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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ..so should I buy it?
There are plenty of detailed critiques of the performances and production on here which I won't attempt to emulate; this review is rather for the casual browser who is hovering around the 'add to basket' button. So - Yes! I bought this at a price pretty much equivalent to rental - and I would heartily recommend it as great value and good entertainment. It has its...
Published on 6 Oct 2009 by Old Flozer

versus
67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superb Film - Rotten DVD
The Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson version of 'Much Ado About Nothing' is one of the happiest and most charming films I have ever seen (despite the tense bit in the middle and the tedious nature of the bard's original story).
This DVD is let down -so- badly by the rough and ready transfer, which has the following problems:
1) This is 1.4ish:1 and not widescreen...
Published on 22 July 2008 by M. Lindsell


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ..so should I buy it?, 6 Oct 2009
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are plenty of detailed critiques of the performances and production on here which I won't attempt to emulate; this review is rather for the casual browser who is hovering around the 'add to basket' button. So - Yes! I bought this at a price pretty much equivalent to rental - and I would heartily recommend it as great value and good entertainment. It has its weaknesses - the DVD transfer is not particularly high quality (I'd like to see a fully restored, Blu-Ray version) and has no supplementary material. Of the performances, only Keanu Reeeves' is really dubious - he brings to the part of John the Bastard an impressive physique and little else. There's also some of that rather cloying best buddies quality that accompanies Branagh's core troupe. However, overall it trips along with a light touch and is very entertaining - genuinely so on the strength of the play, not just for the interest of the interpretation. The cinematography and scenery are superb (though again, some colour restoration would have helped, and some of the cast had gone very pink in the Italian sun!). I enjoyed Keaton's perfomance as Dogberry, though I struggled to hear everything he said, and it did remind me of Beetlejuice. I'd forgotten how luminously beautiful and engaging the young Kate Beckinsale was before she became Hollywood Barbie (sigh..), and was very impressed by the naturalness of Denzel Washington's delivery, as Branagh's integration of US actors sometimes jars.

You don't have to be a Shakespeare fanatic to enjoy this, but there is equally plenty there to satisfy the enthusiast. Hit that button!
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superb Film - Rotten DVD, 22 July 2008
By 
M. Lindsell (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson version of 'Much Ado About Nothing' is one of the happiest and most charming films I have ever seen (despite the tense bit in the middle and the tedious nature of the bard's original story).
This DVD is let down -so- badly by the rough and ready transfer, which has the following problems:
1) This is 1.4ish:1 and not widescreen as it says on the packaging (the original film -was- widescreen)
2) The colour in the original film was wonderful - alas not the DVD, where unsightly colour aliasing and contours are evident
3) There isn't even a decent Scene Selection capability, just a small number of whole 'acts', so it is very hard to find your place if you don't see it all the way through
4) No Extras whatever, despite the fact that there was a lovely 'making of' featurette made (I watched it on TV).

Please, please, please could we have a widescreen anamorphic reissue (Region 2) with all of the above corrected?

I for one would pay full price.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Shakespeare's best known plays, 5 Sep 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
By no means a well-known play compared to Shakespeare's tragedies, or even many of his history plays, "Much Ado About Nothing" remains a popular theatrical production, a play which offers dynamic, meaty parts and provides actors with challenging vehicles for the display of their talents. In a sense, it is a play driven by its players, its text bristling with wit and energy, its themes and concepts regularly re-interpreted and re-presented by the great actors and producers of succeeding ages.
"Much Ado" is a play about courtly society and its preoccupation with love and marriage, with 'form', and with the appropriateness of suitors and matches. Love is one thing, but marriage involves power, money, and property rights and succession. It's a play about rules - often unwritten, usually unspoken, but which are learned by social osmosis and which appear in the niceties of etiquette, manners, and social trivia, providing fragile bastions to status and breeding. Despite their apparently ephemeral nature, these are rules which are very real, and not without severe sanction.
But "Much Ado" is also a play about the breaking of rules, about their use and transformation, obeying, instead, the demands and commands of love. Much of the dynamic of the play lies in the contrast between the two couples, Beatrice & Benedick and Claudio and Hero. The former are the liberated archetypes, the latter a more classical pairing.
It's a play which has been repeatedly interpreted and reinterpreted in the light of changing social mores and tastes. Much of the difficulty in studying the play lies in teasing out Shakespeare's intent from the layers of meaning and interpretation with which it has been lacquered.
There are numerous editions of the text available - Amazon doesn't seem to enable individual reviews to appear (indeed, the book section of "Much Ado" seems to be dominated by comments on a film version). However, for the student, there are distinct advantages in getting the right text.
Of the various versions available on the market, I have to say that the Arden edition presents an authoritative text and extensive set of notes - notes on context and language also appear at the foot of each page of the play, itself. The long introduction is extremely rewarding and informative, and further notes on the play are included in appendices. Overall, I'd rate this the best edition for the serious scholar.
The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a sophisticated resource - it provides some sixty pages of an Introduction, analysing the play and providing the sort of intellectual baseline sixth form and first year university students need. It offers further analysis at the end of the play. The text, itself, is beautifully printed, with tight little notes at the foot of each page (you may find you need glasses to follow these, however). Still, an edition to be recommended.
The Cambridge School Shakespeare provides lots of ideas for groupwork and class analysis of text and themes, and must provide teachers with an excellent practical resource with which to engage their class. The text appears on the right hand page, notes and commentary are kept to the left hand page - making it very accessible and readable. There is also a quality feel to the paper and printing.
The Longman's School Shakespeare also provides notes on the left hand page, text on the right. The text is, perhaps, better presented than the Cambridge 'School' edition - it is slightly more expansive and lucid. The notes, however, don't feel as robust as in the Cambridge edition - they're more limited and less comprehensive.
The Oxford School Shakespeare is, I feel, the weakest of the 'school' editions. Overall, I didn't find it as dynamic or thought-provoking as the others. It provides a brief synopsis, a scene by scene analysis, and some useful notes. But text and notes run together on the same page, giving it a congested, claustrophobic feel which I found disconcerting.
The New Penguin version bears the imprimatur of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's the most portable version - it'll fit in a pocket or bag. The text is presented without benefit of notes on the page - you have to keep referring to the back of the book to find these. The notes are comprehensive and thought provoking. Given that the play is largely written in prose, there can be dense blocks of dialogue on the page and, with the smaller size of the Penguin, it can make it look more daunting than needs be. The introduction can also be a touch dense and academic in places - it is worth persevering with it, for it does have some excellent points to make. The Penguin edition is an excellent, portable one, but it has its drawbacks.
The Dover Thrift edition, meanwhile, is precisely that. The bare bones of the text, no notes to speak of, and a very 'economical' feel to print and paper quality.
For school work, I'd go for the Cambridge or Longman's, for the keen student, the Arden edition is my top recommendation, followed by the New Cambridge. However, if you are studying the play, it is worth collaborating with some of your fellow students - you each acquire a different edition of the text, then you can compare and contrast the notes and commentaries.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Converting all your sounds of woe...oh..into hey...nonny...NONNY!', 5 Nov 2006
By 
Mr. A. E. Hall "brother_of_sadako" (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Kenneth Branagh's adaption of Much Ado About Nothing is a sheer delight to watch. I first saw it six years ago to prepare for a performance of it at school. The whole class fell in love with the film and while it may fall behind Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet in pure greatness, it soars ahead in sheer fun and exuberance.

As with Hamlet from 3 years later, the set is moved forward a few hundred years which just gives a fresh and vibrant touch to the film. Branagh himself plays Benedick and the chemistry between him and his (then) wife Emma Thompson as Beatrice makes you wonder why they could ever have split up. It is the war of words between these two that provide some of the main highlights of the film, especially their initial exchange:

Benedick: 'God keep your lady in that so some man may 'scape a pre-destinate scratched face'.

Beatrice: 'Scratching could not make it worse onto such a face as yours'.

Benedick: 'Well you are a rare parrot teacher'.

Beatrice: 'A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of your tongue'

Benedick: 'I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue'.

Branagh is also not afraid to throw in American actors and their effect ranges from the fish in water (Denzel Washington's Don Pedro), to the aquittable Keanu Reeves to the outstanding thespian but altogether too Yankee Robert Sean Leonard. However the real American star of the film is Michael Keaten with his sidekick Ben Elton who give a Monty Pythonesque twist to Dogsberry and Verges.

Branagh directs the film with style and his choice of music is outstanding. The all-star cast deliver as expected and it all adds up to one of my alltime favourite films.

One little criticism is the actual DVD itself. There are no extras whatsoever; it would have been nice to hear Branagh's views on the film. And although the scene selection by 'act' is quaint, it is annoying trying to find one particular scene.

Do not let that disuade you though, watching this film on a flip book while listening to it on tape would be enough. It is a beautifully written and performed play.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fatally Flawed, 4 Feb 2004
By 
JBV "JBV^_^" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I reviewed this film when the DVD was first released, but amazon, in their wisdom didn't publish it. so...
Lets not get this wrong. I love this film. I really do.
On the other hand this DVD is a travesty.
The picture quality is the same as the video, that is not as good as the copy i made off the TV! Sound quality is excellent (unlike the video).
No extras. Poor picture. Great sound and acting.
I don't know if the US version is any better, but it can't be any worse.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great film, but almost greater disappointment as DVD, 11 April 2002
By A Customer
I do love this film version of Much Ado About Nothing and I want to point out that the two stars are not for the film at all but for the DVD. Having gone to the trouble (and not inconsiderable expense) of ordering it, I was severely disappointed that it had NOTHING but the film as such. No extra material whatsoever, not even subtitles, and you cannot even switch to the beginning of each scene, just of each act! It would have been far less expensive to buy the videotape, and that would have been equally useful.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Shakespeare's best known plays, 5 Sep 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
By no means a well-known play compared to Shakespeare's tragedies, or even many of his history plays, "Much Ado About Nothing" remains a popular theatrical production, a play which offers dynamic, meaty parts and provides actors with challenging vehicles for the display of their talents. In a sense, it is a play driven by its players, its text bristling with wit and energy, its themes and concepts regularly re-interpreted and re-presented by the great actors and producers of succeeding ages.
"Much Ado" is a play about courtly society and its preoccupation with love and marriage, with 'form', and with the appropriateness of suitors and matches. Love is one thing, but marriage involves power, money, and property rights and succession. It's a play about rules - often unwritten, usually unspoken, but which are learned by social osmosis and which appear in the niceties of etiquette, manners, and social trivia, providing fragile bastions to status and breeding. Despite their apparently ephemeral nature, these are rules which are very real, and not without severe sanction.
But "Much Ado" is also a play about the breaking of rules, about their use and transformation, obeying, instead, the demands and commands of love. Much of the dynamic of the play lies in the contrast between the two couples, Beatrice & Benedick and Claudio and Hero. The former are the liberated archetypes, the latter a more classical pairing.
It's a play which has been repeatedly interpreted and reinterpreted in the light of changing social mores and tastes. Much of the difficulty in studying the play lies in teasing out Shakespeare's intent from the layers of meaning and interpretation with which it has been lacquered.
There are numerous editions of the text available - Amazon doesn't seem to enable individual reviews to appear (indeed, the book section of "Much Ado" seems to be dominated by comments on a film version). However, for the student, there are distinct advantages in getting the right text.
Of the various versions available on the market, I have to say that the Arden edition presents an authoritative text and extensive set of notes - notes on context and language also appear at the foot of each page of the play, itself. The long introduction is extremely rewarding and informative, and further notes on the play are included in appendices. Overall, I'd rate this the best edition for the serious scholar.
The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a sophisticated resource - it provides some sixty pages of an Introduction, analysing the play and providing the sort of intellectual baseline sixth form and first year university students need. It offers further analysis at the end of the play. The text, itself, is beautifully printed, with tight little notes at the foot of each page (you may find you need glasses to follow these, however). Still, an edition to be recommended.
The Cambridge School Shakespeare provides lots of ideas for groupwork and class analysis of text and themes, and must provide teachers with an excellent practical resource with which to engage their class. The text appears on the right hand page, notes and commentary are kept to the left hand page - making it very accessible and readable. There is also a quality feel to the paper and printing.
The Longman's School Shakespeare also provides notes on the left hand page, text on the right. The text is, perhaps, better presented than the Cambridge 'School' edition - it is slightly more expansive and lucid. The notes, however, don't feel as robust as in the Cambridge edition - they're more limited and less comprehensive.
The Oxford School Shakespeare is, I feel, the weakest of the 'school' editions. Overall, I didn't find it as dynamic or thought-provoking as the others. It provides a brief synopsis, a scene by scene analysis, and some useful notes. But text and notes run together on the same page, giving it a congested, claustrophobic feel which I found disconcerting.
The New Penguin version bears the imprimatur of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's the most portable version - it'll fit in a pocket or bag. The text is presented without benefit of notes on the page - you have to keep referring to the back of the book to find these. The notes are comprehensive and thought provoking. Given that the play is largely written in prose, there can be dense blocks of dialogue on the page and, with the smaller size of the Penguin, it can make it look more daunting than needs be. The introduction can also be a touch dense and academic in places - it is worth persevering with it, for it does have some excellent points to make. The Penguin edition is an excellent, portable one, but it has its drawbacks.
The Dover Thrift edition, meanwhile, is precisely that. The bare bones of the text, no notes to speak of, and a very 'economical' feel to print and paper quality.
For school work, I'd go for the Cambridge or Longman's, for the keen student, the Arden edition is my top recommendation, followed by the New Cambridge. However, if you are studying the play, it is worth collaborating with some of your fellow students - you each acquire a different edition of the text, then you can compare and contrast the notes and commentaries.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dainty Dish., 28 Jan 2006
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
Since his Oscar-nominated "Henry V" adaptation, Kenneth Branagh has come up with a simple, effective recipe: Blend 3 parts English actors well-versed in all things "Bard" with 1 or 2 parts Hollywood, sprinkle the mixture liberally over one of Shakespeare's plays, lift the material out of its original temporal and local context to provide an updated meaning, and garnish it by casting yourself and, until the mid-1990s, (then-)wife Emma Thompson in opposite starring roles.
In "Much Ado About Nothing," that formula works to near-perfection. A comedy of errors possibly written in one of the Bard's busiest years (1599) - although as usual, dating is a minor guessing game - "Much Ado" lives primarily from its timeless characters, making it an ideal object for transformation a la Branagh. Thus, renaissance Sicily becomes 19th century Tuscany (although the location's name, Messina, remains unchanged); and the intrigues centering around the battle of the sexes between Signor Benedick of Padua (Branagh) and Lady Beatrice (Thompson), the niece of Messina's governor Don Leonato (Richard Briers), and their love's labors won - initially the play's intended title; Benedick and Beatrice are a more liberated version of the earlier "Love's Labor's Lost"'s Biron and Rosaline - as well as the schemes surrounding the play's other couple, Benedick's friend Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Beatrice's cousin Hero (Kate Beckinsale) become a light-hearted counterpoint to the more serious, politically charged intrigues of novels such as Stendhal's "Charterhouse of Parma:" Indeed, the military campaign from which Benedick and Claudio are returning with Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon (Denzel Washington) at the story's beginning could easily be one associated with Italy's 19th century struggle for nationhood.
While according to the play's conception it is ostensibly the relationship between Hero and Claudio that drives the plot - as well as the plotting by Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, Don John (Keanu Reeves) - Beatrice and Benedick are the more interesting couple; both sworn enemies of love, they are not kept apart by a scheming villain but by their own conceit, and are brought *together* by a ruse of Don Pedro's (although even that wouldn't have worked against their will: "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably," Benedick tells Beatrice.) And while Don John's machinations create much heartbreak and drama once they have come into fruition, the story's highlights are Benedick's and Beatrice's battles of wits; the sparks flying between them from their first scene to their last: even in front of the chapel, they still - although now primarily for their audience's benefit - respond to each other's question "Do not you love me?" with "No, no more than reason," and when Benedick finally tells Beatrice he will have her, but only "for pity," she tartly answers, "I would not deny you; - but ... I yield upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption" - whereupon Benedick, most uncharacteristically, stops her with a kiss.
Branagh's and Thompson's chemistry works to optimum effect here; and while every Kenneth Branagh movie is as much star vehicle for its creator as it is about the project itself, Benedick's conversion from a man determined not to let love "transform [him] into an oyster" into a married man (because after all, "the world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor I did not think I should live - till I were married"!) is a pure joy to watch. Emma Thompson's Beatrice, similarly, is an incredibly modern, independent young woman; and scenes like her advice to Hero not to blindly follow her father's (Don Leonato's) wishes in marrying but, if necessary, "make another courtesy and say, Father, as it please *me*" only enhance the play's and her character's timeless quality.
Yet, while the leading couple's performances are the movie's shining anchor pieces, there is much to enjoy in the remaining cast as well: Richard Briers's Don Leonato, albeit more English country squire than Italian nobleman, is the kind of doting father that many a daughter would surely wish for; and what he may lack in Italian flavor is more than made up for in Brian Blessed's Don Antonio, Leonato's brother. Kate Beckinsale is a charming, innocent Hero and well-matched with Robert Sean Leonard's Claudio (who after "Dead Poets Society" seemed virtually guaranteed to show up in a Shakespeare adaptation sooner or later); as generally, leaving aside the appropriateness of American accents in a movie like this, the Hollywood contingent acquits itself well. Washington's, Leonard's and Brier's "Cupid" plot particularly is a delight (even if the former might occasionally have gained extra mileage enunciation-wise). Keanu Reeves, cast against stereotype as Don John, is a bit too busy looking sullen to realize the role's full sardonic potential: "melancholy," in Shakespeare's times, after all was a generic term encompassing everything from madness to various saner forms of ill humor; and I wonder what - but for the generational difference - someone like Sir Ian McKellen might have done with that role. But as a self-described "plain-dealing villain" Reeves is certainly appropriately menacing. Michael Keaton's Dogberry, finally, is partly brother-in-spirit to Beetlejuice, partly simply the eternal stupid officer; the play's boorish comic relief and as such spot-on, delivering his many malaproprisms with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
The cast is rounded out by several actors who might well have demanded larger roles but nevertheless look ideally matched for the parts they play, including Imelda Staunton and Phyllida Law as Hero's gentlewomen Margaret and Ursula, Gerard Horan and Richard Clifford as Don John's associates Borachio and Conrade, and Ben Elton as Dogberry's "neighbor" Verges. (In addition, score composer Patrick Doyle stands in as minstrel Balthazar.) With minimal editing of the play's original language, a set design making full use of the movie's Tuscan setting, and lavish production values overall, this is a feast for the senses and, on the whole, an adaptation of which even the Bard himself, I think, would have approved.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about Arkangel's 'Much Ado About Nothing', 9 Dec 2009
Not really sure what to rate this...I don't like the play, but the performance is outstanding (just the other way around from Arkangel's 'Twelfth Night'). Nearly every actor performs exceptionally, especially Saskia Reeves as Beatrice and Steve Hodson as the villainous Don John. Bryan Pringle is also very funny as Dogberry, and the musical backing is beautiful, too.

For some this is Shakespeare's greatest comedy, but I think it's strangely soulless compared to 'As You Like It' or 'Twelfth Night'. As to the way Hero is treated, well, I hate to agree with the various feminist commentators, but it isn't a pretty spectacle.

Benedick and Beatrice are the real focus of the play, however, and here are acted brilliantly. 'Much Ado About Nothing' is an absurd play in many ways, but Shakespeare even at his worst has a crazed poetic power which transcends all manner of mediocre plot devices.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sigh no more, ladies..., 19 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
One of the problems with Shakespeare's comedies, an English professor once told me, is that they are not funny. Now, this is not to say that Shakespeare was a bad comedy writer, or that this professor had no sense of humour. In fact, quite the opposite--he had turned his sense of humour and love of humour into an academic career in pursuit of humour.
What he meant by the comment was, humour is most often a culture-specific thing. It is of a time, place, people, and situation--there is very little by way of universal humour in any language construction. Perhaps a pie in the face (or some variant thereof) does have some degree of cross-cultural appeal, but even that has less universality than we would often suppose.
Thus, when I suggested to him that we go see this film when it came out, he was not enthusiastic. He confessed to me afterward that he only did it because he had picked the last film, and intended to require the next two selections when this film turned out to be a bore. He also then confessed that he was wrong.
Brannagh managed in his way to carry much of the humour of this play into the twentieth century in an accessible way -- true, the audience was often silent at word-plays that might have had the Elizabethan audiences roaring, but there was enough in the action, the acting, the nuance and building up of situations to convey the same amount of humour to today's audience that Shakespeare most likely intended for his groups in the balconies and the pit.
The film stars Kenneth Brannagh (who also adapted the play for screen) and Emma Thompson as Benedict and Beatrice, the two central characters. They did their usual good job, with occasional flashes of excellence. Alas, I'll never see Michael Keaton as a Shakespearean actor, but he did a servicable job in the role of the constable (and I shall always remember that 'he is an ass') -- the use of his sidekick as the 'horse' who clomps around has to be a recollection of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where their 'horses' are sidekicks clapping coconut shells together.
I'll also not see Keanu Reeves as a Shakespearean, yet he was perhaps too well known (type-cast, perhaps) in other ways to pull off the brief-appearing villian in this film.
Lavish sets and costumes accentuate the Italianate-yet-very-English feel of this play. This film succeeds in presenting an excellent but lesser-known Shakespeare work to the public in a way that the public can enjoy.
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Much Ado About Nothing [VHS] [1993]
Much Ado About Nothing [VHS] [1993] by Kenneth Branagh (VHS Tape - 1994)
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