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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hamlet, A Suit & A Gun: Joe McClean's "The Speech" Reimagines Legendary Play

"THE SPEECH" (2014)
Genre: Drama
Length- 8:22
Company: Ginger Beard
Website: Official

So there's this guy – his name is Hamlet (Barry Finnegan).  His dad is killed, and his mother marries his uncle, who Hamlet suspects of being his father's murderer – and that's just the start of one awful, terrible, no good very bad day.

He doesn't know what to do.  Should he kill his uncle?  Kill himself?

Maybe – possibly – kill everyone in the entire world?

Hamlet walks into the desert with a gun, determined to get to the bottom of this.

TO BE . . . 

“The Speech” is a smart and entertaining new take on William Shakespeare's Hamlet.  To be more specific, it's the entirety of the famous “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy.  This time, it's given a modern update, with a Hamlet wearing a suit and tie while retaining the beauty of Shakespeare's liquid language.

The film is gorgeous to look at courtesy of director Joe McClean and DoP Mike Testin.  “The Speech” opens with some moody shots of the open desert and skyward flashbacks tell the basic story of Hamlet to keep viewers up to speed, all the while appearing and vanishing like ghosts as Hamlet  himself walks purposefully toward the camera.  It's a great shot, and a stirring visual that brings to life Hamlet's internal conflict and prepares us for the one man show that is to come.

Now on to Finnegan.  This man can ACT.  He puts on an incredible show, taking us from the edge of insanity to murderous rage and broken down despair on a second to second basis.  His performance is, simply put, brilliant.

With Testin's continuous flood of striking visuals and moody and yet epic original music by Michael Teoli, there is no way “The Speech” could fail.

You do need to know a little bit about Shakespeare's original Hamlet to fully appreciate this short film, but that's really the only negative side.  It's amazingly directed, incredibly well acted and it looks great and sounds fantastic.

And finally, I leave you with an Interesting bit of trivia: “The Speech” was created as a short film to insert into a longer documentary about the “To Be Or Not To Be” speech as a whole.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Shakespeare's lines are legendary and Ginger Beard does a great job of working with a minimalist aesthetic, but it's one man and the desert, and that comes with certain limitations.
Directing: 4 / 5.  McClean pulls out ALL the stops and its his uncanny visual style that makes this film a joy to watch visually, as he seamlessly marries Shakespeare's words with intense, composed images that stir up your emotions.  I particularly LOVED the sideways shot over the carrion's shoulder.  Traditionally, dialogue is told by shots from over the shoulder of each character, so how smart is it that Hamlet speaks, in essence, to death directly, and we mirror that with a dead bird?
Editing: 5 / 5.  Director McClean also edits this film, and he does it perfectly.  Not a single shot is out of place, the pacing is dead on and each shot feeds into the next.  It's a whirlwind performance, all done from a computer monitor, but this critic for one much appreciated his work!
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.   Very much enjoyed Teoli's original score, with woodwinds supplied by Sandro Friedrich.  At the finale, it felt a little too “action film”-esque for me, but otherwise, it's beautiful and moving.
Acting: 5 / 5.   Finnegan's performance is one of the best I've seen in any short film, period.  Add to that solid blink-or-you'll-miss-it performances by the rest of the cast, who fill out Hamlet's remaining characters, and you have an incredibly well acted short.

Final Grade:  4.3 / 5.

I will post more information when “The Speech” becomes available for viewing online, but until then check out the trailer here and DO NOT MISS its screening on  January 17th, 2015 at the Poet's Den Gallery in New York City!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Two Lovers, One Life & What Might Come: Craig Maclachlan's "Reflections" & Painful Life

"REFLECTIONS" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 15:57
Company: Maclachlan 84 Productions
Website: Official Facebook

Live-in couple Rachel (Kerry Browne) and Sam (Craig Anthony-Ralston) move into their new house, but they can't leave behind what happened five years ago.

LIFE CAN BE PAINFUL

“Reflections” is the latest film from Machlachlan 84 Productions and Craig Maclachlan, whose previous work we've reviewed here (“Glory Hunter”).   This short, produced by star and writer Kerry Browne and director Craig Maclachlan, takes on some seriously weighty issues and tries to resolve them in just under sixteen minutes.

The story is told entirely in dialogue which, despite sounding realistic and authentic, does weigh down the film.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: film is a visual medium first and foremost.  The most successful films marry good writing with imagery that captures the imagination or is at least interesting to the eye.

Now then – the acting in this film courtesy of Browne and Anthony-Ralston is top notch.  Both characters come across as individuals, contradictory at times and genuine.  Their performances make the running time of “Reflections” fly by and brought me into the lives of the characters.

This is the best film yet from Craig Maclachlan, a real bright spot for his expanding resume.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  The film is literally 100% dialogue – the setting is extremely underused and there are no real focal set pieces for Maclachlan to play with.  Still, the authenticity of the characters and their spot on dialogue created a reality for me to enjoy for sixteen minutes, and that's an important accomplishment.
Directing: 3 / 5.  Maclachlan did the best he could with a visually limiting script and less than inspiring locations, but he's stuck with just watching the characters interact.  I did enjoy the motion of the stairway sequence, and the opening usage of still frames was inspired.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Editor and colorist Herald Francis kept the shots moving from start to finish, and no individual shot lingered or felt wrong.  The choice to go black and white, or at least extremely desaturated, is an interesting one, and its effect on viewers I suspect will be somewhat polarizing, but I enjoyed it.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  I enjoyed Paul Wilkie's subdued piano score, but there's so much time without music, where it's just dialogue, that the pop song at the end seems overly loud and out of place.
Acting: 5 / 5.  It's rare that I watch a short film and there's not one line where I could see another actor doing better.  No professional actor or actress could have delivered better than Browne and Anthony-Ralston did in “Reflections”.  They both put in beautiful performances that absolutely make this film work.

Final Grade: 3.5 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Reflections" and follow Craig Maclachlan and Maclachlan 84 Productions on Facebook!







Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!