle together it produces a completely bland film that offers the viewer nothing new.

This is a great example of an easy trap to fall into for screenwriters. While you need to of course pay attention to the genre in which you are writing, it is possible to adhere too closely to accepted norms. In order for a film to have a real impact, it needs to go outside of the box in some way. Unfortunately, The Factory simply doesn’t do that.

Even worse, John Cusack’s performance is painfully underwhelming and shallow. Now, I love the classic Say Anything John Cusack as much as the next girl, but he’s really gone downhill now that he’s no longer that earnest and playfully endearing teenage underachiever. Somehow he doesn’t seem able to play the more mature roles now demanded of him, especially the protective father figure of The Factory. Many would argue that 2012, quickly followed by Hot Tub Time Machine, marked the beginning of the end for Cusack, but personally I rather enjoyed HTTM and didn’t find 2012 as atrocious as some. So I still had hope, until now.

What do you think about John Cusack’s career trajectory? Have you seen or heard of The Factory before now? Let me know what you thought of it!

‘The Factory’ Is Just Another Thriller Off the Assembly Line
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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With well-known actors and a provocative premise, it’s surprising to see a film like The Factory go straight to DVD (sans bonus features or scene selection options). It hits all the high notes: abduction, abuse, murder, and even fatherly heroics. But this film’s failure to make an impact is perhaps due to too strict an adherence to the thriller formula. In the end, The Factoryleaves you with nothing new, only a sense that you’ve somehow seen it before.

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