PBS “Digs Up” Another One Of History’s Mysteries In New Documentary

Courtesy: PBS DIstribution

Courtesy: PBS DIstribution

Early this spring the world stopped to mark a very important date in the literary world—the 400th anniversary of playwright William Shakespeare’s death.  And next week PBS Distribution will release a program originally aired on PBS in conjunction with the anniversary in the form of Shakespeare’s Tomb.

Shakespeare’s Tomb will be released next Tuesday, July 12th.  It will be available exclusively on DVD.  The program follows Dr. Helen Castor and a team of researchers as they make their first investigation into what is believed to be Shakespeare’s burial site.  The investigation centers on a skull found in a crypt beneath a country church in England.  Castor and company have set out to find out if the skull is in fact that of Shakespeare and if the body contained in the grave is also that of the legendary playwright.  The reason for the investigation is that there is a 19th Century story stating that Shakespeare’s skull was stolen by trophy hunters some 100 years prior.  As a result of the alleged grave robbing a curse has said to have been put on anyone that should move the bones from the grave.  The curse is etched onto a stone at the grave.  It reads, “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”  It is a fitting tale for any bibliophile’s Halloween party and an equally intriguing tale for any Shakespeare aficionado.

Shakespeare’s Tomb will be released next Tuesday, July 12th.   It will retail for MSRP of $24.99 and can be ordered direct online at a discounted price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Shout! Factory’s Re-Issue Of ATV’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Is A “Rich” New Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

William Shakespeare is one of the most revered writers and playwrights in literary history.  For centuries his plays have been considered among the best works by critics ad audiences alike.  They have been adapted and re-adapted time and again, both in books and onscreen throughout the ages.  This past May Shout! Factory re-issued one of those countless adaptations when it released The Merchant of Venice.  The adaptation in question was a 1973 TV movie produced by Associated Television (ATV) and itv in the UK.  ABC handled broadcast duties for the special in the United States.  Neither its first nor it last adaptation, there is plenty to appreciate about this incarnation of the timeless story beginning with the story itself.  This will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as the story itself.  Last but hardly least of note in the movie’s presentation is in fact its very presentation.  It is presented here exactly as it was in its original 1973 broadcast.  It rounds out the movie’s most important elements in its new DVD re-issue and is just one of the movie’s most important elements.  Together with the movie’s other noted elements, all three elements join together to make Shout! Factory’s re-issue of ATV’s 1973 adaptation of The Merchant of Venice one of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Shout! Factory’s new DVD re-issue of ATV’s 1973 take on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is one of 2016’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  This is due in part to the movie’s story.  Audiences will be pleased to know that the story presented in this incarnation has not changed one bit from Shakespeare’s original play.  The only thing that has changed between the two stories is the play’s setting.  Whereas the original play was set in Italy, one has to assume by the backdrop and costumes here that the story takes place in early 19th Century England.  While the setting might have changed the story still fits interestingly enough.  That is thanks to the story, which centers on young Bassanio’s attempt to win the heart of Portia.  The problem is that in order to win her heart he needs the money to do so, which he doesn’t have.  So how does he get it?  He gets it by going to loan shark (let’s be realistic, that’s what he is—a loan shark) Shylock in order to obtain the funds.  In the process Bassanio gets his friend Antonio wrapped up in his own problems by essentially making Antonio a co-signer on his (Bassanio’s) loan without his knowledge.  This sounds like the setup for a drama.  But in reality it is a comedy loaded with plenty of moments that will entertain audiences.  Audiences will laugh happily as Portia and her friend trick Portia’s suitors so as to keep Portia from having to marry any of them.  Bassanio’s reaction to the women singing right at him as he makes his choice is just as entertaining.  Shylock even presents some funny moments in the story.  One of the funniest comes as Shylock discovers the fate of his daughter for whom he was so worried.  It shows the type of person that he really is.  As despicable as he is, one can’t help but laugh at his reaction.  It’s one more way in which the movie’s story, which again stays true to Shakespeare’s original play here—save for the setting—proves to be so important to its presentation in its new DVD re-issue.  The story is just one way in which this take on The Merchant of Venice shows itself to be so enjoyable for Shakespeare fans.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in its presentation as the story.

The story at the center of ATV’s 1973 take of The Merchant of Venice is a hugely important part of the movie’s presentation.  Audiences will be pleased to know that even in a seemingly updated setting the story stays true to Shakespeare’s original play.  While it is an important part of the movie’s whole the story is just one important part of the movie’s presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as the story.  Lead actor Laurence Olivier is flawless as the money-grubbing loan shark Shylock in this presentation of the play.  He completely embraces the character and in turn makes audiences love to hate him.  He makes Shylock a completely unscrupulous figure.  One can’t help but wonder, in watching Olivier’s performance if perhaps Charles Dickens might have in fact gotten some influence for Ebeneezer Scrooge from Shakespeare’s original Shylock in watching Olivier’s performance.  Yes, this movie was presented in 1973.  But the story goes back far more years than that, again leaving one to wonder if this character might have, again, been the original influence behind Dickens’ despised businessman.  The similarities between the pair are inescapable.  That is especially exhibited as Shylock shows no remorse in making Antonio Bassario’s “co-signer” even though Antonio isn’t even there to speak for himself.  All Shylock cares about is getting his money back.  Shylock’s reaction to the money spent by his daughter after she leaves home is another way in which Olivier shows his expertise.  He goes in an instant to being completely worried about her to being completely enraged at the money spent.  It is a wonderful moment.  His is just one performance that makes this movie so enjoyable for Shakespeare fans.  Joan Plowright’s take on Portia is just as fun to watch.

Laurence Olivier’s take on Shylock in this version of The Merchant of Venice is a prime example of why the cast’s work in this movie is so pivotal to its presentation.  Joan Plowright’s take on Portia is just as important to note.  Audiences, especially female audiences, will love how headstrong and confident Plowright makes Portia.  This confidence is exhibited throughout the course of the movie.  One of the most notable moments in which it is displayed comes as Antonio reveals what Bassanio has done.  She replies that they should basically pay him double and have the loan done with.  Her matter of fact tone in addressing the issue will leave audiences laughing just as much as any of Olivier’s moments.  In the same vein, her wit as she discusses having to deal with her suitors is just as entertaining.  She says of one suitor that if she is to marry him, she may as well marry a hundred men.  The tone of her voice in this delivery is hilarious and will have especially female audiences crack up because no doubt even today’s female audiences would be able to relate to some point to this moment.  It’s just one more example of Plowright’s talent in front of the camera and one more example of what makes the cast’s work so important to the movie’s presentation in whole.  It would be so easy to discuss the rest of the movie’s cast along with Plowright and Olivier.  But that would take far more time and space than is possible.  So suffice it to say that considering the work of both Olivier and Plowright joins together with that of their cast mates to keep audiences just as entertained and engaged in interpreting each scene as the story itself.  Now, having noted this, the story and the cast’s work on camera are not the movie’s only important elements.  The movie’s very presentation is just as important to note here as the story and the cast’s work.

The story at the heart of The Merchant of Venice and the work of the movie’s cast in this incarnation of the play are both key elements in its presentation.  The story stays largely true to Shakespeare’s original play, thus keeping it entertaining and engaging for audiences.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story.  That is because just as with the story itself, the cast will keep audiences just as entertained and engaged as the story.  For all of the positives presented by the story and the cast in this take of The Merchant of Venice these two elements are not the movie’s only key elements.  The story’s overall presentation is just as important to note as the story and the cast’s work.  Audiences will note in watching the movie’s two-hour plus presentation (it comes in at just a little more than two hours) that it is set up as if it was a play being acted out on television.  What that means is that instead of just being one long movie it is instead broken up into acts.  This means that audiences will not feel like they have to completely invest themselves in the movie in one sitting.  Rather, it allows audiences to stop the movie at specific points without feeling like they have missed anything and then come back to the movie later if need be.  Or they can even stop it at the “act breaks” go use the restroom and get a snack, and come back for the next act just as if they were taking in the movie in a live setting.  Even better they could do just that without having to navigate a sea of other people in doing so, too.  This makes the viewing experience even better.  It shows that even some forty-three years ago the people behind the presentation actually thought this through.  That is good thinking to say the very least.  And more than four decades later it still proves to be a hugely important part of the movie’s presentation.  That ability to stop and take a break will actually allow viewers to talk about each act, clear their heads, etc.  It enhances the movie’s viewing experience to no end.  Keeping this in mind, it shows why the story’s presentation (exactly as it was in its original airing) is just as important to the movie’s overall presentation as any other element.  Together with the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast, it rounds out the most important of this movie’s elements and shows once and for all why this version of The Merchant of Venice is a must see for any Shakespeare fan as well as on of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Shout! Factory’s re-issue of ATV’s The Merchant of Venice is one of 2016’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  The forty-three year old movie is a must see for any Shakespeare fan.  That is because its story stays true largely to Shakespeare’s original play.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as its story.  Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright lead the movie’s cast in this incarnation.  That the movie is presented as a play on screen, complete with act breaks, enhances the movie’s viewing experience to no end.  Each element proves in the end to be important in its own right.  Altogether they make this take on The Merchant of Venice one that, again, every Shakespeare fan should see at least once if not more.  In the end, all three elements make this release one of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-drama/the-merchant-of-venice.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Adds New Depth To Shakespeare Identity Discussion In New Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

William Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers in literary history if not the single greatest.  His plays have been studied by students and academics of nearly every level and age.  They have been the basis for countless dramas and comedies churned out by Hollywood’s major name studios through the ages.  Throughout it all, there has remained one lingering question underlying all of Shakespeare’s credits.  That question is who really wrote the plays that have been so timeless?  The question of authorship has beguiled authors, critics, academics, and readers in general for many years.  Now thanks to PBS this discussion has been put into a whole new light in the new documentary, Last Will. & Testament.  This documentary is one that will interest anyone that has ever had any interest in the works of Shakespeare because of the new light given to the discussion.  Not only does it discuss who really crafted Shakespeare’s plays, but who the legendary bard might have actually been.  The two arguments are combined with acting equal to that of other recent documentaries from PBS to make for one more impressive work proving the value and importance of PBS.

Last Will. & Testament is one of the most documentaries on William Shakespeare and his plays in many years.  Whether or not Shakespeare was actually the man behind great plays such as Much Ado About Nothing, The Twelfth Night, and Julius Caesar, has been discussed among academic circles of every level for ages.  Now PBS puts the discussion into a whole new light in this documentary.  It does so through interviews with a handful of academics that specialize in the life and history of Shakespeare and his works.  The most common argument that these individuals tackle is that someone other than Shakespeare wrote his plays.  Not many names are thrown out.  Though, it is argued indirectly that Shakespeare might have taken his plays as inspiration from another playwright.  That writer’s name was Benjamin Johnson.  It focuses on the relationship between the two, pointing out the similarities between the pair’s works.  Even more interesting is that it is all explained in a manner simple enough for any reader of any age, making it fitting for any English course from high school through college and beyond.

The discussion on who really wrote Shakespeare’s works is just the tip of the iceberg in Last Will. & Testament.  From this early discussion, director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Stargate, The Patriot) takes viewers even deeper into the discussion, raising the topic that maybe, just maybe Shakespeare himself didn’t really exist, but that “he” was just a pen name for someone else.  It goes into this discussion by explaining how a play such as Hamlet was in fact a political satire of the time.  The argument is made that through such a play, a figure such as Edward Devere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was in fact Shakespeare.  The argument goes on to say that Devere used the Shakespeare name so that no one in England’s hierarchy would know it was him making fun of them.  It is an argument that would make sense.  Had political leaders realized that a play such as this was a satire, rather than a tragedy, the bard’s acting company would have been shut down. The discussion goes into even more depth from here, even arguing that the queen herself could have been behind the plays.  Anyone that is a true fan of Shakespeare’s works will find something to appreciate in these arguments.  They’re not all that audiences will appreciate, either.  Audiences will also appreciate the acting incorporated into the documentary.

Last Will. & Testament raises some interesting points throughout the course of its near two-hour runtime.  Any true aficionado of Shakespeare’s works will find plenty to discuss as long as they keep an open mind.  They are the center of this documentary.  But one would be remiss to ignore the acting segments tied in to the documentary.  This isn’t the first time this year that PBS has presented a documentary that incorporates actual acting.  And hopefully it isn’t the last, either.  The addition of these segments helps to drive home the arguments being made in regards to Shakespeare’s times and how they might have affected the reality of his identity.  These are expertly acted scenes that are right up there with the documentaries once crafted for the likes of History Channel.  It’s the crowning touch on what could potentially be one of the year’s best documentaries.  Teachers and parents can pre-order the DVD direct through PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23500946&cp=&sr=1&kw=last+will.++testament&origkw=Last+Will.+%26amp%3B+Testament&parentPage=search.  It will be available on October 15th on DVD.

More information on this and other documentaries from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ opens annual Carolina Shakespeare Festival

NEW BERN. N.C.–The Carolina Shakespeare Festival opens its fourteenth season August 2nd.  And to officially open the season, Shakespeare’s classic rom/com ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ will be presented at Tryon Palace’s Cullman Performance Hall.  The play centers on lovers Beatrice and Benedick who try not to admit their feelings for one another, going tit for tat along the way, until, of course, it all reaches a happy ending.  It truly is one of Shakespeare’s finest–if not his finest–romantic comedy.  Countless movies and plays since can count this work as their influence.

The Carolina Shakespeare Festival will begin performances of the play with a very special preview performance on Thursday, August 2nd at 7pm.  Official opening night is Friday, August 3rd.  It all ends August 19th.  Tickets for the preview show for the special preview show can be purchased at a discount price of $12 for all seats.  General admission tickets for adults are $28, $22 for senior citizens, and $20 for Tryon Palace Council of Friends Members.  Students and active duty military personnel can purchase tickets for $14.  Tickets can be purchased by phone at 252-639-3524 and 1-800-767-1560.  They can also be purchased in person at the North Carolina History Center Ticket Desk at Tryon Palace. 

Along with the presentations of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, the Carolina Shakepseare Festival will offer two free concert readings of ‘Henry IV Part 2’ on August 8th and 11th.  The reading on August 8th will be presented at the Old Theatre in Oriental at 7pm that evening.  The second of the two readings will be offered August 11th at 2pm at Tryon Palace.

For more information on the Carolina Shakespeare Festival and Tryon Palace, go online to http://www.csfest.net and http://www.tryonpalace.org.