Friday, May 22, 2015

Cymbeline Blu-Ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Academy Award nominees Ethan Hawke (2014, Best Supporting Actor, Boyhood) and Ed Harris (2000, Best Actor, Pollock) lead a powerhouse cast including Milla Jovavich, John Leguizamo, Penn Badgley, Dakota Johnson, Anton Yelchin, Bill Pullman, and Delroy Lindo in a gritty story of a take-no-prisoners war between dirty cops and an outlaw biker gang. Ehen extortion, betrayal, and fiery passions threaten his criminal empire; a drug kingpin (Harris) is driven to desperate measures in this explosive, modern retelling of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy.

Film (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
In this updated version of Shakespeare’s lesser-known Cymbeline, Ed Harris stars as King Cymbeline, a drug kingpin who has promised his daughter, Imogen (Johnson) to the Queen’s (Jovavich) son, Cloten (Yelchin). Set among a backdrop of biker gangs and dirty cops in a city called Rome, Imogen falls in love with and secretly marries Posthumus (Badgley), a boy Imogen grew up with and who is like a son to Cymbeline.  When Cymbeline finds out, he banishes Posthumus from Rome. From his banishment, Posthumus has a friend, Iachimo, keep an eye on Imogen.

Pisanio (Leguizamo), Postumus’ friend and member of Cymbeline’s gang, helps Imogen escape by faking her death and Imogen sets off disguised as a boy.  She comes upon a home in the woods and meets Belarius (Lindo) and his sons.  They take her in and leave her there to rest while they go hunting.  While hunting, they come across Cloten who is looking for Imogen.  After a scuffle leave Cloten dead, the men return home with the body and find Imogen dead on the couch.  They leave the bodies in a rock quarry and return home.  However, in typical Shakespeare fashion, Imogen isn’t dead.  When she is found by the police, they try to return her to the King, but get caught up in the King’s war with the police.  When the dust settles, Imogen is reunited with her father and Posthumus, who was her father’s captive.

I’ve read all of Shakespeare’s plays and must say, Cymbeline is one that I truly enjoy.  It’s not as popular as many of his others, so it’s not as well-known.  The story is a tragedy and a little less romantic than Romeo and Juliet… it’s grittier.  This version takes place in present times, complete with iPads and iPhones.  However, the original dialogue is kept and the filmmakers used about 90 percent of the original text.  It was not as good of an attempt at using Shakespeare’s words as the Baz Lurhmann version of Romeo and Juliet, which starred Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio… and that wasn’t even that great. 

The actors were all people I normally enjoy watching, but their dialogue seemed so forced.  The natural flow of Shakespeare’s poetic prose was lost and every line sounded like an on-script play rehearsal.  I am a big fan of Delroy Lindo and thought he did the best job in his role. Ed Harris was good as King Cymbeline, but just not that believable. Milla Jovavich portrayed the Queen and, like many others, it felt forced and unnatural. Ethan Hawke’s talent was wasted in this film, and I’d really like to see him do Shakespeare for real. The characters didn’t fit with the biker gang / bad cop premise and I found myself a little bored.  It is not at all like watching a live performance of the play. 

As I was watching the movie, I was trying to follow along, but was having a hard time.  Once I dug out my copy of Cymbeline (I own the entire Shakespeare collection of plays), I was able to follow along in the book.  Scenes from the play that were cut out were filler scenes and wouldn’t have gone with the direction the movie was going in.  Some of the words were changed, because unfortunately, I don’t think some people would have known what the characters were talking about if they heard “score” instead of twenty. A few lines were changed, but I didn’t notice anything too significant added.  It was a nice attempt, but not very successful.
Video (3 out of 4 stars)
Watching Cymbeline in its widescreen presentation was good. The picture was clear, but filmed with what seemed like a dirty lens, to add grittiness. It worked. The picture was the best thing about the movie because it fit perfectly with what I think the filmmakers were trying to do. They captured the dirtiness of the biker gang / bad cop theme and in spite of the shortcomings of the rest of the film, the picture really worked.
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
Cymbeline is a poetic piece, where voice inflections and tempo matter.  The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, while it can’t fix the problems with the tempo or the tone, worked the volume well. There were only a couple places where it was too loud or soft and I had to adjust my volume.  If you want to see Shakespeare’s words for yourself, subtitles in English, English SDH and Spanish are available.
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The features included were okay. The interviews could have been combined into the behind the scenes feature. The best part of the special features was the trailer because it really grabbed my attention.
  • Commentary with Screenwriter/Director Michael Almereyda, Actor Ethan Hawke and Anthony Holden – Hearing the thoughts of the Director and actors was interesting. They gave good insight into the movie and why and how the decisions were made.
  • Behind the Scenes of CymbelineInterviews with cast and crew on the film. They talk about Shakespeare and his ability to write what people feel and have it apply to present times. The cast talks about their characters, their camaraderie and filming with each other.
  • Interviews with Cast and Crew – Individual interviews with Ethan Hawke, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, John Leguizamo, Anton Yelchin and Penn Badgley. I’m not sure why this title included the crew… it was all cast. Each cast member talked about the movie and their thoughts on the process. I don’t think this was necessary. It seemed to me like the interviews were cobbled together from various times throughout filming – the lighting was different, the positions of the actors were different. It was distracting.
  • Cymbeline Trailer – This is the trailer for the movie. It is really good and makes you want to see it. One of the quotes from a reviewer says it’s a “mash up of Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones…” ummm, no.
  • Also from Lionsgate – The previews from the beginning of the disc grouped as a feature.
  • Bookmarks – That super weird bookmarking feature typical of Lionsgate films. One of these days, I might figure out the point of it.

Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I am a theater junkie. I’ve seen many of Shakespeare’s plays and love them all. I am not a usually a fan of using his words in a contemporary setting. It just doesn’t really ever work. Cymbeline would have worked better if it was not set at a biker gang versus bad cop movie. It was a little boring and I hope that people who aren’t as familiar with this play will give it a chance on stage, in its natural setting… the way it should be. The movie just didn’t work, even though all the actors involved in the major roles did their best.

Order your copy today!

No comments:

Post a Comment