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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One to Make You Think
If you have not studied and understand Shakespeare's usage of words, then this movie will be a terrible long bore filled with words you would have trouble pronouncing, let alone understanding. You may have understood some of the plot had the setting and the dialouge not been so different. 14th century Denmark and 21st century New York are two completly different worlds,...
Published on Jan. 2 2004

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Play murdered by Hawke's untalented, one sided performance
Okay. when this movie started, it was promising. The setting of New York year 2000, Denmark as Giant Corporation, Elsinore a hotel... but then, Ethan Hawke appeared, and it all went down hill. THIS MOVIE ISN'T SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET. It's some watered down ...version.
For anyone who has read and understood the play, Hamlet is a complicated character. He is clever,...
Published on Nov. 8 2003 by Coldturkey


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One to Make You Think, Jan. 2 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
If you have not studied and understand Shakespeare's usage of words, then this movie will be a terrible long bore filled with words you would have trouble pronouncing, let alone understanding. You may have understood some of the plot had the setting and the dialouge not been so different. 14th century Denmark and 21st century New York are two completly different worlds, with different words. If you found it horrible confusing, study Shakespeare's language and then give this movie another look.
Now if you understand Shakespeare, but have not read the play, you could follow the plot, and identify with some of the characters. Hamlet was played a bit meloncholy, but it fit. If you truely like dramas, then you can agree with me that when he put the gun to his head and said "To be or not to be," it was moving, at least I thought it was. Ophelia's sudden maddness seemed, well, sudden, but again, my boyfriend never shot my father either. The poloroid pictures perfectly captured the drowning with flowers, and yet kept it contemporary. The final scene brought tears to my eyes. I felt so much empathy for Hamlet, and while I knew it was a tragedy, I was completly shocked when he died.
Overall, this was one of the better modern-day Shakespearean plays I have seen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite excellent, Jan. 18 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
I'm not sure what movie many of these reviewers watched, but it obviously wasn't this one. The movie I saw was brilliant, with good acting, very fitting music, and good direction; an excellent _adaptation_ of Shakespeare's play.
Hawke was excellent as Hamlet. Julia Stiles was pretty unconvincing, as Ophelia, at first, but only got better as the movie progressed. Kyle Maclachlan is probably the most "Shakespearean" of the major actors, and he does not disappoint. Bill Murray is the weakest, but he fits in well.
All in all, the key to understanding this Hamlet is that it is a _movie._ It's not a play on tape, but a movie (or film, for pretentiphiles), and it takes advantage of all the capabilities of that versatile medium. It's also an adaption of the play, and a significant portion of important dialogue was cut, which is unfortunate. Nonetheless, the plot is intact and the film has a hard-hitting emotional impact.
Don't expect a traditional and stale Hamlet, and you won't be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I've seen at least 10 performances of Hamlet, Nov. 1 2006
By 
Jenny Hanniver "medieval_student" (Philadelphia, PA, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
Since I'm in my seventh decade and am a Shakespeare fan(atic), I've had plenty of time to catch a great many HAMLETS--at least 10 different versions on stage or film or TV, plus a wild clunky performance in my undergraduate second-year Shakespeare class, where we students ran around the classroom emoting from our textbooks, where the professor (who didn't need a book) was having so much fun he played both Hamlet and Laertes in the duel scene, bounced back and forth fencing with himself, stabbed himself to death, then became Horatio and Fortinbras, and gave his own solemn eulogy. That was the hands-on way Dr. Robertson taught all the plays, and made them unforgettable!

Of the professional performances I've seen, Olivier's 1948 film stands very high (I think everyone in my ninth grade class saw it at least twice) and so does Derek Jacobi's on PBS. The most fun was Anna Russell's hilarious mock-Verdi opera, HAMLETTO, or PROSCIUTTINO, with its Rosencrantz and Guildenstern patter-song. Russell's pastiche was more to my taste than Mel Gibson's interpretation. That one was a banal disaster, as I should have expected--a waste of time and money. My lifelong favorite has been the 1960s New York City stage production starring Richard Burton, who gave a new dimension to Hamlet's motivation. Oh, how I wish that one had been filmed.

There've been several modern-dress stage interpretations which I'd liked, so I was intrigued by the reports that this one was set in near-future New York City, not in Denmark (the country) but in Denmark (the corporation). The unusual casting also fascinated me, so I paid to see it in a theater instead of renting it. What an experience it turned out to be! If Amazon had a 4.5 rating, that's how I'd rate this HAMLET. I'm not sure which stellar quality I admired the most--the wise and clever use of modern technology, the New York scenes, Almereyda's outstanding direction, the roving, intrusive camera, possibly Julia Stiles' bewildered innocence. She was perfect and so were the two actors--hitherto unknown to me--who portrayed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as college-age slackers. The entire cast was superb.

Probably most of all I loved the freshness of Shakespeare's language--American-accented and in so different a milieu--demonstrating again the astonishingly timeless relevance that makes HAMLET a classic. I simply can't imagine why the detractors would not have loved this film. My advice to them: "Get a life." To all others: "Get the DVD!"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Play murdered by Hawke's untalented, one sided performance, Nov. 8 2003
By 
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
Okay. when this movie started, it was promising. The setting of New York year 2000, Denmark as Giant Corporation, Elsinore a hotel... but then, Ethan Hawke appeared, and it all went down hill. THIS MOVIE ISN'T SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET. It's some watered down ...version.
For anyone who has read and understood the play, Hamlet is a complicated character. He is clever, educated, and in many parts pf the play utterly hilarious. Hamlet is in some sense troubled, but he is not mad. He pretends to be; teasing Polonius, tricking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, trying the patience of his mother and uncle. This is what makes him so memorable. BUT Hawke's performance loses this. His hamlet is forever moping, sullen and melancholy. He drones lines like 'My wits diseased' with the same monotone seen throughout the film, when this line is supposed to be sarcastic, mock-crazy. Hawke makes Hamlet into the stereotypical suicidal boring teen. Whether this is due to poor direction or the fact that Hawke doesn't get Shakespeare, I dont know. But it ruins the play. It ruins all the propects of a terrific movie. I mean the cast could have been great. But somehow, the idea flopped. My advice: stick to Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh, or better still, see a stage version. It will bemuch more rewarding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What the heck just hit me?, Dec 16 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
When I first began watching this movie it was a let down, I had been expecting so much more. I almost shut it off but my husband convinced me to keep watching and....I LOVED IT.
I am not much of a Julia Stiles fan but when she is lamenting over her father's death and casting polorids of flowers to the ground, I amost cried with her. Her performance there is worth owning the movie in my opinion. I recommend you get through the somewhat dull beginnig and see the masterpiece of the end.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Bad, July 11 2004
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
There have been a number of brilliant adaptations of Shakespeare in the past few years which has updated and modernized the settings, but this isn't one of them.
The use of contemporary locations throughout this movie is sometimes clever or witty, but never really hits interesting and always distracts from the play. The main conceit -- Denmark as a corporation, etc -- just doesn't fit the language, and each time someone refers to CEO Claudius as "dread lord" it serves to remind us of just how poorly the metaphor works.
Hamlet spends much of his time with a video camera, and clearly the director thinks he has something very important to say on the media or some such, but I have no idea what.
Ethan Hawke's performance brings out the unenergetic side of the role, as half the film is him muttering iambic pentameter in a dull monotone. There's no straining against his inability to act, he just can't be bothered to. I suppose this is a valid interpretation of the role, but it's deathly boring.
Julia Stiles does not appear to understand most of the lines she is speaking.
I'd have to recommend the 1991 movie starring Mel Gibson over this one. At least Mel Gibson wasn't wearing a stupid hat.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Hamlet as a Rip-Off of Romeo and Juliet, June 16 2004
By 
Christopher M. Adderley (Marshall, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
I've seen most versions of Hamlet available on VHS or DVD, and this is absolutely the worst. One reveiwer here has pointed out that the cast's inability to handle the language is most likely the fault of the director; I'd say that's true, but the inconsistency and superficiality of the vision is also the fault of Michael Amlereyda. The source of the problem seems to be that no one involved in the movie (with the exception of Diane Venora, who has played numerous parts in Shakespeare, even in Hamlet, before) has any convictions about the play, their characters, or Shakespeare. Contrast this movie with Baz Luhrmann's innovative Romeo and Juliet, and you'll see Almereyda's inspiration. It seems as if he just wanted to cash in on the Romeo and Juliet craze--he even echoes that film by having Fortinbras' closing speech read by a newscaster on a TV set, as the final speech in Luhrmann's movie is read by a newscaster on a TV set. I'm not opposed to modernizations of Shakespeare--I'm opposed to thoughtless rip-offs.
I'd like to list the movie's redeeming qualities, but can think of none. Diane Venora is always worth watching, but she's much better as Ophelia in Kevin Kline's production.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The archaic madman has finally become human, Oct. 22 2003
By 
Mathias (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
If you are a Shakespeare purist, you are going to hate this movie. There are no theatrical extremes or classical cliches. There is nothing remotely traditional about this presentation of Hamlet.
That said, you should know that this is the most artful and humanistic portrayal of Hamlet ever put on film. In this film, Hamlet is neither an inaccessible eccentric nor an Oedipal mess, but a film student, a tortured and lonely artist. Ethan Hawke gives a performance that puts a dark and brooding perspective on a character who is normally portrayed as maniacal. In this movie, Hamlet's madness is buried so far within him that it radiates from the inside out. This is what most "mad" people are really like, and also why Hawke's Hamlet is one that for the first time an audience can actually relate to.
And this new humanity is reinforced by the talented supporting cast. Julia Stiles gives a haunting performance as Ophelia. Kyle McLaughlin and Diane Venora, as Claudius and Gertrude, act with fiery lust toward each other and chilling disdain toward Hamlet. Liev Schrieber gives an incredible bitterness to the role of Laertes. Sam Shepard, as the ghost of Hamlet's father, gives an excellent cameo performance. Even Steve Zahn, much to my surprise, gives a very funny take on Rosencrantz. My only complaint is the casting of Bill Murray as Polonius. He isn't really cut out for Shakespeare, but his prescence could be seen as a sly throwback to Ghostbusters. This is one of many hidden references and clever interpretations in the movie that may go over the heads of some viewers but make the story fresh for those who know it.
I am truly sorry that most of the people who reviewed this movie could not appreciate its ability to be innovative while preserving the ideas and the mood of Shakespeare's play. Maybe it strays too far from tradition to satisfy all audiences. Or maybe they just didn't get it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Yuck!, Aug. 15 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
I like Shakespeare enough that I popped for the BBC DVD collection, and Hamlet and Henry V are my two favorite. I have seen maybe 15 different productions of Hamlet, and this is easily the one I disliked the most. If I didn't already known why Hamlet should be interested in Fortinbras, for instance, I would have to ask myself why he was even in the movie. If he did "What of piece of work is man", I must have dozed off. No grave digger scene? No handshake between Hamlet and Laertes before the sword fight? In fact, the entire final scene was butchered, in my opinion. Now, I'm not a purest; I've seen out of period productions of a number of plays (Macbeth, Richard III, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream) and enjoyed them. But this one is just too far out and artsy for me.
You may think of Mel Gibson as Mad Max or Martin Riggs, but I think that production was a much better use of two hours. I am, of course, really waiting for Branagh's version to come out on DVD.
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4.0 out of 5 stars See this version!!!!!, Aug. 5 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Hamlet (Widescreen) (DVD)
In this version of Hamlet, Michael Almereyda boldly answers the question: what is one to do after Branagh?
He shows us a Hamlet that we haven't seen on the screen before. First of all, his Hamlet is exactly the right age. In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet is around 20 for the first four acts, and then he is (inexplicably) 30 in the final act. Watching a series of 40 + year-olds play Hamlet in my life has had much the same effect as sitting too close at the opera when 350 pound 40 year-olds are playing young star-crossed lovers---I'd like to have a sense of wonder, but the casting makes it difficult. (after my first couple of operas, I learned to sit toward the back)
Almereyda's intelligent direction uses the advantages of film to show us the inherent split in Hamlet's personality. Through voice-overs, Hamlet's obsession with film and home-recording, we are able to see Hamlet-as-actor and Hamlet-as-director all at once. We see Hamlet on a screen delivering an impassioned soliloquy, but we also see Hamlet, the director, watching, calculating, cold. What a perfect way to represent Hamlet as the director of himself, as the endless reviser.
Many film versions of Hamlet don't take advantage of the medium nearly enough. So, we end up seeing a play-on-film. Almereyda's use of the medium gives fresh insight to the character. For the first time, I see the a Hamlet who loves no one. I see how the nihilistic drive was likely there before any of this ever happened. And, I see, as Harold Bloom suggested, a Hamlet who is in the wrong play.
Julia Stiles is brilliant as Ophelia. I felt like I understood more about this character after seeing this film. Once again, we have a greater sense of backstory in this film. We understand in this presentation how fragile Ophelia has always been.
The biggest criticism I have of the direction of the film, which leaves probably about 60% of the original dialogue out, is the near-exclusion of Hamlet's madness. We don't really see Hamlet's feigned madness, which is so central to both the plot and understanding the motivations of all of the other characters. There are a few moments where we feel very strongly what is missing. At 111 minutes, they may have included more....
I also think that Hamlet's film version of "The Mousetrap" doesn't work. I like the idea very much, but the execution falls short. Instead of illuminating the film, giving us an understanding of how Hamlet so easily outsmarts Claudius, we are left with a disappointing moment of a director showing off what he learned in film school. It's just a bad sign when the viewer senses that a filmmaker is trying to be smart.
Luckily, this director IS smart, and he shows us a Hamlet worth seeing.
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Hamlet (Widescreen)
Hamlet (Widescreen) by Michael Almereyda (DVD - 2005)
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