The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and 1996's Romeo + Juliet. Looking over Shakespeare's filmography on the IMDb I found tons of movies that he is given credit for many films (that stayed true to his work) including several rehashings of Hamlet.
As for O, the modernization of "Othello", it has plenty of today's problems to give it an emotional edge that sometimes is missing in other films. It brings about issues of race, drugs and even school violence.
The film begins with Odin Jones (Phifer; Carmen: A Hip Hopera), the star high school basketball player that is coached by Duke Goulding (Sheen; TV's "The West Wing") who also has a son playing on the team, Hugo (Hartnett; Pearl Harbor). After some nifty basketball moves by Jones, the team comes away with the win and home court advantage through the playoffs. At the school rally the next day, "The Duke" awards Jones with the team MVP, and then in turn he (Jones that is) awards another teammate, Michael (Keegan; accordingly was in
10 Things I Hate About You). This sets off a deep jealousy in Hugo especially after his own father makes the announcement that he thinks of Jones like his own son.
With that Hugo hatches a scheme to get revenge on both of his "friends". He gets help from Roger (Henson), a model student, and outcast, of the school as he gets duped into thinking that the Odin and his sweetheart Desi (Stiles; Hamlet) are going to break up.
O is incredible well directed by Tim Blake Nelson who had previously had helmed such films as Kansas and Eye of God but is better known for his acting in O Brother Where Art Thou? and actually appeared in the most recent Hamlet. He uses great camera angles to keep your attention through the lulls the script provides until the final act when everything gets interesting (more on this later).
The acting is also well done. Mekhi Phifer grew up big time moving from the MTV hit
Carmen to a fledging acting career. Phifer doesn't over extend his welcome and has some good chemistry with costar Julia Stiles. I will say this right now; it won't be long until Stiles gets that role that will bring her to the Oscars. Even though she does a good job, she'll have to wait a little longer.
Then there's Josh Hartnett who has made his presence know in 2001 with Pearl Harbor (good and bad). He plays the traitor to the top stopping short of your stereotypical evil chuckle and hand rubbing at the end of the scene. It's not bad, but it still is noticeable.
As I said before, the film has some lulls after the opening and up until the end, which redeems all that and much more. The only purpose is to build the tension between Odin and Michael and to get Hugo's dementia to a new level. The middle is not a total loss as it shows how far Odin's jealousy toward Michael goes when he thinks he is having an affair with Desi- but other than that, it brings the movie down.
Then there's the ending, the redeeming factor in my opinion. Hugo has set everything up throughout the film and it all comes to suspension-filled head and it is the most memorable ending of the year. Now, if I were to just rate the ending it easily gets 4 stars but because of the breakdown in the middle I have to deduct some.
This is the debut writing for Brad Kaaya and he does an OK job but he fails in hitting the homerun in a film that could have easily been the best of the year. He currently has another writing gig on the way with How High that has an interesting cast such as Redman and Method Man and including Fred Willard and Mike Epps. Interesting premise about two guys who get a hold of some pot that have strange after effects. Boy, is that a step up or what?
Anyways, I felt this film might be good just to see how good it could have been and how close it was to being the best of the year with great performances from everyone including Sheen, Stiles and especially Phifer. See it for yourself.
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