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R.I.P. Mike Nichols

Sometimes you really don’t think about an iconic director until he’s gone. With the passing of Mike Nichols, we’re hearing from tons of actors and actresses about the man’s genius as a director. Then you go to his IMDb page and realize the man directed many of your favorite movies.

Of course there are well-known classics like “The Graduate” on his resume, and then you realize he directed gems like “Biloxi Blues” and “Regarding Henry” as well. This would be a great time to search your Netflix account for some Mike Nichols films you haven’t seen yet.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Remembering Harold Ramis

With the sad news of the death of Harold Ramis, many of use are reliving our younger years remember all of the great movies he was involved in. You can’t talk about comedies in modern film without discussing many movies that Harold Ramis helped get made, whether as a writer, director actor or mentor.

It pretty much started when he and two friends wrote “Animal House” and then it snowballed from there, with all-time classics like “Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters” and “Vacation” following. There were many more.

So enjoy the clip of Ramis acting opposite Bill Murray in “Stripes” and all of the other clips and stories about Ramis being shared this week. He will be missed.

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Whedon Remakes Shakespeare As A Film Noir

If you’re like me, you were counting down the days to Joss Whedon’s latest release, a stylistic adaptation of the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Whedon’s previous works include Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, the cult sci-fi show Firefly (and its movie counterpart Serenity), and most recently The Avengers. His ability to transect genres is only as impressive as the fan base he’s acquired, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his version of Shakespeare contains the same wit and casual humor as his previous works.

Filmed over the course of 12 days during a hiatus he had while filming The Avengers, Much Ado About Nothing was shot entirely in black and white at his own California residence. Fans of Whedon will recognize the majority of the cast from some of his previous works, including Sean Maher and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serenity) and Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof (Buffy, Angel). The difficulty in transposing a play into a film format is easily resolved through Whedon’s characteristically sharp cinematic eye. The acute angles, creative uses of shadow, and the chiaroscuro lighting give a notably noirish feel to the film, which is compounded by an exemplary performance by all the actors.

The plot follows the imminent marriage of two young lovers and the nefarious scheme of Don John (played by Sean Maher) to break it up. But layering this domestic conspiracy is the sharp-tongued witty back-and-forth interplay between the main protagonists, Beatrice and Benedick (Amy and Alexis reprising their romantic affiliations from Angel).

The choice to shoot in black and white is an interesting one considering many films are wary of it. The lack of color means that increased focus has to be put on the composition of each shot, and yet Whedon somehow pulls it off, with all the dramatic irony of the original play intact. The shot where Amy Acker as Beatrice is hiding under a kitchen counter in plain view of the maid and her cousin Hero as they talk about trying to set her up with Benedick is a perfect example – all the tension of the play is retained, and yet we buy the improbability of some of the scenes.

The other risk of adapting Shakespearian plays is to be able to convey it without it sounding overly contrived or poetic. Much Ado About Nothing is one the more prosaic plays Shakespeare wrote, but the iambic pentameter still lends itself to a pleasant cadence, and some of the exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice are both organic and believable.

There is a charm in this adaptation that goes beyond its attempt to stay true to the original play and yet give it a decidedly modern-day setting – the Victorian sentiments regarding love and relationships, although perhaps not as prevalent today, still seem to hold some sway in terms of a social commentary. The superficiality of our definitions, and the games we play, are being ridiculed, and yet also acknowledged for their role in helping us come to terms with how we truly feel. It’s a juxtaposition which feels as true now as it probably did several hundred years ago.

Simon is a writer and content specialist who is addicted to being on the front page of anything. A graduate of Dalhousie University, he specializes in using the em dash too often. Currently, Simon rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada. Check out his recent thoughts on gaming.

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Controversy surrounds ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” premieres this weekend, and the film is getting a ton of buzz. It’s also generating a ton of controversy around the torture scenes. Does the movie endorse torture in the context of the killing of Osama bin Laden, or does it instead reveal the horror of torture and the mistakes we made in reaction to 9/11?

Andrew Sullivan is one of the writers taking this issue on, and you can follow his blog for other reactions from around the web.

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