A Barry Levinson horror movie and Joss Whedon doing Shakespeare? Just another day at TIFF 2012...
Few would have predicted that Joss Whedon would follow up the third highest grossing film ever made with a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation literally shot in his backyard. But that's precisely what he's done in Much Ado About Nothing.
Whedon populates Shakespeare's comedy of lies and errors with a collection of his regular actors – Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, Fran Kanz – and marries casual twenty-first century behavior with classic Shakespearean dialogue. Some of the actors relish wrapping their tongues around the Bard’s prose (Fillion is particularly hilarious) while others sound like they are reciting a foreign language. The film’s best quality is its 'let’s put on a show' spontaneity and anyone with background knowledge of Whedon's worlds will find this a hugely gratifying watch.
Whedon essentially turns Much Ado About Nothing into a gentle romantic comedy. The breezy performances and humourous physical business that Whedon whips up generates a surprisingly large volume of laughs. It’s ultimately good fun with English major pretensions and in-jokes galore, and another reason to tip your hat to Whedon in 2012.
Barry Levinson made a horror movie. That’s right, the man behind Diner and Tin Men decided it was time to scare the crap out of moviegoers. Thankfully, it’s no repeat of the Sphere debacle. Somehow managing to prove there’s still life left in the found-footage genre, The Bay is one of the most pleasant surprises to slip into TIFF 2012's dependably fantastic (and dependably insane) Midnight Madness program.
The film is essentially a fictionalised polemic WikiLeaks documentary/environmental horror movie. If that sounds like an odd career choice for the stand up comedian-turned-filmmaker, well, frankly it is. But something about this sharp left turn seems to have sparked Levinson’s considerable talents again and the result is his best feature for some time.
The Bay is a mélange of security camera home movie, news report, Skype and top-secret government footage, compiled by an unknown source and narrated by a local news reporter (Kether Donohue). The link is the seaside town of Cambridge, celebrating the Fourth of July with parades, beach parties, eating contests, and pretty much every other celebratory sample of Americana you could care to think of. The trouble is there’s something in the water this year, a parasite transmitted by a sip or a swim that grows and breeds within its human host, only to grimly burrow its way out.
The victims appear to have a virus at first and the town's unprepared physicians and government endorsed virus experts fail to figure out the cause of the epidemic in time. Predictably, human pollution is to blame. Levinson wears his political allegiances on his sleeve but thankfully things never gets too didactic or preachy. This is the George A Romero movie we were all hoping for during his millennial zombie comeback, nimbly mixing social commentary and satire with a healthy dose of scares. The compilation footage style is a clever twist on the moc-doc formula, weaving together a tapestry of characters without wasting time on explaining why the cameras are rolling.
In the third act The Bay turns into a more conventional monster movie, but it's a genre requirement Levinson makes the most of. Hopefully it won’t be another four years before we see him back behind the camera.