A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: Michael Hoffman's film adaptation of Shakespeare's magical comedy of a love-tangled quadrangle shimmers with sumptuous cinematography and a truly stellar cast that includes Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Stanley Tucci, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, and Sam Rockwell. Relocated from Athens to an Italian villa, the film follows the romantic misadventures of four would-be lovers. At the beginning of the film, Helena loves Demetrius, who loves Hermia, who loves Lysander, but everything changes when the four young people chase each other into the woods and wander into the domain of Oberon and Titania (King and Queen of the Fairies) and the mischievous magic of Puck, who possesses a flower that causes people to fall in love with the first person they encounter. Into the hilarity and confusion stumble a hapless band of laborers rehearsing a play for the Duke's wedding. One of the band, Nick Bottom, a humble weaver, is given the head of donkey and then, through the power of the flower, wins the love of Titania herself. After a dizzying whirl of magic, mayhem, and a million minor follies of the heart, everything is sorted out and everyone finds, at last, the proper match.
ROMEO AND JULIET: This ambitious undertaking adapts Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed lovers, setting the story in a glossy music-video style in 1990s Florida. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the famous lovers kept apart by rival industrialist families. Bookended by newscastsers reciting Shakespeare's prose as their copy, this clever glam updating of ROMEO AND JULIET is one of the most unusual adaptations of the Bard's work in the history of cinema. The stylish and colorful sets earned the film an Oscar nomination for art direction. John Leguizamo gives a memorable performance as a devilish Tybalt.
TITUS: Based on Shakespeare's TITUS ANDRONICUS (one of his lesser-known but most gruesome works), TITUS is directed by Julie Taymor (Broadway's THE LION KING), who brings this adaptation to life with dazzling imagery and haunting immediacy. Titus (Anthony Hopkins) is a victorious Roman general who makes two mistakes: supporting the wily Saturninus (Alan Cumming) as the new emperor, and wronging Tamora, Queen of the Goths (Jessica Lange), by killing her eldest son. Murder follows murder as the tides of fate change, and Tamora is aided by her two reckless sons and her Moorish lover. The body count is raised higher and higher until Titus finally holds a very special dinner banquet. Taymor's bold visual sense verges on absurdity, but her sense of morality, as well as powerful acting by Hopkins and company, combine to tell a powerful, violent tale.