As You Like It: HBO

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"The first thing you need to know about Branagh’s take on this charming and often silly romance is that he has set it in late 19th-century Japan, among a group of wealthy British merchants. This setting adds an exotic and picturesque flair, as the movie opens during a Noh performance, Orlando goes mano a mano with a sumo wrestler, and Orlando’s love notes to Rosalind are written in Japanese calligraphy. But it also adds a hint of historical moment to the motives of the nasty Duke Frederick (Brian Blessed), when he drives his brother, the older Duke (also played by Blessed), into the Forest of Arden. Is Frederick the last gasp of a feudal country on the verge of Westernization?"(Boston Globe)  Most of the performances are very good and some are thrilling, particularly Kline’s Jacques, whom he imbues with great world-weary nobility. (San Francisco Chronicle)   "As Rosalind pretending to be Ganymede, Bryce Dallas Howard (“The Village”) wears trousers, ties her hair in a ponytail and puts a cap on her head. It’s as if Julia Roberts went out to the park to ride horses one day. Howard does nothing to change her mannerisms or her voice. She wouldn’t fool a corpse." (Boston Herald)  "It’s a handsomely mounted production that will surely be welcomed by English majors the world over, especially those who would rather watch their homework than read it." (Variety)  ""As You Like It" is effortlessly entertaining from start to finish — and don’t miss the finish. After the closing credits, Howard delivers Rosalind’s epilogue while wandering back to her film-set trailer — and those last words you hear, after she shuts the door on her final, unbroken speech, are Branagh, saying, “And … cut!"" - (Kansas City Star)"As You Like It is effortlessly entertaining from start to finish."(New York Daily News)"Happily, this is a carefully adapted, clearly enunciated As You Like It that retains the beauty of the dialogue while making the meanings clear."(USA Today)" The production is set among English traders in 19th-century Japan, the timeline of the action is altered, and some beloved examples of word play are no longer in the script. These are small matters, though, compared to the fresh gorgeousness on display and the elements of the story that come into focus here in new and moving ways."(Wall Street Journal)"There are several good "Twelfth Nights" on film and even more "Midsummer Night’s Dreams," but we’ve never before had a good "As You Like It." This one is welcome"(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)"It’s the strong cast, especially Bryce Dallas Howard as witty, strong-willed Rosalind, that gives this East-West fusion its flavor."(Time)" Director Kenneth Branagh’s culture-clash gimmick doesn’t get in the way of the play’s many intoxicating pleasures. This isn’t samurai Shakespeare."(TV Guide)" Unlike so many adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, this one not only pleases just as it stands but also could inspire a genuine curiosity in many viewers about seeing more of his work."(Hollywood Reporter)"Branagh directs his actors through the intricacies of Shakespeare’s language with a sure hand, though I sometimes wished during the forest scenes the camera didn’t swoop and swivel quite so much."(Chicago Tribune)" Branagh plays up the dark side of this town-in-the-country pastoral–partly by turning exposition into sometimes violent action, partly by trimming the banter–to deepen the romance. (He likes a pratfall, though.) Mostly it works."(Los Angeles Times)" Mr. Branagh has teased out every manly rivalry and preserved every hey-nonny-nonny of the kooks in the Forest of Arden, but slashed passages of the repartee that defines Rosalind."(New York Times

Compiled by Sarah Outhwaite and Bryon Rudd

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