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Directed by Michael Almereyda.
Written by Michael Almereyda.  Based on the play by "William Shakespeare." 
Starring Ethan Hawke, Kyle Maclachlan and Bill Murray.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  5/10/00 


Question for ya:  do you know what sucks?  The piece of shit movie that I saw tonight, "Hamlet."

Let me set this up a bit more clearly.  I received two free tickets to see this movie tonight as part of a sneak preview for WHFS, an alternative radio station here in the area.  As many of you know, there is not a thing in this world better than "free"...unless, it is followed by bacon, donuts, cash and sex, as in "Yo, I can't believe all the free bacon and sex she was giving me."  With that in mind, I thought I was all set.  I got one of the hottest parking spaces I've ever gotten in DC:  right in front of the theater AND in front of a McDonald's, for some post-flick McNugget lovin'.  Melissa "Scuba Divin' Fool" Southwell was my tag teamer for the night, and since the comedy is high when Southwell is around, that was another plus.

Then, the movie started.  First and foremost (warning:  profanity will be used in every paragraph of this review), this movie's biggest problem is that it is a piece of shit.  "Hamlet" is--much in the same way that DiCaprio's "Romeo and Juliet" was--a modernization of the Shakespeare play, with the original dialogue used in a contemporary setting.  This time around, it's New York City, and the Denmark Corporation is the battle arena, not the country of Denmark.  Ethan Hawke plays Hamlet, and a bunch of other actors that I won't bother commenting on play the other people in the story that most everyone had to read or act out their junior year at high school.  (If you don't know the story, I apologize; someone with a higher intelligence should be the one to tell you why we Americans think that "Hamlet" is such literary genius; genius to me can be summed up in two words:  "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels.)  The film tries desperately to be witty, sly, and to spoon-feed its modernized imagery to the audience.  And, it is very predictable, since even if you have never picked up the Cliff's, Shakespeare full-form play, you've probably seen any one of the eight or nine (at least) movie versions of the same name.

Let's start this evening by talking about Ethan Hawke.  I was reading an article recently about how Hawke wanted to take this role because it was something truly different for him--in case you do not know, Hawke considers himself an artiste, and this is why he has always chosen smaller productions to star in--and would give him a chance to truly expand his boundaries, or some shit like that.  Well, let me put this simply:  Ethan Hawke is playing THE SAME FUCKING CHARACTER that he played in "Reality Bites", almost to a t!, except when he opens his angst-ridden mouth, he says things like "to be or not to be" or "why have you visited me, Guildenstern?"  Who is he kidding?  Ethan Hawke is perfect for this role, because it is scarily identical to every fucking role this wrap-around shade-wearing muthafucka has ever fucking played!  Wow!!!  (Is Hawke good in this movie?  Naturally!  Is he the world's biggest hypocrite?  Absolutely!)

Problem two:  length.  Melissa thought the reason that this film felt so long was that she was looking for an intermission somewhere in the middle.  Folks, this film is only an hour 45 minutes long, but it honestly feels like it is double that time.  Worse, five--not one or two, FIVE--couples walked out of our theater during the showing of this film.  And, it was free!  It was free!!!!!  The first hour of this movie is fucking molasses.  It is girls asking guys out on dates.  It is DC traffic.  It is s...l...o....w, and that is if it ever moves at all.  And, that makes daddy very sleepy!!  If Bill Murray--that's right, the same Bill Murray that made you and me laugh in "Stripes" and cry in pity during "The Man Who Knew Too Little"--wasn't in this movie as Polonius, you may have had a dead reviewer on your hands, courtesy of two slit wrists.

Problem three:  necessity.  Part of me doesn't like tampering with the classics.  With that in mind, why has Hollywood gone back to the well so many times with this text?  What audience is this movie being made for?  The modernization of Shakespeare has been done before.  So, how many different angles of "Hamlet" do I need before I am completely satisfied?  I am thinking about re-making "Gratuitous", except this time, using a medieval setting for my movie.  Chuck will be playing the town whoremaster ("Skank, where is my fucking gold?"), while Gordon--mourning the death of his gun-toting partner Rob--will slam down his goblet and flip over the round table, looking at the sky while saying "Ares, why???"

Now, that would be some funny shit.  In the meantime, go see "Gladiator" or "Timecode 2000" and skip this happy horseshit when it opens nationally this Friday.

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09