The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
Like many victims of the American education system, I had a dislike for Shakespeare years before I got my hands on anything he had written. His name was a password to be profaned by 12-year-olds whose voices had started to change and who therefore had to act tough and cynical and, especially at 12, anti-intellectual.
But part of the problem came later, in the classroom, where we inched through "Julius Caesar" and "Macbeth" at a velocity of ten lines an hour. It was impossible to read Shakespeare as slowly as we did and remember anything from the first three acts by the time we got to the murders. "Who's this Brutus guy?" we whispered. What was needed as an introduction was an approach that caught the spirit and life of Shakespeare and didn't get bogged down prematurely in the language.
With this in mind, I believe Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" is the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made. Not because it is greater drama than Olivier's "Henry V," because it is not. Nor is it greater cinema than Welles' "Falstaff." But it is greater Shakespeare than either because it has the passion, the sweat, the violence, the poetry, the love and the tragedy in the most immediate terms I can imagine. It is a deeply moving piece of entertainment, and that is possibly what Shakespeare would have preferred.
To begin with, Zeffirelli's film is the first production of "Romeo and Juliet" I am familiar with in which the romance is taken seriously. Always before, we have had actors in their 20s or 30s or even older, reciting Shakespeare's speeches to each other as if it were the words that mattered. They do not, as anyone who has proposed marriage will agree. Often enough, one cannot even remember what was said at moments of great emotion; the words are outpourings of the soul.