Archives for Kenneth Branagh

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Chimes at Midnight (1965) Directed by Orson Welles Starring Orson Welles, Keith Baxter, John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau and Margaret Rutherford reviewed by John Murphy Has there ever been a more felicitous pairing of part and performer than Falstaff and Orson Welles? With his rotund body and orotund voice, Welles knew he was born to play “this huge hill of flesh,” “Sir John” Falstaff, Shakespeare’s iconic sack-swilling scamp and scallywag. After decades of neglect and shoddy prints, we are blessed to have a new Criterion Collection release of Welles’s masterpiece, Chimes at Midnight, restored to its full lavish glory by Janus
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Much Ado About Nothing (1993) directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh

Shakespeare for Groundlings Much Ado About Nothing was a minor sensation upon its release in 1993. By that time, Kenneth Branagh had come to be regarded as a cinematic Wunderkind, gene-splicing Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. Flush from the success of heavy-hitters like Henry V and Dead Again, the tireless auteur released this sunny show, appropriately enough, in the spring of 1993 and scored another deserved mini-smash. Thankfully, jealous Time and Branagh’s subsequent slip-ups have not dulled its sheen. The movie is a joyous, energetic romp; a happy reminder of Branagh’s unique talent for making a four-hundred year old text
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Looking for Richard (1996) directed by and starring Al Pacino

In his directing debut, Al Pacino has given us one of the most accessible Shakespeare spinoffs ever for the screen. Smart, witty and energetic, Looking for Richard is a delight to watch, offering insight into Shakespeare and his iconic Richard III, and giving the viewer a behind-the-scenes look at how a production of the play might be mounted. Pacino intercuts between his “film” of Shakespeare’s Richard III and documentary-style scenes and interviews on the making of same. The “real” movie (or at least portions thereof) is fabulous: Pacino plays Richard as an intellectual with a conscience, the effect being all
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Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh

I Get a Kick Out of You Love’s Labour’s Lost is an entertaining mash-up of a 1930’s era musical with one of Shakespeare’s slighter comedies. The combination is less seamless than one might have wished, but Kenneth Branagh and his photogenic cast coast on creamy charm. This flighty flick has all the nutritional value of a flute of champagne, but who says Shakespeare has to be good for you? After Branagh’s epic, unabridged Hamlet — a four course meal if ever there was one—no one can blame him for whipping up this frothy dessert. The fact that Love’s Labour’s Lost
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Hamlet (1996) starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh

originally published 2005 Kenneth Branagh is blinded by unbridled ambition. He swings for the grand-stands every time he steps up to bat. I love that quality, but his passion is double-edged, his most notable strength and weakness as a filmmaker. This aim-for-the-rafters modus operandi has produced a decidedly mixed bag of films: transcendent entertainment (Henry V and Dead Again), a monumental misfire (Frankenstein) and the muddled middle ground of Hamlet. One thing’s for certain: Branagh is never boring. Even at his ham-fisted worst (stalking around Frankenstein’s lab with oiled, glistening abs, giving birth to “the Creature”), he still succeeds at compelling
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