Shakespeare Undone: Cymbeline

 DATELINE: Clashing Cymbeline

cymbeline

King Cymbeline and Step-son!

Michael Almereyda is known for putting the modern spin on the old stuff. To call Shakespeare’s secondary play, Cymbeline, a lost masterpiece in the trailer is a tad misleading.

We must ask, ‘what have we got here?’

Updates of Shakespeare are always a fad, and Michael Amereyda provides us with a Sons of Anarchy version of Shakespeare’s lesser Brits versus Romans story.

Alas, Shakespeare was already making a parody of his earlier work, Romeo and Juliet, in this late career tale of young love.

Putting a secondary Shakespeare play into an American biker setting is guaranteed to drive biker fans crazy in five minutes, and Shakespearean purists to the remote control in 10 minutes. No one will stick around for the standard blood bath we know is at the end of Shakespeare’s dramas and histories.

Watching this one is like viewing those delinquents in West Side Story as they do ballet down the mean streets of East Harlem in a different Shakespeare update. It is slightly ridiculous.

We are always sympathetic to American actors who try Shakespeare. This film avoids showing you the actual Shakespearean dialogue in the trailer. It may be a rude shock to the unwary fans who tune in.

We commend every American actor in the movie for managing to use their skateboards and smart phones and still spit out the Shakespearean language. The cast is marvelous: Ed Harris plays King Cymbeline, John Leguizamo as an unfortunate aide, Ethan Hawke as a notable enemy, the lead Anton Yelchin is Harris’s step-son.

We suspect there are English majors who have read a dozen Shakespearean plays but never this one. So, we are pleased that Almereyda has made it available and semi-watchable. The plot is incomprehensible, because we can hardly root for drug abusing violent Hell’s Angel bikers versus corrupt and ruthless police.

If done with British actors, the whole thing would look like something out of a gay leather movie, which American boys Anton Yelchin and Penn Badgley have their parts.

We might never see another version of Cymbeline other than this movie. For that we are grateful, even as many other fans head for the exits. We stayed till the end.

 

Two Godfathers in Righteous Kill

DATELINE:  Pacino & De Niro as Cop Team

two godfathers

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have made several movies together. We were surprised by the 2008 entry called Righteous Kill from 2008. When this is all we will ever receive from the two legends in tandem, we take it gladly ten years later.

You have a special treat with this movie. The two legendary actors play New York detective partners. They must’ve flipped a coin to see who got which role. We suspect they have equal numbers of scenes, but play off each other quite well. Nothing less could be expected.

Their Lieutenant played by Brian Dennehy, notes that they must have about 120 years experience between them. Yes, they seem a little long in the tooth and beyond retirement age. This is especially noticeable in De Niro’s love scenes to a girl more than half his age.

Their foil cop detectives are played by John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg, more age-appropriate detectives. They play mincemeat for laughs to the stars. Pacino calls them gay Starsky and Hutch.

There are many 60s and 70s references in this movie, like it should’ve been made 25 years earlier.

However, the stars will not disappoint their fans. Short of them playing mobsters, these roles are the best they probably could find in a script together.

The mystery about the serial killer may easily be figured out,  But the fun is watching Pacino and De Niro act up a storm.

Righteous kill pushes all the right buttons. It is formulaic, yes, but De Niro and Pacino transcend.

To prove we watched every minute including the credits, we can tell you that Pacino and De Niro each has a hairdresser; each has his own make up artist; each needs a personal Stand-in, and each has a personal driver, But Pacino has two personal assistants to De Niro’s one.

The movie is a game of one upsmanship.